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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
HomeNewsPoliticsWhy Iowa Senate Poll Showing Braley Leading GOP Hopefuls Doesn’t Mean Anything

Why Iowa Senate Poll Showing Braley Leading GOP Hopefuls Doesn’t Mean Anything

UPDATE: Rep. Bruce Braley was caught on video trashing Iowa farmers, elevating lawyers above regular Iowans as a viable profession for the Senate. If the GOP can capitalize on this, it’s very bad news for Braley and the Democrats. Further, new surveys, which do not reflect exposure to the video, show the race tightening considerably. Keep that in mind when you read the article below.

In the latest Iowa Senate poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley holds double-digit leads over all of his likely Republican contenders, save for Mark Jacobs.

  • 42 – 30 percent over former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker;
  • 42 – 29 percent over State Sen. Joni Ernst;
  • 40 – 31 percent over businessman Mark Jacobs;
  • 42 – 27 percent over radio commentator Sam Clovis.

(Note: The new surveys mention above show Braley ahead of Ernst by just 3 points, Jacobs also 3 points and Whitaker by 4 points. All but Clovis, who is down 13 points, keep him around 40 percent.)

However, despite the appearance of a large Democrat advantage, we are keeping the rating for the Iowa Senate race a “Toss-Up” on our 2014 Senate Map Predictions.

And here is why.

Bruce Braley has greater name recognition, and independents and Republican-leaning independents are soft on support for his potential challengers, a common anomaly in primary polling. Even though Braley gets a 35 – 18 percent favorability rating, and 46 percent of Iowa voters don’t know enough about him to form an opinion, his support and favorability ratings haven’t increased in a positive, proportional measure.

TREND: Is your opinion of Bruce Braley favorable, unfavorable or haven’t you heard enough about him?
                     Mar 13  Jul 22  May 24
                     2014    2013    2013

Favorable            35      27      27
Unfavorable          18      13      14
Hvn't hrd enough     46      58      57
REFUSED               1       2       2

Of the 13 percent of respondents in the previous Iowa Senate poll who said they either hadn’t heard enough about him or refused to answer, yet gave an answer in this latest Iowa Senate poll, just 8 percent now viewed him favorable compared to 5 who said unfavorable. In other words, for every 100 voters who get to know Braley enough to formulate an opinion about the candidate, roughly 38 have not liked what they see.

But when asked about the Republican candidates, 77 to 85 percent of voters said they don’t know enough about them to form an opinion, offering far more opportunity for improvement than Braley. In fact, Matt Whitaker has a very favorable trend, comparatively. When measurement next to Braley, just 1 in 6 say they now view Whitaker unfavorable after learning more about him.

TREND: Is your opinion of Matt Whitaker favorable, unfavorable or haven’t you heard enough about him?
                     Mar 13  Jul 22  May 24
                     2014    2013    2013

Favorable            13       8       8
Unfavorable           5       4       4
Hvn't hrd enough     81      88      86
REFUSED               1       -       1

If this trend continues — for Whitaker or any other potential candidate — these polling numbers will flip in short order.

These trends easily explain why the “curse of President Obama’s low approval does not seem to be hurting U.S. Rep. Braley,” as Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll incorrectly noted. As I have hammered time and time again, President Barack Obama having a negative 39 – 57 percent approval rating in Iowa will make it very difficult for Braley, or any Democratic candidate for that matter, to win in November.

When we run a regression analysis at the 39 percent approval rating measured by Quinnipiac University — for the purpose of observing the historical relationship between presidential job approval and Senate election outcomes since 1980 — we find, with a 95 percent level of confidence, Braley has no more than a 10 percent chance of victory. Similarly, Gallup currently measures President’s Obama approval rating at 42.5 percent in Iowa, which after 20,000 simulations still finds Braley with no more than a 30 percent chance of victory.

Of course, presidential job approval is only one variable factored in to our model used at PeoplesPunditDaily.com, but the political landscape is shaping up to not be very Democrat-friendly, particularly in the state of Iowa.

Iowa voters approve 62 – 27 percent of the job Senator Chuck Grassley is doing, but only approve 55 – 31 percent of Senator Tom Harkin. When we compare trends, both of which show respectable improvements, we see a large disparity. The difference reflects the same political dynamic we discussed in the analysis of the last Iowa Senate poll conducted by Quinnipiac University: Iowa voters, ideologically and on the specific issues, have voter’s remorse over Barack Obama and largely agree with the Republican Party.

TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Chuck Grassley is handling his job as United States Senator?
                     Mar 13  Dec 18  Jul 19  May 23
                     2014    2013    2013    2013

Approve              62      60      59      52
Disapprove           27      30      29      33
DK/NA                12      10      12      15

Now, let’s look at the job approval trend for Senator Harkin, and compare it with the job approval of Senator Grassley.

TREND: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Tom Harkin is handling his job as United States Senator?
                     Mar 13  Dec 18  Jul 19  May 23
                     2014    2013    2013    2013

Approve              55      50      50      47
Disapprove           31      38      35      35
DK/NA                14      12      15      18

Clearly, Iowans approve of the job Harkin is doing, but the spread is significantly smaller than it is when asked about Grassley. Harkin is a far more talented — and well-like — candidate than is Braley, and candidate recruitment cannot be understated when combatting a political landscape that isn’t at all favorable to a candidate’s ideology. Quinnipiac found Iowa voters by a margin of 46 – 41 percent say that they want the Republican Party to control the U.S. Senate, while Harper Polling found Iowa voters by a margin of 42 – 38 percent want a Republican senator.

By a 2 to 1 margin, Iowa voters say they want a senator who opposes ObamaCare and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and a plurality want someone who is opposed to stricter gun control laws. Many of the other so-called pundits are rating this race “Leans Democrat,” but for all the reasons above, I must respectfully disagree.

Consequently, I disagreed with “them” on the FL-13 special election, as well. Yet, despite Sink holding a similarly large lead found for Braley in the latest Iowa Senate poll, David Jolly is headed to Washington D.C., not Alex Sink.

From March 5 – 10, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,411 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

Written by
Data Journalism Editor

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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