Sen. Bernard Sanders is riding a wave of popularity among young people, men, voters making under $50,000 a year and other key demographics in the Democratic Party — and that broad support has helped him pull ahead of presidential-primary rival Hillary Clinton in Iowa.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows the Vermont senator with the support of 49 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. Mrs. Clinton, who less than a month ago held an 11-point lead in the state, garnered the support of 44 percent of Democrats, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pulled in 4 percent.
Other recent polls also show Mr. Sanders ahead in Iowa, though other surveys still show Mrs. Clinton in front.
Mr. Sanders’ surge comes at a crucial moment, with the Iowa caucuses less than three weeks away and the New Hampshire primary looming Feb. 9.
The senator’s rise in the polls also puts a deeper dent in the narrative that Mrs. Clinton has the Democratic presidential nomination sewn up.
With Mr. Sanders also leading in New Hampshire — by as much as 14 points, according to a recent Monmouth University poll — political leaders in crucial early states now believe he ultimately could tap into the same type of enthusiasm, particularly among young voters, that propelled then-Sen. Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.
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“It worked with Obama in 2008. He had [voters] motivated and they were excited. The same magic might work for Bernie,” said Larry Hodgden, chairman of the Cedar County, Iowa, Democratic Party and a strong supporter of Mr. O’Malley. “Hillary, I think, has more of a ground game organized at this point, more staffers, more people calling. But I do sense that people are latching on to the Sanders campaign. He’s the one generating the enthusiasm.”
Within the Quinnipiac poll and other recent surveys lie answers to Mr. Sanders’ rise in the polls.
The Quinnipiac survey found that Democratic men are breaking for Mr. Sanders by a two-to-one ratio. More than 60 percent of men back Mr. Sanders, while just 30 percent support Mrs. Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton enjoys a lead among Democratic women, but the gap is much smaller. Fifty-five percent of women say they support the former secretary of state, while 39 percent back Mr. Sanders.
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll showed Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Sanders in Iowa by three percentage points, but it also gave Mr. Sanders a two-to-one edge among caucus-goers under 45 years old. Other surveys also have shown the senator with a major lead among younger voters.
Mr. Sanders also is viewed more favorably overall.
Eighty-seven percent of Iowa Democrats say they view Mr. Sanders favorably, compared to 74 percent for Mrs. Clinton.
In addition, voters believe Mr. Sanders “cares about their needs and problems” more than Mrs. Clinton. A whopping 96 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers say Mr. Sanders cares about their problems, while just 76 percent said the same about Mrs. Clinton.
With a message focused on income inequality and unleashing new regulations on Wall Street, Mr. Sanders also enjoys a lead among voters making under $50,000. On the flip side, Mrs. Clinton — accused by some progressives of having too cozy a relationship with Wall Street — leads Mr. Sanders among Iowa Democrats making over $100,000 a year.
Based on those figures and others, some political analysts say it’s becoming clearer each day that Mr. Sanders is a more appealing candidate to many voters in Iowa.
“Sen. Sanders’ surge seems based on the perception by Iowa Democrats that he is a better fit for Iowans,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “They see him, by solid double-digit margins, as more sharing their values, more honest and trustworthy and viewed more favorably overall than is Secretary Clinton.”
Likely caucus-goers also say they favor Mr. Sanders on the economy and climate change, while Mrs. Clinton has a massive lead — 63 percent to 24 percent — on terrorism and a narrow lead on health care, the poll shows.
Iowa voters also give Mrs. Clinton the edge when it comes to experience. Eighty-nine percent say she has the “right experience” to be president, while 74 percent say the same of Mr. Sanders.