Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders surged to a lead in the latest poll of Wisconsin voters by Marquette University Law School, with 29 percent of self-described Democrats listing him as their first choice in the upcoming presidential primary.
It was the best showing yet for Sanders, and Marquette's first poll since he won the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses outright. Sanders also virtually tied former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttiegieg atop the Iowa caucuses.
Marquette spoke to 1,000 registered Wisconsin voters from Feb. 19-23. Questions that were asked of the entire survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, while questions that were specific to self-identified Democratic primary voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.
Behind Sanders, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg came in second with 17 percent of those polled. He was followed by former Vice President Joe Biden with 15 percent, Buttiegieg with 13 percent, Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar with 11 percent and Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 9 percent.
The past few Marquette polls had shown Biden leading the Democratic field, and just a month ago, he was the top choice of 23 percent of Democrats compared to 19 percent for Sanders.
But as Biden's numbers eroded, Sanders' numbers grew.
"Big move here for Bernie Sanders," said Marquette University Pollster Charles Franklin. "Month to month, we saw a 10-point boost ... putting him pretty solidly in first place."
Sanders' support grew among all demographics, but his support among young Democratic voters was especially pronounced. In January, he was the top choice of 45 percent of voters age 18-29. In February, he had the support of 68 percent of that age group.
Bloomberg's numbers also surged from 6 percent a month ago to 17 percent in January, but other numbers suggested he's yet to win over many Democrats. Thirty-four percent of Democrats viewed him favorably compared to 36 percent who viewed him unfavorably, while 31 percent said they either hadn't heard enough to form an opinion or didn't know.
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For President Donald Trump, Marquette's February survey marked his best numbers yet when it comes to approval rating. Among all voters, 48 percent approved of the job he's doing as president while 48 percent disapproved.
That was driven in large part by especially high support from Republican voters, with whom Trump had a 95 percent approval rating in January.
"You can see the party rallying around him," Franklin said.
Regardless of who emerges from the Democratic primary, Marquette's survey continues to suggest an extremely close general election.
In hypothetical head-to-head matchups with President Donald Trump, Sanders led by 2 percentage points while Biden, Klobuchar and Buttiegieg were all tied. Bloomberg trailed Trump by 1 percentage point and Warren trailed him by 3.
All of the head-to-head results were well within the survey's margin of error.
While Thursday marked the best showing yet for Sanders in the 2020 election cycle, the result was not altogether unexpected.
A survey of Wisconsin voters released Sunday by the University of Wisconsin -Madison Elections Research Center in collaboration with the Wisconsin State Journal showed Sanders leading the Democratic field with 30 percent of the vote.