Poll: Biden, Boozman struggle with job approval, but not unexpectedly

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 4,237 views 

President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., have varying job approval ratings in Arkansas, but for the most part, they are in line with historical polling trends.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll of 535 Arkansas voters shows Biden and Boozman with negative job approvals, although Boozman has a large undecided block on his performance. The poll was conducted May 26-31, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 5.5%.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Joe Biden is doing?

41% Approve
51% Disapprove
8% Don’t Know

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator John Boozman is doing?

30% Approve
38.5% Disapprove
31.5% Don’t Know

“These results mostly follow trends we’ve seen before,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “In recent years, statewide and national Democrats have been upside down in their approval ratings, and Sen. Boozman, a long-serving Republican officeholder, has traditionally been a mixed bag of undecided opinions. It’s unique to him. We’ll have to see if this election cycle is different.”

Biden lost Arkansas in the November 2020 election by a 62-35% margin. In previous polling, Boozman, who is seeking a third six-year term in 2022, has had job approval ratings that have typically been one-third approve, one-third disapprove, and one-third undecided. Boozman is facing three potential challengers in the GOP primary: Michael Deel, Heath Loftis and Jan Morgan.

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:

“While President Joe Biden is underwater with Arkansas voters, considering his thumping by Donald J. Trump in Arkansas in 2020 (by a margin of 62% to 35%), his current status is relatively solid. His Democratic predecessor as President, Barack Obama, rarely came close to Biden’s 41% favorable rating in the Natural State.

“Many of the same patterns that showed themselves in Arkansas’ electorate during the 2020 election cycle continue to show themselves in voting subgroup’s evaluations of President Biden.

“First, the deep partisan polarization that has developed in recent years continues to be reflected; while Biden has the support of 93% of Arkansas Democrats, he is disapproved by 93% of the state’s Republican voters. A slight plurality of the state’s independent voters disapprove of Biden’s performance (46% to 43%), but that is not a bad number for a Democrat in the state considering recent years’ survey data. Large gaps also show themselves on evaluations of Biden between white voters (a solid majority disapprove of his performance) and non-white voters (Black voters express 86% approval for the President).

“The education gap that came to light during the Trump era also persists; Arkansans with a college degree approve of his job performance by a 52-43% margin, while those without a degree disapprove by a 56-34% margin. Perhaps most interestingly, considering patterns in the 2020 election, aside from some poorer ratings among those in Biden’s own age group (voters aged 65 or above), neither age nor sex is meaningfully correlated with evaluations of the President.

“Finally, in terms of the state’s geography, the sole Congressional district where Biden supporters outpace those critical of his performance is in the Second Congressional District (central Arkansas) where he performed strongest in 2020 although he came up short in the end.

“The other federal elected official whose job performance we examined—senior Senator John Boozman who plans to run for reelection in the 2022 election cycle—remains something of a ‘mystery man’ to Arkansas voters despite his decades in public life. As has consistently been the case in our years of examining attitudes about Boozman, a significant chunk of the Arkansas electorate (in this case nearly one in three) don’t have enough information to evaluate Senator Boozman.

“What is different in this survey is the fact that Boozman is faring relatively poorly with those voters who do have a view on his job performance. Only 30% of the electorate approves of his job performance while 39% do not. While this would normally be suggestive of a veteran elected official who is endangered, the overarching partisan skew in the GOP direction in Arkansas and the Democratic party’s absence of high-profile prospective opponents against Boozman intimates that he is likely to fly under radar to reelection.

“In subgroups’ evaluations of Boozman’s performance in office, several interesting patterns pop to the surface. First, Senator Boozman is nowhere near as polarizing a figure as is Biden. Democrats are not unified in their opposition to Boozman (although a plurality disapprove) and Republicans are not unified in their support of his performance (although a plurality approve).

“Next, while the senior senator performs solidly with older Arkansans, younger Arkansans (those under 30) are particularly negative towards him. In addition, a more marked gender gap shows itself on Boozman although the plurality of women has no opinion of the senator. All in all, Senator Boozman’s numbers are extremely soft, but the weakness of the Democratic party in Arkansas at present is an important barrier to real danger for Boozman at least for now.”

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:

“According to this survey, President Joe Biden has a net disapproval of 10 percentage points in Arkansas. Biden’s approval rating sits at 41%, just a few points higher than the 34% he received at the ballot box in 2020. Across age lines, Biden’s highest level of approval comes from voters under the age of 30 (43% approve to 43% disapprove) and his lowest marks from those in the 65+ category (38% approve to 56% disapprove).

“Biden is a polarizing figure, with near universal approval from Democrats (93%) and disapproval from Republicans (93%). Independents are more closely divided, but still disapprove by a net 13 percentage points. Biden performs slightly better among women (43% approve to 49% disapprove) than he does with men (39% approve to 54% disapprove). Geographically, Biden’s lone bright spot is in the 2nd Congressional district, where he hits 50% approval, while voters in the 4th Congressional district, one of the state’s most conservative areas, disapprove of the job he’s doing by 21 percentage points.

“Senator John Boozman’s approval rating currently sits at 30%, with 39% disapproving of the job he’s doing. Most notably, however is the 32% of voters surveyed that don’t have an opinion on his job performance. Despite his long history of public service, Boozman generally operates in a more understated manner, which likely plays into the high percentage of voters without an impression of him. While Boozman’s approval is lowest among the youngest age group (18%), he sits at +13 with the 65+ category – an important voting bloc, particularly in a Republican primary.

“Boozman’s approval rating among Republicans sits at just 49%, with 19% disapproving and 32% without an opinion. A well-funded campaign highlighting his conservative record should have no difficulty shoring up the latter. While nearly half of Democrats (49%) disapprove of the job he’s doing, 17% approve and more than a third (34%) don’t have an opinion on his job performance, creating some opportunity for growth and persuasion among Democratic undecideds as well.

“Undoubtedly, over the coming months Republican candidates up and down the ballot will aim to build support among their party base by criticizing President Biden and for many, that process has already begun. While he starts with nearly 2-1 approval among voters that disapprove of Biden, 32% of those disapproving of the President don’t have an opinion of Boozman. That group in particular should be low hanging fruit that can be targeted to bolster his numbers.”

This survey of 535 registered voters was conducted May 26-31, 2021 and has a margin of error of +/- 5.5%. Respondents were contacted via landline telephones and text message. The poll is weighted to account for key demographics and is balanced by congressional district.

Under 30 – 5%
Between 30-44 – 25%
Between 45-64 – 40%
65 and over – 30%

Black 9%
Asian 1%
White 83%
Hispanic 1%
Native American 2%
Other 4%

Party affiliation
Democrat 26%
Independent 32%
Republican 33%
Other 6%
Don’t know 3%

Female 52%
Male 48%

College graduate 40%
Non-college graduate 59%
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].