Bruce Braley’s Poll Numbers Fall Following Farmer Comments

50 percent of likely Iowa voters now less likely to vote for Braley

Bruce Braley
Bruce Braley / AP
April 17, 2014

Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley’s recent criticism of a fellow senator, who he described as a farmer that never went to law school, has significantly hurt his standing among likely Iowa voters, according to a new Washington Free Beacon poll.

The Free Beacon poll found that 50 percent of likely Iowa voters surveyed would be less likely to vote for Braley after his comments, while 21 percent would be more likely. The Polling Company, Inc. conducted the survey.

Braley, a four-term congressman and former trial lawyer, made the comments to a group of lawyers at a January fundraiser in Texas. Braley told the lawyers that he would be their "voice" in Congress and warned that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school," could be the next Senate Judiciary Committee chairman if Republicans retake the majority this fall.

More than 50 percent of respondents said Braley’s remarks showed he was out of touch with most Iowans and has a higher regard for lawyers in Texas than farmers in Iowa. Nearly 60 percent agreed that Braley had harmed his chances for winning the Senate seat.

Many voters identify with farmers rather than lawyers in Iowa, where more than 90,000 farms are located. A recent Free Beacon analysis found that Braley has received more than $4 million in campaign contributions from lawyers and law firms since 2005 and has a long history of advocating their interests.

Critics say Braley’s subsequent attempts to defend his farmer credentials could also be perceived as out-of-touch.

A press release from his campaign last month included supportive quotes from farmers but misspelled the basic Iowa farming terms "detasseling" and "baling." Forty-three percent of voters said they would be less likely to vote for him as a result.

BuzzFeed also reported last month that Braley posted a photo of an England fruit farm to his Facebook page, not an Iowa farm, before removing it. Fifty percent of voters said they would be less likely to vote for him as a result.

Braley had a total favorability of 38 percent in the poll, only slightly higher than his unfavorability of 37 percent. He faces a 10-point deficit, 48 to 37.5 percent, against a generic Republican nominee.

Republican and Iraq War veteran Joni Ernst led a crowded GOP primary in the poll with 22.5 percent, followed closely by businessman Mark Jacobs with 20.4 percent.

The poll also asked Iowa voters who they would support in the 2016 presidential election.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received less than 50 percent support against each potential Republican nominee. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) garnered slightly more support than Clinton.

Additionally, 42 percent of Iowans said they would vote for businessman Charles Koch in a hypothetical presidential matchup with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). Thirty percent said they would back Reid.

Reid called Charles Koch and his brother David "un-American" in February because they financially supported ads against the Affordable Care Act, though he did not mention that the Koch brothers employ tens of thousands of Americans and have donated millions to charities.

The poll surveyed 600 likely voters in Iowa from April 13-14 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.