ALBIA, IOWAFocus on Rural America’s latest poll went into the field following the very first Democratic debate of the year. The findings provide exciting shakeups for the horserace and steady support for rural America.

“I’m excited to see Iowans closely followed the first debate and will continue to work with the candidates to ensure they are engaging rural Americans in a meaningful way,” said Focus on Rural America Chair Lt. Governor Patty Judge. “Our poll shows that Iowans are paying attention and that they are prioritizing someone who can win rural America, because that’s what it will take to beat President Trump.”

The Focus on Rural America poll shows the current top candidates are in a virtual three-way tie. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are on top with 20% and 18% respectively while Vice President Biden holds 17%. Next in line is Senator Bernie Sanders at 12%, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 10% and Senator Amy Klobuchar at 4%.

The two nights of debate made for a crowded stage and had a huge impact on voters. 63% saw some or more of the debate while 83% followed the debate’s media coverage. 26% of voters said the debates had a big impact their opinions, in addition to the 37% who were persuaded by the debates at least somewhat.

The head-to-head polling above reflects the takeaway voters had on the debate winners. Most voters said, based on debate performance, they were won over by Harris (34%), Warren (16%), Buttigieg (11%), Biden (7%) Castro (6%) and Sanders (6%).

Having more than 20 candidates to choose from shook up the debates and left a few of them off the stage, but this year voter participation will see some changes as well. In Iowa the caucuses will expand by including a virtual option for voters to participate online. 20% of Iowan’s we polled reported they planned to caucus virtually but we weighted their choice to only 10% to accurately reflect the rules established for a virtual caucus.

The good news for rural America? Exciting debates and virtual caucuses don’t change everything. 83% of Iowans support expanding production of renewable biofuels and 64% think President Trump’s waivers for oil and gas companies hurt rural economies. In addition, our latest poll maintains the steady report from Iowans on how to beat President Trump. 62% said Democrats should stick to the center, as opposed to the left, and 51% believe they need to prioritize engaging rural voters.

Focus on Rural America is polling Iowans quarterly and will have our next poll in the field this September.