Iowa Poll: More Republicans approve of the job Joni Ernst is doing as US senator than that of Chuck Grassley

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U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, carry masks as they arrive at the Des Moines International Airport aboard Air Force Two on May 8, 2020.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, carry masks as they arrive at the Des Moines International Airport aboard Air Force Two on May 8, 2020.

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More Iowans approve than disapprove of the jobs U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley are doing at the U.S. Capitol, but neither cracks a 50% approval rating, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Their overall approval ratings are the same: 45% of Iowans approve of the job they’re doing, 41% disapprove and 13% aren’t sure.

The poll was conducted between Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 by Selzer & Co. It interviewed 810 Iowans ages 18 or older and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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Both senators experienced “a modest downward tick” from their approval ratings in the September Iowa Poll, pollster J. Ann Selzer noted. In September, 48% of Iowans said they approved of the job Ernst was doing, and 47% said the same about Grassley.

It’s been a similar story nearly all year for Iowa’s senators. In all but one case in the three previous 2021 Iowa Polls, more Iowans have approved than disapproved overall, but never a majority. The one exception: Slightly more Iowans disapproved of Ernst’s job performance in March, 45%, than approved, 43%.

Differences among who approves of Ernst and Grassley

The two also share 54% approval among men and 38% approval among women, according to the most recent poll.

But there are differences in the makeup of their other support.

Among Iowa Republicans, Ernst has 80% approval, 9 percentage points higher than Grassley’s 71% approval. Grassley, however, has better standing with Democrats — 14% of whom approve of the job he's doing versus 9% who approve of Ernst's performance — and with unaffiliated voters, 45% to 41%.

Poll respondent Bob Davis, 70, of Grand River, is one of the Democrats who approve of the job Grassley is doing in the U.S. Senate and disapproves of Ernst's performance. For him it comes down to visibility: Grassley “has been there a long time, an old farm boy from Iowa,” while Davis simply hasn’t seen much of Ernst.

“(Grassley) tells the truth,” said Davis, a former firefighter and Grand River City Council member who drives trucks in semi-retirement. “He's sure helped a lot of farmers out here in Iowa. Got some bills for 'em, and different things for the farmers.”

Meanwhile, “I haven’t seen (Ernst) in the front spotlight, like you do Grassley,” Davis said. He considers outreach and visibility in the community part of elected officials’ jobs.

Ernst’s approval among Republicans has been steady since summer, with 79% approval in the June Iowa Poll and 80% approval in September. That contrasts to Grassley’s approval by the GOP, which dipped to 68% in June, while his Democratic approval hit a recent high of 21%. His approval among Iowa Republicans rebounded to 77% in September.

Between the June and September polls, Grassley voted for the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Between the September and November polls, Grassley celebrated his 88th birthday, announced he would seek an eighth term in the Senate, and accepted the endorsement of former President Donald Trump at an October rally.

Grassley’s vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill flipped the normally positive feelings toward the senator held by Republican poll respondent Kevin Van Wyhe, 68, of Le Mars. The bill has “too much fluff in it,” he said, including broadband and clean energy infrastructure that he thinks will cost more than traditional energy sources, like coal.

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Grassley is “not enough of a fighter. He’s been there a long time, and he tries to get along” with everyone, said Van Wyhe, a retired manager at Tyson Foods. Ernst, who voted against the infrastructure bill, “just seems the right person. She sticks up for herself and her votes.”

“Grassley is getting a little old,” Van Wyhe said. “It may be time, as long as we get another Republican in there, which we can do right now here in Iowa. We should probably get a younger person in there.”

Iowans reelected Ernst to the Senate about a year ago, when she turned one of the costliest races in the country into a 6 percentage-point victory over Democrat Theresa Greenfield.

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About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted November 7-10, 2021, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 810 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.

Questions based on the sample of 810 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 658 likely voters in the 2024 presidential election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.4 percentage points or 3.8 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents—such as by gender or age—have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to the Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.

Dive into more details of the latest Iowa Poll

Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at ncoltrain@registermedia.com or at 515-284-8361.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Poll: Approval of US Sens. Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley below 50%