In the 2014 Governor’s race, Republican Asa Hutchinson has an early lead over two potential Democratic rivals, Mike Ross and Bill Halter.

The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll of 675 Arkansas voters gauges public opinion in head-to-head match-ups between Hutchinson and Halter and Hutchinson and Ross.

Hutchinson, a former Third District Congressman and three-time failed statewide candidate, has said he’ll be a candidate for Governor in 2014. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2010, has also announced his candidacy. Retired former Fourth District Congressman Mike Ross is reportedly reconsidering his previous decision not to run for Governor.

Last Thursday, Curtis Coleman, a failed 2010 Republican Senate candidate, announced he would seek the GOP nomination for Governor, and former two-time GOP gubernatorial nominee Sheffield Nelson has said he’s contemplating a run. Another potential Democratic candidate includes Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter, who has never sought an elected office before. None of these men were included in the poll.

“At this juncture in the 2014 Governor’s race – which is early – we polled the two candidates and potential candidate with the highest name identification,” said Roby Brock, executive editor of Talk Business Arkansas. “As we move forward, we will look to do some exclusive primary polling as well as test other general election match-ups when more campaigning takes place.”

“As for these results, you have to say that Asa Hutchinson begins in the driver’s seat, although it is interesting that Mike Ross appears more competitive than Bill Halter in a general election match-up. These numbers should be taken at face-value: no serious money or campaigning has taken place so far and I would expect the numbers to shift substantially going forward,” Brock added.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q:┬áIf the 2014 Governor’s Race was a contest between Democrat Bill Halter and Republican Asa Hutchinson and the election were today, for whom would you vote?

31% Bill Halter
47% Asa Hutchinson
22% Don’t Know

Q: If the 2014 Governor’s Race was a contest between Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross and the election were today, for whom would you vote?

43% Asa Hutchinson
38% Mike Ross
19% Don’t Know

ANALYSIS
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

Asa Hutchinson, the 2006 GOP nominee for Governor, leads both former Congressman Mike Ross and former Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. However, the gap against Ross is small, while the margin over Halter is a large 16 points. Ross’s margin is similar to that in a poll released by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s campaign soon before the implosion of his campaign in December.

In most respects, the demographic and political patterns are similar in the two prospective match-ups. However, while Halter trails in both the Second and Fourth Congressional districts, pluralities of voters in both those districts support Ross. Particularly striking is the Fourth, which Ross represented in Congress for a dozen years. While Halter trails Hutchinson by a 45-31% margin in that district, Ross leads Hutchinson by 44-41%.

Second, while Ross is clearly disadvantaged among independent voters, trailing Hutchinson 49-32%, Halter trails by more than two-to-one. Among other partisan groups, the margins are similar.

Other demographic groups show similar reactions in the two races with Hutchinson relying on white males for his margins in both match-ups.

POLL METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.8%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 675 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.

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 executive editor Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net or Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.

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Talk Business Staff