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Iowa Poll: One year out from Caucus: Biden leads Democratic Field- Third Party Candidacy Helps Trump

A new Emerson College poll finds President Trump’s approval rating underwater at 46% approval with 48% disapproval. However, the President remains competitive against his potential 2020 Democratic rivals, leading against 7 of 8 candidates. The poll was conducted Jan 30-Feb 2 of registered Iowa voters, n=831 and a MOE +/-3.4 percentage points.

Biden is also the only potential candidate to be leading Trump in a head to head matchup, by a margin of 51% to 49%. Trump leads Sanders by 1% (51-50), Warren by 4% (52-48), and Harris and O’Rourke by 6% (53-47), all within the poll’s margin of error. President Trump seems to have locked up support from Iowa Republicans. In a potential matchup with former Ohio Governor John Kasich, Trump leads 90% to 10%.

The Emerson Poll suggests a third party candidate would help the President’s chances in 2020.   In a head-to-head matchup against Elizabeth Warren, Trump leads 52% to 48%, but when Howard Schultz is added as a third party candidate, Trump’s lead extends to 9 percentage points, 49% to 40%, with 11% voting for Schultz.

Among planned Democratic Caucus-goers, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the field with 29%, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris with 18%, Sen. Bernie Sanders with 15%, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 11%; no other candidate clears 6%, and 8% of respondents are undecided. Sanders obtains the plurality of the youth vote with 48%, and Biden maintains a plurality in all other age groups. The Democratic caucus subset had n=260 likely caucus-goers and a +/-6% margin of error.

Overall, 78% of Iowa voters desire a Presidential candidate who will work with members of the other party and compromise to get things done, as compared with 8% who said they would be less likely to vote for this type of candidate. Democratic caucus-goers agree, as 86% want a candidate who will work across the aisle, compared with 4% who supported a candidate who would be less likely to work with Republicans.

There is a difference of opinion on several issues between Democratic caucus-goers and the overall General election voters.

Only 20% of Democratic caucus-goers support an increase funding for border security. 44% are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports border funding. This compares to 56% of all Iowa voters who support an increase in border security;  21% of this group are less likely to vote for a candidate with this position.

73% of Democrats are more likely to support candidates that support Medicare for All, 8% are less likely.  This compares to 43% more likely and 37% less likely among the general Iowa electorate.

73% of Democrats are more likely to support a candidate who supports an assault weapons ban, while just 41% of general election voters hold that position.

73% of Democratic voters also are more likely to favor a candidate supportive of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This contrasts to only 40% of all Iowa voters  more likely to support a candidate who supports a $15 an hour minimum wage.

On the issues of race, gender, and religion, a majority of voters and caucus-goers do not judge these to be key characteristics of a candidate. Among Democratic caucus-goers, 7% said that a candidate who shared their religion was more likely to get their vote, as compared with 8% who said it was less likely that they would vote for such a candidate. On the issue of race, Democratic caucus-goers are split – both at 9%  more and 9% less likely to vote for a candidate who shares their race. Amongst the general electorate, 15% were more likely to vote for someone of their own race versus 6% who are less likely. There was no difference based on gender between caucus-goers and general election voters.

Voters are split over what age is “too old” to run for president. Overall, 33% believe that a candidate is never too old, 27% believe that over 75 is too old, 27% consider over 70 as too old, and 13% believe that over 65 is too old. Elizabeth Warren is 69 years old, Donald Trump is 72 years old, Joe Biden is 76 years old, and Bernie Sanders is 77 years old. 70% of supporters of Joe Biden believe being over 65, 70 or 75 years old is too old to run for president.


The Iowa Emerson College poll was conducted January 30 – February 2, 2019, under the supervision of Professor Spencer Kimball. The sample consisted of registered voters, n=831, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points. The data was weighted by gender, age, party affiliation, based on 2016 election results. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only (n=582) and an online panel provided by Amazon Turk and SSI (n=249). Visit our website at ​​.  

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