A new statewide poll by Quinnipiac University shows Governor Terry Branstad’s approval rating comfortably in positive territory, but Iowans split down the middle on whether he should be re-elected.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,411 registered Iowa voters between May 15 and 21, producing a margin of error of +/- 2.61 percentage points. The polling memo (or here in pdf format) includes the question wordings and cross-tabs for the part of the survey dealing with the governor’s race.
Key findings: 49 percent of respondents approve of Branstad’s work as governor, while just 31 percent disapprove.
Democrats disapprove 53 – 28 percent. There is a small gender gap, with men approving 55 – 29 percent, while women give him a thumbs up 44 – 32 percent.
On the other hand, 43 percent of respondents said Branstad doesn’t deserve to be re-elected, while 42 percent said he does. From the polling memo:
“Gov. Terry Branstad’s job approval numbers are just short of the 50 percent threshold and show a nearly 20 point spread between those who approve and disapprove of his job performance,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The fact that voters are split on the question of whether Gov. Branstad deserves another term in Des Moines is probably a bit disconcerting for the governor. It could be that some voters like what he has done in office but that 20 years in the governor’s office is just too long.”
[…] Republicans say he deserves four more years 67 – 18 percent, but Democrats say no 66 – 19 percent and independent voters are split by a 43 – 41 percent margin. Men are divided as 48 percent say yes to another Branstad term and 41 percent say no. Women say no 44 – 36 percent.
“The governor’s reelection numbers are a contrast with his approval ratings and are worth noting,” said Brown. “Yet, the lack of any major Democratic challenger with widespread name recognition and the cash to wage a very expensive campaign probably makes the governor a better reelection bet than the numbers indicate. After all, voters may think he has been governor too long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will vote to replace him.”
This poll won’t put Branstad’s team into panic mode. He is still in positive territory. About 66 percent of respondents said the economy is good or excellent. He will have plenty of money to boost his image and tarnish his eventual opponent. The final results from the 2013 legislative session will probably help him build a narrative about accomplishing education reform, property tax cuts, and forming an Iowa alternative to Medicaid expansion.
I have questions about the party ID weighting in the survey. Quinnipiac asked respondents, “Generally speaking, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?” The “weighted” results used show 26 percent Republicans, 31 percent Democrats, and 37 percent no-party voters. Iowa Democrats currently have only a small statewide voter registration advantage, and it’s way too early to predict which party will have better GOTV in the fall of 2014.
More important, independents are far less likely to participate in midterm elections. So while a plurality of Iowa voters identify as independents, that group will certainly not be the largest group of voters in the 2014 general election.
The statewide statistical report for the 2006 general election shows that among Iowa voters who cast ballots, 384,983 were registered Democrats, 386,382 were Republicans, and just 273,094 were no-party voters.
The statewide statistical report for the 2010 general election shows that among Iowa voters who cast ballots, 395,312 were Democrats, 447,445 were Republicans, and just 281,546 were no-party voters.
Even though Iowa’s registered no-party voters were a larger group in 2006 and 2010 than either Democrats or Republicans, their participation rate was very low compared to partisans in the November election.
Any comments about the governor’s race are welcome in this thread. I expect State Senator Jack Hatch to announce a gubernatorial campaign soon. He was one of the key negotiators who struck a deal this week over expanding health insurance coverage for low-income Iowans. Last night Hatch voted for Senate File 295, a bill including commercial property tax cuts and other provisions. Another possible Democratic candidate for governor, State Senator Rob Hogg, was one of the six Democrats who voted against that tax bill. I totally agree with Hogg here: “Just because it’s a compromise doesn’t mean it’s a good compromise.”
Several people who watch Iowa politics closely have suggested to me in recent days that Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal pushed his caucus hard for a property tax deal with a view toward running for governor himself.