Arkansans Split Views On Health Care, Medicaid & Medical Marijuana

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 603 views 

Arkansans continue to oppose the federal health care law’s implementation despite a Supreme Court ruling and shifting national public opinion.

Also according to the latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll, the state’s citizens are guarded against an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, but they are nearly evenly-split on the issue of medical marijuana.

“Arkansas voters have always had a major independent streak in their thinking and these latest poll results reinforce that,” said Talk Business executive editor Roby Brock. “Our current findings suggest an uphill climb for supporters of pushing aspects of health care reform forward and the topic of medical marijuana could lead to an even more interesting debate if the issue makes the November ballot.”

The Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll was taken Thursday, July 19 among 585 likely Arkansas voters. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4%.

Responses to these 3 questions are as follows:

Q: Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate – a key portion of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform plan – is constitutional. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, should opponents of the law step aside and let the law be implemented, or should they continue trying to block its implementation?

34%     Stop blocking implementation
58%     Continue blocking implementation
8%       Don’t Know

Q: One component of the health care reform law involves an expansion of Medicaid to cover medical expenses for individuals living just above the poverty level. The expansion would be fully funded for several years by the federal government with the state incurring up to 10% of the cost later. Under the Supreme Court ruling, Arkansas has the choice whether or not to expand its Medicaid program to include an additional 250,000 Arkansas residents. Should Arkansas expand Medicaid?

42.5%     Yes
46.5%     No
11%         Don’t Know

Q: A proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana may also be on the ballot.  It would provide Arkansans the ability to use medical marijuana for serious debilitating medical conditions with a doctors recommendation, and to allow patients to purchase their medicine at a regulated not-for-profit dispensary. If the election were held today, would you vote to allow for medical marijuana sales?

47%     Yes
46%     No
7%       Don’t Know

“One other interesting takeaway for me is the small number of undecided voters on any of these issues,” said Brock. “It indicates a strongly engaged electorate and one with little room for persuasion unless arguments to shift public opinion are very convincing. There does seem to be room to engage voters on the Medicaid question.”

State Sen. Gilbert Baker (R), chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette political columnist John Brummett debated the poll results (video at the bottom of this post). Additional polling will be released this week on measures to expand casinos in Arkansas, to raise the state sales tax for highway construction, and to raise the state severance tax on natural gas for road construction.

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped construct and analyze the poll results.

He offered the following observations:

  • Arkansans continue to show their opposition to President Obama’s health care reform law. Indeed, most believe that it is appropriate to continue to fight the implementation of the measure even after the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the bulk of the law.
  • Arkansans’ views are in significant contrast to national polling on the issue. Our poll question replicated a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that by a 56% to 38% margin, Americans were ready for opponents to move on now that the Court had ruled. By a 58%-34% margin, Arkansans continue ongoing opposition.
  • Unsurprisingly, Democrats argued for the end of opposition (72% held this view). On the other hand, Republicans argued for continued opposition by a 87%-9% margin.
  • Independents also remain strongly in favor of continued delays (68%). Racial disparities also show themselves on the issue with African-Americans most in favor of moving on (83%) and whites strongly favoring continued opposition (65%).
  • On the other hand, Arkansans are much more split on the issue of whether Medicaid should be expanded in the state under the reform law with 46.5% opposing expansion and 42.5% in favor as Governor Beebe has proposed. The demographic and political breakdowns on this question mirror that on the previous question.
  • Perhaps the most surprising result on this poll was that on the proposal that would allow medical marijuana use in the state. A slight plurality supports the proposal that has yet to achieve a spot on the November ballot.
  • Two age groups -— the Under 30 age group and those 45-64 -— show majority support for the measure, 61% and 55% respectively, while the other age groups are opposed.
  • A majority of African-Americans (57%) and a majority of Democrats (61%) support the concept while other racial and partisan groups are more dubious of the notion.
  • A gender split also shows itself on the question with more men favoring (48%) and more women opposing (48%) the Compassionate Care Act.

The medical marijuana initiative has been given an additional 30 days to collect another 26,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 585 likely Arkansas voters statewide.

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 [email protected].