Nearly half of Iowa voters give Gov. Terry Branstad a positive job approval rating, but a poll released this morning suggests they think he has been in office long enough.
Branstad, who is serving his fifth term, has a 49 to 31 percent job approval rating from Iowa registered voters, but, by a 43 to 42 percent margin, they say he does not deserve another term in office, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
“The fact that voters are split on the question of whether Gov. Branstad deserves another term in Des Moines is probably a bit disconcerting for the governor,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It could be that some voters like what he has done in office but that 20 years in the governor’s office is just too long.”
The poll, which also shows that Iowans are divided 45 to 43 percent on whether the state should expand its Medicaid program as part of the federal health care overhaul, is the first done in Iowa by Quinnipiac.
Even though his re-election numbers don’t look great 18 months before the 2014 election, Branstad may not be in trouble, Brown said.
“The lack of any major Democratic challenger with widespread name recognition and the cash to wage a very expensive campaign probably makes the governor a better re-election bet than the numbers indicate,” he said. “After all, voters may think he has been governor too long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will vote to replace him.”
In addition to not having an opponent, Branstad is likely benefiting from the perception of the state’s voters that the economy is getting better, Brown suggested.
Although only 5 percent of voters think the economy in Iowa is excellent, a very healthy 61 percent rate it as good, while 26 percent say it is “not so good” and 6 percent say it is poor. Also, one-third of voters, 35 percent, say the economy is getting better while only 13 percent think it is getting worse.
“Good economies are generally good for incumbents seeking reelection,” he said.
Branstad probably can take solace in the fact that his job approval rating is in line with that of Iowa’s U.S. senators. Chuck Grassley gets a 52 to 33 percent score, while Tom Harkin receives a 47 to 35 percent rating.
The Iowa legislature, however, does not fare as well. It gets a negative 38 to 41 percent approval rating, Quinnipiac found.
Voters are split on Medicaid expansion in the same way they are on the governor.
“There is a slight plurality of voters who support Medicaid expansion, but it is an issue on which the state is pretty well split,” Brown said.
Opposition to expanding Medicaid rolls is 64 to 24 percent among Republicans and 46 to 41 percent among independent voters. Democrats support expanding Medicaid 70 to 21 percent. Men are divided, as 44 percent favor expansion with 46 percent opposed. Women favor expansion 46 to 40 percent.
From May 15-21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,411 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.