Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are deadlocked in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of likely general-election voters in Iowa. Ernst and Braley were tied at 40 percent, followed by Independent Party candidate Rick Stewart at 2 percent, and, with 1 percent each, Bob Quast of the Bob Quast for Term Limits party, Libertarian Douglas Butzier and independent Ruth Smith. Fifteen percent of respondents were undecided.

This is the first public poll that includes all of the candidates certified for the Iowa ballot.

“If you drive north into Iowa on I-35 coming from Missouri, you’ll see a landscape full of red counties far to the left and blue counties far to the right,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “The poll pits Democrat Braley’s congressional district in the northeast against Ernst’s Senate district in the southwest, but the voters in between will make the difference.”

Ernst, a state senator, led Braley, a congressman, 42 percent to 27 percent in the southwest region and 51 percent to 30 percent in the northwest, while Braley led 45 percent to 39 percent in the northeast region and 46 percent to 34 percent in the Central/Polk area.

Among registered Democrats, Braley led 80 percent to 5 percent, while Ernst led 77 percent to 5 percent among Republicans. Independents broke fairly evenly, with a slight edge to Ernst, 39 percent to 36 percent, with 6 percent spread among the other four candidates.

Among likely voters most interested in the issue of jobs, Braley led 61 percent to 26 percent; among those most interested in health care, Braley led 53 percent to 26 percent; and among those for whom education was the most important issue, he led 51 percent to 26 percent. Ernst led Braley among voters most concerned about the budget, 55 percent to 24 percent, and national security, 65 percent to 19 percent.

Suffolk University on April 9, 2014, released the first public poll to show Ernst taking the lead in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

President’s ratings

President Barack Obama handily beat Republican Mitt Romney in Iowa in 2012, but his personal popularity rating is shaky, with 46 percent viewing him favorably and 51 percent unfavorably. His job approval is worse, with 42 percent approving of his performance and 52 percent disapproving.

Governor’s race and constitutional offices

Republican Terry Branstad has a 12-point lead in the governor’s race, 47 percent to 35 percent, over Democrat Jack Hatch, with Libertarian Lee Deakins Hieb and the New Independent Iowa Party's Jim Hennager receiving 1 percent each and 15 percent undecided.

Republican nominees were leading in the races for auditor and secretary of agriculture, while the Democratic nominees were leading in the races for treasurer and attorney general. In the race for secretary of state, Republican Paul Pate and Democrat Brad Anderson were tied at 31 percent each.

Congressional balance

Asked if party control of Congress will be a factor in their vote, 59 percent of those polled said yes, and 32 percent no. Both political parties see control of Congress as a big motivator. Among Republicans, 59 percent said it will be a factor in their vote, and among Democrats it was even higher at 68 percent.

Iowa 2016 party sweepstakes

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (13 percent) was the top presidential choice of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who said they would participate in their party’s caucus in the 2016 election. Huckabee was followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (11 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (9 percent), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (7 percent). However, when Mitt Romney’s name was introduced into the mix, 35 percent would scrap their first choice and opt for Romney, while 9 percent stayed with Huckabee, and 6 percent with Christie.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the support of 66 percent of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, followed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who was the first choice of 10 percent, and Vice President Joe Biden, who had 8 percent.

The survey is part of a mid-term elections affiliation between Suffolk University and USA TODAY that includes polling and analysis of key U.S. Senate and other statewide races and issues.

Methodology

The survey was conducted via landline and cell phone. All respondents indicated that they were very or somewhat likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election. The field of 500 likely general-election voters was conducted Saturday, Aug. 23, through Tuesday, Aug. 26. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The margin of error on the Republican presidential caucus first-choice subset of 206 voters is +/-6.83. The margin of error on the Democratic presidential caucus first-choice subset of 191 voters is +/-7.09. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.