Poll: Minimum wage registers high, casinos trail with voters

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 3,140 views 

Voters are hesitant to roll the dice to legalize casinos in Arkansas, but they’re willing to place their bets on raising the minimum wage.

Ballot issues concerning casinos and raising the minimum wage – both facing legal challenges – have qualified for the November general election. If they remain on the ballot, voters may split their support and opposition to the two proposals.

Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College surveyed 1,701 Arkansas voters on Issue 4, which would legalize four casinos in Arkansas. The statewide poll conducted on Sept. 5-7, 2018, also asked about support for Issue 5, an initiated act that would raise the minimum wage to $11 by 2021. The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.4%.

Voters were asked:

Q. A constitutional amendment may appear on the ballot that would permit casinos in four Arkansas counties – Garland, Crittenden, Pope, and Jefferson – with two of the casino licenses being granted to Oaklawn and Southland. Tax revenues generated by the casinos would be distributed to the state’s general revenue fund, to cities and counties in which the casinos are located, and to the Arkansas Racing Commission for purses for horse and dog races. If the election were being held today, would you vote for or against this amendment?

41% For
48% Against
11% Don’t Know

Q. A measure may be on the ballot in November to increase the state minimum wage in Arkansas for most workers in the state from $8.50 per hour to $11 per hour over a 3-year period. If the election were today, would you vote for or against this proposal?

60% For
30% Against
10% Don’t Know

“Raising the minimum wage speaks to the populist streak of Arkansas voters, so it’s not a great surprise that it is as popular as it is,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “Casinos faces a higher hurdle for voter support, but I believe it is still a competitive issue for voter support. I think with paid advertising and a lack of matching visible opposition, we may see final opinions shift before Election Day.”

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:

“Assuming it remains on the ballot in November, the proposal to create casinos in several locales around the state (including at Oaklawn Park and Southland Greyhound Park) looks to be the most closely contested ballot measure contest. Quite interestingly, these numbers are almost identical to those for a similar 2016 ballot measure allowing the creation of a handful of casinos in the state that was ultimately struck from the ballot.

“In our survey, the ballot measure trails, but not by an overwhelming margin with little money having been spent to sway voters. Attitudes on this measure are also different from others on the ballot in that there is tremendous variation across key groups of voters. Specifically, younger voters are overwhelmingly supportive of casinos in the state (it has 68% support among 18-29 year olds) while majorities of voters over 45 oppose them. All racial and ethnic groups oppose the measure except for African-Americans who support it (50%-37%). A majority of Republicans oppose casinos while it runs much closer among Democrats and Independents. Finally, plurality opposition is found across all four congressional districts, but Third District voters (Northwest Arkansas) are most opposed at 52%.

“Somewhat surprisingly, there is little evidence of a gender gap on the issue with women only slightly more likely to be opposed. The keys to turning these numbers around for the pro-casino forces are both reframing the issue on the benefits of the measure (jobs and tax revenue) and also maximizing November turnout from the younger, African-American voters who are most supportive. Interestingly, Democrats elsewhere on the ballot would benefit from such a turnout effort.”

Minimum wage
“There is much more consensus across the electorate on the minimum wage proposal on the ballot. Voters in all groups, across all parts of the state, both men and women, and among racial and ethnic groups support it. The one variation in these patterns is that African-Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the proposal (with 83% of African-American voters voicing support). The only clear variation that is shown is among different partisan adherents, but even among Republicans the proposal is a tie. Democrats (at 88%) and Independents (at 58%) are sold on the concept. These results suggest that that real barrier to another increase in the minimum wage in Arkansas is a court ruling that would knock from the ballot because of questions arising about petition signatures (a special master is currently examining this issue). Otherwise, the support for the minimum wage proposal looks solid.”

Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“Casinos are a polarizing issue with strong feelings on both sides – a dynamic that typically results in a smaller undecided universe. Based on these results, passage of Issue 4 is still a possibility and will likely depend on how proponents close with undecided voters, and with what the electorate looks like on November 6th. Younger voters (18-29, 30-44) are more supportive of Issue 4, while opposition is stronger among older voters (45-64, 65+). In this survey, African-Americans support Issue 4 at only 50.1%, and Democrats at only 44.3%. Proponents of the amendment will need to improve their margins in both of these base support universes if they are to be successful. Another growth opportunity lies with female voters as they have a much larger share of the undecided group (13.7%) than males. With significant dollars still to be spent in favor of this amendment, and no paid opposition yet emerged, Issue 4 remains a toss up at this stage.”

Minimum Wage
“Increasing the state’s minimum wage, like some of the other more populist measures tested in this survey, appears to be on track for passage should it survive a legal challenge. Support for Issue 5 was highest among Democrats (87.7%) while Independents support it by nearly a 2-1 margin (57.6% to 31.1%). Republicans are evenly split on the issue (43.7% to 43.6%) robbing opponents of an important wedge group to mobilize. Women (63.7%) favor the issue slightly more than men (55.6%) and support is consistent across all age groups and all four congressional districts.”

This survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 5-7, 2018. It is the combination of four Congressional District polls and has a margin of error of +/-2.4%. The poll was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 1,701 likely voters in Arkansas. Only respondents who positively identified that they planned to vote in the November 6th general election were allowed to complete the survey. Approximately 23% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone with live callers.

Age (weighted according to 2014 exit polls)
12% Less than 30 years old
24% Between 30 and 44 years old
39% Between 45 and 64 years old
24% 65 or older

10% African-American
1% Asian-American
83% White
2% Latino
4% Other

Party ID
26.5% Democrat
38.5% Republican
26% Independent
9% Other

Gender (weighted according to 2014 exit polls)
52% Female
48% Male

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].