Pete Buttigieg surged in the latest Iowa poll and it may be bad news for Bernie Sanders

Chasten and Pete ButtigiegGilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders often boasts that he garnered more support from young voters in 2016 than President Donald Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton combined.

But a new Monmouth University poll with voters in Iowa suggests he might have a harder time making a repeat performance with this demographic in 2020.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, appears to have the potential to eat away at Sanders' support with the younger crowd.
  • Sanders received the most support from young voters in the poll, with 18% of those between 18 and 49 saying they back the Vermont senator. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second with this age group, receiving 16%. Meanwhile, Buttigieg received 12% support with this demographic, which is notable given he was a stranger to national politics just a few months ago.
  • Sanders received the most support among male voters, 24%, and while Buttigieg came in third with this group with 13% supporting. The South Bend, Indiana mayor was close behind Biden - who received 15%.
  • Among voters who identified as liberal, Buttigieg and Sanders tied for second, with each receiving 13%. Biden received 20% among liberals.
  • The Indiana mayor also wasn't far behind Sanders with college educated voters. Among this group, Buttigieg came in third with 12% to Sanders' 13% (he tied with Sen. Kamala Harris for second) as Biden received 20%.

If you pull back and look at Sanders versus Buttigieg with young, male, liberal, college-educated voters across the board, they aren't that far apart from one another.

Read more: Bernie Sanders is leading the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, but being an early frontrunner doesn't guarantee he'll win

In terms of voters overall, Biden came in first with 27%, Sanders in second with 16%, and Buttigieg in third with 9%.

This is a huge surge for Buttigieg compared to polling in Iowa from even a month ago. A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll from early March found just 1% of voters identified the South Bend mayor as their first choice. Things have evidently shifted over the past few weeks, and this seems to be linked to rising support for Buttigieg among young, male, liberal, college educated voters.

The more recent Monmouth Iowa poll is a narrow look at how these candidates could fare in 2020. But Iowa is also the site of the first major presidential nominating contest and performing well there can make or break a candidate's chances in the long run.

National polling has consistently shown Biden in first with Sanders trailing close behind. But Biden also hasn't announced yet, and Sanders is dominating fundraising in a broad field of candidates.

Read more: Bernie Sanders becomes the first presidential candidate to call for voting rights for current prisoners

A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll also showed Sanders beating out other 2020 contenders by double digits with voters aged 18 to 29.

In short, Sanders is the frontrunner at the moment.

But Buttigieg's performance in this new poll out of Iowa suggests he's a contender to be taken seriously. He also came in third in a new Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll with voters in New Hampshire with 11%, as Sanders came in second with 16% and Biden first with 23%. New Hampshire is also the site of an early presidential primary and like Iowa is viewed as a barometer for how a candidate will do in the end.

At 37, Buttigieg is among the youngest candidates running in 2020. He's also the only openly gay candidate, an Afghan war veteran, a Rhodes scholar, and speaks multiple languages. Buttigieg's resume has captivated pundits and he's dominated headlines in recent weeks.

The latest national polling from Morning Consult places Buttigieg in sixth place overall in the 2020 race, with Biden in first and Sanders in second. But if these recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire are a sign of things to come, he could start climbing up that latter.

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