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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Galston: Behind the Sanders-Clinton Dead Heat in Iowa

The following article by William A. Galston is cross-posted from Brookings:
Something is stirring among Iowa Democrats. In the four surveys of likely Democratic caucus-goers conducted between December 7th and December 21st, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by an average of 13 points, 50 to 37. In the four surveys of likely caucus-attenders taken between the 2nd and 10th of January, the race is a dead heat.
This trend echoes the contrasting results of two Quinnipiac polls, one conducted in early December, the other released at noon today. The former gave Clinton a 51-40 lead; the latter gave the edge to Sanders, 49 to 44. Fortunately, Quinnipiac releases a number of key cross-tabulations, so we can see the key building-blocks of Sanders’ lead and to some extent, what’s driving the shift between early December and now.
To begin, there is a huge gender gap: men back Sanders by 61-30, while women break for Clinton, 55-39. In December, by comparison, Sanders’ lead among men was only 52-39, so Sanders has gained 9 points among men in less than a month, with Clinton losing the same number. During the same period, he has cut into Clinton’s lead among women, which was 27 points a month ago but only 16 points today. He has also reduced Clinton’s lead among Democrats with college degrees from 17 points to 4 while turning her 4-point edge among non-college Democrats into a 10-point deficit.
There has been no change in the issues Democrats care most about. In both December and January, 35 percent of likely caucus-goers named jobs and the economy as the most important issue, 15 percent selected health care, and 11 percent climate change. In each of these issues, however, Sanders has improved his standing at Clinton’s expense.


In December, for example, 45 percent of respondents thought Sanders could best handle the economy and jobs, and a statistically identical 44 percent gave the nod to Clinton. Now Sanders has broken the tie and leads among these Democrats by 51 to 39 percent. Sanders’ unflinchingly progressive economic platform seems to be moving Iowa Democrats to his side.
This is especially the case for men. Clinton’s lead among women whose main concern is the economy has narrowed slightly during the past month–from 10 points to 4. But Sanders’ lead among men most concerned about the economy has exploded from 15 to 32 points.
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