Iowa Poll: Chuck Grassley narrowly leads Mike Franken in US Senate race

Kenneth Griffin

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Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s lead over Democrat Mike Franken has narrowed to 3 percentage points with less than a month until Election Day, signaling Grassley’s toughest reelection fight in 40 years.

A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows Grassley leads with 46% of the vote to Franken’s 43% among likely voters. Another 4% would vote for someone else, 4% would not vote and 3% are not sure.

“It says to me that Franken is running a competent campaign and has a shot to defeat the seemingly invincible Chuck Grassley — previously perceived to be invincible,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co. The poll of 804 Iowa adults, including 620 likely voters, was conducted Oct. 9-12 by Selzer & Co. The questions asked of all Iowans have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it's plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for the questions asked of likely voters.

Grassley, 89, is seeking his eighth term in the Senate this year. Franken, 64, is a retired U.S. Navy admiral.

The numbers suggest a contest closer than any Grassley has faced since he defeated a Democratic incumbent by 8 percentage points to win his first election to the Senate in 1980.

His closest result since then came in 2016, when he defeated former Lt. Gov. Patty Judgeby 24 percentage points.

Many political pundits and party officials had written off this year’s Iowa Senate contest, expecting Grassley to once again cruise to victory. Election analysts for months have rated the race in Grassley’s favor, and national Democratic groups have indicated they don’t plan to spend money supporting Franken, instead focusing on states where they see greater potential for victory.

But the poll indicates weaknesses for Grassley beyond his head-to-head race with Franken.

His job disapproval rating is a record high for him in the Iowa Poll. The percentage of Iowans who view him unfavorably also hit a peak. And nearly two-thirds of likely voters say the senator’s age is a concern rather than an asset.

Franken, meanwhile, is still unknown to more than a third of Iowans. But of those who do know enough about him to form an opinion, more view him favorably than unfavorably.

U.S. Senate race narrows as independents shift to Mike Franken​

Franken has improved his performance since July, when a previous Iowa Poll showed Grassley leading by eight percentage points, 47% to 39%.

Franken’s improvement in the head-to-head contest is aided by an advantage among political independents, who back him over Grassley by 11 percentage points, 46% to 35%.

In July, independents were nearly evenly split, with 38% backing Franken and 37% backing Grassley.

Donna Patterson, an 88-year-old independent from Evansdale, said she plans to vote for Franken this year.

More:How to vote in Iowa's 2022 elections for governor, US Senate, state Legislature

“I do hope he gets in,” the poll respondent said. “I feel he is for the people.”

Patterson, who is retired from working a variety of jobs, said she’s voted for Grassley in the past, but now, “I would vote for anybody that ran against Grassley.”

“When he was younger and first started out in government, he was good,” she said. “He really was. He was very sincere about being for the people, and now he will do whatever the Republican Party tells him to do. And that’s not right.”

Where do Chuck Grassley and Mike Franken have the strongest support?​

Each candidate has nearly universal support among members of their own political parties, with 93% of Democrats supporting Franken and 90% of Republicans supporting Grassley.

Just 4% of Democrats say they would vote for Grassley, while 2% of Republicans say they would vote for Franken.

Those numbers show both candidates consolidating support among their own parties. In July, 88% of Democrats supported Franken and 85% of Republicans supported Grassley.

Among demographic groups, Grassley’s strongest showing comes among evangelicals, with 73% support. He also receives majority support from rural residents (61%); men (56%); and Protestants (54%).

He also gets 53% support among those ages 55 and older, those without a college degree and those who live in towns. And he has 52% support from Iowans in the 4th Congressional District and 51% from Catholics.

Mark Johanns, a Dubuque resident and poll respondent, said he has followed Grassley’s career since he was 16 years old and first met Grassley.

“I think he still represents Iowa,” said Johanns, who is in his late 50s and works in agriculture. “He works tirelessly. He has been around each county this year. I'd see him down at the Iowa State football games. And for a man of his age and character, he carries it off like he's 30 years old.”

Johanns is a registered independent, but he expects to vote a straight Republican ticket this year.

“The price of my utilities has skyrocketed,” he said. “Food has skyrocketed. The farmers' costs have gone off the page. And everything was pretty balanced out when (former Republican President Donald) Trump was in order. And I totally disagree with what the current administration is doing with everything right now.”

Franken earns majority support among those with no religious affiliation (62%), those with a college degree (56%), city dwellers (55%), women (54%) and suburban voters (53%).

Most likely voters are concerned about Chuck Grassley’s age​

Grassley faces concerns about his age from a majority of likely voters — including a third of those who say they plan to vote for him.

At 89, Grassley is the second-oldest senator currently in office, behind only Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who is a few months older. If he is elected and serves out another six-year term, he would be the second-oldest member of Congress ever at 95.

He has served in public office continuously since he was first elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1958.

Grassley has portrayed his longevity as an asset, arguing it gives him clout and influence as he works on behalf of Iowans.

But just a third — 34% of likely Iowa voters — say they believe his longevity is an asset to Iowa. Most — 60% — say his age is a concern. Another 6% say they’re not sure.

Among Republicans, 58% say Grassley’s longevity is an asset. But more than a third, 37%, say his age is a concern.

Independents view his age as more of a concern (64%) than an asset (30%).

And Democrats are overwhelmingly concerned, at 86%. Just 8% see Grassley’s years of service as an asset.

The results send "a strong message that this is a piece of what's going on with the erosion of support for Chuck Grassley," Selzer said.

During a televised Senate debate earlier this month, Grassley said he intends to serve out a full six-year term if he’s elected. He said Iowans who wonder whether he’s up to the task should look at his schedule.

“I go to bed at nine, get up at four, run two miles, get to the office by six, sometimes a little bit before six,” he said.

He said he went 27 years without missing a vote in Congress, he completes his committee work in Washington, D.C., and he tours the state’s 99 counties when he’s at home.

“I think that that's how I'm going to continue for the next term of office if the people will return me to the United States Senate,” he said.
 

pjhawk

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Grassley up 9
The Selzer poll is the uber Gold Standard. It showed Trump ahead by close to the final margin in the last poll of 2020 when everyone thought that Iowa was a toss up state.

Grassley might actually be in trouble, although that could mean winning by only 3-4% instead of the anticipated wider margin. Interesting.
 

Jerome Silberman

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I don't think Franken is pounding him enough. Grassley has been there 42 years and not one legislative achievement. Not. One.

Harkin had the ACA.

I think that's because the campaign knows that could be self-defeating. We Iowans are a jealous bunch that is inclined to be defensive. If they go too hard at Grassley, a lot of voters will dig in their heels and refuse to even consider Franken.
 
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BeepBeepInMyJeep

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Five thirty eight is a composite of multiple polls

I would agree with this sentiment except For this particular circumstance. I’m considering the decades long history and track record of this poll, which has been historically extremely accurate in this state. And has had multiple instances in which it’s results have proven to be much closer to the final result than what the averages of multiple polls suggested.

Go ahead and research a time where Selzer’s late-cycle poll whiffed. I’ll wait.
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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I would agree with this sentiment except For this particular circumstance. I’m considering the decades long history and track record of this poll, which has been historically extremely accurate in this state. And has had multiple instances in which it’s results have proven to be much closer to the final result than what the averages of multiple polls suggested.

Go ahead and research a time where Selzer’s late-cycle poll whiffed. I’ll wait.
Didn’t know that about Selzer’s poll…thanks.

Hard to find good polls nowadays so that’s why I go with the composite…
 

sober_teacher

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Grassley up 9
I think they updated it with this latest poll, it’s now an average of just 7. Still expect Grassley to pull it out, but indicative of a far closer race than I’d have ever expected. If nothing else, could for GOP to spend precious ad dollars in Iowa they need elsewhere.
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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I think they updated it with this latest poll, it’s now an average of just 7. Still expect Grassley to pull it out, but indicative of a far closer race than I’d have ever expected. If nothing else, could for GOP to spend precious ad dollars in Iowa they need elsewhere.
You’d hope it’d be close given his age alone. 89 is simply too old for someone to be elected to a 6 year term IMO.

If we can’t get term limits it’d be nice to get age limits. Probably unconstitutional though given the ageism laws…
 

lucas80

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You’d hope it’d be close given his age alone. 89 is simply too old for someone to be elected to a 6 year term IMO.

If we can’t get term limits it’d be nice to get age limits. Probably unconstitutional though given the ageism laws…
I have heard from several Republican friends that they are voting for Grassley because they know Kimmie will name his replacement. That's pretty sad.
 

sober_teacher

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You’d hope it’d be close given his age alone. 89 is simply too old for someone to be elected to a 6 year term IMO.

If we can’t get term limits it’d be nice to get age limits. Probably unconstitutional though given the ageism laws…
Have said before, I'd be fine with capping length of time in federal office. 30 and out!
 
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lucas80

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I think that's because the campaign knows that could be self-defeating. We Iowans are a jealous bunch that is inclined to be defensive. If they go too hard at Grassley, a lot of voters will dig in their heels and refuse to even consider Franken.
Meh. Chuck really doesn't have much to crow about lately, not anything that isn't the result of working with Biden, anyway. The Hobbs decision, but that isn't terribly popular even in Iowa amongst the entire electorate.
Chuck's best days in the Senate were over 25 years ago. and that's why his handlers are running a smear campaign against Franken.
 

lucas80

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Not if they don’t like Franken.
No, they are brand loyal, and coldly calculating. Franken is a good man with a tremendous resume. Republicans saying they will vote for Chuck expecting him to die are just holding their nose knowing that Chuck should have retired. It's why you see in polling a higher negative rating for Chuck, and the high number of respondents even amongst Republicans who wish they had another option.
 

biggreydogs

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1280px-Dianne_Feinstein%2C_official_Senate_photo_2.jpg
What’s sad is they’re voting for a guy expecting him to die in the next 6 years.
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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No, they are brand loyal, and coldly calculating. Franken is a good man with a tremendous resume. Republicans saying they will vote for Chuck expecting him to die are just holding their nose knowing that Chuck should have retired. It's why you see in polling a higher negative rating for Chuck, and the high number of respondents even amongst Republicans who wish they had another option.
Maybe they simply don’t want the filibuster to go away. D’s have made that clear if they get enough seats.
 

MitchLL

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I have heard from several Republican friends that they are voting for Grassley because they know Kimmie will name his replacement. That's pretty sad.
Grassley campaigned for the drunk one in 2018 ...and specifically mentioned Iowans needed to vote for her for that specific reason.

I suspect Kimberly and the Senile One have a plan in place. To me, the only question is if it involves Pat Grassley?
 
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joelbc1

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you can’t always get what you want!

Grassley up 9
I’m betting most polls will show similar numbers to the 538 poll. However, no pollster KNOWS Iowa like Ms. Selzer. She is uncanny accurate on these “Iowa based” polls. She has the “secret sauce” when it comes to polling Iowa accurately.
Honestly, I am pleasantly surprised her numbers show this close of a race. Franken has a puncher’s chance.
It’s important to remember as popular a governor as HHughes was, when he ran for US Senator, he barely beat Quad City wingnut David Stanley. That makes Harkin’s Senate longevity more amazing to me.
 

HawkRCID

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You’d hope it’d be close given his age alone. 89 is simply too old for someone to be elected to a 6 year term IMO.

If we can’t get term limits it’d be nice to get age limits. Probably unconstitutional though given the ageism laws…
We do have age limits on the low end though….so not sure how those are fine but upper limits wouldn’t be? We say our presidents must be at least 35….no reason we couldn’t cap a lot of these offices at 70…
 

BioHawk

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I think they updated it with this latest poll, it’s now an average of just 7. Still expect Grassley to pull it out, but indicative of a far closer race than I’d have ever expected. If nothing else, could for GOP to spend precious ad dollars in Iowa they need elsewhere.
If anything, this could speak to a far larger problem for the GOP. If other states have closed in a similar fashion to what this poll wants to indicate has happened in Iowa then the GOP is in for a rude awakening in November. Be ready for about 100 candidates to start screaming about voter fraud and let the evidence-less frivolous court cases begin.
 
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Huey Grey

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FiverThirtyEight still has Grassley up 7.

Boy, that's not much. Who knows what the final outcome might be. I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck won by at least 12. But 7 is starting to dance close to the margin of error. Not good in a state that is as Republican as Iowa.
 

Chishawk1425

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Boy, that's not much. Who knows what the final outcome might be. I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck won by at least 12. But 7 is starting to dance close to the margin of error. Not good in a state that is as Republican as Iowa.
Franken is really building momentum
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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Boy, that's not much. Who knows what the final outcome might be. I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck won by at least 12. But 7 is starting to dance close to the margin of error. Not good in a state that is as Republican as Iowa.
It's definitely in play but a 7 pt lead isn't inconsequential.
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

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Oh it's still a healthy lead. But it's probably a commentary that even his supporters know he'll be a dud who will die in office and they just don't want a Dem.
2 party system...if you hate the other party you vote for a Tomato can.

A few examples around the country...the Pennsylvania and Georgia Senate races being up front.