Poll: Highway funding proposal Issue 1 poised to pass

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,358 views 

Issue 1 – the ballot proposal that makes permanent a current half-cent sales tax for roads and highways – is poised to pass in November.

A new poll from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College shows the legislatively-referred measure, backed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state’s major business interests, has the support of nearly 6 in 10 voters. The statewide survey was conducted Oct. 11-13, 2020 among 647 likely voters. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4.9%.

Q: Thinking about the November election, there will be a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution on the ballot regarding highway funding, known as Issue 1. Issue 1 would continue a levy of a one-half percent sales and use tax for state highways and bridges; county roads, bridges, and other surface transportation; and city streets, bridges, and other surface transportation. If the election were being held today, would you vote for or against Issue 1?

59% – For
31% – Against
10% – Don’t know

“Look for more orange barrels on the highways in the future. Voters seem convinced that funding for roads is necessary, even during tough economic times. The highly-visible public campaign in support of Issue 1 appears to have shaped public opinion in support of this measure by a nearly two-to-one margin,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief.

The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll also tested voter attitudes on Issues 2 and 3. Issue 2 would alter Arkansas’ term limits law by eliminating the lifetime ban after 16 years. It would allow state lawmakers to serve 12 years, wait four years, and then have the ability to serve another 12 years. Issue 3 reforms a number of processes in the ballot initiative process.

Q: Also on the ballot this November is a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution regarding term limits, known as Issue 2. Issue 2 would amend the term limits applicable to members of the General Assembly, and is known as the “Arkansas Term Limits Amendment.” If the election were being held today, would you vote for or against Issue 2?

48% – For
28% – Against
24% – Don’t know

Q: Finally, the November ballot will include a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution regarding changes to the ballot initiative process, known as Issue 3. Issue 3 would amend the process for the submission, challenge, and approval of proposed initiated acts, constitutional amendments and referenda. If the election were being held today, would you vote for or against Issue 3?

20% – For
35% – Against
45% – Don’t know

On Monday, Talk Business & Politics will release the final results of this latest round of polling, which includes the Presidential and Senate matchups. Recent polling releases include the 2nd Congressional District race and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s job approval rating.

Talk Business & Politics seeks bipartisan input in the construction and analysis of its polls.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, is active in Democratic Party politics and helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“After a series of court battles over ballot measures, we now know that only the three ballot issues put forward by the state legislature in 2019 will be considered by Arkansas voters this fall. In this statewide survey, we surveyed Arkansas voters’ attitudes on all three of these measures. Because we know that many voters gain almost all their information on how to vote on ballot issues from the ballot title itself, we employed the language – generally limited in information – that voters will see when they show up to vote regarding Issues 1, 2, and 3. On all three issues, significant numbers of Arkansans remain unclear of their vote intentions. Based on past history, we know that many of them will simply skip issues about which they lack full information.

“Issue 1, which would make permanent a half-cent sales tax for roads across the state, has received the most attention with a well-funded campaign for the measure with Gov. Asa Hutchinson leading the charge. A more grassroots opposition campaign has also grown up with anti-tax critics noting the permanence of the tax and those concerned about the “30 Crossing” project across the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock coming together in opposition.

“Our survey indicates the better-funded advocates of the measure have made their case with a majority of voters (59%) expressing support for it. Despite Gov. Hutchinson’s visible support for Issue 1, it is actually Democrats and those voters who make up the Democratic coalition that are most likely to support the measure. Both Republican and Independent identifiers are more dubious about the permanent tax increase, while 72% of Arkansas Democratic voters support it. In addition, women, college educated voters, those under 30, and voters of color are all most likely to support the road tax measure.

“Arkansas voters have faced many ‘term limits’ measures over the past three decades. In Issue 2, they will consider a measure that will slightly shorten legislative term limits but will allow legislators to return to office after taking a break from service. While a plurality (48%) of voters support the term limits revision, just under a quarter of the electorate remains unclear on their vote decision. In contrast with the patterns among subgroups of voters on Issue 1, Issue 2 supporters are more likely to be the core Republican coalition with male, non-college educated voters most likely to support the measure. On age, all groups express support except for those under the age of 30. Little variation is shown across racial groups.

“The final measure – a more complicated constitutional amendment that would significantly alter the process through which the Arkansas citizenry can get ballot measures on the ballot through the petition process – is the one about which 2020 voters remain most perplexed. The plurality of voters (44%) remain fuzzy about their vote intention on the measure. Because only one-fifth of the electorate plans to vote for the measure days before early voting begins, supporters of Issue 3 who argue it would tidy up a messy petition process in the state face an uphill climb.

“On the other side, both progressive and conservative advocate groups that have used the petition process in recent years oppose a measure they argue would essentially shut down direct democracy in Arkansas. Although nearly all subgroups of voters oppose the measure, Issue 3 does perform particularly poorly among Independent voters. It slightly overperforms among Black voters. Finally, there is a significant gender gap on the issue with men more willing to consider the changes brought by Issue 3 than are women voters.”

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

“Issue 1 is on its way to pass on November 3rd. Arkansas voters have a history of voting in favor of ballot measures that generate revenue for roads and infrastructure, and it appears they’re inclined to do so once again. Issue 1 is buoyed by widespread support among Democrats (72%), but also has the support of 54% of Republicans. Support is the lowest among Independent voters, though nearly half (49%) intend to vote for the measure. Men and women both favor passage of Issue 1, with support topping 60% with women (62%). A majority of voters in all four Congressional districts favor the road measure. The highest support can be found in CD3 (67%), where recent growth has made roads and infrastructure a high priority issue.

“Issue 2 appears to be positioned to pass on Election Day, barring a well-funded opposition campaign. While opposition to the term limits amendment is relatively low (28%), nearly 1 in 4 voters are undecided – likely due to the fact that little voter education has been done on what the measure does. Support for Issue 2 is highest among Republicans (57%), while Democrats are split (35% to 32%). Independents favor passage by 9%. Support for Issue 2 is higher among men (52%) than with women (45%), with a larger share of women (30%) saying they’re undecided. Opinions on the term limits amendment vary by region with the highest level of support in CD4 (57%) and the lowest in CD1 (39%).

“Of all of the issues on the ballot, Issue 3 has been the most controversial. It’s also the measure with the largest number of undecided voters (44%). Republicans are roughly split on the measure (25% to 26%), while a plurality of Democrats (33%) and a majority of Independents (57%) oppose it. Shoring up Republican support has to be a priority for proponents if this measure is going to pass. Overall, men net oppose Issue 3 by 9% and women by 20%. More than half of women (52%) are undecided on how they’ll vote. While these results don’t bode well for passage, the large percentage of voters who are still undecided suggests the door is still open. A well-funded public education campaign by supporters that is focused on shoring up support among Republicans and persuading voters in the 45-64 and 65+ age groups (of which roughly half are undecided) could get this measure over the goal line, but the clock is ticking.”

This survey of 647 likely statewide voters was conducted Oct. 11-13, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Respondents were contacted via landline telephones and cell phones. The poll is slightly weighted to account for key demographics.

Under 30 – 12%
Between 30-44 – 24%
Between 45-64 – 39%
65 and over – 25%

Black 12%
Asian 1%
White 79%
Hispanic 1%
Native American 1%
Other 5%
Refused 1%

Party affiliation
Democrat 26%
Independent 22%
Republican 43%
Other 7%
Don’t know 2%

Female 52%
Male 48%

College graduate 36%
Non-college graduate 63%
Refused 1%

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College. A link back to this specific story is also required for any digital or online usage by other media outlets.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected].