by Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press
Feb. 23, 2020

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders appears to be leading his Democratic rivals in Michigan’s March 10 primary, according to a new poll released Sunday.

The poll by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Elections Research Center shows Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont, with the support of 25% of respondents who said they plan to vote in Michigan’s primary. .

Former Vice President Joe Biden was second with 16% and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were tied for third with 13% support. As in other states, a candidate will have to top 15% in order to get delegates from Michigan toward the eventual nomination.

The poll of 662 Michiganders, which was conducted Feb. 11-20, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

For the poll, the Elections Research Center, which partnered with the Wisconsin State Journal, worked with YouGov, a polling firm with millions of people registered across the U.S. as part of an online panel. It then matched a representative sample of voters based on gender, race, age and education in three battleground states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to survey support in the Democratic primary and how top candidates might fare against President Donald Trump in November.

In Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 7, Sanders was ahead with 30%, compared with 13% for Biden and Bloomberg and 12% for Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 28, Sanders was at 25%, compared with 20% for Biden and 19% for Bloomberg. Buttigieg was next at 12%.

“Sanders is well-positioned to pick up the lion’s share of delegates in these states unless another Democrat breaks away from the pack to challenge him,” said Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin and and director of the Elections Research Center.

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The poll indicated Sanders led in Michigan with men, at 27% support, and with women, at 26%. Bloomberg was next among men at 17%. Biden was next among women at 18%. Sanders led among white voters, with 27% to Buttigieg’s 14%. Biden led among nonwhite voters, 27% to Sanders’ 21%.

Sanders had the support of 40% of likely Democratic primary voters in Michigan under the age of  50, while Biden and Bloomberg were tops among voters above that age with 19% support each to Sanders’ 14%. Subgroups like those, however, would have a margin of error larger than 5%.

Meanwhile, the poll also had all of the Democratic candidates tested — which did not include Bloomberg — leading Trump in Michigan in a head-to-head race. Here’s how each did, according to the poll:

  • Sanders 48%, Trump 41%
  • Biden 47%, Trump 43%
  • Buttigieg 47%, Trump 41%
  • Warren 46%, Trump 43%
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota 44%, Trump 41%

Another poll released last week by Quinnipiac University also showed Democrats leading Trump in Michigan.

For the general election matchups the poll used a much larger sample — 1,249 voters  in Michigan, 1,171 in Pennsylvania and 936 in Wisconsin — and the margin of error was between 3 and 4 percentage points in each state.

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While Democrats appeared to have an advantage over Trump in Michigan, however, it was much less so in the other states: In Pennsylvania, Sanders led Trump 47%-45% and Biden led Trump 46%-45%, well within the margin of error. The rest were tied.

In Wisconsin, the poll found all the Democrats tested leading Trump, but no one had more than a 2 percentage point lead, which was true of Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren.

Contact Todd Spangler: Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.