Three definite or potential ballot issues are resonating with Arkansas voters in very different ways, according to the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll.

On Monday, March 26, 759 likely Arkansas voters offered their views on three proposals that will or could be on the November ballot.

The three measures encompass a half-cent sales tax increase for a four-lane highway system; an increase in the severance tax for road improvements; and a campaign and ethics reform initiative.

The results:

Q: In November, Arkansas voters will consider a proposal that would increase the sales tax by a half-cent in the state. The revenue generated from the tax would be used to pay for a four-lane highway system statewide. If the election were today, would you vote for a half-cent tax increase for this purpose?

41.5%     Yes
50.5%     No
8%          Don’t Know

Q: A proposal to raise the severance tax on natural gas to 7% may be on the November ballot.  The money from the increase would be used for highway and road construction and repairs, according to the proposal. Those opposed say the increase could reduce natural gas jobs in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region. If the election were today, would you vote to raise the severance tax for this purpose?

28%     Yes
55%     No
17%     Don’t Know

Q: A group has proposed an initiative that could be on the November ballot that would change Arkansas campaign and ethics laws by disallowing direct corporate and union contributions to state political campaigns, banning any gifts by lobbyists to legislators, and lengthening the ‘cooling-off’ period that legislators must wait after leaving office before they return as lobbyists from 1 year to 2 years.  If the election were today, would you vote for it or not?

69%    Yes
18%     No
13%     Don’t Know

The half-cent sales tax measure will be on the November ballot as it was referred by the Arkansas General Assembly to voters.  The severance tax proposal has been approved by the Arkansas Attorney General to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot and is in that phase of the initiative process.  The campaign and ethics reform proposal is still pursuing AG approval in order to begin the signature collection phase of the initiative process.

ANALYSIS

Dr. Jay Barth, with the Hendrix College Department of  Politics and International Relations, helped craft and analyze the poll. He offered the following observations on each question:

On the half-cent sales tax:  “I think the question will be what kind of investment is made by the proponents of this measure, which was sent out by the legislature for a vote. It’s possible that a very ardent campaign for this could turn it around, but I think it’s a tough battle. Gov. Beebe could be a difference-maker. If he became publicly against this — based on the numbers we’ve seen for him — it would be really devastated.”

On raising the severance tax:  “If this proposal makes the ballot, I think it’s in real trouble. I think the jobs message that the opponents are going to employ is a very effective one, especially in this context.  It may well be that the severance tax proposal is moving forward in the wrong election cycle because this is going to be such a jobs-oriented cycle.”

On campaign and ethics reforms:  “If this measure makes the ballot, it’s going to be a slam dunk. It’s very popular, but it’s going to have some trouble making the ballot, I think, because it doesn’t have a professional organization behind it at this time. Historically, once Arkansans have a chance to vote on ethics laws, they have tended to vote for them.”

POLL BACKGROUND & NOTES

The poll was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Monday, March 26, 2012. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.6%, was completed using IVR survey technology among registered Arkansas voters who have voted in at least 2 of the last 4 general elections.

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 roby@talkbusiness.net. Barth can be contacted at barth@hendrix.edu.

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