Grassley leads in Iowa Poll by 8 points, lowest margin in decades

By: - July 16, 2022 7:53 pm

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, attended the Republican 4th Congressional District convention in Carroll on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has an 8-point lead on his Democratic opponent, retired Navy Adm. Michael Franken, in the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

The poll, conducted July 10-13 by Selzer & Co., found 47% of likely Iowa voters would vote for the longtime Republican senator if the election was held the day they were asked, while 39% said they would vote for Franken.

The last time Grassley, 88, won an election by just 8 percentage points was his first election to the U.S. Senate in 1980, when he defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. John Culver. In the elections since, Democratic challengers have not garnered 40% of the vote against Grassley.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken discusses abortion rights and his campaign June 24, 2022, on “Iowa Press,” (Screen shot from Iowa PBS)

Previous Iowa Polls show similar results. Grassley has previously polled above 50% against his election opponents in the Register polls since his initial Senate election.

Franken’s campaign said the new poll shows Iowans are ready for a change.

“This poll leaves no doubt about one thing: this race is winnable,” Franken campaign manager Julie Stauch said in a news release. “Chuck Grassley knows he is in the fight of his life, which is why his campaign is grasping at straws and twisting the truth to malign the character of a 37-year military veteran.”

Grassley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The Republican Party of Iowa’s spokesman, Kollin Crompton, cited the GOP’s lead over Democrats in voter registration.

“The GOP has been gaining momentum in Iowa for years. Mike Franken has no chance of overcoming Republican momentum and a hugely unpopular Biden presidency, much less the strong leadership of Senator Grassley,” Crompton said in a statement.

The senator held the largest lead with evangelical voters at 73% to 17%, and with rural voters at 59% to 28%. He also led Franken with likely voters who are men, older than 35, and who do not have a college degree.

The poll found Franken’s strongest support came from people who live in cities, at 51% to 37%, and those with no religious affiliation, 54% to 19%.

The Iowa Poll collected responses from 811 Iowans ages 18 or older. Of those respondents, 597 identified as likely voters. Questions asked of all poll takers have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, and questions asked of likely voters have a margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

These new polling numbers also show a continued downward trend for Grassley’s approval rating. His rating improved to a 46% approval by 1 percentage point since the last Iowa Poll in March among all Iowans polled. But among likely voters, 49% disapprove of Grassley, while 46% approve.

Grassley faced his first primary challenger since his election to the Senate this June, when state Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, challenged him for the Republican nomination. Grassley won with 73.5% of the votes.

Franken also faced two primary challengers: former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer and Minden city councilman Dr. Glenn Hurst. During the primary, Franken argued he was the best candidate to garner the support of Republican and independent voters looking for someone to replace Grassley.

While the new poll shows Grassley having a smaller lead than in previous elections, many forecasters still say the Republican incumbent holds the upper hand. Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball both mark the seat as safely Republican in most recent ratings.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.