Incumbents Blum and Young hold early advantage, Loras College poll finds

For Immediate Release
Sept. 27, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The new Loras College Poll of the first and third congressional districts in Iowa finds the Republican incumbents, Rod Blum, 1st District, and David Young, 3rd District, with an early advantage over their Democratic challengers. The live-caller survey was conducted between Sept. 20-22, including both landline and cell phones, with 368 likely voters in 1st District and 327 in 3rd District.

“Even in this remarkable and unique election year, it appears that incumbency remains an important advantage—including for first term incumbents like Blum and Young,” said Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and director of the Loras College Poll. “It’s still early in these congressional contests, however, as most voter time and attention remains focused on the race for the White House. We also find large numbers of undecided in both of these closely-watched Congressional races. The next six weeks will be very interesting here in Iowa as the battle for Congress concludes.”

Both the 1st and 3rd district races have been identified by analysts as among the most competitive in the country.

Candidate preferences 1st District 3rd District


1st District

Congressional 3rd District
Rod Blum 45 percent David Young 46 percent
Monica Vernon 38 percent Jim Mowrer 36 percent
Unsure 16 percent Unsure 15 percent
(Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding and “other”/non-responses.)

Candidate favorability

Congressional 1st District
 Rod Blum Favorable 43 percent
Unfavorable 27 percent
No Opinion 25 percent
Never Heard of   6 percent
Monica Vernon Favorable 35 percent
Unfavorable 27 percent
No Opinion 28 percent
Never Heard of 10 percent
Congressional 3rd District
David Young Favorable 44 percent
Unfavorable 26 percent
No Opinion 26 percent
Never Heard of   4 percent
Jim Mowrer Favorable 34 percent
Unfavorable 16 percent
No Opinion 39 percent
Never Heard of 11 percent
(Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding and “other”/non-responses.)

“Unlike Clinton and Trump at the top of the ticket, voters think more favorably about these congressional candidates,” Budzisz said. “Being less well known, and not as polarizing, may also explain the differences with the presidential candidates on the issue of favorability. I think the presidential candidates would be envious of the positive net favorability ratings.”

Looking more closely at the specific races, in the 3rd District, challenger Jim Mowrer certainly is not as well-known as the incumbent, with 39 percent indicating they had no opinion of him, and another 11 percent indicating they did not know who he was. In the 1st District, Monica Vernon is also less well known than the incumbent Blum.

“This result on voter opinion is both a positive and negative for a challenger,” Budzisz said. “It represents an opportunity in that there may be a substantial pocket of persuadable voters—people who can be positively influenced by the campaign. The challenge is connecting with these folks in the final weeks of the election. Both challengers will be well funded and supported by their party and interest groups, so there will be resources to address that challenge.”

Connection to presidential election
This year congressional candidates have to navigate the added challenge of campaigning in the midst of a presidential election. Such an environment provides both challenges and opportunities.

“One common challenge of congressional candidates in a presidential election cycle is having voters, especially independent-minded voters, consider them distinctly from the candidates at the top of the ballot,” Budzisz said. “This is especially true of candidates whose presidential candidate is trailing in the district.”

Both Blum and Young are outperforming Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in their districts. Of those surveyed in the 1st District, 42 percent would choose Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Hillary Clinton and 33 percent would choose Trump if the election were held today. In the 3rd District, the margin is closer, as 42 percent would choose Clinton and 38 percent would choose Trump.
“Across the country it has become more and more unusual to see House and Senate elections go in a different direction than the choice for president,” Budzisz said. “Right now Congressmen Blum and Young are bucking this trend. As ad buys and turnout efforts ramp up, and early voting starts, it will be interesting to see if this difference between the congressional and presidential elections continues.”

Other noteworthy results from the poll:

  • President Obama’s job approval ratings in 1st District: 54 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove, in the 3rd District: 49 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.
  • Direction of country in 1st District: 31 percent say the country is on the right track and 56 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction, in 3rd District: 31 percent say the country is on the right track and 58 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction.

For toplines and crosstabs related to today’s release, see:

Note on methodology:
The Loras College Poll surveyed 368 likely voters in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District and 327 in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. The surveys were conducted Sept. 20-22. Margin of error for full sample in 1st District is +/- 5.1 percent and +/- 5.4 percent for 3rd District. Margins of error for subgroups are higher. All results calculated at a 95 percent confidence interval.

  • Survey was conducted with a random sample of registered voters (phone numbers drawn from official Iowa Secretary of State voter files).
  • The sample was balanced for standard demographic variables, with party composition to apply 2012 actual turnout to current registration.
  • Survey included both landlines and cell phones.
  • Screen for likely voter is report of “definitely,” or “very likely” to vote in presidential election in November.
  • The survey was conducted using live operator interviews through a contracted professional call center.

Script development and methodology used for the survey received input from Republican campaign consultant Brian Dumas and Democratic campaign consultant Dave Heller.

Visit for more on the Loras College Poll or follow @LorasPoll or @ChrisBudzisz.

For more information about Loras College, visit, call 563.588.7100 or (800) 245-6727. Or like Loras College on Facebook or follow @lorascollege.

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.

Dr. Christopher Budzisz, Associate Professor of Politics
Office: 563.588.7279

Thomas Jensen, Public Relations Manager
Office: 563.588.7179 | Cell: 919.930.1997

The Loras College Poll