2020年1月10日 星期五

On Politics Poll Watch: Sanders Leads in Tight Iowa Poll

The top four candidates are closely matched in both Iowa and New Hampshire with just weeks to go.

Welcome to Poll Watch from On Politics. Every Friday, we’ll bring you the latest data and analysis to track the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Current state of the race

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Who’s up? Who’s down? Here’s the latest.

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By Alexander Burns

National Political Correspondent

We have less than a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, and in the early states, the race is looking more like a traffic jam. The top four candidates — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg — are all closely matched in both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to the most recent polls. And all of them appear to have ample resources to wage a fierce campaign at least through the month of February.

The most encouraging news for any candidate this week came just an hour ago for Mr. Sanders, when the prized Des Moines Register poll showed him with a slim lead in Iowa, ahead of Ms. Warren, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Biden, in that order. (Mr. Buttigieg’s late-autumn surge in the state had largely abated, according to the survey.)

Both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden now have a realistic chance of dominating the February contests — Mr. Sanders leads in Iowa, the two are effectively tied in New Hampshire, and Mr. Biden is the favorite in Nevada and South Carolina. Should either man claim early momentum, he could end up rolling through the rest of the month and emerging as an overwhelming favorite by Super Tuesday in March.

But if that is a plausible outcome for both of them, the opposite seems just as likely: a pileup of all the candidates in the first two states, with no one claiming decisive momentum, followed by an arduous, monthslong battle for delegates. With Ms. Warren seeming to recover her footing in Iowa, and Mr. Buttigieg still strongly in contention, the prospect of a three-, four- or even five-candidate race enduring into March does not seem like a far-fetched scenario.

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If the race turns into a state-by-state battle for delegates, Mr. Biden could end up at a financial and organizational disadvantage, because he has not done as much as Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren — and Michael Bloomberg — to build out a campaign operation beyond the early states.

But there is a cloud of uncertainty over the state of the race: We have still not seen new, high-quality national polling since before the holidays. And the race is unfolding under extraordinarily tumultuous circumstances, involving military conflict with Iran and the impeachment of President Trump.

Those forces seem to be consuming the political energy and media attention that underdog candidates hoped to seize in the last weeks of the race. Candidates like Andrew Yang, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard are now unlikely to qualify for next week’s debate, depriving them of the last really good chance to earn a late surge of support.

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How Americans feel about Iran

President Trump spoke about the strike on Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani during a rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday.Doug Mills/The New York Times

As a presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump pledged that he would maintain the United States’ leverage abroad by committing to an approach of “unpredictability.”

Never was his unpredictability more clear than last week, when he ordered the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful Iranian commander and one of that country’s most important figures. The move left even many of the president’s own advisers stunned, escalated tensions between the two countries and seemed to raise the possibility of outright war — though a broader conflict appears to have been averted for the time being.

No major polls on the topic have been conducted since the killing, but a look at the public opinion data that’s available suggests that Americans are eager to avoid further conflict in the Middle East. And Mr. Trump’s appreciation for entropy has done little to reassure them.

A University of Maryland poll in September found that, by a 35-point margin, Americans thought the odds of the United States going to war with Iran had risen in the three years since Mr. Trump’s election. Americans across party lines did not think such a war would be warranted, according to the poll.

In a Gallup poll last summer, 65 percent of Americans said they were concerned that the United States might be too hasty in using military force to confront Iran. By a gaping 60-point margin, respondents were more likely to say they would prefer the United States take a diplomatic approach to discouraging Iranian nuclearization, rather than a military one.

“The public is and has long said that diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace,” Jocelyn Kiley, an analyst at Pew Research Center, said in an interview. “That really hasn’t fundamentally changed over the past 25 years or so.” In a September Pew survey, close to three quarters of Americans said diplomacy is generally a surer way to guarantee peace than displaying military strength.

While he has expressed support for extricating American troops from the Middle East, Mr. Trump has made it clear that he prefers to use military might, rather than cooperation with traditional allies, to gain the upper hand. “By removing Suleimani,” he declared in a speech at the White House on Wednesday, “we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.”

In those remarks, Mr. Trump urged America’s allies to step away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal that former President Barack Obama brokered in 2015 to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. Mr. Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018, although it was broadly popular: A CNN poll then found that 63 percent of Americans said the United States should stick with the pact, while just 29 percent wanted to abandon it.

A slim majority of Republicans wanted to quit the deal, which is closely associated with Mr. Obama’s legacy.

The public’s aversion to a possible war with Iran cannot be separated from the country’s growing fatigue over the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly three in five respondents to a Pew poll last spring said that the wars in both of those countries had not been worth fighting.

The administration has offered nonspecific and conflicting rationales for Mr. Trump’s decision to kill General Suleimani, but in his remarks on Wednesday he linked it to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, and also accused Iran’s leaders of sponsoring terrorism. He argued that the strike on General Suleimani was warranted in order to protect America from future attacks.

Polls suggest these could be winning arguments.

Pew data collected in 2018 show that a wide majority of Americans — 72 percent — think that protecting the country from terrorism should be a top foreign-policy priority.

And while Americans generally favor diplomacy over force, three in five registered voters nationwide said in a Fox News poll this summer that they would support taking military action if it was needed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

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