Poll: Dead heat for Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice seat

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 258 views 

The race for Arkansas’ top judicial post is a dead heat roughly three weeks before Election Day.

In the race for Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, the two candidates are in a statistical tie with a little more than a third of the electorate undecided.

Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College surveyed 908 likely primary voters – 451 Democrats and 457 Republicans – for the statewide results. The polling was conducted on Thursday, Feb. 4 using IVR technology and has a margin of error of +/-3.3%.

The samples of Republicans and Democrats included frequent primary voters who self-identified as certain (93.5%) or likely (6.5%) to vote in the March 1 election.

Q: There are two candidates running for Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, a nonpartisan office: Judge Dan Kemp and State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson. If the election were today, for whom would you vote?

32% Judge Dan Kemp
31% State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson
37% Don’t Know

“Although there has not been much money spent so far in these upcoming judicial elections, there is some awareness of candidates in the Chief Justice race,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “I do expect an onslaught of spending in the final three weeks that will shape that race in a powerful way. These results provide a snapshot of evenness of the race at this point.”

The TB&P-Hendrix College survey also polled the Associate Supreme Court Justice, Position 5, which will also be decided on the March 1 ballot.

Q: There are two candidates running for an Associate Justice position on the Arkansas Supreme Court, also a nonpartisan office: Judge Shawn Womack and Clark Mason. If the election were today, for whom would you vote?

28% Judge Shawn Womack
22% Clark Mason
50% Don’t Know

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped construct and analyze the survey. He offered his opinion on the results:

We examined the state of the two races for state Supreme Court. While voters may choose to cast ballots only in the nonpartisan judicial races, most voters who show up on March 1 will do so after voting in either the Republican or Democratic primary. Our sample is slightly skewed in a Republican direction as the electorate is expected to be on March 1.

With the bulk of voters in both races for the Arkansas state Supreme Court unclear on whom they will support on March 1, the campaign across the the coming three weeks will determine the outcome. In particular, there are clear expectations that a chunk of campaign advertising will come from outside groups, adding to the candidates’ own spending. This week, advertising began in the Chief Justice Race between Associate Justice Courtney Goodson and Circuit Judge Dan Kemp. Those ads’ effectiveness will impact the composition of the the state’s high court for years to come.

Kemp and Goodson are in a statistical tie at this point in the race at 32% for Kemp and 31% for Goodson; more voters — 37% – are unclear in their ultimate vote. An examination of crosstabs suggests that there appears to be little variation in the vote across key demographic and political groups with two exceptions. There is a slight gender gap with Kemp leading among men and Goodson among women. Most interesting is a 10-point lead by Kemp in Goodson’s native 3rd congressional district, suggesting that voters there may be most troubled by aspects of Goodson’s personal or professional history; Goodson counters this with a lead in the First Congressional District (the eastern portion of Arkansas).

Circuit Judge Shawn Womack of Mountain Home does lead his opponent, Clark Mason of Little Rock, but half of the electorate has no preference at this point, meaning that this race is also up for grabs. Womack, a former Republican state Senator, does have a 13-point lead among those expecting to vote in the GOP primary (there is a tie vote among Democrats). Womack is also running strongly with voters who are 65 or above and with white voters (where he leads 30-21%).

This survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics Research and Hendrix College on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.3%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 908 Arkansas likely Republican and Democrat primary voters statewide.

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

For interviews, contact Roby Brock by email at [email protected] or Dr. Jay Barth by email at [email protected].

Poll demographics by:

Age (weighted)

12% Under the age of 30
24% Between the ages of 30 and 44
39% Between the ages of 45 and 64
24% 65 or older

Ethnicity (weighted)

12% African American
1% Asian American
83% Caucasian or White
2% Latino
2% Other

Gender (weighted)

48% Male
52% Female


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