Republican Iowa poll roundup

It’s been months since we’ve had new public nonpartisan polling of Iowa general election matchups, but three Republican polls have come out in the last ten days. None of them hold good news for Iowa Democrats.

After the jump I summarize results from statewide polls done by Rasmussen Reports and Voter/Consumer Research for The Iowa Republican blog, as well as a Victory Enterprises poll of Iowa’s third Congressional district race.

Rasmussen Reports conducted an automated telephone survey of 500 “Iowa likely voters” on August 5, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent. Toplines and survey questions for the governor’s race are here. Chet Culver’s approve/disapprove numbers are 37/61, substantially lower than President Barack Obama’s (48/44). Terry Branstad leads Culver 52 percent to 36 percent, smaller than the 57-31 lead Rasmussen found for Branstad shortly after the Republican primary in June. Rasmussen also found Senator Chuck Grassley leading Roxanne Conlin by 55 percent to 35 percent, similar to his 54-37 margin in Rasmussen’s June poll.

Rasmussen’s documented “house effect” favors Republican candidates enough to shift polling averages noticeably. But we don’t have lots of other Iowa polls to compare to these results. Clearly Culver and Conlin are behind. Culver needs to remind people of his administration’s achievements as well as go after Branstad. Conlin should highlight aspects of Grassley’s voting record that are way out of the mainstream, because 56 percent of the Rasmussen respondents said Grassley’s views were mainstream, with only 29% saying they are extreme.

The Iowa Republican blog commissioned a survey by Voter/Consumer Research, which conducted 500 live interviews between July 25 and 28. Click here for the demographic breakdown of the poll sample.

Branstad leads Culver in that Republican poll by 53 percent to 35 percent. The poll also included a question about a three-way governor’s race and found Bob Vander Plaats he would have about 19 percent support if he were running as an independent, while Branstad would still be ahead of Culver by 39 percent to 30 percent. The Iowa Republican’s poll found Grassley with a 59-33 lead on Conlin and way ahead of among women voters, especially women under 45 (who are mostly too young to remember Conlin’s gubernatorial bid in 1982).

Culver’s campaign manager Donn Stanley has suggested that the sample for these Republican polls won’t reflect the electorate who shows up in November. I certainly hope that’s the case, but the Culver campaign hasn’t released any of its own polling to show where the governor stands assuming a different demographic breakdown of the electorate. Selzer and Co will probably conduct an Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register in September, and it will be interesting to compare those results to the Rasmussen and Voter/Consumer Research findings. For now it’s safe to say Culver and Conlin both have a lot of work to do.

The Iowa Republican poll had some good news for Democrats regarding down-ticket races. Attorney General Tom Miller led Brenna Findley 41 percent to 26 percent, and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald led Dave Jamison 43 percent to 30 percent. Both Miller and Fitzgerald won despite the Republican landslide of 1994, and they are heavily favored to win again this year. First-term Secretary of State Mike Mauro has lower name identification, which probably explains why challenger Matt Schultz had a 33 percent to 30 percent lead in The Iowa Republican poll. None of these Democratic incumbents should take anything for granted this year, obviously.

Conservatives trying to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges may be facing an uphill battle. In the Iowa Republican poll, 40 percent of respondents said they would vote to retain the judges, 27 percent said they would vote against retention and 31 percent didn’t know.

The Battleground polls also asked those surveyed if they would retain the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices if they knew that these judges voted to legalize gay marriage in Iowa.  When the question was asked that way, 44 percent would vote to retain, while 47 percent of respondents would vote to remove the judges.  Only eight percent of those surveyed were undecided.

The retention races worry me because the Republican Governors Association and various groups on the religious right will make sure Vander Plaats’ “grassroots campaign” is lavishly funded. A bipartisan coalition has formed to defend the judges, but I doubt they will be able to match the spending on the other side.

Rounding out the Republican polling news of the week, the Polk County Republican Party commissioned a survey of the IA-03 Congressional race by Victory Enterprises, which is a consultant for Brad Zaun’s campaign. That survey showed Zaun ahead of seven-term Representative Leonard Boswell by 45 percent to 38 percent.

The survey included 300 likely voters, according to Victory Enterprises. It was comprised of 21 percent independent voters, 42 percent Democrats, and 37 percent Republicans. Sixty-six percent of the respondents were from Polk County and the rest were geographically proportioned from the rest of the 3rd Congressional District.

The poll showed Zaun defeating Boswell in Polk County, by far the biggest county in the 12-county district, by 46.5 percent to 38.4 percent.

Among independent voters, Zaun leads Boswell 41.3 percent to 31.7 percent, the survey said.

In addition, Zaun was supported by 26 percent of Democrats, according to the poll.

Boswell’s campaign manager Grant Woodard dismissed this survey as a “partisan poll by a partisan firm” with “essentially cooked up statistics.” However, Boswell’s campaign hasn’t released its own internal polling, and we haven’t seen any public poll of this race all year. I have to agree with the Swing State Project bloggers, who recently moved IA-03 from the “lean Democrat” to the “tossup” column. I still expect Boswell to win, in part because he has a lot more money to define Zaun than Zaun has to define himself. The National Republican Congressional Committee is unlikely to invest a lot of money in this race to help Zaun overcome that disparity.

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