Governor Terry Branstad defeated Chet Culver by more than 100,000 votes in November, but Public Policy Polling found no signs of a honeymoon in their survey of 1,077 Iowa voters between January 7 and 9:
Despite defeating Chet Culver and returning to office by a 53-43 margin in November, Terry Branstad is no more popular than his predecessor. Iowans disapprove of Culver’s four-year record, 41-46, but they are also down on Branstad, 40-44. The two post almost identical numbers with independents, and are equally polarizing across party lines.
Only 64% of Republicans like [Branstad], a lower number than you would expect and perhaps an indicator of some residual animosity toward him from his closer than expected primary contest. He unsurprisingly has little support from Democrats, only 18% of whom have a favorable opinion of him, and independents split 45/35 against him as well. […]
So if voters don’t like Branstad that much, you might ask, how did he still win by such a healthy margin? Well they certainly don’t think much of outgoing Democrat Chet Culver either. Only 41% of voters approve of the work he did as Governor to 46% who disapprove. Voters who didn’t like either Branstad or Culver likely went overwhelmingly for the challenger on the premise that he would at least take things in a different and possibly better direction.
I would add that PPP was polling all Iowa voters this month, but the group of voters who turned out in November skewed Republican. The statewide statistical report (pdf file) shows that the total number of Iowans who cast ballots in the midterm (1,121,175) was just under 53 percent of all registered Iowa voters. However, GOP turnout was nearly 69 percent (of 646,396 registered Republicans, 445,829 voted), while Democratic turnout was only 56.5 percent (of 698,227 registered Democrats, 394,252 voted). Republicans may not all like Branstad, but they at least viewed him as the lesser evil.
The PPP poll suggests that Branstad does not return to the governor’s post with a popular mandate for his ideas. That should stiffen the spines of Iowa Senate Democrats during this year’s legislative session.