Poll: Trump approval soars in Arkansas; Hutchinson, Rutledge hold big leads

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 5,363 views 

President Donald Trump has seen an upsurge in his job approval rating in Arkansas and that’s boosting the Republican brand in political races headed into the Nov. 6th general election.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson leads his Democratic challenger, Jared Henderson, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has a sizable lead on her Democratic opponent, Mike Lee, according to a new poll from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

The latest survey asked 528 likely statewide voters on Oct. 18-19, 2018:

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

52%   Strongly Approve
11%   Somewhat Approve  (63% overall approve)
4.5%   Somewhat Disapprove
29.5%   Strongly Disapprove (34% overall disapprove)
3%   Don’t Know

Q: If the race for Governor were being held today, and the candidates were Mark West, the Libertarian, Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Republican, and Jared Henderson, the Democrat, for whom would you vote?

5%   Mark West
60%  Governor Asa Hutchinson
24%  Jared Henderson
11%   Don’t Know

Q: If the race for Attorney General were being held today, and the candidates were  Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, the Republican, Mike Lee, the Democrat, and Kerry Hicks, the Libertarian, for whom would you vote?

57%   Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
29%   Mike Lee
2%    Kerry Hicks
12%   Don’t Know

“As we’ve seen in the last several cycles, there is a red tide rising in Arkansas,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “In this survey, we see the strongest self-identification of Republican voters to date at 44%. I believe this is in part due to the strength of Trump’s national party brand after the Kavanaugh hearings and due to the record number of Republicans running at the local level in Arkansas, particularly county races. The state GOP brand is seeing strong growth.”

Trump’s 63% job approval rating tops his 60% approval seen in February 2017 shortly after he was elected to office with roughly 60% of the vote in Arkansas. Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College will release additional poll results on Tuesday on the Arkansas Supreme Court race and Issue 4, the casino issue.

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:

“Donald Trump’s approval ratings continue to rise overall in Arkansas in the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in our statewide sample. Indeed, he is now near his standing in the state at the time of his 2016 election.

“However, as is shown elsewhere in the country, Trump is facing more challenges in the most urbanized and suburbanized areas of the state. In the Second Congressional District (central Arkansas), for instance, Trump is underwater according to our analysis in this survey. In a separate, Second District-only sample that allowed us to do a deep dive into the competitive congressional race in the district, Trump was performing much better.

“An examination of the attitudes of subgroups of Arkansas voters shows that Trump’s performance is presently seen positively by most. There are both racial and gender divides on evaluations of the President, but women and African-Americans in the state view Trump more favorably than do their peers elsewhere in the nation.

“Trump’s job performance is crucial because it helps define the GOP brand in the state. His fellow partisans running for office continue to benefit from the overall positive view of the party. For instance, incumbent GOP governor Asa Hutchinson holds a comfortable lead over Democratic nominee Jared Henderson partly boosted by his GOP brand. Here the positions of Hutchinson and Henderson look remarkably like they did in our first survey just after Labor Day.

“Hutchinson continues to show GOP support (86% of the state’s Republicans support him), has a strong lead with Independents (54%), and is even gaining about one in four Democratic votes.

“Looking at demographics, Hutchinson has cut into the Democratic African-American base; in this survey, Hutchinson actually has a plurality lead among African-Americans. He also leads with all education groups, though Henderson runs strongest with the least and best educated groups of voters. Although a gender gap has emerged in the race, Hutchinson has majorities of men and women and of all age groups, although he runs particularly well among voters above 30. Finally, the Governor runs well in all quadrants of the state, with majority support in all Congressional districts. Arkansans appear ready to send Hutchinson back for his second term as governor.

“The positive hue of the Republican brand shows itself lower on the ticket as well. We tested the race for one additional constitutional office, Attorney General. Incumbent AG Leslie Rutledge runs slightly behind Hutchinson, as she did in her first election in 2014, but well ahead of her Democratic challenger, Mike Lee.

“Examining the crosstabs, the patterns of support for Rutledge look very much like those for Hutchinson except that Lee has done a better job than Henderson of coalescing Democratic support against the more polarizing Rutledge; Lee leads among Democrats 74%-18%.

“This glimpse at a down ballot race suggests that, barring a dramatic last minute event, Republicans appear poised for a very good election night again in Arkansas despite the difficulties the party may face nationally. In election years of the past, Arkansas has been like a planet operating in its own political orbit. The state may well follow this historic trend this year.”

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

“Governor Asa Hutchinson is poised to win re-election easily. The race between the Governor and Democratic challenger Jared Henderson remains unchanged from poll results in September. In this survey, Hutchinson polls strongly among African-American voters and receives 62.7% support from white voters.  Hutchinson leads handily among all age groups and both men and women. The Governor has high support among Republicans (86.1%) and leads Henderson nearly 2-1 among Independents (53.9% to 29.4%).

“It is difficult to find a bright spot in this survey for Jared Henderson as there are very few subgroups where he performs higher than 25%. Even among Democratic voters, Henderson is only receiving 58.4%, with Hutchinson peeling off 25.7%. Taking on an immensely popular Republican Governor like Hutchinson in an ever-reddening state is a herculean challenge for any candidate, much less one without an established political brand, and this race is indicative of that.

“Attorney General Leslie Rutledge leads her opponent, Mike Lee, by 26 points in her bid for re-election. Rutledge’s performance in this survey are similar to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s performance in his race.

“Rutledge leads among all age groups, among both men and women, and among voters of every education level except one. Rutledge performs strongly among African-American voters, and maintains a large lead among white voters (60.4% to 27.6%).

“Her challenger, Mike Lee, is polling 16 points higher than his party’s gubernatorial candidate among Democrats (74.3%), however Rutledge is cutting into his base by gaining 17.7% support from Democrats. Rutledge has 87.1% support among Republican voters and a double-digit lead among Independents (45.6% to 32.0%). She should win this race handily.

“President Donald Trump remains popular in Arkansas leading up to the November 6th election. Trump’s job approval has improved by 15 net percentage points since our September survey. He receives high marks from voters in all age categories. Men overwhelmingly approve of the President’s performance (68.1%) with 59.5% indicating they ‘strongly approve.’ Trump’s approval among women is lower than with men, but still positive overall at 57.8% approve.

“Trump’s detractors can be found in a few select subgroups including African-American voters (51%), Democrats (77.1%), voters in CD2 (52.2%), and those with a post-graduate education (50%). As such, for Democratic candidates looking to use the President as a wedge in down ballot races, it doesn’t appear that attacking Trump will have much effect apart from mobilizing their own base.”

This survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Thursday-Friday, Oct. 18-19, 2018 among likely statewide voters. It has a margin of error of +/-4.3%. The poll was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 528 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 24% 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

11% African-American
1% Asian-American
80% White
3% Latino
5% Other

Party ID
24.5% Democrat
44% Republican
22% Independent
9.5% 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]