September 22, 2014

Poll finds Braley leading among female voters, Ernst leading among male voters

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst on primary night.

A new poll finds an unusual “gender gap” in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.

“Normally, women are more likely to vote for women candidates,” says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, “but in the U.S. senate race, actually, Bruce Braley — the Democratic candidate — is beating Joni Ernst — the Republican candidate — among women and Ms. Ernst — who would be Iowa’s first female U.S. Senator if she wins — is leading among men.”

Braley leads Ernst by 11 percentage points among likely women voters, while Ernst leads Braley among likely male votes by four points.

“Women tend to lean Democratic,” Brown says. “Men tend to lean Republican, so those biases are part of this, but the fact that Ms. Ernst is winning among men but losing among women voters is somewhat noteworthy.”

The university’s poll in March — conducted while Ernst was still engaged in a primary against four competitors — found Braley leading Ernst by 13 points. The Quinnipiac survey conducted in mid-June found Braley’s lead over Ernst had shrunk to four percent.

Congressman Bruce Braley

Bruce Braley

“Because of the very hard-fought Republican Primary race, Iowa voters were subjected to a lot of campaign ads early in this race and that certainly helped introduce Ms. Ernst to voters in what seems to be a positive manner,” Brown says.

The poll finds Republicans lining up behind Ernst’s candidacy after the primary contest, with 79 percent of likely Republican voters backing Ernst. Braley got the backing of a greater share of his fellow Democrats — 89 percent.

“The way you win in Iowa is that a candidate has to carry their own party by a larger margin than their opponent carries their party and win among independents,” Brown says. “Independents obviously in Iowa are a huge deal because independents are the largest block of voters in the state.”

The poll found independents in Iowa split down the middle on this contest. There are more than 700,000 voters in Iowa who are registered as “no-party” or independent voters. There are about 600,000 Republicans and 600,000 registered Democrats in Iowa. This latest poll has a margin of error of two-point-seven percent. It was conducted from June 12-16.