Biden, Sanders lead in poll of likely Dem caucusgoers in Iowa

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll Analysis: Harris, Buttigieg and Trump lead among California donations The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll Analysis: Harris, Buttigieg and Trump lead among California donations The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (I-Vt.) lead the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls among likely caucusgoers in Iowa, according to a new poll released first to The Hill on Thursday.

The poll, conducted by Park Street Strategies, found that 56 percent of respondents picked Biden as one of their top three choices in the caucus. Sanders came in second place with 46 percent, while Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren adds her pronouns to Twitter bio Biden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (D-Mass.) took third with 36 percent.

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The survey also shows Biden receiving the highest net favorability numbers among likely Democratic caucusgoers, at 57 percent. He’s followed by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll Analysis: Harris, Buttigieg and Trump lead among California donations The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (D-Calif.), who comes in at 44 percent net favorability, and Sanders with 39 percent.

Of those surveyed, 83 percent said that they see Biden as an acceptable Democratic nominee, with only 12 percent saying he would not be acceptable. Seventy-three percent said they see Sanders as an acceptable nominee, while 22 percent said he would be unacceptable.

The poll’s findings are largely in line with other Iowa surveys that have put Biden and Sanders among the top contenders in the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state.

But the survey also suggests that Biden and Sanders are among the most well-known candidates. On the question of favorability, for example, only 7 percent of respondents said they either didn’t know or were unsure of their opinion on Biden. For Sanders, that number was just 4 percent.

Meanwhile, 23 percent said they were either unsure or didn’t know whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Harris, while 10 percent said the same about Warren. And 32 percent made the same claim about former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

A number of women have come forward in recent days accusing Biden of making them feel uncomfortable by touching them inappropriately at public events. It remains to be seen whether those allegations will have a significant impact on his political support. The Park Street Strategies poll was conducted before the allegations surfaced.

Biden, who has not announced a bid for the Democratic nomination yet, released a video on Wednesday in which he pledged to be more mindful of women's personal space, as he seeks to stem the crisis that has mounted around his campaign-in-waiting. 

Chris Kofinis, the CEO of Park Street Strategies, said that the numbers suggest that Biden and Sanders have a “ceiling” of support in Iowa and most likely caucus goers have already formed opinions on the two candidates.

He said Democratic hopefuls, like Harris, Warren and O’Rourke, for example, have room to grow their support base in the state.

“Right now, Harris in particular, as well as O’Rourke, Warren and [Sen. Cory] Booker [D-N.J.], are in stronger positions because, unlike Biden or Sanders, they have more room to grow their support among Iowa voters,” Kofinis said.

“Put differently, the path to the nomination will not be an easy one for the two ‘top’ Democrats, especially as this class of contenders becomes increasingly better known among Iowa voters.”

When it comes to what ideology voters want to see in a candidate, 23 percent of respondents pointed to a “Democratic moderate” as their preferred type of candidate, while just as many said they preferred a “Democratic progressive.”

Likewise, 17 percent said they prefer a candidate who identifies as a “democratic socialist.” That same number of respondents said they would prefer a “Democratic liberal.”

But likely caucusgoers are more united on the issue of electability. A significant majority — 62 percent — said that the most important quality is someone who can beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE in 2020, according to the survey.

Thirty-five percent said they want a candidate who reflects their ideology and values, while only 3 percent said they either didn’t know or were unsure what quality is most important in an eventual Democratic nominee.

Likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa are split in their views of just how important it is for the party to nominate a person of color or a woman to take on Trump in 2020. Forty-seven percent said that it is at least somewhat important, while 53 percent said it isn’t at all important.

The Park Street Strategies poll of 812 likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa was conducted using live telephone interviews from Feb. 28-March 11. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

— Updated at 12:02 p.m.