A third poll conducted in October indicates a narrow lead by Republican Asa Hutchinson over Democrat Mike Ross in Arkansas’ gubernatorial race – with Hutchinson showing an advantage among Independent voters.
The poll also indicates that the Tea Party may have an image problem among likely Arkansas voters – especially among women.
According to poll results released by Little Rock-based Impact Management Group to The City Wire, 40.18% of survey respondents favored Hutchinson, 37.21% favored Ross and 22.6% remain undecided. The poll, conducted Oct. 24, reached 911 registered Arkansas voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.
A Talk Business-Hendrix College poll conducted Oct. 8 of 603 likely Arkansas voters showed Hutchinson with a 41%-37% lead over Ross with 22% undecided. The poll had a margin of error of +/-4%, and the results were similar to a February poll that showed Hutchinson with a 43%-38% lead over Ross with 19% undecided.
The University of Arkansas' annual Arkansas Poll, conducted Oct. 10-17, had Hutchinson polling at 32%, Ross at 30% and 38% of voters undecided.
Ross is the only Democratic candidate in the race to succeed Gov. Mike Beebe (D), with Hutchinson facing Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman and Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, in the May 2014 GOP primary.
Clint Reed, a partner with Impact Management Group, said a problem for Democrats in the 2014 election cycle will be capturing an Independent voter group that leans more Republican than Democratic. The Impact poll showed that 40.28% of Independent voters favored the generic Republican ballot, compared to just 12.96% favoring the Democratic ballot.
The poll shows that Hutchinson is favored among self-identified Independents by 41.6%, with Ross garnering 27.3% among the group.
In addition to an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort among their respective base supporters, Reed said Hutchinson and Ross will need to target the almost 23% who are undecided. Of the undecided block, 31% self-identify as Independents.
Complicating the effort to target Independents, especially for Ross, is the greater chance – “intensity” – that Republicans and Independents will vote.
“Republicans (82%) and Independent (83%) voters have a slight intensity advantage over Democrats (78%) at this point in the election cycle. Bear in mind, a three to four point advantage in intensity could be the difference in a very close election,” Reed explained.
Ross’ clear advantage as of October is in fundraising, and it gives him the financial potential to target the Independents and boost voter turnout among his supporters.
Ross recently followed up his record breaking second quarter fundraising total of $1.97 million with another record-breaking third quarter. According to reports filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State's office, Ross raised a total of $1.12 million. Ross has a little more than $2.4 million in his campaign fund.
Hutchinson raised only $393,181 in the third quarter, and has a little more than $1 million cash on hand.
“It’s no secret that money matters in politics. However, the strategic use of money can be more important than the quantity. As the campaigns gear up their advertising and other marketing efforts, it will be interesting to see how effective the money is in moving the poll numbers,” said Michael Tilley, editor and co-owner of The City Wire.
The poll also produced a breakdown on how Hutchinson and Ross were viewed within Arkansas’ four Congressional districts. The sampling of between 217 and 232 respondents per district is a small sub-sample and doesn’t meet statistical confidence, however, it is noteworthy.
District breakdowns show a lead for Hutchinson in the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts, with Ross having a lead in the 2nd District. The 4th District, of which Ross represented during his years in the U.S. House of Representatives, shows a statistical tie.
1st Congressional District
2nd Congressional District
3rd Congressional District
4th Congressional District
The Tea Party movement among conservatives has grown nationally and in Arkansas in recent years, but likely Arkansas voters have mixed emotions about the group.
Impact Management included the following question in the Oct. 24 survey.
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement?
Don’t Know: 23%
“The Tea Party is reaching a point where the general public views it more unfavorably than favorably. Within this, a gender gap is emerging, with 43% of female voters viewing the Tea Party unfavorably and 47% of males viewing it favorably,” Reed said.
Not surprising, the Tea Party was viewed unfavorable by 73.67% of self-identified Democrats and favorable by 61.9% of self-identified Republicans.
Among the closely watched Independent voting group, the Tea Party was viewed favorably by 37.96% and unfavorably by 35.19% – a statistical tie.
Impact Management Group conducted the automated phone survey on Oct. 24. There were 911 participants, and the margin of error is +/- 3.2%. Of the participants, 100% said they are registered voters, with 83% being likely voters.
Link here for a PDF of the full poll results.