While there were no surprises in regards to the political approval ratings that current and former politicos held by Arkansans, there were findings in the recently released Arkansas Poll that indicated a significant shift in opinion over issues that are typically contentious.
The 2015 Arkansas Poll, which was conducted by University of Arkansas Professor of Political Science, Dr. Janine Parry, was released last week.
For instance, those who were polled were asked the following question:
“Do you favor laws that would make it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, favor laws that would make it easier to get an abortion or should no change be made to existing abortion laws?”
47% of respondents indicated that laws should make abortions more difficult to obtain. This is a 7% increase from 2014. Additionally, we saw little to no shift from those who favored “easier” or “no change.” If I had to guess, the most recent scandal surrounding Planned Parenthood and the doctored videos used to vilify the organization can be directly correlated to this shift (or lack thereof) in the numbers.
Current events also played a significant role in the numbers that were related to questions over gun-control laws. 36% of respondents indicated that we should have stricter gun control laws while only 18% indicated a need for the opposite. In 2014, those numbers were 31% and 21% respectively. There is no question that the numbers have been swayed by the surge in gun violence we have seen across the nation during the past several months.
Now that same-sex marriage has become the law of the land since the last Arkansas Poll, perceptions around the recognition of same-sex marriage remains fairly conservative as 64% of respondents indicated that the marriages should not be recognized. That said, it would be a mistake to assume that this same body of people would be opposed to LGBT rights across the board. 72% of respondents indicated a belief that gays and lesbians should have equal housing rights and 80% believed they should have equal rights within the workplace.
Perhaps one of the most interesting findings though was the favorability of allowing patients to use marijuana for medical purposes if a medical doctor supported its use. In 2012, only 43% of those polled were in support of the action but new numbers reveal that support has increased to 68%. Could it be that Arkansas is soon to allow the use of medical marijuana within the state?
Lastly, there has been some interesting movement regarding undocumented immigrants. For years our state has struggled with how to address the issues surrounding this community of people — mostly because the realities faced by this population are so regularly hijacked for political gain or avoided at all costs by those who fear political penalty. But the Hispanic population in Arkansas is continuing to grow regardless of political difficulty and the days in which we continue to allow the needs of this ever-expanding community to go unaddressed are numbered.
The Arkansas Poll revealed a small decrease (26%) in the number of those who believe all undocumented immigrants should be deported and a consistent hold (59%) at allowing these individuals to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain criteria like learning English and paying back taxes. That said, I believe we are still a far cry from addressing the issues of undocumented residents but that the ongoing dialogue around the difficulties this population faces may be having an effect on Arkansans.
Overall, not too much has changed here in our state politically. Although the media and current events do play a role in perceptions surrounding some of our most hot button issues, the progress made on those issues will always be more greatly influenced by the political sentiment of our state. Right now – and perhaps for a while – those leanings are significantly conservative. This is somehow our reality even though Arkansans who participated in the Arkansas Poll indicated that they believed that Arkansas was headed in the right direction and that they were better off (it would be better off the following year) in greater numbers while the Democrats were in control of the state.
Is there no better way to display that those on the left may need to revisit their message and brand? I think not.