Two potential issues that may be on the November ballot offer contrasting attitudes from Arkansas voters.

The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll of more than 1,000 likely voters shows that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans are in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, while voters are evenly split on a possible medical marijuana proposal.

Both citizen-led initiatives are collecting signatures before a July deadline to qualify for the November ballot.

Q. A proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana may also be on the ballot through the petition process. It would provide Arkansans the ability to use medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation and to allow patients to purchase medical marijuana at a regulated not-for-profit dispensary. If the election were held today and the measure were on the ballot, how would you vote?

45% Yes
45.5% No
9.5% Don’t Know

Q. Advocates are also seeking to place a measure on the ballot to increase the state minimum wage in Arkansas. The proposal would increase the minimum hourly wage for workers in the state from $6.25 to $8.50 over a three-year period. If the election were held today and the measure were on the ballot, how would you vote?

79% Yes
17% No
4% Don’t Know

“There is no shortage of popular opinion about raising the state’s minimum wage. It enjoys widespread support,” said Talk Business & Politics executive editor Roby Brock. “As for the medical marijuana proposal, it seems voter attitudes are nearly as divided as the votes cast in the last election cycle.”

In November 2012, Arkansas voters defeated a proposal to legalize medical marijuana by a 51.4% to 49.6% margin.  Talk Business-Hendrix College polling before and after that election suggested voters struggled with the ballot issue.

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.

Minimum Wage
The most popular prospective ballot measure for 2014 is the minimum wage increase. Give Arkansas a Raise Now is collecting signatures to place on the ballot a measure to increase the minimum wage to $8.50/hour across a three year period. Our polling indicates that if the measure makes the ballot, it¹s on its way to passage as 79% of our survey respondents favor the measure.

Moreover, while ballot measures tend to have fairly high levels of undecided voters, that’s not the case with the minimum wage increase as just at 4% of voters don’t know their position on the issue.

Support shows itself across the entire state with it showing most strength in the more heavily Democratic Second Congressional district. The proposal also leads with all political groups. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%), 92% of Democrats, and over three-fourths of independent voters (76%) favor it.

Because of independent voters’ crucial role in determining the outcome of the closely fought elections for U.S. Senate and Governor, the attitudes of this swing group indicate an opening on the issue for statewide Democratic candidates who have expressed strong support for the Arkansas minimum wage increase if they can focus campaign debate on the issue.

Of course, Republicans have a number of other issues, such as Obamacare, that are exceedingly positive positions with the Arkansas electorate. As always, the fall campaign will be about which party gains control of the framing of the debate.

Interestingly, and also particularly important because of women being a particular target in 2014, attitudes on the measure also show a gender gap with 83% of women and 74% of men supporting the measure.

Medical Marijuana
On the legalization of marijuana for use in situations where patients face certain medical maladies, the survey shows a tie with 45% of voters supporting and 45% opposing. Polling the issue of medical marijuana has, in our experience, been challenging. Voters have not always been forthright in stating their views on the issue in public opinion surveys (as we saw in 2012).

Moreover, the issue is complicated in 2014 by the fact that two proposals with slight differences have been proposed. If both were to make the ballot, this could produce confusion at the ballot box.

With those caveats in mind, all signs point to another very close outcome in 2014 if voters once again cast votes on the subject. Interesting patterns do show themselves among subgroups of voters.

While the oldest group of voters (those above 65) are most opposed to the measure (39% yes/ 49% no), those in the 45-64 age group are most supportive (54% yes/39% no).

White voters split nearly evenly on the measure, but African-American voters are consistently supportive (52% yes/31% no) while Asian-Americans and Latinos are more throughly opposed.

In terms of partisanship, Democrats are solidly supportive (56%-33%), Republicans are in solid opposition (60%-28%), and, appropriately, independents split right down the middle.

Once again, assuming that the voters get the opportunity to speak on the issue in November, it appears we’re once again on our way to a close vote on the legalization of medical marijuana.

METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Thursday and Friday, April 3-4, 2014. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 1,068 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.

Approximately 9% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone with live callers. This is in response to the increased reliance by voters on cell phones. Additionally, we applied our standard weighting to the poll results based on age, gender, and Congressional district.

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 Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.

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Talk Business Staff