Iowa GOP U.S. Senate Primary Race Tight, Inaugural Loras College Poll Shows

The Loras College Poll released its inaugural results Monday showing a U.S. Senate GOP primary that is deadlocked at the top, with nearly half of likely voters undecided with less than two months to go.
“The Iowa GOP Senate Primary race looks to be in for an exciting finish with Mark Jacobs and Joni Ernst competing aggressively for the heart of the Republican Party,” said Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and director of the Loras College Poll. “With nearly half of the voters surveyed saying they were undecided, there is still a lot of work to be done by all the campaigns before the June 3 primary.  With the possibility of a GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate in the fall, the Iowa race is one to watch closely.”  The Loras College Poll will continue to monitor the primary and then the general election.
In the U.S. Senate GOP Primary, the results show voter support as:
Mark Jacobs                            18.8 percent
Joni Ernst                                18.1 percent   
Sam Clovis                                7.3 percent
Matt Whitaker                             4.0 percent
Scott Schaben                           3.5 percent
Undecided                               46.5 percent
The inaugural Loras College Poll surveyed 600 likely Iowa GOP primary voters; statewide results have a 4 percent margin of error.  The survey was conducted April 7-8, 2014 using telephone interviews, including both landlines and cell phones.  Lists for the sample included only those who voted in the 2010 Republican primary and 2012 general election.  In addition, the survey was balanced using historical voting patterns for age, gender and geography.  Script development and methodology used for the survey received input from Republican campaign consultant, Steve Grubbs and Democratic campaign consultant Dave Heller. For more on today's results, click here.
“The low name identification for many of the candidates at this stage of the race shows that money matters in politics,” said Budzisz.  “Before a voter commits to a candidate they want to know the candidate and generally have a favorable opinion of him or her. Getting known can be an expensive process when running statewide for the first time.”
Budzisz noted the following observations from the survey results:
  • Mark Jacobs’ media advertising has given him significantly higher name recognition than any other candidate at 65 percent, while Joni Ernst is the next highest at 48 percent.  Favorable opinion of the two candidates, however, is much closer with Jacobs at 28 percent and Ernst at 24 percent.
  • At this point in the race, there is no indication of a gender gap between the top two candidates. In contrast to conventional wisdom, Jacobs polled slightly ahead of Ernst among female voters in ballot preference.
  • Geography matters for the candidates.  Joni Ernst has a substantial lead in the 3rd Congressional District which accounts for almost half of her vote statewide. Ernst represents a state senate district within the 3rd Congressional District.  Likewise, Sam Clovis is tied with Mark Jacobs in the 4th Congressional District, which is the district where Clovis’ radio program is heard.
“The most important observation in the Republican Senate primary is that almost half of voters remain undecided.  So while it now looks an awful lot like a two-person race for the U.S. Senate nomination, the next seven weeks will likely be exciting for GOP primary voters and all the candidates,” said Budzisz.
It should be noted that if no candidate garners 35 percent of the vote or more, the nomination will be decided by party convention.
The Loras College Poll will release additional survey results for the 2016 Iowa Republican presidential caucus on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the Iowa Congressional primaries on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 and the Republican gubernatorial primary as well as other primary voter preferences and characteristics on Thursday, April 17, 2014.
The Loras College Poll will be conducted several times each year. Loras College faculty and student researchers will work as part of the survey research team to develop poll questions, analyze and interpret the data and assist with sharing the final results with local, regional and national media.
Capitalizing on its location in the politically vital and vibrant state of Iowa, the Iowa Presidential Caucuses will be the cornerstone of the Loras College Poll with additional surveys focused on current events, social issues, economic issues, politics and more.
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