President Trump numbers slip, Gov. Hutchinson approval rises in Arkansas

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 2,448 views 

In the last two months, President Donald Trump has seen erosion in his job approval numbers from Arkansas voters, while Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s performance seems to have risen over the course of the Arkansas legislative session.

New polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College shows a seven-point decline for Trump and a three-point rise for Hutchinson. In the survey, taken Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 550 Arkansas voters expressed their views.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Donald Trump is doing?

53% Approve
39% Disapprove
8% Don’t Know

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

56% Approve
32% Disapprove
12% Don’t Know

In February 2017, Trump stood at 60% in his job performance; Hutchinson registered 53% job approval.

“The legislative session has been good for Gov. Asa Hutchinson. He passed all parts of his legislative package and appeared to broker compromises or solutions on controversial issues such as guns on campus, a transgender bathroom bill, and the MLK holiday,” said Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock.

“With a seven point drop in his job approval numbers, President Trump still remains strongly popular in Arkansas, but he has lost some support most likely from the rough-and-tumble start to his presidency,” Brock added. “As Dr. Barth’s analysis shows, independent voters are an area of concern for Trump at this juncture.”

In the most recent TB&P-Hendrix Poll, voters were also asked about the Affordable Care Act, which was the subject of Congressional debate the week before the poll was taken. Arkansas voters have consistently opposed the ACA and its accompanying Medicaid expansion provision and that attitude appears unchanged.

Q: Last week, the Affordable Care Act celebrated its seventh anniversary. Do you approve or disapprove of the Affordable Care Act?

41% Approve
50.5% Disapprove
8.5% Don’t Know

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:

A majority of Arkansans continues to approve of Donald Trump’s performance in office 11 weeks into his Presidency. Still, this 53% approval rating — much stronger than his national numbers — represents some melt since our last survey. A strong majority of Republicans (90%) remain supportive of Trump, but a majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents see the President’s performance in a negative light in this survey.

The negativity of independent voters in Arkansas is particularly telling. Until the last couple of years, this group has tilted decidedly pro-GOP in its sentiments. While underwater with Democrats in Arkansas (79% disapproval), Arkansas’s Democrats are actually more supportive of Trump than are Democrats nationally where his job approval ratings are in the single digits. Trump’s performance is also seen more favorably by males, while there remains less of a gender gap on the President in Arkansas than nationally.

Slightly more popular than Trump is Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, coming of a session of the General Assembly where his agenda was affirmed by the legislature. Interestingly, Hutchinson remains less popular among Republicans than does Trump (with just over 3 in 4 GOPers approving of his job performance). His overall job approval numbers are boosted by his distinctly strong showing among Democrats (38% approval) and, in particular, African-Americans’ (43%) approval.

Hutchinson’s showing with African-Americans is an important story in a state with historically polarized racial voting. As shown in his championing of a separation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee state holidays, Hutchinson has consciously attempted to step away from some Republican officeholders on race-related issues. It will be interesting and important to see if his support with Arkansas’s second-largest racial group persists across time.

The temperature of the Arkansas electorate was taken on days after the attempt by Republican House members and the White House to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. That failure occurred just as the ACA celebrated its seventh anniversary. We have examined Arkansans’ attitudes towards the state’s distinctive “private option” Medicaid expansion now called Arkansas Works on a number of occasions but have not tested attitudes towards the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

Nationally, the ACA has shown a visible uptick in support in recent months with a majority of Americans now in support of it. Our survey of Arkansans shows, however, that — even without the nickname “Obamacare” — the ACA is less popular with Arkansas voters with just at half opposing it.

The ACA is quite popular with Democrats (74% support) and African-Americans (78% support). In addition, a plurality of Arkansas women support the law. Other groups continue to oppose it seven years after its arrival.

This survey was conducted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4.2%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 550 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].