Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are closely matched in the race for U.S. Senate in Iowa among likely voters statewide including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who have voted early or by absentee ballot. Intensity of support is one of the key dynamics in the race. Ernst’s voters are more strongly committed to their candidate than are Braley’s backers. Ernst’s supporters also describe their vote as an affirmation of her candidacy. In contrast, Braley’s voters are more motivated by their opposition to Ernst than positive impressions of Braley. Braley has a wide lead among the small proportion of Iowans who have already voted.
It’s a different story when it comes to the governor’s race in Iowa. Republican incumbent Terry Branstad leads his Democratic opponent, State Senator Jack Hatch, by 22 points among Iowa likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who have voted early or by absentee ballot. With solid job approval and favorable ratings, Branstad is held in high-esteem by many Iowans.
“National attention is focused on the Hawkeye State because it may determine party control in the U.S. Senate, and the contest is very competitive,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “The choice for voters centers more on their impressions of Ernst than Braley. Most of Ernst’s supporters are inspired to rally for her, and many of Braley’s backers are motivated to vote against Ernst.”
- Ernst, 46%, and Braley, 44%, are in a close contest in the race for U.S. Senate in Iowa among likely voters statewide including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted early or by absentee ballot.
- Although the sample of early voters is small, Braley leads Ernst, 61% to 38%.
- Both candidates receive overwhelming support from their base, Braley has 91% among Democrats, and Ernst receives 88% from Republicans. A plurality of independents likely to vote, 46%, supports Ernst compared with 38% for Braley. 15% of likely voters who identify as independents, the plurality of voters in the state, are undecided.
- The gender gap is wide, but political party trumps gender. Ernst holds an 18 point lead over Braley among men, 53% to 35%. Braley leads Ernst by 11 points, 52% to 41%, among women. Ernst is strongest among married men with a lead of 28 points over her opponent. Braley leads by 26 points among single women.
- Nearly six in ten likely voters with a candidate preference, 57%, strongly support their choice of candidate for U.S. Senate. 35% are somewhat committed to their pick, and 7% might vote differently. 62% of Ernst’s supporters are strongly committed to her compared with 51% of Braley’s backers who express a similar level of support.
- 50% of Iowa likely voters with a candidate preference for Senate report they are supporting their choice of candidate because they are for that candidate. 45% say they back their selection because they are against the other person in the race. More than six in ten Ernst backers, 61%, say they are voting for her because they believe in her. However, 57% of Braley’s supporters plan to vote for him because they are against Ernst.
- Among registered voters in Iowa including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted early or by absentee ballot, 45% support Braley while 44% are for Ernst. Little has changed on this question since NBC News/Marist’s July survey when 43% supported Braley, and 43% were for Ernst.
- 44% of Iowa likely voters have a favorable impression of Ernst, and 44% have an unfavorable one. Among Iowa adults, Ernst’s favorable rating is upside down. 38% have a positive view of her while 43% have a negative one. Ernst has become more well-known to Iowans but not for the better. While there has been little movement in Ernst’s favorable rating among Iowans since July, 36% to 38%, her negative rating has gone up 11 points from 32% in July to 43% now.
- Looking at Braley’s favorable rating, 39% of likely voters in Iowa think well of him while a plurality, 44%, has a negative view of the candidate. Among Iowans overall, Braley, too, has made inroads with residents but not necessarily positive ones. Since July, the proportion of Iowans with a favorable impression of him has gone from 33% to 36% while those with a negative view have increased from 31% to 40%.
- In the governor’s race in Iowa, Branstad, 58%, leads Hatch, 36%, by 22 points among Iowa likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted early or by absentee ballot.
- Most Republicans, 96%, support Branstad. While most Democrats, 82%, are for Hatch, 13% say they will vote for the Republican incumbent. 62% of independent likely voters back Branstad compared with 30% for Hatch.
- The small group of early voters divide between the candidates for governor, 51% for Branstad and 49% for Hatch.
- Close to six in ten likely voters with a candidate preference, 58%, strongly support their choice of candidate for governor in Iowa. 35% somewhat back their pick, and 6% might vote differently. Brandstad’s supporters, 63%, are more likely than Hatch’s backers, 52%, to say they are strongly committed to their choice of candidate.
- 60% of likely voters in Iowa have a favorable impression of Branstad, and 33% have an unfavorable one. Among Iowans, 57% think well of Branstad, up from 51% in July.
- Hatch is still unknown to 30% of likely voters in Iowa. 34% of voters likely to cast a ballot have a favorable impression of Hatch, and 36% have an unfavorable one. Among Iowa residents, Hatch has become better known, but his negative rating has increased. In July, Hatch’s favorable rating was 27% among Iowans, and now, 30% have a positive view of him. 23% of state residents had a negative view of him last summer, and now, 33% do.
- 63% of residents approve of the job Branstad is doing in office, up from 58% in July.
Low Marks for President Obama and Congress
Although slightly improved, Iowans are dissatisfied with how President Obama is doing in office. They are also displeased with the performances of congressional Democrats and Republicans. About two-thirds are pessimistic about the direction of the country.
- 39% of Iowa residents approve of how President Obama is performing in office while 50% disapprove. In July, the president’s approval rating was at 36% among Iowans. 51%, then, disapproved.
- 42% of residents have a favorable view of President Obama, and 51% have an unfavorable one.
- Only 21% of Iowa adults approve of the job the Republicans in Congress are doing, and 63% disapprove. Looking at how congressional Democrats are doing their job, 27% approve while 60% disapprove.
- When it comes to the direction of the country, more than two-thirds of Iowa residents, 67%, say it is on the wrong track. 25%, however, say it is on the right one.
Obamacare Lacks Support in Iowa
More Iowa residents think the Affordable Care Act is bad idea than a good one.
- 46% of adults in Iowa, including 39% of those who strongly have this opinion, say the new health care law is a bad idea. 31% think it is a good idea including 23% who strongly maintain this view. 22% of Iowans have no opinion or are unsure. In July, 49% reported Obamacare was a bad idea, 31% said it was a good one, and 19% had no opinion of the law or were unsure.