The Des Moines Register released its new Selzer & Company political survey and the results provide us with the largest lead for either Iowa Senate candidate in several months. The poll (Sept. 21-24; 800 Iowa adults; 546 likely voters) gives Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst a 44-38 percent advantage over Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) in what has been a toss-up Senate race since early July.
The move is significant and clearly demonstrates a momentum shift in Ernst’s direction. Selzer also tell us that the negative attacks on both candidates appear to be working. When looking at the personal favorability ratings of each contender, both are in situations where their negatives equal their positive scores. Ernst ratio is 45:44 percent favorable to unfavorable. Braley’s is virtually identical at 42:42 percent.
Selzer & Company is the Des Moines Register’s usual pollster. They have developed a strong record, missing the latest Iowa gubernatorial, Senate, and presidential campaign by an aggregate two percentage points. Like all pollsters, Selzer has missed some, too. In the 2012 Republican presidential caucus, the firm projected Mitt Romney to win the Iowa Caucuses by approximately eight points. The actual result showed former Sen. Rick Santorum edging the future GOP presidential nominee by 34 votes. Overall, though, Selzer & Company is a strong pollster that maintains an independent reputation.
Though there are no cross-tabs released with the polling analysis, interesting questions were posed that tell us a bit more about the respondents’ candidate perceptions.
With this campaign being active for a long period, it’s not particularly surprising that approximately two-thirds of both candidates’ supporters have already firmly committed to vote for the person they have selected. Seventy-two percent of Braley supporters say their “minds are made up”, while 69 percent of Ernst’s respondents feel the same about voting for her.
The pollsters then asked a series of questions about negative statements made about each candidate, wanting to know if the respondent characterized the particular situation as a big problem, a little problem, or not a problem at all.
For Ernst, 41 percent think her discussing Social Security privatization is a big problem, 15 percent say a little problem, and 29 percent say no problem at all. Thirty-nine percent say it’s a big problem that she has been “groomed by the Koch Brothers”, 10 percent say a little problem, and 19 percent said no problem at all. By a margin of 30-14-47 percent (big problem, little problem, no problem), people rated her endorsement from former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. When asking about Ernst’s position that she would support the renewable fuels standard, the numbers are 23-24-31 percent.
Relating to Rep. Braley’s negatives, 50 percent say it is a big problem that he has missed a large percentage of congressional hearings on veterans affairs, 16 percent say it is a little problem, and 14 percent don’t believe it is any problem at all. Testing Braley’s comments that he was a part of the final negotiations pertaining to the Affordable Care Act, 44 percent say it’s a big problem, 15 percent say a little problem, and 28 percent say it is no problem. Relating to his comment that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), as a “farmer from Iowa” is not qualified to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, the results are 37-18-29 percent (big problem, little problem, and no problem). Finally, whether Braley represents the “failures of the Obama Administration”, the results are 34-13-16 percent.
The Iowa Senate race continues to be one of the most important campaigns in the country. It will continue to be so all the way to Election Night. An Ernst victory will put the Republicans well on their way to gaining the Senate majority, while a Braley win goes a long way to keeping the Democrats in power. Stay tuned.