Arkansas Poll shows mixed views on gay rights, economic health remains top issue

by Talk Business and Politics ([email protected]) 707 views 

The latest Arkansas Poll unveiled Tuesday (Nov. 7) shows that Arkansans have mixed views on rights for the gay and lesbian community, overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and still see economic health as the top issue.

The 19th annual Arkansas Poll, conducted by the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas, showed that 64% of Arkansans believe the state economy is headed in the right direction, up from 57% in 2016, but just under the 65% in 2015. 2011 marked the highest level of confidence in this category, with 74% saying the state economy was doing well.

Results also showed that 28% of Arkansans say they are better off financially than a year ago, with 16% saying worse off. In 2016 it was a 21%, 22% response, respectively. And 32% of Arkansans say they expect to be in a better financial position a year from now, with only 11% saying worse off. The 2016 response was 27% and 13%, respectively.

The poll also found that 84% of Arkansans believe gay and lesbian individuals should have equal rights to employment, and 78% say they should have equal housing rights. However, only 43% favor equal rights in adoption children and only 35% favor equal marriage rights.

Briana Kordsmeier, a UA public policy graduate student, said the state poll results differ from national polling.

“Support for housing and employment rights has been overwhelming nationally – at least 85 percent – for at least 10 years,” she said. “Marriage and adoption rights also now have the support of a strong majority of Americans. The average Arkansan is far more reluctant than the average American to support equal treatment for gays and lesbians in family arrangements in particular.”

Poll respondents also gave U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., approval ratings of 39% and 48%, respectively. Boozman’s rating was above the 35% in 2016, and Cotton’s rating was unchanged. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had a 62% approval rating, better than the 60% in 2016. The highest rating for a governor since 1999 was 72% in 2011 for Gov. Mike Beebe (D). The lowest rating was 47% in 2003 for Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).

A recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll also quizzed Arkansans on approval ratings. Following were the results.
Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?
45% Approve
26.5% Disapprove
28.5% Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator Tom Cotton is doing?
46% Approve
39% Disapprove
15% Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator John Boozman is doing?
35% Approve
36% Disapprove
29% Don’t Know

Arkansans continue to lean Republican, but Independents appear to be trending back toward Democrat. The Arkansas Poll found that 32% of likely voters identifying as Republican, 25% as Democrat and 35% as Independent. Gallup surveys show 24% Republican, 31% Democrats and 42% Independent.

Janine Parry, the UA professor of political science overseeing the poll, said results showed that 26% of Arkansas Independents say they lean closer to Democrats, up from 19% in 2016. This uptick was matched by a drop – from 45% to 38% – among those who said they were “closer to Republicans.”

“I’m unconvinced either party should get too worked up about this,” Parry said in a statement. “But it does mark a reversal from the dramatic move to the right we’ve seen among Arkansas independents since 2010, a move that has flipped election outcomes upside down. So, it’s something to watch as we approach the next big round of state elections in 2018.”

Following are other Arkansas Poll results.
• Respondents also raised a new concern this year, with 8% mentioning drugs as the most important issue facing Arkansans.

• 45% of Arkansans favor laws restricting abortion, down from 46% in 2016, and unchanged from when the question was first asked in 1999.

• Only 38% of Arkansans favor stricter gun laws, up from 31% in 2016 and just under the 39% in 1999.

• 72% of respondents indicated that they did. Parry noted that that issue is another one in which Arkansans’ attitudes deviate dramatically from nationwide patterns.

“Nationally, support for the death penalty has been declining since the mid-1990s,” Parry said. “In fact the Pew Research Center now shows that just under half of all Americans support the death penalty.

• For the first time, the poll included a question about campaign finance, and found that over half (55 percent) of respondents believe that the system of funding political campaigns in the U.S. should be “completely rebuilt.” A 2015 New York Times/CBS poll found comparable nationwide enthusiasm for a total overhaul.

The poll was designed and analyzed by Parry, and has a track record over its 19-year history of coming within two points of actual election outcomes.

Between Oct. 12 and Oct. 22, 2017, Issues & Answers Network Inc. completed 801 telephone interviews among a random sample of adult Arkansans. Forty percent of all respondents interviewed (n=320) use their cell phones for all or most of their calls. The survey’s margin of error statewide is +/- 3.5 percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 3.5 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced.