A new Talk Business-Hendrix College survey finds that support for a $125 million bond issue for the state’s first superproject is popular, and legislation to allow faculty members on college campuses to carry concealed handguns has a plurality of support.

The survey was conducted statewide among 675 Arkansas voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%.

“Clearly, Arkansans remain interested in and supportive of opportunities to create jobs as the supermajority of support for the Big River Steel mill project indicates,” said Roby Brock, executive editor of Talk Business Arkansas. “As for guns on college campuses, the results are much more divided in terms of public opinion.”

GUNS & SUPERPROJECT:
HB 1243 by Rep. Charlie Collins would allow trained And licensed staff and faculty to carry a concealed handgun on a university, college, or community college campus. It would require an annual vote by the governing board of institutions of higher education to adopt a policy against bringing the guns on campus. The measure has encountered resistance from a number of higher education leaders as well as student groups on college campuses.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: Also on the Legislature’s agenda are a number of bills related to guns. One such measure would require public and private colleges and universities to allow faculty members to carry concealed handguns on campus. Do you favor or oppose such legislation?

49.5% Favor
43% Oppose
7.5% Don’t Know

Last month, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) announced that the state had landed its first superproject, a billion-dollar steel mill plant in northeast Arkansas that will require legislative action on a bond issue to support the project with loans and incentives. Big River Steel Mill is expected to create 525 jobs averaging around $75,000 a year. Currently, the legislature has begun its review process – an independent analysis of the project – as required by law.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: Arkansas has landed its first superproject, a 525-job, $1.1 billion steel mill.   However, the deal will require the state to help finance with a $125 million bond issue that the state legislature must approve. Should the legislature approve this bond program?

64.5% Yes
17.5% No
18% 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:

Guns on campuses: Perhaps the most surprising result in our poll was Arkansans’ ambivalence about the presence of concealed weapons on college campuses in the state. A flurry of gun-related bills have flown through the legislature so far and Arkansas has a history of protecting gun rights. While a plurality of those surveyed supported the legislation requiring public and private higher education institutions to allow staff members to carry concealed weapons, nearly as many opposed that proposal.

Some interesting demographic and political patterns also emerge on the proposal. First, a major gender gap shows itself with 58% of men supporting the measure while women oppose it by a 50%-41% margin.

Second, while younger voters support it, just at 50% of seniors oppose it. While white and Latino Arkansans support the proposal, other racial and ethnic groups oppose it led by 71% of African-Americans.

Finally, Democrats overwhelmingly oppose the proposal (68%-22%) while all other partisan groups support guns on campus.

Superproject: Arkansans are quite comfortable with the legislature issuing bonds necessary to finalize the Osceola superproject. Nearly two-thirds support the project with only a small group (17.5%) opposing it. Unsurprisingly, a larger group of voters are undecided on this issue that is newer and more complex than the other issues asked about.

Looking inside the numbers, the project is popular across most demographic and political groups. Interestingly, however, young voters are quite dubious about it; only 35% of those under 30 support it. Democrats are particularly supportive of it (70%) while voters of the Third Congressional District (northwest Arkansas) are slightly more wary than other voters. Also of interest, voters from the First Congressional District, where the plant will be located, are not disproportionately supportive.

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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