Democratic South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg surged in the 2020 Democratic primary, according to a poll released Monday from Emerson College Polling.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took the lead, earning 29% favorability over former Vice President Joe Biden’s 24%, a drastic change from his recent 32% in a Morning Consult weekly poll released last week. Buttigieg surged to 9% support in the poll, up from 0% in February.
“While still early in the nominating process, it looks like Mayor Pete is the candidate capturing voters’ imagination; the numbers had him at 0% in mid-February, 3% in March and now at 9% in April,” Polling Director Spencer Kimball said in an accompanying statement. “Biden has seen his support drop. In February, he led Sanders 27% to 17%, and in March the two were tied at 26%. Now, Sanders has a 5 point lead, 29% to 24%.”
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris tied for fourth place, each earning 8%, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren earned 7%. The poll also gave Trump a 43% approval rating and a 49% disapproval rating.
Biden still appeared to dominate when each candidate was pitted against Trump in a hypothetical question. When asked which candidate could win in a general election, 53% of respondents said they would support the former vice president over President Donald Trump.
Sanders and O’Rourke each earned 51% support in the same theoretical matchup, and Buttigieg was the first Democratic nominee to lose against Trump. Those respondents who said they would support the president made up 51% of the vote compared to the Indiana mayor’s 49% support.
The overall and head-to-head polls included included 914 voter respondents from all party affiliations for a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points in either direction.
In order to find which Democratic candidate was favored by Democratic voters, pollsters narrowed the scope of the poll to include the 354 respondents who self-identified as likely Democratic primary voters. Emerson included 20 candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary poll, and the smaller polling group carried a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points in either direction.
Emerson contacted respondents from April 11 through April 14.
Buttigieg experienced widespread recognition following his feud with Vice President Mike Pence and his recent speech where he discussed his struggle with his identity as a gay man:
When I was younger, I would have done anything to not be gay. When I began to halfway realize what it meant that I felt the way I did about people I saw in the hallway at school or the dining hall at college, it launched in me something that I can only describe as a kind of war. And if that war had been settled on the terms that I would have wished for when I was 15, or 20, or frankly even 25, I would not be standing here.
Buttigieg’s sexuality has been a topic of hot debate for some, like whether or not he is “gay enough” to overcome his status as a white male in the 2020 Democratic primary, a claim that was widely discounted in a New York Times op-ed last Wednesday (RELATED: Buttigieg Calls Evangelicals Who Support Trump Hypocrites)
In the article titled “Mayor Pete Is Plenty Gay,” Columnist Frank Bruni concluded, “He sounds sufficiently gay to me. His powers of empathy seem plenty informed by his sexual orientation. And we need to stop making assumptions about how well someone can understand and address what minorities go through based on his or her looks.”
The mayor also emerged as a Christian foil to the Trump administration, taking turns to criticize President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their actions, despite having a scandal-free political relationship with Pence for four years when Pence served at the governor of Indiana from 2013–2017. He called evangelical Christians who support the president hypocrites due to his past behavior and allegedly paying off Stormy Daniels.
“Mayor Pete” announced his candidacy in January and has made news criticizing Trump’s religion before. He called Pence the “cheerleader for the porn-star presidency” during a CNN town hall last month.
“I’m reluctant to comment on another person’s faith, but I would say it is hard to look at this president’s actions and believe that they’re the actions of somebody who believes in God,” Buttigieg told Kirsten Powers, according to an op-ed in USA Today.
His support in the polls and gambling markets has increased recently, although some at a modest rate. He also attended a fundraiser Wednesday in Hollywood where he spoke to celebrities and workers alike about his plan for the country.