Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s approval rating ticks up
©Copyright 2021, Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has returned to the familiar territory of having a higher job approval rating than disapproval, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co., found 46% of Iowans approve of the job Ernst is doing as senator, versus 42% who disapprove. The remaining 12% are not sure. Half of Iowans feel favorably about Ernst, a Republican, and 43% unfavorably.
“In March, she earned her worst marks since taking office and was underwater, but has recovered a bit,” pollster J. Ann Selzer said.
The poll sampled 807 adult Iowans June 13-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5% percentage points.
A March Iowa Poll showed Ernst with a higher disapproval rating (45%) than approval (43%). It was the first time more Iowans disapproved of the job she was doing than approved since she became a U.S. senator in 2015. Iowans voted in November to keep her in Washington, D.C., for a second term, with 51.8% of votes compared to 45.2% for Democrat Theresa Greenfield.
Men, rural Iowans drive Ernst’s support
Ernst hasn’t cracked 50% in job approval since the February 2019 Iowa Poll, when 57% of Iowans approved of the job she was doing — a personal high.
Her current favorability is a slight improvement from March, when 48% of Iowans felt favorably toward her. More people also feel very favorably toward her — 20%, an increase of 5 percentage points from March. Now, as in March, her unfavorable ratings break down as 21% with mostly unfavorable feelings toward her, and 22% with very unfavorable feelings.
In job approval, her support is driven by men and rural Iowans. More than half of men, 55%, approve of the job she’s doing, versus 36% of women.
“These numbers don’t surprise me,” Selzer said of Ernst’s support among men and disapproval among women. She noted a similar split for Gov. Kim Reynolds, a fellow Republican, and the inverse for Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat. “It’s just a consistent gender gap when it comes to evaluating officeholders.”
Ernst enjoys nearly two-thirds job approval (65%) among people who live in rural areas. That aligns with recent Iowa election results. In the GOP’s near sweep of Iowa’s federal offices in 2020, former President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican, carried all but the five most populous counties in the state.
In the suburbs, 34% say they approve of the job she’s doing, and 53% disapprove. It’s the only type of community where a majority of people disapprove of the job she’s doing. In cities and towns, 45% disapprove; in rural areas, just 26% do.
David Scandrett, a 73-year-old who lives in rural Polk County, said that he supports Ernst and that her annual “Roast and Ride” motorcycle and barbecue event shows her connection with Iowans.
“Joni talks to the people,” said Scandrett, a poll respondent who’s a retired Federal Express worker. “She listens, and she participates in the functions of the everyday people. I can’t think of something I dislike about her, at all. She’s just a down-to-earth, commonsense person.”
Scandrett, a political independent who said he leans right, is also a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump.
“She was more vocal when Trump was president. I just agreed with everything she said, which is what Trump was saying,” Scandrett said. “Trump is 110% correct in his evaluation of the country and what needs to be done. Run this country like a business; don’t run it like a nursing home.”
Camellia Pohl, a 51-year-old political independent from Davenport, said Ernst sounds like other politicians. Ernst could have been a leader in urging mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic and been proactive in protecting residents, Pohl said.
“I felt like she was being a puppet, if you might want to say that word, and just kept repeating what every other Republican person was saying on the news about the pandemic, while my family members were dying,” Pohl said. “If my nephew and brother can take a bullet and die for this country, everyone could have masked up. And that was not coming out of her mouth at all.”
Pohl, an Army veteran, lost her nephew in Afghanistan and her brother in the Vietnam War.
Pohl, a professional driver now, also knocked Ernst for not supporting a recent infrastructure bill. She singled out the condition of Interstate 80.
She also said she wished Ernst would do more in response to the closure of several women’s health clinics across the state. Pohl said she has three adult daughters, all of whom are hoping to leave Iowa for somewhere they feel would support women better.
But she didn’t have all bad things to say about Ernst. Pohl praised Ernst’s work on fighting sexual assault and harassment in the military as needed and overdue.
About this poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted June 13-16, 2021, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 807 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 807 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 630 likely voters in the 2022 midterm election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 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 3.5 percentage points or 3.9 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.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or at 515-284-8361.