Iowa Senate: Franken Poll Finds Tied Race

by Jacob Rubashkin May 16, 2022 · 3:33 PM EDT

A new poll of the Democratic primary for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat suggests that the contest between former Rep. Abby Finkenauer and retired Admiral/2020 Senate primary runner-up Michael Franken has closed to an even race.

The survey, conducted by Change Research for the Franken campaign and fielded from May 4-8, found likely Democratic primary voters split evenly, with 42 percent supporting Franken and 40 percent supporting Finkenauer.

The Change Research poll was conducted online and sampled 866 likely Democratic primary voters. It was weighted for age, sex, education, race/ethnicity, and geographic region.

A previously unreleased poll of 416 likely voters conducted by Change Research for the Franken campaign, fielded from April 6-11, found Finkenauer with a large lead: 53 percent to Franken’s 26 percent. 

The earlier result is in line with a poll released by the Finkenauer campaign conducted by GBAO from March 30 to April 3. That survey, of 600 likely Democratic voters, pegged Finkenauer’s support at a “commanding” 64 percent compared to Franken’s 15 percent. 

Over the past three months, Franken has vastly outspent Finkenauer on paid media. Franken began advertising on television in mid-April, spending $481,000 on broadcast and cable TV over four weeks, according to data from Kantar/CMAG. Finkenauer is scheduled to go up on TV on May 17, with $75,000 booked for the first week of her ad buy.

On Facebook, the difference is even more stark. Over the past 90 days, Franken has spent $544,000 on advertising, while Finkenauer has spent just $8,700 over the same time period.

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Franken had more money in his campaign account on March 31 ($1 million) than did Finkenauer ($780,000), and he raised slightly more money over the first three months of the year than Finkenauer — $1.4 million to $1.2 million.

Finkenauer was briefly removed from the ballot over signature issues with her petitions, but was reinstated by the Iowa Supreme Court in mid-April.

The primary will take place on June 7, and will be the main event for Iowa Democrats; the party does not have competitive primaries for governor or either of their two offensive targets in the U.S. House.

Either Finkenauer or Franken will begin as an underdog against longtime Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is seeking an eighth term in the Senate. While Iowa was once a battleground state, it has trended toward Republicans in recent years. In 2020, President Donald Trump won 53-45 percent. In the Senate race, Democrat Theresa Greenfield outspent Sen. Joni Ernst by nearly $26 million but still lost by 7 points, 52-45 percent.

A Change Research poll previously released by the Franken campaign found Grassley leading in a general election matchup against Franken, 45-42 percent.

Grassley has not won less than 60 percent of the vote since his first election in 1980, when he defeated incumbent Democrat John Culver, 53-46 percent. Most recently, he defeated former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge in 2016, 60-36 percent. This year’s race is currently rated Solid Republican.