Suffolk University/USA Today Poll Shows Buttigieg Moving into Top Tier in Iowa

Mayor Pete buoyed by strong debate performance

Impeaching President Trump seen as very important by 52 percent

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged into third place in Iowa and is now within striking distance of front-runners former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, according to a new Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers.

Biden (18 percent) led Warren (17 percent), Buttigieg (13 percent), Bernie Sanders (9 percent), with Tom Steyer, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard tied with 3 percent each. Also registering support in the poll were Andrew Yang (1 percent) and Cory Booker (1 percent). Candidates Beto O’Rourke, John Delaney, Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson combined for just over 1 percent, with 29 percent undecided. The number of undecided voters is up 8 points from the 21 percent undecided in the last Iowa poll taken in the summer.

“Iowa is unquestionably up for grabs,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “The poll records an impressive move by Pete Buttigieg, who has found a lane and is accelerating toward the front of the pack, surpassing Bernie Sanders. All of this is happening while the number of undecided voters continues to grow as Democratic caucus-goers pause to re-evaluate the changing field.”

The biggest winners since the July Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll were Buttigieg (+7 points) and Warren (+4 points), while the biggest losers were Harris (-13 points) and Biden (-6 points). In the summer survey, Harris polled second after a strong debate performance in which she engaged Biden directly and was seen as the clear winner of that debate. But since that time, she has fallen back into the second tier.

Both Warren (22 percent) and Buttigieg (14 percent) were also the top second choices of Iowa caucus-goers, a key metric that signals future strength in the Iowa caucus when supporters of candidates who don’t reach a 15 percent threshold are forced to pick another candidate who reaches the threshold.

Evaluating debate performance

Nearly 39 percent of debate watchers said that Buttigieg performed better than expected, followed by Amy Klobuchar (28 percent) who also exceeded expectations. Although a majority of respondents did not watch the three-hour debate, Buttigieg led the entire Iowa Democratic field among those who did. Among debate watchers, Buttigieg (19 percent) led both Biden and Warren (tied at 17 percent), followed by Sanders (9 percent), Klobuchar (6 percent), Gabbard (4 percent), with 19 percent undecided. On the flip side, 1 in 4 debate watchers (25 percent) said that Biden performed worse than expected. 

Impeaching President Trump 

Over half of Iowa caucus-goers (52 percent) now say that it is very important that the Democratic nominee support impeaching President Trump, an increase of 11 points from the July poll which recorded 41 percent.

Loyalty to the Democratic Party

Nearly 9 out of 10 (88 percent) voters will support the eventual Democratic nominee in the general election, even if their first choice does not get the nomination. Just 2 percent will vote for President Trump, 3 percent will vote for a third party candidate, 2 percent will skip voting in November and 5 percent were undecided.


Iowa Democratic caucus-goers believe that healthcare is the most important issue affecting their support (29 percent), followed by climate change (16 percent), which was nearly identical to the 29 percent healthcare, 18 percent climate change recorded in July.


The survey of 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers was conducted Oct. 16 through Oct. 18 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they intended to participate in the February 2020 Iowa caucuses. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected].


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