Political News

Bernie Sanders is the Iowa favorite one week before the caucuses

Posted January 25, 2020 12:30 p.m. EST

— First things first: The theme song of the week is the A-Team.

Poll of the week: A new New York Times/Siena College poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers finds Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with a clear lead at 25%, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 18%, former Vice President Joe Biden at 17%, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 15% and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 8%.

Like in other recent polls, Sanders is up significantly from the last time the Times polled the contest.

What's the point: Iowa polls are split right now.

Sanders is doing his best relative to the pack in the Times poll and our own CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll.

Biden does his best in a recent Monmouth University poll. Other pollsters who don't meet CNN standards tend to find Biden doing better as well.

But when you average the highest quality pollsters together, you get this: Sanders 21%, Biden 19%, Buttigieg 17%, Warren 16% and Klobuchar 7%.

So just what is the chance Sanders wins the caucuses? About 1 in 3.

That may seem low, but it's because Iowa polling hasn't proven to be all that predictive at this point in the campaign for high polling candidates (i.e. those at 5% or above).

Historically an average of polls, after allocating undecideds, misses how the average high polling candidate performs on caucus night by about six points. The margin of error is more than three times that. (Note: the margin of error around lower polling candidates is considerably smaller, so the chance of someone outside the top five winning this year is miniscule.)

All of this means that the top four candidates are still very much in contention.

Buttigieg comes in at winning about 1 in 5 times, not too far behind Biden. Again that makes sense given that they're polling so close.

Warren, who has seen the left move to Sanders, slides in at about a 1 in 6 chance.

Finally, Klobuchar has about a 1 in 20 chance. In other words, she has a shot, but not a very good one.

The chance that Sanders wins has gone up in recent days. The addition of the Times poll to the average made him switch with Biden on who was most likely to win the caucuses.

But these odds should tell you that the chances are that Sanders won't actually win the caucuses. In that way, he's in a position that Biden often has found himself this year. Sanders is the frontrunner in Iowa, though everybody else combined has a better chance than he has of winning the caucuses.

With about a week to go, the chance for a surprise is still quite high.

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