With the January 2016 Iowa presidential caucuses on the horizon, Hillary Clinton is the far-and-away favorite among self-described Democratic caucus-goers, according to a Suffolk University statewide Iowa poll. And while some Republicans have begun visiting the Hawkeye State, the survey shows no favorites among prospective GOP presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk University poll of likely general-election Iowa voters shows Republican Gov. Terry Branstad with a strong advantage heading into the June 3 Republican gubernatorial primary, and he leads the sole Democrat in the race, State Sen. Jack Hatch, by 10 points in a general-election match-up. Branstad, the longest serving governor in U.S. history, is seeking his sixth four-year term.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley leads all five potential Republican opponents by between 6 and 13 points.

2016 presidential caucuses

A subset of self-described Iowa caucus goers were asked their first choice for their party’s nomination for president, 63 percent of Democrats indicated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 12 percent chose Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and 10 percent favored Vice President Joe Biden.

The picture was much cloudier on the Republican side, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 11 percent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (10 percent each), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and medical professor emeritus Ben Carson (9 percent each), and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (7 percent). Six others had 6 percent each: Congressman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Gubernatorial race

Branstad led Republican Tom Hoefling 71 percent to 8 percent with 19 percent undecided in the primary race. A general-election matchup shows him ahead of Hatch 42 percent to 32 percent, with 24 percent undecided.

“Although his ballot test number is under fifty percent, Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s overwhelming support in the northwest counties as well as his comfortable lead among independents statewide is significant,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “However, over a third of independents are undecided, so the race is fluid.”

Republicans aren't faring as well in the U.S. Senate race, though the race is much closer. Braley’s lead over his Republican opponents is buoyed by wide positive margins in his home northeast area as well as in the central counties, including Polk.

In the smaller subset of June Republican Primary voters, State Sen. Joni Ernst, who has been tagged the “castration candidate” due to her TV ad that includes a matter-of-fact reference to growing up on an Iowa hog farm, is leading businessman Mark Jacobs 25 percent to 23 percent. Radio show host Sam Clovis (7 percent), former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (4 percent), and Navy veteran Scott Schaben (1 percent) trail the front-runners, while 40 percent of primary voters remain undecided. Although within the statistical margin of error, this is the first public poll showing Ernst leading in the GOP Primary.

President’s approval ratings and Obamacare

Slightly more voters viewed President Barack Obama unfavorably (49 percent) than favorably (45 percent), and his job disapproval rating widened to 50 percent, with 40 percent approving. When likely voters were asked about the Affordable Care Act, 48 percent said it is generally bad for Iowa, and 38 percent said it is generally good.

Upbeat on Iowa economy

Nearly 43 percent of voters polled said that the Iowa economy has improved over the past two years, while 14 percent said it has gotten worse, and 39 percent said it has stayed the same.

“Voters are clearly saying that the worst is over when it comes to the Iowa economy. That‘s an opportunity for Democrats as they try to fight through the negative poll numbers of Obama and Obamacare.”

Methodology

The statewide Suffolk University survey used a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers and a screen to filter out low voter intensity. The field of 800 likely voters was conducted Thursday, April 3, through Tuesday, April 8. The margin of error is +/-3.5 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The subset of 224 likely Republican primary voters carries an error rate of +/-6.55 percent. The margin of error is +/-8.7 percent for the 127 GOP caucus-goers and +/-8.4% for the 135 Democratic caucus-goers surveyed.

Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.