Poll: Gov. Hutchinson sees job approval dip, but still in positive territory

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 544 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson delivers his weekly COVID-19 briefing via Zoom.

A protracted pandemic, a contentious legislative session, and a contrarian stance against Trumpism may have taken a toll on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s job approval rating with Arkansas voters.

According to a new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, Hutchinson – who is in his seventh year as governor – has a healthy job approval rating of 52-36%.

But that’s a far cry from last October when voters’ opinions gave him a 69-23% rating. Nearly a year ago, Hutchinson boasted a 62-19% job approval rating during the height of social protests and a spike in coronavirus cases.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?

52% Approve
35.5% Disapprove
12.5% Don’t Know

“I don’t think the governor will lose sleep over these numbers. There are a lot of governors in other states who would welcome these results,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “However, it’s clear that his positives have declined and his negatives have risen. Judging by some other results in our polling yet to be released, I’d say there is plenty of discontent among voters.”

One position that Gov. Hutchinson has taken that drew loud public criticism has resonated positively with voters. A month ago, the governor said the state would stop participation in federal supplemental jobless benefits which provided an extra $300 a week to those who qualified. The move was supported by the business community, which claimed it was disincentivizing workers from returning to jobs, while critics said the stoppage would hurt workers still reeling from the pandemic’s economic impact.

Q: Gov. Hutchinson recently announced that, after late June, the state would no longer allow supplemental federal unemployment assistance payments of $300 a week to eligible Arkansans that were begun as a component of COVID relief. Do you agree or disagree with the Governor’s decision to stop accepting supplemental unemployment payments?

71% Agree
22.5% Disagree
6.5% Don’t know

ANALYSIS
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:

“As the campaign to be his replacement as governor of Arkansas gets underway, Asa Hutchinson maintains a solid positive rating with Arkansas’ voters. That said, he has shown some weakening of the evaluation of his performance in office in recent months primarily due to some erosion of support among his fellow Republican partisans. It is unclear whether this weakening is driven primarily by the Governor’s criticism of the dangers of Trumpism to his party’s ideals or his conflict with the GOP-controlled General Assembly over key issues during the recently completed legislative session. The result is an extraordinary situation where Governor Hutchinson’s evaluation among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents is almost identical with positive performance ratings in the low 50s.

“In addition to this partisan uniformity in the evaluation of gubernatorial performance, there is little difference in the evaluation of college graduates and non-graduates nor between women and men, showing Hutchinson’s difference from Donald Trump with these key voting groups. Hutchinson is also rated quite evenly by voters across the state’s four congressional districts. Even more exceptionally, Hutchinson’s job performance is rated slightly higher for Black voters in the state than white voters. The only real distinction between subgroups of voters in their evaluations of Hutchinson was between the state’s youngest voters (those under 30) who view him negatively and the older subgroup (those 65 or above) who are quite warm in their feelings towards Hutchinson’s work as governor.

“Arkansas’ voters are even more favorable towards one of the Governor’s recent unilateral actions—his rejection of continuing expanded unemployment benefits in response to the pandemic. In rejecting this federal spending in Arkansas, Hutchinson cited the ways in which the enlarged payments were disincentivizing workers from seeking jobs in the state to the detriment of the state’s economy. Over 7 in 10 Arkansas voters agree with this move by Hutchinson.

“On this action, however, significant differences show themselves across key subgroups of voters. Almost all Republicans agree with it, while most Democrats oppose the governor’s action on unemployment. Although majorities of both groups support the move, there is a gap between college graduates and non-graduates (with non-graduates more likely to support it). Similarly, while all age groups express majority support, younger voters are less likely to support it than are voters 45 or above. Finally, white voters are overwhelmingly in agreement with Hutchinson while non-white voters are more evenly split.”

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:

“While lower than some of his previous marks, in his seventh year in office, Gov. Asa Hutchinson maintains an approval rating that exceeds 50% in this survey. The fact that this survey was conducted among registered voters, rather than likely voters, could explain the higher than typical percentage that ‘Don’t Know’ (12%). Hutchinson’s highest marks come from voters over the age of 65 (62%) and lowest among those under 30 (40%).

“Unlike President Joe Biden, Hutchinson is far from a polarizing figure due to his pragmatic style which can be seen throughout this survey in the consistency of his approval numbers. Hutchinson has the approval of a majority of Republicans (53%), Democrats (53%) and Independents (54%). He maintains high approval among black voters (65%), and also a majority of white voters (53%). A majority of voters both with a college degree and without approve of the Governor, as well as 52% of both men and women. As Hutchinson approaches the latter portion of his final term as Governor, it appears that he will do so with solid support among a broad and diverse cross section of the electorate, an impressive feat.

“The notion that supplemental federal unemployment assistance is negatively impacting the workforce appears to have broad acceptance in Arkansas as nearly 3 out of 4 voters (71%) support the Governor’s recent decision to end the payments, including 94% of Republicans and 70% of Independents. Along party lines, only Democrats net disapproved of the Governor’s decision (46%). White voters overwhelmingly supported the decision (74%), while black voters were split (39% to 39%). Notably, voters with a college education (61%) and without (78%) supported the decision to end the payments. Critics have argued the decision to end the payments was punitive against working class Arkansans. The high support among the non-college educated group seemingly refutes that argument.”

METHODOLOGY
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. For more detail on methodology and demographics, click here.

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]

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