IA-Gov: PPP finds Branstad ahead of competition

Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey suggests that Governor Terry Branstad will have little trouble dispatching his primary challenger and goes into the general election as a favorite, despite an approval rating below 50 percent. This pdf file contains full results from PPP's poll of 869 Iowa voters, including 283 Republican primary voters, between February 20 and 23. Respondents approved of Branstad's job performance by a 45 margin to 40 percent margin; only 15 percent of respondents were unsure. The leading Democratic candidate for governor, State Senator Jack Hatch, is less well-known, with 16 percent approval, 15 percent disapproval, and 69 percent of respondents not sure. Branstad led Hatch by 48 percent to 36 percent, the same margin PPP found when it last polled Iowa in July 2013.

Anything below 50 percent approval is sometimes considered a "danger zone" for an incumbent. Paradoxically, Branstad may be comforted to know that among the Republican subsample in PPP's survey, his approval was just 72 percent with 16 percent disapproving of his job performance and 12 percent unsure. A chart further down shows that 21 percent of "somewhat conservative" and 11 percent of "very conservative" respondents disapprove of Branstad. These voters may not be happy with the incumbent, but they are also not likely to gravitate toward a Democratic candidate for governor. A more worrying sign for Branstad would be that his approval is underwater with self-identified moderates in the poll (35 percent/43 percent).

Tom Hoefling, a former third-party presidential candidate who is challenging Branstad in the GOP primary, had extremely low name recognition among Republican respondents: 3 percent favorable, 9 percent unfavorable, 88 percent not sure. In a ballot test, 70 percent of Republicans picked Branstad and 11 percent Hoefling. Discontent among conservatives suggests that Hoefling can go higher, but I would be surprised if the protest vote in the June primary exceeded 25 percent.

Any comments about the governor's race are welcome in this thread.  

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