DUBUQUE, Iowa — Tuesday will not only determine the presidential race but also decide the balance of power for the U.S. Senate and House. In Iowa, on the eve of the General Election, the final Loras College Poll of Iowa* finds long-time Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) with a strong 16-point lead over Democratic challenger Patty Judge, 53 percent to 37 percent.
“One-third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years, and this election cycle Republicans are defending more than twice as many seats than Democrats,” said Christopher Budzisz, associate professor of politics at Loras College and director of the Loras College Poll. “Republican incumbents are running in all three of the states we have polled this election: Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and a lot of attention and money have been poured into these races.”
If Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, Budzisz said Democrats will need a net gain of four seats to gain control of the Senate as Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine would break any ties in the chamber. Democrats need five seats if Republican Donald Trump wins the presidency.
“By some estimates, it appears the probability of the Senate switching to Democratic control is about fifty-fifty,” Budzisz said.
Of the three races, the battle in Wisconsin between Republican incumbent Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold is the closest. The race is a rematch of the hotly contested 2010 election, and the final Loras Poll of Wisconsin, relased Nov. 4, found Democrat Feingold with a slim two-point lead, 47 percent to 45 percent. This lead is within the Poll’s margin of error, and is similar to other recent polling showing Feingold with a small advantage. Democrats in Wisconsin have a lead in early voting, but another key to success for Feingold will be a strong turnout in the urban areas of the state, especially places like Milwaukee and Madison.
“As Wisconsin results come in on election night, look for vote totals in the so called ‘wow’ counties—Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington,” Budzisz said. “Trump has not proven as popular in Wisconsin as other parts of the Midwest, and it will be interesting to see in these three populous counties if Trump will present a drag on Senator Johnson’s chances. A strong showing for the Republican ticket in these counties will certainly bolster Johnson’s re-election hopes.”
The Senate race in Illinois between Republican incumbent Mark Kirk and Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth has been a contentious race, but Duckworth has held a consistent single-digit lead over Kirk across Loras Poll reporting. The last Illinois Loras Poll, released Nov. 1, found Duckworth with an eight-point advantage.
“Victories by Feingold and Duckworth are important to Democratic hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate,” Budzisz said.
U.S. House races in Iowa
All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for election. In Iowa, two first-term Republican incumbents are up for re-election.
“While these races were originally cast as toss-ups or leaned Democratic due to the partisan balance of the districts and their past voting in recent presidential elections, our polling suggests that both Republicans hold advantages against their Democratic challengers,” Budzisz said. “In the First District in northeastern Iowa, the final Loras Poll found Congressman Rod Blum with a six-point lead, 47 percent to 41 percent, over Democratic challenger Monica Vernon.
In the Third District in southwestern Iowa, Republican Congressman David Young holds a five-point advantage over Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer 44 to 39 percent. In both races large numbers of undecided voters remain.
“Capturing large numbers of these undecideds will be vital to both Vernon and Mowrer if they are to unseat these first-term incumbents,” Budzisz said.
*Specific poll methodology and sample sizes are provided in each corresponding link.
About the Loras College Poll
The Loras College Poll is conducted several times a year, in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Loras College faculty and student researchers work as part of the survey research team to develop poll questions, analyze and interpret data, and assist with sharing the final results with local, regional and national media.
About Loras College
Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. Loras is ranked 11th out of the Top 100 baccalaureate colleges, according to the 2016 Washington Monthly College Rankings and the 11th Best Regional College, according to Midwest U.S. News Best Colleges.