Poll: Gov. Hutchinson job approval two-to-one favorable, U.S. Sen. Boozman up on Eldridge

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 506 views 

More polling released this week from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College shows Gov. Asa Hutchinson with a strong job approval rating – although it has slipped from previous levels – and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., appears poised to defeat Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge in his Senate re-election bid.

The new survey, conducted Tuesday, June 21, 2016, among 751 likely Arkansas voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?

49% Approve
24% Disapprove
27% Don’t Know

In three previous 2015 surveys, Gov. Hutchinson had higher approval ratings than his current status. In April 2015, his job approval stood at 63% positive and 22% negative; in June 2015, his job approval was 52% positive to 18% negative; in September 2015, the governor had a favorable rating of 59% to an unfavorable rating of 21%. The annual Arkansas Poll, released in November, gauged Hutchinson’s job approval rating at 57% positive to 18% negative.

Additionally, survey respondents were asked to choose their preference for the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Q: If the 2016 U.S. Senate election were held today, would you vote for Republican Senator John Boozman, Libertarian Frank Gilbert, or Democrat Conner Eldridge?

51% Senator John Boozman
6% Frank Gilbert
29% Conner Eldridge
14% Don’t Know

On Sunday, Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College released the results of the Presidential race in Arkansas, with Republican Donald Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 47%-36% margin.

More survey results will be released Tuesday and Wednesday from this latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll, including questions on public policy such as the Private Option/Arkansas Works, bathroom gender, and medical marijuana.

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

Governor’s job approval
The job approval ratings of Governor Asa Hutchinson in our latest survey would be the envy of most governors across the United States. However solid they may be, the numbers do show some scratches in the Governor’s reputation after a number of months filled with contentious policy debates and headlines that were not what the Governor’s Office would have chosen for front pages of the state’s newspapers.

Hutchinson’s performance in office is approved by just under half (49%) of the Arkansas electorate. His performance is disapproved by a quarter of those voters while just more than that (27%) still lack a solid perception of the Republican Governor’s performance in office.

In past Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College surveys, we have asked about his job approval on two occasions (in another survey, in September 2015, we asked about his favorability/unfavorability). A year ago (June 2015), his job approval numbers were 52%-18%-25%; two months before that, following his first legislative session, his numbers were 63%-22%-15%. Thus, the series of contentious legislative sessions in which Hutchinson mostly was successful in promoting his agenda does seem to have cost him just a bit of his shine with voters.

Hutchinson’s approval numbers are quite similar across age groups, among men and women, and across the geography of the state (although he does have his highest numbers in the traditionally Republican 3rd Congressional District from which Hutchinson hails). While he has 66% job approval numbers with Republicans and 52% approval with Independents, he is underwater with Democrats (32% approval and 37% disapproval). This differs from his Democratic predecessor Mike Beebe who was always able to maintain solid numbers with the state’s Republican voters. Interestingly, Hutchinson does have quite solid numbers with the state’s African-American voters; he shows a 41% job approval among this group and only 30% disapproval.

All in all, these denote quite solid job performance numbers, but Hutchinson has come down to earth from his early extraordinarily high approval ratings.

U.S. Senate race
This survey marks our first opportunity to check in on a head-to-head matchup in the race for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas in 2016. Considering incumbent Senator John Boozman’s relatively low-key term in office and the absence of television advertising by his opponent, Democrat Conner Eldridge, to date, the result is expected: Boozman has a solid lead, but many of the state’s voters remain unclear of their preference in the race. The Libertarian nominee Frank Gilbert is running at a solid 6% of the vote at this stage.

Boozman is running well across the state’s congressional districts, particularly in the 3rd Congressional District which he represented in Congress before entering the Senate. There, 61% of voters express a preference for Boozman. The closest area in the state, unsurprisingly, is the 2nd Congressional District where Boozman’s lead over Eldridge is 45% to 33%. At this point in the race, there is no gender gap (a fairly exceptional situation in a partisan race). Boozman is performing at particularly high levels with voters aged 45 and above, but leads with all age groups. The incumbent Republican is winning majorities of white voters and voters who are neither white nor African-American. Eldridge is winning the votes of a slight majority of African-Americans but is underperforming significantly with this group of voters (Boozman is picking up 22% support among this consistently Democratic demographic group). Similarly, while Boozman has GOP voters solidly behind him (83% support), Eldridge leads among Democrats only 53% to 22%.

In short, all signs are that this remains a race for the incumbent to lose as the challenger needs to not only shore up his support among traditionally strong Democratic voting groups but needs to make inroads into Boozman’s base. It will take an aggressive campaign for Eldridge to get in the game.

This survey was conducted on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.6%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 751 Arkansas frequent 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 Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected] or Dr. Jay Barth by email at [email protected].