A recent poll has Pete Buttigieg pulling ahead of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic presidential election. AAP/EPA/Gary He

Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections

Two and a half months before the February 3 Iowa Democratic caucus, the highly regarded Selzer poll for CNN and the Des Moines Register gave Pete Buttigieg 25% in Iowa (up a huge 16 points since the mid-September Selzer poll).

Elizabeth Warren was second with 16% (down six), followed by Joe Biden at 15% (down five), Bernie Sanders at 15% (up four) and Amy Klobuchar at 6% (up three). No other candidate received more than 3%.

The proposed candidacy of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was not well received. He had just 2% support, and his favourable ratings among Democratic likely caucus attendees were 58% unfavourable, 19% favourable. Democrats are very unlikely to back a billionaire.

I believe Buttigieg’s relative youth (he’s only 37) is an asset, compared with Warren, who will be 71 by the November 2020 general election. Donald Trump will be 74 then, Biden almost 78 and Sanders 79.


Read more: US Democratic presidential primaries: Biden leading, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris; and will Trump be beaten?


Over the last few months, Buttigieg has put many resources into Iowa, allowing him to take advantage of Warren’s stumbles over Medicare for All. He has taken votes from Biden with an appeal to more moderate voters.

However, there is a catch for Buttigieg. The two earliest states to vote in the Democratic contest, Iowa and New Hampshire (February 11), are almost all white. The overall Democratic primary electorate is far more diverse. Black voters made up 61% of the 2016 South Carolina Democratic primary electorate.


Read more: Warren placed second after Biden, as Trump's ratings rise. But could the impeachment scandal make a difference?


The latest Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina (February 29) gave Buttigieg less than 1% among black voters. Buttigieg’s net favourable rating was +6 with black voters compared to +36 with white voters.

Buttigieg’s problems with black voters may be caused by him being gay. While blacks vote overwhelmingly Democrat at general elections, this is attributable to the Republicans’ perceived racism, and black Democrats are far more socially conservative than other Democrats, as this chart from analyst Nate Silver shows.

The question is, if Buttigieg wins Iowa, will his ratings with black voters improve? As far as winning Iowa goes, there are still two and a half months to go, and Buttigieg’s surge could deflate.

Biden continues to lead in national Democratic polls

In the RealClearPolitics average of national Democratic polls, Biden has 27.0%, Warren 20.3%, Sanders 18.8%, Buttigieg 8.3% and Kamala Harris 4.8%. Nobody else has more than 3% support. Since my previous US politics article last fortnight, Biden is down slightly and Sanders and Buttigieg up.


Read more: Trump could win again despite losing popular vote, as Biden retakes lead in Democratic polls


In the average of the five most recent Iowa polls, Buttigieg has 21.0%, Warren 18.8%, Biden 17.6% and Sanders 17.2%. In New Hampshire, Warren leads with 20.0%, followed by Biden at 18.0%, Buttigieg 16.5% and Sanders 16.0%. However, the most recent New Hampshire poll gave Buttigieg 25%, and a ten-point lead over both Warren and Biden.

In Nevada (February 22), Biden had 29.0%, Warren 20.0%, Sanders 19.8% and Buttigieg just 7.3%. Biden maintained a 19-point lead over Warren in South Carolina.

The next Democratic presidential debate is Thursday (in Australia); this debate will feature ten candidates. Six candidates have qualified so far for the December 19 debate, which has higher thresholds.

Democrats win four of five highest offices at US state elections

Most US state elections are held concurrently with federal elections, but there were elections this November in New Jersey, Virginia, Mississippi and Kentucky (all on November 5) and Louisiana (November 16). Virginia and New Jersey held legislative elections, while Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana held gubernatorial elections.

At the November 5 elections, Democrats gained the Kentucky governorship by a 49.2-48.8 margin. Kentucky is a very white, rural state that voted for Trump in 2016 by 30 points. Republicans held the Mississippi governorship by a 52.1-46.6 margin (Trump by 18 in 2016).

In Virginia (Hillary Clinton by five), Democrats gained control of both chambers of the state legislature, the House by 55-45 and the Senate by 21-19. Democrats easily held the New Jersey legislature (Clinton by 14). Also of note: a New York City referendum introduced Australian-style preferential voting by 73.5-26.5.

At the November 16 Louisiana state election (Trump by 20), the Democrats held the governorship by a 51.3-48.7 margin.

Thus, Democrats won the highest office in four of five state elections this November, including in two states – Kentucky and Louisiana – that voted for Trump by landslide margins in 2016. A year before the presidential general election, Democrats performed strongly in these state elections.

Trump’s ratings and general election polls

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Trump’s ratings with all polls are currently 41.3% approve, 54.0% disapprove, a net approval of -12.7%, up 0.5% since last fortnight. With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.6% approve, 53.6% disapprove, a net approval of -11.0%, up 1.2% since last fortnight.

In the FiveThirtyEight impeachment tracker, 46.8% support removing Trump from office and 45.2% are opposed (47.5-45.7 support last fortnight).

RealClearPolitics has no new national general election polls since my last update. Trump trails Biden by 10.2%, Warren by 7.3%, Sanders by 7.9% and Buttigieg by 4.5%. Buttigieg currently has far lower name recognition than the other leading Democrats, and is likely to improve his head-to-head polling against Trump if he makes a positive impression.

UK and Spanish elections

In Tuesday’s Poll Bludger article, I wrote that the Conservatives have extended their large lead, and are likely to win a landslide at the December 12 UK election.

I believe the Conservatives are being assisted by voter fatigue with the politics of the current hung parliament. This could also apply to the US: if the Democrats nominate a candidate who is not seen as extreme, they could benefit from fatigue with Trump’s Twitter behaviour.

On November 12, I covered the results of the second 2019 Spanish election for The Poll Bludger. The combined left parties won 158 of the 350 lower house seats, to 150 for the combined right, with the other 42 seats going to mostly leftist regional parties. On November 12, a tentative agreement was reached between the two largest left parties.

Australian Newspoll: 50-50 tie

In the latest Australian Newspoll, conducted November 7-10 from a sample of 1,680, there was a 50-50 tie between the major parties, a one-point gain for Labor since late October. Primary votes were 40% Coalition (down two), 35% Labor (up two), 12% Greens (down one) and 7% One Nation (up one).

Scott Morrison’s net approval was up one point to +3. Anthony Albanese had a huge 12-point jump in net approval to +5. Morrison led by 46-32 as better PM (47-32 previously). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

An Essential poll, also conducted November 7-10, failed to match Newspoll’s exuberance on Albanese’s ratings. Albanese’s net approval in Essential fell eight points from October to +3, while Morrison was also down five points to +4.