As N.H. Democrats Cast Ballots Today, UMass Lowell Poll Shows Sen. Sanders Ahead; Buttigieg 2nd

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. (File photograph.)

As New Hampshire voters cast ballots in today’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, a UMass Lowell has Sen. Bernie Sanders out front and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging to second place.

The UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion reports, however, 40 percent of likely voters say they could still change their mind.

“We are now looking at a race with a leader. After the chaos surrounding the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders has emerged as the candidate to beat in a state he won by more than 20 points in 2016. But Mayor Pete Buttigieg is on the rise and received the biggest post-Iowa bump,” said Joshua Dyck, director of the Center and an associate professor of political science. “With Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren trending downward, the question is, does Mayor Pete have enough time and can he woo enough of the soft support away from other candidates to catch Bernie?”

Sanders is leading by eight points, with the support of 25% of likely voters in the Democratic primary. Sanders, who won the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary, is up 2% in Monday’s poll over the results of the poll issued Feb. 3 by the Center. A week ago, Sanders was in a race too close to call with former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as all three were within four points of each other and the margin of error of the Feb. 3 poll. As of the newest poll, Sanders has expanded his lead and is solidly in first place.

Buttigieg has vaulted past Biden and Warren into second place, with 17%, up five points since a week ago. Biden, who was just a point behind Sanders Feb. 3 with 22%, has dropped eight points into fourth place with 14%. Warren is in third place, but is down from 19% to 15%.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was tied last week with businessman Tom Steyer, has climbed two points to 8% to hold fifth place on her own. Steyer has dropped 1 point since last week to 5%. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is down 1 point to 4%, businessman Andrew Yang is up 1 point to 3% and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick remains at 1%.

Among women polled, Sanders has the most support, with 29%, followed by Warren with 17%, Buttigieg with 14% and Biden with 9%. Sanders’ support with women likely primary voters is stronger than among men who are likely voters, 20% of whom said they support him, behind Biden and Buttigieg, both of whom garnered 21%, and Warren at 12%.

Even with the shifts in support for candidates over the last week and Sanders solidifying his lead, four in 10 likely Democratic primary voters still say they could change their mind and vote for a different candidate, virtually no change since the Feb. 3 poll.

“Normally, electorates grow in certainty as the election nears, but both the percentage of those who said they could change their mind and that there is no change since a week ago suggests a high degree of instability for an election that will take place in one day. New Hampshire primary voters appear to be living up to their reputation of waiting until the very end to decide,” said Dyck.

Sanders’ base of likely voters who support him remains the most stable, with 87% (a one-point change from Feb. 3) saying they will definitely vote for him and only 13% saying that they could change their mind. Among Buttigieg voters, 53% (down from 71% a week ago) say they could still change their mind, while 42% of Biden voters (up 10%) and 41% of Warren voters (up 3 percent) say they could vote for another candidate. Nearly two-thirds, 65% (up from 58% a week ago), of Klobuchar voters also say that they could still change their mind.

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