IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Highlights from PPP's latest poll

Public Policy Polling released its latest Iowa survey yesterday; click here for the memo and here (pdf) for full results from the poll of 914 registered voters between May 15 and 19 (margin of error plus or minus 3.3 percent). Some highlights are after the jump.

Democrat Bruce Braley has a slight lead over all the Republican candidates, similar to when PPP last polled the U.S. Senate race here. He’s up 45 percent to 39 percent against State Senator Joni Ernst, 42 percent to 36 percent against Mark Jacobs, 43 percent to 36 percent against Matt Whitaker, and 43 percent to 34 percent against Sam Clovis. However, Braley’s favorability has taken a hit; the latest PPP survey shows 29 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of him, 29 percent unfavorable, and 41 percent were unsure. Ernst, the front-runner in the GOP primary, is now just as well-known to respondents; probably for that reason, the number of undecideds was lower in the Braley/Ernst match-up (16 percent) than in the head to heads against the other Republicans. Ernst’s favorable/unfavorable numbers among the full sample were 27 percent/32 percent, with 41 percent unsure. Among women in the sample, Braley actually hit 50 percent against Ernst, but not against the other Republicans. Her turbo-charged ads are going to change to a more female-friendly tone after the primary.

Braley would surely rather have a bigger lead, but maybe he should feel lucky to be ahead at all in a poll where just 41 percent of respondents approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance, while 53 percent disapprove. Braley’s also coming out of his roughest media coverage period, thanks to the video of his disparaging remarks about Senator Chuck Grassley.

Several election forecasters see the IA-Sen race leaning Democratic. I was surprised to see that the New York Times’ Upshot model now gives Braley an 82 percent chance of winning. I think the race is more competitive than that. The Washington Post’s Election Lab has revised its forecast and now sees IA-Sen a 50/50 tossup. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Election Lab gave Republicans a 65 percent chance of picking up Tom Harkin’s Senate seat.

On to PPP’s latest governor’s race numbers. There’s nothing to see in the GOP primary, where 82 percent of respondents don’t know who Tom Hoefling is. I’ll be surprised if Governor Terry Branstad wins less than 80 to 85 percent of the vote on June 3. Branstad’s job approval numbers are not great (42 percent approve/43 percent disapprove, 15 percent not sure). He is still way better known than his Democratic opponent, State Senator Jack Hatch (19 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable, 60 percent not sure). Head to head, Branstad leads Hatch by 48 percent to 40 percent, with 12 percent not sure.

That’s not as good for the governor as in February, when PPP found Branstad leading Hatch by 48 percent to 36 percent. It’s a slight improvement on last month’s PPP survey (commissioned by a Democratic-aligned group), which found similar approval numbers for Branstad and a smaller lead against Hatch, 43 percent to 38 percent.

Republicans are pointing to a survey by a GOP firm that supposedly shows the governor 15 points ahead, but this race has clearly tightened over the last couple of months. Multiple polls have shown Branstad’s job approval and/or re-elect numbers below 50 percent. A Hickman Analytics survey taken during the last week of April (pdf) showed Branstad leading Hatch by 47 percent to 43 percent among respondents who said they will “definitely” vote in November, and by 50 percent to 40 percent among those who will “probably” vote. Incidentally, the same Hickman poll showed Braley statistically tied with Jacobs but narrowly leading Ernst.

Hatch’s big problem now is his huge financial disadvantage. The latest campaign finance reports show that Branstad has raised $1.15 million since the beginning of this year. As of May 14, his campaign had $4.54 million in the bank. Hatch’s campaign raised $262,295 during the latest reporting period and only had $312,354 cash on hand as of last week. Without a lot of money to spend, it’s harder for any challenger to raise his name recognition and close the polling gap between himself and the incumbent. The Democratic Governor’s Association is not inclined to spend any money in Iowa this year. Strategists might change their minds if they could be convinced before the end of the summer that Hatch has a good shot. But several of the DGA’s first- and second-tier states are expensive places to campaign (Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan).

PPP’s latest poll included a question about the secretary of state campaign. It looks like a tossup for now, with 34 percent inclined to support Democrat Brad Anderson, 32 percent for Republican Paul Pate, and 34 percent undecided. I’m sure Anderson would rather be running against incumbent Secretary of State Matt Schultz, given recent news about his management. But Schultz bailed out of this race to run for Congress in the open third district.

Finally, Tom Jensen noted in PPP’s polling memo,

-PPP finds the strongest level of support it ever has for gay marriage in Iowa, with 48% of voters in favor of it to 42% who are opposed. Among voters under 45 there is 59/32 support, the only reason the overall numbers are remotely close is because seniors continue to oppose it 33/53.

-And no matter how bad they might be, Iowa remains ever loyal to the Cubs. 39% of voters in the state identify themselves as Cubs fans to 12% for the Twins, 11% for the Cardinals, 7% for the Yankees, and 6% for the Royals.

That’s encouraging news about marriage equality, and in the coming years the numbers should continue to improve.

As for the baseball findings, I am old enough to remember George Brett’s heyday, when this state had a lot of fair-weather Royals fans. Just 6 percent now? That’s pathetic. The loyalty to the Cubs is interesting; it may be relevant that the minor-league team based in Des Moines is affiliated with the Cubs.

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