A new survey finds Arkansans much more optimistic about the state’s direction than the nation. The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll asked voters to rate the direction of the country and the direction of the state.
Q. In general, would you say that things in this country are headed in the right direction, or have things gotten off on the wrong track?
35% Right direction
57% Wrong track
8% No opinion
Q. Now thinking specifically about the direction of the state, would you say that things in Arkansas are headed in the right direction, or have things gotten off on the wrong track?
45% Right direction
38% Wrong track
17% No opinion
While this question often seeks to gauge support for the economy, it can also serve as a barometer for the general mood of voters beyond economic conditions.
Economist Mervin Jebaraj, interim director of the UA Walton College of Business Center for Business and Economic Research, contends that’s the case in this instance. He says national surveys as well as the TB&P-Hendrix one suggest that cultural, political and racial divides have contributed to the negative perception at the national level.
“I think what we’re seeing, since the election, at least, is some sort of a disconnect between readings of business confidence and economic performance and people’s mood when it comes to the overall direction of the country,” he said.
“Looking at your crosstabs in particular, you’ll see that Democrats, by and large, feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction… whereas Republicans, the majority of them felt that the country was on the right track. So, you are seeing this partisan divide determining this even though economic indicators and business indicators are positive for both groups of people,” Jebaraj added.
You can view more of Jebaraj’s interview at the bottom of this post. He discusses Little Rock’s Amazon PR ploy, Chinese investments in Arkansas, and Trump’s tax cut proposal.
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the poll. He offered this analysis:
“In two questions, we asked Arkansans about their sense of whether things in the country and in the state are on the right track or have ‘things gotten off on the wrong track.’ First, Arkansans are decidedly more optimistic about how things are going in their own state rather than the nation as a whole. This is despite the relatively positive economic health of the country at present. National polling released this weekend has attempted to understand Americans’ source of pessimism about their nation’s politics and culture in 2017.
“Second, when it comes to both the patterns in the state and nation, not all Arkansans share the same levels of optimism and pessimism. In both cases, voters under the age of 30, voters of color, and women are decidedly more pessimistic than other voters. In addition, while Republicans are sharply more enthusiastic about the state of the nation (55% “right track”) and the state of the state (62% “right track”), Democrats are incredibly pessimistic (89% “wrong track” nationally and 52% “wrong track” in Arkansas).
“Independents, naturally, fall in between. 55% see the nation as headed in the wrong direction while they split evenly regarding the direction of things in Arkansas. Finally, Northwest Arkansas (3rd Congressional District) voters are more optimistic than their peers elsewhere in the state.
“All told, the perceptions of division and dysfunction in government in Washington are undermining any sense that the country is healthy. While Arkansas has lacked the drama of national politics in recent months, some sense of pessimism has trickled down despite the reality that the state is showing relatively healthy economic news.”
This survey was conducted on Monday, October 23, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.5%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 784 Arkansas voters statewide. Age and gender were 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
78% Caucasian or White
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