Sanders, Biden are neck-and-neck in new NBC/WSJ national poll

DES MOINES, Iowa — Just days before the first votes are counted in the Democratic primary, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll finds Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden statistically tied at the top of the Democratic field.

Sanders gets 27 percent support from Democratic primary voters around the country, while Biden gets 26 percent. Sanders’ single-point advantage, while well within the poll’s +/- 4.74 percentage point margin of error, marks his first lead of the primary in the NBC/WSJ survey.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the only other Democrat registering in double digits, at 15 percent, while former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg now holds the fourth place spot, at 9 percent. Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg gets 7 percent support in the poll; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has 5 percent, and businessman Andrew Yang stands at 4 percent. No other candidate has 3 percent support or more.

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COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA, UNITED STATES - 2019/07/17: Former United States Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters while he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 United States presidential election at Grass Wagon Events Center. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA, UNITED STATES - 2019/07/17: Former United States Vice President Joe Biden campaigns for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 United States presidential election at Grass Wagon Events Center. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Former US Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, gestures as he holds a speech about his foreign policy vision for America on July 11, 2019 at the Graduate Center at City University New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, gestures as he holds a speech about his foreign policy vision for America on July 11, 2019 at the Graduate Center at City University New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JULY 04: Former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden leaves a campaign event on July 4, 2019 in Marshalltown, Iowa. The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses will take place on Monday, February 3, 2020. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JULY 04: An attendee holds up a sign that reads "Immigration" as former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on July 4, 2019 in Marshalltown, Iowa. The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses will take place on Monday, February 3, 2020. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 28: Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to guests at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on June 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Biden is one of 25 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president and the opportunity to face President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 28: Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to guests at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on June 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Biden is one of 25 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president and the opportunity to face President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopefuls Former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden (L) and US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders (R) participate in the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 27: Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) take part in the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 27: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) looks on during the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden greets attendees after the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. greets supporters after the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes pictures with supporters after the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful Former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden participates in the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Presidential hopeful Joe Biden greets attendees after the World Famous Jim Clyburn Fish Fry at the EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, on June, 21 2019. - Many of the Democratic candidates running for president are in Columbia to make appearances at the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention and the Planned Parenthood Election Forum on June 22. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
DAVENPORT, IA - JUNE 11: Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on June 11, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa. Biden and over two dozen presidential candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election.(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
DAVENPORT, IA - JUNE 11: Attendees wait for former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to arrive during a campaign event on June 11, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa. Biden and over two dozen presidential candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election.(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
DAVENPORT, IA - JUNE 11: Campaign volunteer William Brown displays a sign for former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden before his campaign event on June 11, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa. Biden and over two dozen presidential candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election.(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
OTTUMWA, IA - JUNE 11: Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is silhouetted as he speaks during a campaign event on June 11, 2019 in Ottumwa, Iowa. Biden and over two dozen presidential candidates are seeking the democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump during the 2020 general election.(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 06: Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to a crowd at a Democratic National Committee event at Flourish in Atlanta on June 6, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. The DNC held a gala to raise money for the DNCs IWillVote program, which is aimed at registering voters. (Photo by Dustin Chambers/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden greets the crowd during his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden greets the crowd during his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former Vice President Joe Biden kicks off his campaign for the 2020 US election at a rally in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Former Vice President Joe Biden kicks off his campaign for the 2020 US election at a rally in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since Biden announced his candidacy in late April, he has taken the top spot in all polls of the sprawling Democratic primary field. Biden's rally on Saturday was his first large-scale campaign rally after doing smaller events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past few weeks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since Biden announced his candidacy in late April, he has taken the top spot in all polls of the sprawling Democratic primary field. Biden's rally on Saturday was his first large-scale campaign rally after doing smaller events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past few weeks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, kiss during his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, wave to the crowd during his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 18: Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden takes off his jacket as he takes the stage for a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since Biden announced his candidacy in late April, he has taken the top spot in all polls of the sprawling Democratic primary field. Biden's rally on Saturday was his first large-scale campaign rally after doing smaller events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the past few weeks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Crowds begin to line up ahead of the Kick-off rally of Joe Biden for the 2020 campaign in the US Presidential Election, in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Crowds begin to line up ahead of the Kick-off rally of Joe Biden for the 2020 campaign in the US Presidential Election, in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Crowds begin to line up ahead of the Kick-off rally of Joe Biden for the 2020 campaign in the US Presidential Election, in Philadelphia, PA on May 18, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
HAMPTON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - May 13: 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Vice President Joe Biden speaks to and meets voters at The Community Oven in Hampton, New Hampshire Monday May 13, 2019. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA - May 1: Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to and meets Iowa voters at the Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City, Iowa Wednesday May 1, 2019. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
DUBUQUE, IOWA - April 30: Former Vice President Joe Biden, and now 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, speaks to and meets Iowa voters at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, Iowa Tuesday April 30, 2019. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA, UNITED STATES - 2019/04/29: A view of the podium during the rally. Joe Biden comes to Pittsburgh to start off his 2020 bid for the president of the United States. Rally is held at Teamsters in the Lawreceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Aaron Jackendoff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Joe Biden refrains from announcing a 2020 US Presidential Run during his keynote speech at the First State Democratic Dinner at the Rollins Center in Dover, DE on March 16, 2019. While still unannounced, the former Vice President is reportedly close to officially entering the race for the 2020 US Presidential Elections and is considered a favorite in the already crowded field of candidates. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The new survey marks a six-point gain for Sanders since last month. In the December NBC/WSJ poll, Biden led the field with 28 percent, with Sanders at 21 percent, Warren at 18 percent and Bloomberg at 4 percent.

The two co-frontrunners’ coalitions continue to split Democratic voters along sharp racial and generational lines, and the supporters backing each of them have starkly different views of capitalism and socialism.

But Sanders’ most powerful advantage may be the loyalty of his backers. Sixty percent of his supporters say they will definitely vote for him, while 48 percent say the same for Biden.

And despite worries that Sanders’ progressive politics might make him completely unpalatable to the Democratic Party’s centrists and potential swing voters, just 12 percent of Democratic primary voters say they are “very uncomfortable” with his candidacy, a share that’s statistically comparable to those who say the same of his rivals.

“Four years ago, Republicans thought it was unfathomable at this stage that Donald Trump could be the party’s nominee,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the survey along with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “The Democrats should not make that mistake. Bernie Sanders is formidable and that’s what we’ve learned in this survey.”

While Sanders has an edge on the enthusiasm scale, Biden may have room for growth if he remains near the top of a winnowing Democratic field after the coming contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

More voters choose him as their second choice candidate (20 percent) than choose Sanders (15 percent), although Warren bests both with 23 percent second-choice support.

While equal shares of Democratic voters overall say they are either “comfortable with” or “enthusiastic about” Biden (70 percent) and Sanders (69 percent), those who have similarly warm feelings toward Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Bloomberg all express more comfort with Biden than with Sanders.

And Biden has an edge among the almost seven-in-ten Democratic voters who say that one of their top priorities in choosing a candidate is his or her ability to beat President Donald Trump. Among those voters, Biden leads the field with 32 percent, compared with 21 percent for Sanders.

Two top candidates, two coalitions

The survey confirms that Sanders continues to anchor his candidacy around younger and more liberal voters, while Biden’s coalition is founded on support from older voters and African-Americans, who back the former vice president by a margin of almost 2-1.

But perhaps most striking is the split in how each candidate’s supporters view capitalism and socialism.

Among Sanders supporters, just 12 percent have a positive view of capitalism, while 48 percent have a negative one. But a majority — 60 percent — view socialism positively, while just 4 percent disagree, a net positive rating of 56 percentage points.

Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, while his primary rivals have mostly shied away from that label.

Biden’s backers, on the other hand, are generally fairly positive towards capitalism, with 40 percent viewing it favorably and 26 percent viewing it negatively. But more of his supporters give socialism a thumbs down (35 percent) than a thumbs up (31 percent), yielding a net negative rating of 4 percentage points.

Among all Democratic primary voters overall, socialism is viewed favorably by 40 percent and negatively by 23 percent, while the remaining 34 percent say they’re neutral or unsure.

Those more favorable towards socialism are also far more likely to be younger, a correlation that is reflected in the dramatic differences in the ages of Biden and Sanders supporters.

Sanders gets 47 percent support among Democratic primary voters under 35, compared with just 8 percent for Biden. Among those over 50, Biden gets 37 percent support compared with just 12 percent for Sanders.

Bloomberg’s ads give him a boost

The survey also shows that Bloomberg, whose massive personal wealth and late entry into the race have the potential to shake up its dynamics right as voting gets underway, has dominated the field when it comes to flooding the broadcast airwaves.

Bloomberg has spent more than $230 million on TV and radio ads to date, and almost six-in-ten Democratic voters nationwide say they have seen one of his advertisements.

And that appears to be having at least some positive impact on their views of him.

Last month, 52 percent of Democratic primary voters said they had reservations or were uncomfortable with his candidacy, while just 31 percent were comfortable or enthusiastic about it.

Now, Democrats’ perceptions of his run are breaking even, with 45 percent expressing concerns and 45 percent saying they’re at least comfortable with his candidacy.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 428 Democratic primary voters was conducted January 26-29, 2020. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.74 percentage points.

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