NEW YORK : A national poll of the Democratic presidential race has for the first time put Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, ahead of party rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Fox News poll released Thursday shows Sanders with 47 percent support to Clinton’s 44 percent. That is a gain of 10 percentage points for Sanders from a January version of the poll. Clinton's support waned by five points. Clinton posted leads as high as 30 points over the summer, but Sanders has been steadily closing the gap.

“One thing that is clear from our poll - and others - is that Clinton has been losing support and Sanders has been gaining,” Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, who assisted Fox News on the poll,said. “And this process appears to have accelerated since the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.” Fox released the poll two days before Saturday's caucuses in Nevada, a state where Clinton has also seen a major lead evaporate, according to The Hill.

A CNN/ORC poll from this week found the White House hopefuls essentially tied there.

The Democratic establishment had long viewed Clinton as the inevitable nominee, but anxiety is growing, with some fearful that the campaign is slipping away from her.

The poll also found that a vast majority of Democrats, 72 percent, believe Sanders is "realistic enough" to serve as president despite repeated attacks by the Clinton campaign that his policies on healthcare and subsidized public college tuition are a pipe dream.

Thirty percent of all voters would consider themselves satisfied if Sanders wins the White House, more than said the same of Clinton or Republicans Donald Trump or Jeb Bush.