Braley leads Ernst in contentious Senate battle — poll

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A new poll shows Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) with a nearly 5-point lead over state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) for a critical open Senate seat.

The poll released yesterday by Loras College’s Public Opinion Survey Center found that if the election for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s Senate seat were to be held today, Braley would receive 45.3 percent of the vote. Ernst would receive 40.5 percent.

The results contrast sharply from a June poll by the center that found Ernst leading Braley 48 percent to 41.7 percent. The new poll showed the largest lead for Braley in the last few months.

The statewide poll of 1,200 likely voters was conducted Sept. 2-5. It had a margin of error of 2.82 points.

“Most analysts have had the Ernst-Braley race as a ‘toss-up,’ and our new poll finds Congressman Braley with a slight edge, with the trend in his direction,” said Christopher Budzisz, director of the Loras College poll, in a statement. “It’s clear that the heavy negative advertising has taken its toll on Ernst.”

The political action committee of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has targeted the race as one in which he plans to invest heavily over the next couple of months. His group NextGen Climate is attempting to elevate climate change as a “dominant issue” in the Iowa Senate election, as well as in races in six other states (E&ENews PM, Sept. 3). The group is in the midst of releasing a $2.6 million series of ads against Ernst.

Braley has been campaigning partly on his support for the renewable fuel standard, a policy that mandates the use of ethanol and advanced biofuels that’s key to Iowa’s agricultural community. Ernst has been more muted in her support for the RFS, saying she supports the policy but that she generally does not support government mandates.

In the poll yesterday, nearly 60 percent of Braley supporters rated environmental issues as “critically” or “very” important. About 14 percent of voters said they were still undecided between Braley and Ernst.