Raleigh, N.C. – PPP's newest Iowa poll finds that the US Senate race has narrowed since the summer, but that Democrat Bruce Braley continues to hold a clear lead over all of his Republican opponents. In July Braley led the GOP field by an average of 11 points. Now it's an average of 7 points: he leads Matt Whitaker 40/34, Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs 41/35, and Sam Clovis 42/34. At least part of Braley's leads at this point is a product of name recognition- 56% of voters know enough about him to have formed an opinion, where none of the Republican hopefuls have more than 25% familiarity.
The Republican primary for Senate is still pretty wide open, with 42% of voters undecided. Mark Jacobs has opened up a small lead at 20% to 13% for Joni Ernst, 11% for Matt Whitaker, 8% for Sam Clovis, and 3% each for Paul Lunde and Scott Schaben. Even with Republican primary voters the highest name id any of the candidates has is 32% for Jacobs.
There's a pretty clear reason why the Senate race has tightened over the last seven months. Barack Obama's approval rating in the state has dropped a net 10 points compared to the summer, from a -4 spread at 46/50 to now a -14 one at 40/54. That decline in the overall political climate for Democrats is having an effect in races like Iowa and Michigan where the actual candidates aren't particularly well known.