This year’s state legislative races are shaping up to be an epic battle between a growing Republican favoritism in the Arkansas electorate and the popularity of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

Republicans are vying to gain 18 or more seats in the 35-member State Senate and 51 or more seats in the 100-member State House. Currently, Democrats control 20 seats in the Senate and 53 seats in the House.

Titular state party head Gov. Beebe has been at the center of Democratic candidate messaging in Arkansas this year, while the GOP has focused largely on state voters’ lack of support for national Democratic standard-bearer Pres. Barack Obama.

The latest round of Talk Business-Hendrix College polling suggests that both sides in the battle for control of the General Assembly have advantages.

Gov. Beebe still enjoys enormous popularity, but Arkansas voters also indicate a strong overall preference for Republican legislative candidates over Democratic alternatives.

Among 2,228 likely Arkansas voters, the Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll asked:

Q. Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Gov. Mike Beebe?

64%     Favorable
19%     Unfavorable
17%     No Opinion

Q. If the election for a seat in the Arkansas state legislature were being held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate?

49%     Republican candidate
36%     Democratic candidate
15%     Don’t know

Of interest is the Congressional District breakdown of the two questions.

Beebe’s favorable versus unfavorable breakdown by district is:

CD1 – 60/20
CD2 – 68/20
CD3 – 65/16
CD4 – 62/22

By Congressional District, Republican versus Democratic preference for the state legislature is:

CD1 – 47.5 (R)/38 (D)
CD2 – 44 (D)/42 (R)
CD3 – 53 (R)/31 (D)
CD4 – 50 (R)/33 (D)

ANALYSIS
In poll results released earlier this week, Republicans led in all 4 Congressional District races and GOP Presidential nominee had a commanding lead over Pres. Obama.

Dr. Jay Barth, with the Hendrix College Department of Politics and International Relations, helped craft and analyze the polls.

“Both parties are holding those voters who identify with them fairly well; 82 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans are committed to voting for state legislative candidates of their party,” Barth said. “The huge problem for Democrats is that they were losing Independents statewide by nearly two to one (51%-26%) on the generic legislative question. This raises the question whether Arkansas’s ‘independents’ remain real independents or are, in their hearts, Republican partisans.”

Barth noted that Beebe’s strongest district, the Second, is the one region where there is a slight generic Democratic advantage.

“The sole bright spot for the Democratic party on the generic legislative measure is in the Second Congressional District. In central Arkansas, a slight plurality of likely voters anticipate voting Democratic in legislative races. The opposite is true elsewhere in Arkansas, including the First and Fourth Districts which have historically been excellent turf for the Democrats,” Barth said.

POLL METHODOLOGY
The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College survey, conducted on Sept. 17, combined 4 different Congressional District polls into one to create a statewide sample of 2,228 likely voters with a margin of error of +/-2%.

These four polls were all conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Monday, September 17, 2012. The polls were completed using IVR survey technology among likely general election voters in Arkansas’ four Congressional Districts.

Participants were selected from a database of district voters who have voted in 2 to 4 of the last 4 general elections and who affirmatively answered a question that they intended to vote in the general election on November 6, 2012.

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, contact Talk Business & Politics executive editor Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net or Barth at barth@hendrix.edu.

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Roby Brock
Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics. He can be reached by e-mail at Roby@TalkBusiness.net. Follow him on Twitter: @RobyBrock.