Charles Grassley, Joni Ernst

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is escorted to his seat by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in January 2015 during inauguration ceremonies for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.


DES MOINES — Iowa’s senators may not be the most popular members of the chamber, but they win elections.

Morning Consult, a media and survey research company in Washington, D.C., found that GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are far less popular than Vermont’s duo of Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, who scored 75 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

On the other hand, they’re much more popular than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the only member of the Senate whose approval rating is underwater — 44 percent approval to 47 percent disapproval.

“Polls and winning are more and more not connected,” according to Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political scientist. “After all, Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular senator of all but gets re-elected.”

Grassley, re-elected to a seventh term in 2016 with 60 percent of the vote, is the 39th most popular senator with 56 percent approval and 35 percent disapproval, the poll found.

Ernst, midway through her first term, is the 83rd most popular senator with 47 percent approval and 37 percent disapproval. An approval rating less than 50 percent might encourage Democrats to challenge her in 2020, but Schmidt doesn’t think Ernst should worry.

“Ernst is not even in the top 10 of ‘disapproval,’” he said. “That’s especially true because Iowa Democrats have no bench and seem in disarray.”

Schmidt offered a caveat in that he doesn’t have much faith in Morning Consult polling. Its July 14, 2016, poll found Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump in the Electoral College, 320-212.

Gov. Terry Branstad landed in the lower third of gubernatorial rankings in the poll that was conducted from January to March. The six-term Republican is the 38th most popular governor, with 48 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the least popular governor — 25 percent approval to 71 percent disapproval. GOP Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker topped the field with 75 percent approval to 17 percent disapproval.