Ernst and Branstad Emerge With Early Leads, Loras College Poll Finds

The Loras College Poll released results today of the first post-primary statewide survey of likely voters.  Coming on the heels of Tuesday’s June 3 primary, the Loras College Poll asked likely voters statewide about their general election preferences for U.S. Senate and Governor. 
State Senator Joni Ernst captured the Republican Nomination for U.S. Senate with a decisive victory over a crowded primary field.  With the win she will face the Democratic nominee Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-1) who ran unopposed.  Republican incumbent Governor Terry Branstad cruised to an easy primary victory and will now face the Democratic nominee, State Senator Jack Hatch.
The U.S. Senate race in Iowa has garnered national media attention as important to party control of the national chamber. 
“I think just about every candidate for office would prefer not to have a primary challenge, but in this case there may be some early benefit for State Senator Ernst.  By running in a competitive statewide primary and expending resources, coupled with the state and national media attention on the Republican race, she has been able to seize some of the early initiative,” commented Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Loras College Poll, Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D. 
In the race for U.S. Senate, the results are:
Joni Ernst   48.0 percent
Bruce Braley 41.7 percent
Undecided 10.3 percent

With the general election five months away, voters will have plenty of time to consider the candidates before they make their final choice. 
“It is incredibly early in the process, but we wanted to get that first possible snapshot of voter preferences,” stated Budzisz.  “From now to November, there will be many ups and downs, but all campaigns start somewhere.  And right now State Senator Ernst has emerged from her high profile primary fight in a strong starting position.  The challenge now will be to maintain her momentum through the traditional campaign lull of summer and the emerging reality that she faces a stern general election test against a well-funded and experienced and effective campaigner in Congressman Bruce Braley,” Budzisz remarked.
Congressman Braley has a clear fundraising advantage at this point having not had to expend significant funds to secure the nomination.  Braley is looking to hold the seat for the Democrats since the retirement announcement of current Senator Tom Harkin. 
“Democrats within Iowa and across the country are very motivated to keep this U.S. Senate seat in the Democratic Party column.  Scrutiny on State Senator Ernst will only increase from now until November, and Congressman Braley has more campaign experience to draw from.  It will be an interesting election to follow,” Budzisz remarked.
Name Identification and Favorability, U.S. Senate General Election
Joni Ernst
Heard of, favorable   42.2 percent
Heard of, unfavorable 29.2 percent
Heard of, no opinion 20.3 percent
Never heard of   8.3 percent

Bruce Braley
Heard of, favorable 35.8 percent
Heard of, unfavorable 25.7 percent
Heard of, no opinion 25.0 percent
Heard of, no opinion 13.5 percent

Beyond the U.S. Senate race, the Loras College Poll also gauged early preferences in the upcoming gubernatorial election.  Governor Terry Branstad, currently the longest serving governor in U.S. history, is seeking another term. He is facing Des Moines area State Senator Jack Hatch.
In the race for Iowa Governor, the results are
Terry Branstad 51.7 percent
Jack Hatch 37.8 percent
Undecided 10.5 percent

“Looking at the results, it is clear that Governor Branstad has a clear advantage in name recognition.  Virtually everyone in the state knows Branstad, it seems.  State Senator Hatch is unknown to nearly a third of likely voters we surveyed.  Over the next several months Hatch will have his chance to introduce himself and offer his message to Iowa voters,” Budzisz remarked.
Name Identification and Favorability, Iowa Gubernatorial General Election:
Terry Branstad
Heard of, favorable 50.2 percent
Heard of, unfavorable 36.3 percent
Heard of, no opinion 12.0 percent
Never heard of   1.3 percent

Jack Hatch
Heard of, favorable 20.5 percent
Heard of, unfavorable 15.3 percent
Heard of, no opinion 34.2 percent
Never hear of 30.0 percent

The Loras College Poll surveyed 600 likely 2014 general election voters; statewide results have a 4 percent margin of error.  The survey was conducted June 4-5, 2014.
  • Likely voter sample included only those who voted in the 2010 general election or who have registered to vote since and indicated likeliness to vote. 
  • Survey includes both landlines (80 percent) and cell phones (20 percent). 
  • The survey was conducted using live operator interviews through a contracted professional call center.
  • In addition, the survey was balanced using historical voting patterns for partisanship, as well as demographic variables such as age, gender and geography. 
  • Script development and methodology used for the survey received input from Republican campaign consultant Steve Grubbs, and Democrat campaign consultant Dave Heller. 
 For more on today’s announced results, please click here.
The Loras College Poll is conducted several times each year.  Loras College faculty and student researchers work as part of the survey research team to develop poll questions, analyze and interpret data, and assist with sharing the final results with local, regional and national media.  Surveys are administered by professional, live callers through a contracted call center. 
Capitalizing on its location in the politically vital and vibrant state of Iowa, the Iowa Presidential Caucuses serves as a cornerstone of the Loras College Poll, with additional surveys focused on current events, social issues, economic issues, politics and more.
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