Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor holds a three-point lead over his Republican rival, Cong. Tom Cotton, in the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll.

Pryor, whose seat has been highly targeted for a Republican pick-up, leads the first-term Fourth District Congressman 45.5% to 42.5%. Only 8% are undecided.

“With more than six months to go, the Senate race is game on. The political environment can certainly change between now and November, but today you have to say nothing is a foregone conclusion,” said Talk Business & Politics executive editor Roby Brock.

In October 2013 shortly after Cotton entered the Senate race, a Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll found Pryor with a one-point lead, 42% to 41% with 17% undecided. Six months later, the race remains within the poll’s margin of error.

“Unlike in 2010, this Senate race is shaping up to be highly competitive,” Brock added. “We’ve already seen millions of dollars in advertising spent on both sides of this race and much more will come. With all of that money spent, the race has barely moved. I foresee a real messaging battle to win small percentages of the electorate as a key for how this race will be decided.”

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 U.S. Senate, the candidates are Democrat Mark Pryor, Republican Tom Cotton, Libertarian Nathan LaFrance, and Green Party candidate Mark Swaney. If the election for U.S. Senate were today, which candidate would you support?

45.5%  Democrat Mark Pryor
42.5%  Republican Tom Cotton
2%   Libertarian Nathan LaFrance
2%   Green candidate Mark Swaney
8%   Undecided

In results released Sunday, the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll showed a virtual dead heat in the Arkansas Governor’s race between front-runners Asa Hutchinson (R) and Mike Ross (D).

Additional poll results will be released this week, including voter attitudes on 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 U.S. Senate poll results:

Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor, who led his Republican rival U.S. Congressman Tom Cotton by a bare 42-41% margin during our last polling in October 2013, continues to hold onto a narrow lead in this latest survey. His three-point margin (45.5-42.5%) remains within the poll’s margin of error. Two third party candidates are in low single digits.

The Arkansas U.S. Senate race has become one of the highest-profile in the nation with millions of advertising dollars spent by both campaigns and a variety of outside groups. That spending appears not to have moved the race much, suggesting that the race will remain close at least until the point when voters engage after Labor Day.

Looking below the top line of numbers, Pryor’s tiny lead is driven by his particularly strong lead with women voters (he leads that group by 10 points). In contrast, Cotton has a 7 point lead (48-41%) with male voters.

Pryor has also coalesced African-American support and is also running strongly among Latino voters, while Cotton has a 5 point lead with white voters. Both candidates have strong support from their fellow partisans and while Cotton leads among independent voters 50-34 that lead is not quite strong enough to fully offset the slightly larger percentage of the electorate that remains Democratic.

Looking at the race geographically, Cotton has a solid lead in the Third Congressional District while Pryor has smaller leads in the other regions of the state. Together, these patterns lead to the very close overall race.

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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