A new Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll shows the race between party front-runners Mike Ross (D) and Asa Hutchinson (R) to be a virtual dead heat, with the Democrat up by one point – 44-43% – over his potential GOP rival.

“This is not where this race will end up, but it is a representation of where it is today,” said Talk Business & Politics editor-in-chief Roby Brock. “The anticipated match-up between Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson appears to be very close. Against their underdog rivals, these two front-runners appear to be in solid shape.”

The latest poll results suggest that the 2014 election cycle may become a game of margins as both parties motivate their bases to show up on election day.

“If Democrats can squeeze an extra percentage point or two out of their base or Republicans do the same, it could swing the election if it remains this competitive,” Brock added. “It is also interesting to note that the undecided margin in this race has shrunk considerably from six months ago.”

In October 2013, a Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll showed Hutchinson with a 41-37% lead over Ross with 22% undecided. No third party candidates were included in the October survey as it was before the Green Party and Libertarian Party conventions.

The latest survey of 1,068 likely Arkansas voters was taken on April 3-4, 2014. The sample included voters who have participated in multiple or all of the last five general elections. Also, only voters who said they were “very likely” (96%) or “somewhat likely” (4%) to participate in this November’s election were allowed to complete the survey. Cell phone users were also included and the poll has a margin of error of +/-3%.

Q: In the race for Governor, imagine the candidates are Libertarian Frank Gilbert, Green Party Candidate Joshua Drake, Republican Asa Hutchinson, and Democrat Mike Ross. If the election for Governor were today and these were the candidates, which candidate would you support?

3%  Libertarian Frank Gilbert
2%  Green candidate Joshua Drake
43%  Republican Asa Hutchinson
44%  Democrat Mike Ross
8%  Undecided

ADDITIONAL MATCH-UPS
The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College survey also pitted the two party’s front-runners against alternative party candidates.

Q:  In the race for Governor, imagine the candidates are Republican Curtis Coleman, Democrat Mike Ross, Libertarian Frank Gilbert, and Green Party Candidate Joshua Drake. If the election for Governor were today and these were the candidates, which candidate would you support?

30%  Republican Curtis Coleman
48%  Democrat Mike Ross
4%  Libertarian Frank Gilbert
3%  Green candidate Joshua Drake
15%  Undecided

Q: In the race for Governor, imagine the candidates are Democrat Lynette Bryant, Republican Asa Hutchinson, Green Party Candidate Joshua Drake, and Libertarian Frank Gilbert. If the election for Governor were today and these were the candidates, which candidate would you support?

27.5% Democrat Lynette Bryant
48%  Republican Asa Hutchinson
4.5% Green candidate Joshua Drake
3%   Libertarian Frank Gilbert
17%  Undecided

“The front-runners for their party’s nominations – Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross – do appear to have advantages for the general election campaign,” Brock said. “We will poll each party primary in a few weeks and test the inter-party match-ups between Hutchinson-Coleman and Ross-Bryant. That will require a different sample.”

Additional poll results will be released this week, including the U.S. Senate race, an ethics-term limits amendment, one of the medical marijuana proposals, and a potential minimum wage initiative.

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:

To no one’s surprise, the race to replace Mike Beebe as Governor of Arkansas is an incredibly tight one. While both have to survive a party primary, most all observers expect that Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson will be the two parties’ nominees in November.

Looking ahead to that general election, Democrat Ross has a tiny lead (44-43%) over Republican Hutchinson, well within the survey’s margin of error. Both candidates have strong support among their partisan bases, but while Hutchinson leads with independents that lead is not quite large enough to overcome the slight Democratic advantage in partisan identification. The fact that Ross has withstood a barrage of negative ads in recent weeks suggests that the race for Governor will likely stay close throughout the months ahead.

We did match up both leaders for their respective party’s nomination with the lesser-known candidate on the other side to gauge strength of support. Ross leads in a hypothetical match-up against Republican Curtis Coleman, 48-30%, while  Hutchinson holds a very similar 48-27.5% margin over Democratic challenger Lynette Bryant.

Examining the cross tabs in the race for Governor, a small gender gap is emerging in the race with Hutchinson leading among men while Ross has a lead among women (historically the larger group of voters in the Arkansas electorate).

Looking geographically, Ross is holding his own in his native Fourth district, which has skewed decidedly Republican in recent cycles while the other three congressional districts show the typical patterns – Republicans running best in the Third, while the Democrats run best in central Arkansas’s Second district.

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

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