Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg surging as moderate alternative to Joe Biden in Iowa poll

Rozina Sabur
Pete Buttigieg has seen a boost in support in Iowa, the first state to vote in the Democratic race - AFP

Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has seen a surge in support to put him in third place in Iowa, according to a new poll, closely trailing the race's front runners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in the crucial state.

Mr Buttigieg, once viewed as an obscure Midwestern mayor, received 13 per cent of support from voters in a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll in Iowa - the first state to vote in the Democratic primary. 

Mr Biden, a former US Vice President, and Mrs Warren, a senator for Massachusetts are closely tied with 18 per cent and 17 per cent of support respectively in a survey of 500 likely Democratic voters in the state.

The new poll shows a significant boost in support for Mr Buttigieg, who has presented himself as the alternative moderate candidate to Mr Biden, and received just six per cent of support among likely caucus goers in a June poll. Mrs Warren has also seen an increase in support, increasing by four points since June. 

Mr Buttigieg's performances in the televised live debates between the candidates may be behind the jump in support. 

Pete Buttigieg has struck a chord with debate watchers Credit: Heidi Gutman 

The new survey, conducted between October 16 - 18, after last week's debate, also found that Mr Buttigieg enjoys more support than either Mr Biden and Mrs Warren among debate-watchers, receiving 19 per cent of support compared to 17 per cent for each of the other two. 

By contrast Mr Biden, who led the crowded Democratic field with 24 per cent in June, has failed to shine in the gruelling 3-hour long debates. 

Meanwhile support for Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016, has remained steady at nine per cent for the last few months. 

Mr Buttigieg, 37,  currently mayor of the small town of South Bend, Indiana, has stunned fellow Democrat candidates, leapfrogging many who have vastly more experience to gain traction on the national stage. 

However Mr Biden is still benefiting from his higher public profile and his support base largely appears to be holding strong in the race to take on Donald Trump in 2020. Another poll released on Friday, found that the former Vice President had expanded his lead in the Democratic race as the impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump continues. 

The Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between October 17-18 found that 21 per cent of Democrats and independents said they would vote for Mr Biden in the Democratic primaries that begin next year, up 3 per centage points from a similar poll that was conducted at the end of September.

Democrats in the House of Representatives are currently holding hearings to investigate whether Mr Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

So far, the inquiry does not appear to have shaken up public support for Mr Biden or the other candidates for the Democratic nomination.

According to the poll, which surveyed 1,116 adults, 16 per cent of Democrats and independents said they would support Mr Sanders and 15 per cent said they would back Mrs Warren.

Mr Buttigieg received just five per cent of support in that poll. With less than four months to go before Iowa holds the first nomination contest, the race for the Democratic nomination appears to be wide open. About 1 in 5 said they remain undecided, and nearly two-thirds of Democrats and independents said they could still change their minds.