A Loras College Poll of likely voters conducted Wednesday and Thursday has found Republican Joni Ernst leading Democrat Bruce Braley in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race by nearly six percentage points. A Rasmussen Report poll conducted over that same two-day period found the race a dead heat, with Ernst just one point ahead. Both polls had a margin of error of four percent.
Political science professor Christopher Budzisz is director of the Loras College Poll
“The Ernst result is a little surprising until you stop and think that she has, because of the Primary fight, been essentially running a statewide campaign the last several months and has benefitted from much national media attention as well,” Budzisz says.
Of the likely voters surveyed, just over eight percent had never heard of Ernst, who is running in her first statewide race. But Budzisz says 13.5 percent of those surveyed had never heard of Braley, a four-term congressman from Waterloo.
“While in eastern Iowa he is certainly a fixture — a veteran campaigner and very successfull — Iowa’s a large state and in many quarters of it I think he’s going to spend the next several months beating the streets, getting out there, making the phone calls and making sure the he gets his name out there across the whole state,” Budzisz says. “And he is certainly well-funded and he’s a veteran campaigner, so I think he is well-poised to make any difference that you see now in this early snapshot up in the next several weeks and months.”
The poll also found Republican Governor Terry Branstad holding a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch. In both races, about 10 percent of likely voters survey in the Loras College Poll were undecided, which Budzisz says is a “relatively small number.”
“Now what might happen is that once the General Election season kicks off and the summer lull takes place, more people will be undecided because both campaigns in both of those races are trying to draw distinctions and pull voters away,” Budzisz says. “My guess is you’re going to see some real swings in the undecideds.”
Democrats argue the Rasmussen poll contacts too many Republican voters, skewing the results. The firm also uses automated calls, requiring respondents to hit buttons on their phones. The Loras Poll is conducted by live operators.