Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, a Republican, leads her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley by five points, according to a new poll from Republican polling firm Vox Populi. The survey of "active voters" (culled from registered voters who voted in the last two elections) in Iowa found 49 percent support or lean toward Ernst, while 44 percent support or lean toward Braley.

The sample was nearly evenly split between Republicans (35 percent) and Democrats (34 percent), with "Independents" (31 percent) not far behind. The poll also found incumbent Republican governor Terry Branstad with an 11-point lead over his Democratic challenger, Jack Hatch.

This is the third poll to show Ernst ahead of Braley since she won a competitive GOP primary last week. Polls from Rasmussen Reports and Loras College showed Ernst with one-point and six-point leads, respectively.

A state senator and officer in the Iowa Air National Guard, Ernst is hoping to win the open Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. Braley, meanwhile, is a four-term congressman and trial lawyer whose district covers the northeast corner of the state and includes the city of Dubuque.

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