The New Hampshire Democratic primary is increasingly looking like a dual front-runner race as former Mayor Pete Buttigieg leaps ahead to join Senator Bernie Sanders at the front of the pack, according to newly released polls.
Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg are statistically tied in both a Monmouth University survey released Thursday and a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll out Friday. Each survey was taken during the aftermath of Monday’s bungled Iowa caucuses.
These results set up a possible outcome that few had given much thought to before this week: Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg may emerge from the two earliest-voting states with roughly equal momentum, leaving even their strongest rivals scrambling to regain footing — even as the race expands to more diverse contests in the South and West.
The Monmouth poll showed Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, with the support of 24 percent of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, and Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., with 20 percent. Those numbers are technically within the poll’s margin of error of each other. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was at 17 percent and Senator Elizabeth Warren had 13 percent. Senator Amy Klobuchar was at 9 percent.
The Suffolk numbers were even tighter: Mr. Sanders was at 24 percent, and Mr. Buttigieg was at 23 percent. No other candidate was within 10 points of them in that poll.
Suffolk has been polling New Hampshire voters constantly this week, releasing new results from its “tracking poll” every day. According to the poll, Mr. Buttigieg’s support has doubled since the beginning of the week, when he captured just 11 percent of likely voters.
Campaigning around New Hampshire this week, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg have each claimed victory in the Iowa caucuses. And as of right now, both have a legitimate argument: With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Sanders are locked in a virtual tie in the delegate count.
While the Monmouth poll had a four-day collection period, which began on the day of the Iowa caucuses, the latest Globe/Suffolk poll was only collected on Wednesday and Thursday. That meant the news of Mr. Buttigieg’s unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa had sunk in a bit more by the time that poll’s field period began.
A little over half of primary voters in both polls said they had yet to firmly settle on a Democratic candidate.
“I don’t think Iowa has sunk in yet — things are still shifting there,” Patrick Murray, who runs the Monmouth poll, said in an interview. But even without an outright win, Mr. Buttigieg’s strong showing has the potential to bring him more attention, Mr. Murray said — particularly if he performs strongly in the Democratic debate in Manchester, N.H., on Friday.
That’s because Mr. Murray sees the most uncertainty existing among electability-minded voters — those who say they are most interested in finding a candidate who will defeat President Trump. And Mr. Buttigieg tends to be more popular among these voters than among those who prioritize particular issues.
“Some of these other supporters of Biden and Klobuchar are the ones taking a look, because they’re the ones most concerned about electability,” Mr. Murray said, referring to voter curiosity about Mr. Buttigieg.
There is sometimes a temptation to lump Iowa and New Hampshire together as a kind of opening chapter to the nominating process. After all, both are heavily white states and nonrepresentative of the country’s population at large. And indeed, the results this year could end up being quite similar in both states.
But the two contests differ significantly. Iowa’s consists of caucuses — which favor candidates with younger and more activist supporters — and includes only Democrats. New Hampshire’s election is a simple primary, and is also open to political independents.
In 2016, when Mr. Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the primary there, he relied largely on the support of independent voters. He is himself a political independent, and he still does well among this group. But the 26 percent support he is now earning from non-Democrats in the Monmouth poll is still far less than the nearly three-quarters of independent voters he got in 2016.
This reflects the complications of a more crowded field this year, and the fact that the independent voters who participate on Tuesday may skew slightly more conservative than they did in 2016. That is because there was a competitive Republican primary that year. With Mr. Trump’s nomination all but guaranteed among Republicans this year, a broader cross-section of independents may consider weighing in on the Democratic race.
Mr. Buttigieg, who is the only other candidate to break 20 percent among non-Democrats in the Monmouth poll, could stand to gain.
Ms. Warren — whose poll numbers in New Hampshire crested in the fall, but who still stands a chance at a strong showing — is far less popular among independents. She pulls the vast majority of her backing from Democrats, and from liberals.
The divide between her liberal supporters and Mr. Sanders’s falls strikingly along gender lines. He is nearly twice as popular among New Hampshire men than he is among women there, according to the Monmouth poll. For Ms. Warren, the inverse is true.
A possible asset for Ms. Warren is that college graduates make up an outsize share of the New Hampshire primary electorate. Mr. Sanders tends to underperform with this group; according to Iowa entrance polls, on Monday he did only half as well among those with a college degree as he did among less-educated voters.
But so far, no other candidate has consolidated the support of college-educated New Hampshire Democrats either. Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg each command about one-fifth of these voters, according to Monmouth. Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar are not far behind.