story by Ryan Saylor
A new poll released Wednesday (July 9) has U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, with a slight lead over U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., as the two inch closer to November's general election.
Pryor, seeking his third term in the Senate, polled at 43% to Cotton's 47%. Of those polled, 10% were undecided on who they would vote for.
The same polling from June 29 asked respondents if the election were held on that day, would they vote Republican or Democrat in a race for Congress. A generic Republican polled at 45%, while the Democrat only polled at 38% and 17% said they either did not know or were undecided.
Clint Reed, a partner at Impact Management Group, said his firm's polling shows a bias toward Republican candidates.
"The overall structure of just where the political environment is is favorable for Republicans. If you look at the generic ballot numbers, you know there's a seven point advantage for Republicans which indicates that, you know, generally speaking as folks view each political party and their candidates for political office, voters are looking at voting for the Republican Party. You know, that's been the trend for the last two or three cycles here in Arkansas, so we're seeing that hold."
What is likely impacting poll numbers now and will continue to do so moving closer to the general election, Reed said, was people's views on the Affordable Care Act. The same poll asked respondents views on Obamacare, specifically the Private Option passed by the Arkansas legislative session in 2013.
"As part of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul plan – known as Obama-care, the Arkansas Legislature passed a law that would add more than 200,000 people to its Medicaid program by using private insurance to purchase health insurance. Do you support or oppose this law?" the question posed to respondents asked.
Only 35% supported the Private Option, while 44% opposed it and 22% were undecided. The breakdown was generally along part lines, with 63% of Democrats supporting the legislation and 65% of Republicans opposing it.
"(The data) gives you some indication that President Obama is still very unpopular in this state, which is not a huge surprise. But when you start thinking about the electoral consequences of that and how it could trickle down to other candidates, i.e. Sen. Mark Pryor, Obama continues to be a drag on the Democratic Party. And I think for the most part you're seeing that in the numbers on the ballot scores,” Reed noted.
The polling also looked at the popularity of the Tea Party among Arkansas voters and found that from February to June, the public opinion of the far right of the Republican Party continues to be mixed among voters. Favorable and unfavorable of the Tea Party both sit at 40%.
When broken down along gender lines, only 33% of women view the Tea Party favorably versus 48% of males.
The big question, Reed said, is will the divide among females and males regarding the Tea Party make a difference in the final vote in November.
"To me, that's the main take away — how are males and females viewing the Tea Party. And in a close race, does the gender gap become the important factor in deciding who wins and loses these very close races. To me, that's what I'm watching. Not just the overall number of the Tea Party, the 40/40, but what are the numbers underneath telling us about different demographics."
In response to the poll released by Impact Management on Wednesday, the Pryor campaign took a defensive stance and pointed out what it said were flaws with the poll. It also said the poll is not a real reflection of how Arkansans may view the race since it was taken just days before Cotton took a swipe at Pryor's Christian faith.
"Take with a major grain of salt any partisan robo-poll, especially one conducted several days before Arkansans saw the headlines about Congressman Cotton's deeply personal attack on Mark Pryor's Christian faith," Pryor spokesman Erik Dorey said in an e-mail.
David Ray, press secretary for Cotton's campaign, took his own shot at Pryor's vote for Obamacare.
"We never put too much stock in any single poll, but there have now been seven straight polls showing Tom Cotton ahead of Senator Pryor. The fact that 63% of Arkansans disapprove of Obamacare is undoubtedly a drag on Senator Pryor's popularity, since he believes Obamacare is 'an amazing success' and insists that it is 'working' and 'creating jobs,'" Ray said by e-mail.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.72%. Link here to see the complete poll results.