The latest Talk Business/Hendrix College Poll shows that voters are largely unswayed by several prominent issues churning in the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Cong. John Boozman.
In a survey of 573 likely Arkansas voters conducted on Thursday, Sept. 16, Boozman led Lincoln 56-29%. Independent Trevor Drown registered with 5% of the vote, while Green Party nominee John Gray pulled 2%. Undecided voters accounted for 8% in the survey, which had a margin of error of +/- 4%.
The poll also tested four different high-profile messages being utilized by the Lincoln and Boozman campaigns in the race. The four issues are earmarks, health care, the national sales tax, and Lincoln’s chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“With little exception, this race is basically static from our July Talk Business Poll and the messages being deployed by both campaigns are not changing voter opinions,” said Talk Business Executive Editor Roby Brock.
Dr. Jay Barth, with the Hendrix College Department of Politics and International Relations, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered the following analysis:
This poll of the U.S. Senate race reiterates the findings of a series of other polls across the period since the nominees were determined. Congressman Boozman has consistently been above 50% when Arkansas voters have expressed their preferences in polls and incumbent U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln has been in the high-20%’s or low 30%’s. Our poll finds that same result.
In our poll, however, we looked beyond the horserace to examine the issues being employed by the two major party candidates in their advertising and public appearances to date. Which issues have the power to reshape what appears to be a static race for the U.S. Senate?
In her advertising, Senator Lincoln has emphasized the importance of her leadership roles in the Senate for the state. First among these is her service as the state’s first chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Our poll indicates that only a quarter of Arkansans find this chairmanship something that would make them more likely to vote for Lincoln. And, most of those voters had already expressed support for the incumbent. Among undecided voters, only 11 percent said it made them more likely to support her while 29 percent said it made them less likely to support the Senator; most undecideds were indifferent to the issue of leadership on agricultural issues.
During their debate last week and in her campaign’s advertising, Senator Lincoln has attacked Congressman Boozman for his support for a “fair tax” that would eliminate the federal income tax but would replace it with a large sales tax on purchased goods in the country. Our polling indicates that this issue also has not yet resonated with the state’s voters, but there is some promise here for Lincoln among undecided voters.
Indeed, a plurality of our overall sample indicate they are more likely to vote for Boozman because of his stance. But, looking inside the numbers, more undecided voters (43%) agree with Lincoln on the issue, while 23% agree with Boozman; the remainder are unmoved by the issue. This issue does show some hope in bringing undecided voters back for Lincoln, but only 12% of current Boozman supporters are less likely to vote for him because of his support for the issue at this point.
Congressman Boozman has attacked Senator Lincoln’s support of health care reform legislation in his own communications with voters. Our polling indicates, not suprisingly, that most Lincoln supporters favored her ultimate stance on health care reform while almost all Boozman supporters agree with the Congressman. Supporters of Green Party candidate Gray are pro-health care reform while majorities of voters supporting the independent candidate Drown and who are undecided side with Boozman. All told, this is a telling advantage for Boozman at this point.
Finally, the candidates differ on federal “earmarks.” Our polling indicates that it is an issue with which voters have some difficulty grappling. The large percentage of undecided voters on the issue may suggest either a lack of information about it or internal conflict in voters who see the benefit to the state but agree that the practice is harmful nationally. In any respect, a slight plurality of undecided voters agrees with Boozman on the issue. But, all in all, it doesn’t appear that this issue has the power to resonate with large numbers of voters on either side.
So, across the issues, most of the views on the issues are driven by voters’ candidate preferences. They agree with their chosen candidate on the key issues. Among the prized undecided voters, excepting the issue of the “fair tax,” Boozman’s stances are generally advantaged, although it’s clear that most of these voters are indifferent to the issues being discussed at this juncture in the campaign.
It’s not surprising, based on these patterns, that there was little movement in the race in our poll from the early horserace question to the follow-up horserace question asked after issues were discussed. This indicates the apparent stability of the race. For Senator Lincoln to save her seat, some new dramatic issue will have to be inserted into the debate.
Congressman Boozman’s support is solid across the state, as his majority support shows itself in all four congressional districts, including Lincoln’s native 1st district and her home district, the 2nd.
Boozman also leads across age groups. His smallest lead is among the youngest cohort. That group, which went slightly for Barack Obama in 2008 in Arkansas, gives 44% to Boozman. Lincoln receives 27%, which the other three options (the independent candidate Trevor Drown, Green Party candidate John Gray, and undecided) receive relatively high responses among 18-29 year olds suggesting that they are both not yet fully tuned into the race and that they are seeking options outside of the traditional two party system.
Among racial and ethnic groups, Boozman leads among whites 60% to 27%, while Lincoln leads among African-Americans 63%-15%. Across our polls, Democratic candidates have been performing more weakly than normal among African-American voters in this cycle. Boozman shows solid leads across the other ethnic groups in the poll.
Democrat Lincoln is also underperforming among those voters who identify themselves as Democrats, leading 72% to 13%. Meanwhile, Boozman is dominant among Republicans, leading 89% to 4%. And, in a state where no majority party exists in the electorate, Boozman is also winning easily among the Independents who decide elections in the state; with this group, he is ahead 63% to Lincoln’s 19%.
This poll was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 4%, was completed using IVR survey technology on Thursday, September 16, 2010 among 537 registered Arkansas voters statewide who indicated they were "likely" to vote in the November 2, 2010 general election. Our weighting assumptions include adjustments for age, ethnicity and Congressional districts.
All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business and Hendrix College.
For interviews, Brock can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Barth can be contacted at email@example.com.