Polls have put Bernie Sanders on track to win the democratic nomination and the presidency with a groundswell of independent support according to a new poll, released amid calls for progressive rival Elizabeth Warren to drop out of the race.
Mr Sanders had previously remained firmly in second to presumptive nominee Joe Biden throughout much of the race – however after missing out on the win in Iowa by just 0.1 per cent and claiming all-out victory in New Hampshire, his campaign has surged with momentum.
Now a new poll conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of Reuters has revealed the vocal socialist is leading the field with unrivalled support from Democrats and independents – and presents him as the likeliest option to beat Donald Trump in the general election.
The 78-year-old came out on top of the crowded democratic field among registered party supporters and independents, with 20 per cent saying they would vote for him compared to Mr Biden’s 17 per cent.
The figure puts him well clear of the race’s other prominent candidate on the left, Ms Warren, who carries the support of 11 per cent of the same group.
He was also found to hold a prominent lead for his views on healthcare – identified by a December 2019 Gallup poll as the most important issue of the election.
Mr Sanders’ plan for national healthcare under the banner of Medicare for all received the support of 28 per cent of those surveyed with his nearest rival on the policy, Ms Warren, sitting at 17 per cent.
The poll also put him in the lead when it came to immigration policy and the environment – however he narrowly lost out to Mr Biden when it came to his ability to unify the party, and languished behind the former vice president when it came to another of the election’s big issues, national security.
However despite Mr Biden having the benefit of eight years in the west wing to burnish his public image, the poll found Mr Sanders carried only slightly less name recognition – with 47 per cent saying they were very familiar with the candidate compared to his rival’s 48 per cent.
The results are likely to cause further concern for Mr Biden following a poor showing in the early voting states – with even his attempt to position himself as the candidate who can beat Mr Trump superseded by the Sanders campaign.
Of all voters including Republicans, 41 per cent said they would back the president if he faced off with Mr Sanders, who was predicted to carry 45 per cent of the vote with the backing of 46 per cent of independents.
The poll also suggested Mr Biden would win the popular vote, but by narrower margins – claiming support from 44 per cent of those polled with 43 per cent of independents.
Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren, once considered among the race’s frontrunners, carried a draw with Mr Trump in the polls on 42 per cent support, ceding a higher number of Democrat voters to the president while convincing 27 per cent of independents that neither were a viable choice.
It comes as Ms Warren, who finished third in Iowa and a distant fourth in New Hampshire, is urged to drop out of the race in favour of Mr Sanders to lend the progressive frontrunner her support.
On Thursday Ms Warren addressed a rally at a sports hall in Arlington, Virginia to consolidate support in the Super Tuesday state – one of 15 to declare their support on 3 March. The states are often considered to revitalise a campaign before heading into the democratic convention.
However last night, cheered on by a crowd chanting “I believe she will win” she was confronted by a lone sign carrying the words “endorse Bernie already”.
Ms Warren held back from criticising Mr Sanders after the two sparred over allegations he had told her a woman could not win the election – a claim furiously denied by the socialist.
Instead she hit out at Michael Bloomberg, who has begun to pick up in the polls after not competing in New Hampshire of Iowa.
Criticising the billionaire’s 11-year-old claim getting rid of redlining – the practice of denying mortgages to low-income neighbourhoods often along racial lines – had been behind the 2008 financial crash, she said: “I want to be clear about this: that crisis would not have been averted if the banks were able to be bigger racists".