Poll: Plurality of Arkansas Republican voters think gun regulation about right

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 919 views 

Only 18% of Republican voters in Arkansas favor heavier regulation of guns, 35% favor fewer regulations, and a plurality of 44% think there should be no changes to existing gun laws. That’s a key finding from the most recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of likely GOP primary voters.

The latest poll also tested Republican voter attitudes on tax cut philosophy and abortion.

“There aren’t any huge surprises in this latest round of polling, but there is confirmation for the direction of public policy on these major issues for Republican candidates to consider as they head into the May 22nd primaries and beyond,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief.

“With supermajorities in the legislature and dominance in statewide office, it’s important to understand how Republican core voters approach issues. It will influence Republican officeholders,” Brock added.

Respondents in the latest poll were chosen from a random sample of Arkansas GOP primary voters who voted in at least two of the last three primary elections and who indicated their likelihood to vote this year. Voters were asked:

Q: Would you say that policymakers should make gun laws more regulated, less regulated, or make no changes?

18%  More Regulated
35%  Less Regulated
44%  No Changes
3%  Don’t Know

Q: Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases or illegal in all cases?

10%  Legal in all cases
15%  Legal in most cases
48%  Illegal in most cases
24.5%  Illegal in all cases
2.5%  Don’t Know

Q: Now thinking about state budgetary issues, which statement is closer to your point of view? State elected officials should first find ways to cut taxes in Arkansas, and then reduce government spending to balance the state budget OR state elected officials should first ensure that government services are funded and the budget is balanced, and only then consider cutting taxes.

53%  Cut taxes first, balance the budget second
34%  Fund services first, cut taxes second
13%  Don’t Know

Results released Sunday show Gov. Asa Hutchinson with a lead over his GOP challenger Jan Morgan. Monday’s poll results show President Trump’s overwhelming popularity among Republican voters in Arkansas.

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

This statewide survey of Republican primary voters also gave us the opportunity to take the temperature of the current GOP electorate on several key issues. Whether it is guns, abortion, or taxes, Arkansas’s Republican voters are a thoroughly conservative group.   While some variation in that conservatism does show itself across key subgroups of the voters, it is a decidedly pro-gun, pro-life, and anti-tax party.

Fewer than one in five GOP voters believe that firearms should be more heavily regulated.  The plurality (44%) contend that current gun laws are appropriate while just over one-third (35%) support even less regulation of firearms. A gender gap does show itself on the issue of gun regulation. The plurality of female GOP voters (47%) feel that there should be no changes in gun regulation, while a plurality of males in our survey (44%) support a less regulated environment for guns. Although relatively small percentages of both women and men argue for more regulation, women are more likely to fall in that camp than men.

There is also a somewhat expected geographic variation in attitudes about guns with the more urban/suburban Second Congressional District voters least likely to favor less regulation of guns, while the more rural voters in the First and Fourth Congressional Districts are more likely to favor less regulation. Otherwise, while there is some variation across other groups of voters, there are not systematic patterns as the GOP electorate thoroughly opposes more regulation of guns.

The GOP electorate is also quite unified on the fact that abortion should be made illegal in most or all cases. A strong plurality (48%) of voters state that abortion should be illegal in “most” cases, joining the 25% that believe it should be illegal in “all” cases; this leaves only a quarter of the Republican electorate believing it should be legal in “all” (10%) or “most” (15%) cases.

Republican voters under age 45 are slightly more likely to state that abortion should be legal all or part of the time than their older peers. Unsurprisingly, those who attend church at least weekly are more likely to say abortion should be illegal than more secular Republicans; just under 80% of those who attend church at least weekly place themselves in either all (31%) or most (49%) cases.  And, as was the case with guns, gender is a driver of attitudes about abortion, although with some complexity to those patterns. Although women are slightly more likely to state it should be legal in most or all cases (27%) than men (22%), they are also more likely to state it should be illegal in “all” cases (27% vs. 20.5%).

Finally, on the tax front, while a majority of Republican voters advocate for “cutting taxes first,” there are some variations in key demographic groups. While no matter the age group tax cuts are favored, younger voters are more pro-tax cut than are those voters over 65 who break only 47%-38% in that direction. Men are also slightly more likely to favor tax cuts first than women. Finally, interestingly, the least and best educated voters in our sample most favor tax cuts first. Otherwise, on taxes, Republican voters show consistency in their support for tax cuts in advance of certain government services being taken care of.

Robert Coon is a partner with Impact Management Group, a government relations and communications firm that works with GOP and independent candidates. Coon is also a Talk Business & Politics contributor. He offered this analysis:

Just under half of Republican primary voters in Arkansas believe that existing gun laws don’t need to be changed, including 46.9% of women and 41.3% of men. Roughly, a third (35.1%) would prefer fewer gun regulations while 18% would prefer more regulations. Among those favoring changes, men are much more inclined to support less regulation (44.9%) than are women (27.1%). Conversely, 22% of women indicated that they would support more gun regulations – a split that reinforces the importance of messaging to female voters for candidates and groups engaged in the overall gun debate. In keeping with the trend previously identified with Trump favorability and the governor’s race matchup, a plurality of primary voters in the 1st Congressional District favored fewer gun regulations (44.5%) – the highest percentage geographically.

Republican primary voters in Arkansas are strongly pro-life, with a combined 72.5% believing that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. While 24.5% believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases, only 15% of voters under the age of 30 share that view. Those findings signal some generational softening, though the majority of under 30 (62.5%) still believes it should be mostly or completely illegal. The highest opposition to abortion comes from weekly church goers (79.7%), yet overall opposition to abortion still make up the majority of voters that attend church occasionally (60.1%) or never (54.2%).

Arkansas Republicans appear to support the idea of prioritizing tax cuts at the state level, with a majority (53.1%) agreeing that the state should seek to identify ways to cut taxes before balancing the budget. Support is consistent across all age categories with slightly lower support from those 65 years or older, possibly due to a greater emphasis or reliance on government programs among that population. Once again, the highest intensity occurs in the 1st and 4th Congressional districts with softer support in CD 2. Support for cutting taxes first, and then balancing the budget, does dovetail with efforts in recent years by the Governor and members of the legislature to prioritize lowering the tax burden on Arkansas families and businesses.

This survey of 676 Republican voters was conducted on Tuesday-Thursday, April 17-19, 2018. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.8%, was completed using IVR survey technology. Respondents were chosen from a random sample of Arkansas GOP primary voters who voted in at least two of the last three primary elections and who indicated their likelihood to vote this year. Age was weighted.

Age (weighted)
6% Under the age of 30
17.5% Between the ages of 30 and 44
37% Between the ages of 45 and 64
39.5% 65 or older

1% Asian-American
3% African-American
1% Latino
88% Caucasian or White
7% Other

45% Male
55% Female

Church Attendance
69% At Least Weekly
24% Occasionally
7% Never

4% Did not complete high school
22% High School Graduate
32% Some College
25% Graduated College
17% Post-Grad Degree

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 roby@talkbusiness.net or Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.