Post-election Poll: What Motivated The Arkansas Voter?

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 11 views 

Talk Business and Hendrix College conducted its first post-election survey to further understand the motivations and demographics of Arkansas voters in last Tuesday’s election cycle.

In a survey of 1,126 statewide registered voters who confirmed they voted on November 6, 2012, respondents said the economy, candidate values and support for — not against — their Presidential choice all influenced their actions.

“Our effort is to gain a deeper understanding of what drove the decision-making on Tuesday for Arkansas voters,” said Talk Business executive editor Roby Brock. “Today, we analyze the Presidential data and compare it to national exit survey responses. Tomorrow, we’ll explore Arkansas voter attitudes on their ballots cast for and against medical marijuana.”

From the statewide survey, conducted on Sunday night, November 11, the poll has a margin of error of +/-2.9%. The battery of Presidential questions included:

Q. For whom did you vote for President?

60.5%    Mitt Romney
36%       Barack Obama
3.5%      Other Candidate

Q. What one issue was more important to you in determining your vote for President?

47%     Economy & Jobs
13%     Federal Budget Deficit
4%       Foreign Policy
19%     Health Care
17%     Some Other Issue

Q. In determining your vote for President, what was the most important quality of the candidate for whom you voted?

21.5%    The Candidate Cares About People Like Me
14%       The Candidate Is a Strong Leader
32%       The Candidate Shares My Values
22%       The Candidate Has a Vision for the Future
10.5%    Other

Q. Was your vote for President primarily a vote for one candidate or a vote against another?

69%     It was a Vote For a Candidate
27%     It was a Vote Against a Candidate
4%       Don’t Know

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science with Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the poll. He offered the following observations on the Presidential questions in the survey:

The decision by the television networks and the Associated Press to cancel exit polling in Arkansas (and 18 other states) in this year’s general election robbed analysts of the state’s politics of crucial information about what drove Arkansans in their voting behavior in the presidential race and other key races on the ballot. To partially fill this void, Talk Business and Hendrix College carried out a post-election survey of Arkansans who had participated in the Nov. 6 election just days after that election to track the motivations that had driven their votes.

In the 2012 elections, as expected, Mitt Romney captured the votes of just over 6 in 10 Arkansas voters.  By gaining the votes of only 36.9% of the voters, Barack Obama came in under his poor 2008 performance in the state.   But, what demographic patterns were shown in these voting trends and what drove Arkansans to these decisions?

Romney won the votes of over two-thirds of the state’s white voters, while Obama performed more strongly with other racial and ethnic groups led by his gaining the votes of just over 80% of black Arkansans.

Romney had success across all age groups in the state ranging from 58% of those 30-44 to 62% of those 65 or over.

The large gender gap shown nationally was much smaller in Arkansas. Romney won the votes of 63% of male voters and 60% of female voters. That said, the gap between married and unmarried voters, no matter their sex, did also show itself in Arkansas with Romney winning the votes of 64% of married Arkansans but only 52% of unmarried ones.

Romney held Republican voters in the state, winning 94% of this group of voters. Obama also held the overwhelming majority of Arkansas’s Democrats (85%) but 13% of Democratic partisans did bail on the President. Most importantly, Romney won the votes of over 7 in 10 (71%) of independent voters.  Previous polling by Talk Business/Hendrix College has shown that in 2012 many independents lean Republican and may well be on their way to Republican partisan identification.


Nationally, just under 6 in 10 voters identified the economy as the most important issue driving their vote decision. In Arkansas, with a healthier economy during the Great Recession, this number was only 46%. That said, of these voters who based their votes heavily on the economy, 72% went for Romney. The other key issues on which Arkansas voters cast their votes (20% for health care, 14% for the federal budget deficit, and 4% for foreign policy) paralleled national numbers.

No single candidate trait drove voters’ decisions. As shown below, voters spread across 4 key candidate traits, with the candidate’s sharing of personal values leading the pack; Romney won the votes of 75% of this group. In contrast, Obama won the votes of 70% of those emphasizing a candidate caring “about people like me”:

22%    The Candidate Cares About People Like Me
14%    The Candidate Is a Strong Leader
31%    The Candidate Shares My Values
22%    The Candidate Has a Vision for the Future
11%     Other

Finally, somewhat surprising considering the negative nature of the campaign and the fact that neither Obama nor Romney was a natural fit for the traditionally populist Arkansas electorate, just under 70% of Arkansas voters said that they voted “for” a candidate rather than “against” one.

This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Sunday, November 11, 2012. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-2.9%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 1,126 Arkansas voters statewide who confirmed in the first question that they participated in the Tuesday, November 6, 2012 election.

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 or Dr. Jay Barth by email at