Undecided voters control fate of runoffs in U.S. Senate primaries

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,630 views 

The two races for U.S. Senate nominations in Arkansas will both be determined by undecided voters who have yet to make up their minds in the May 24th statewide primaries.

The latest round of polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College was released Wednesday (May 4) with incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. John Boozman shy of the 50% threshold to avoid a primary runoff. The three Democrats seeking their party’s nomination are battling for an undecided vote of 63%. Voters were asked which candidate they planned to vote for.

Among 802 likely Republican primary voters, the results were:

U.S. Senate
45% – Sen. John Boozman
19% – Jake Bequette
16.5% – Jan Morgan
1.5% – Heath Loftis
18% – Undecided

Among 597 likely Democratic primary voters, the results were:

U.S. Senate
17% – Natalie James
15% – Dan Whitfield
5% – Jack E. Foster
63% – Undecided

“While the Democratic primary has been under the radar, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate has been front-and-center. You can’t turn your TV on without seeing an ad for a candidate or from a special interest group about a candidate,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “The GOP Senate primary will be one of most intriguing on election night as we learn if Sen. Boozman can avoid a runoff or if a challenger will force one.”

These two matchups are the first releases in the latest round of statewide Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College polling, which was conducted Monday, May 2, 2022. Over the next few days, results for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Supreme Court will be released.

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:

“The key question in the U.S. Senate GOP primary is whether two-term U.S. Senator John Boozman can avoid a runoff election with a decidedly more conservative opponent. While our survey shows Boozman coming up just short of the magic 50% to avoid a costly and time-consuming contest, a chunk of probable GOP primary voters remain undecided, and Boozman is filling the airwaves with ads reminding voters of his conservative bone fides. The odds appear quite good that he can sneak to renomination without a second round of voting. If Boozman does fall short of a majority, it’s not clear who he would face in the runoff. Newcomer Jake Bequette, supported by an infusion of outside campaign money, and conservative activist (and 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate) Jan Morgan are closely matched at 19% and 17% respectively. Heath Loftis is showing only token support in the race. Interestingly, Boozman’s support is steady across all key subgroups of voters. The only key deviation—and it is a positive one for the incumbent because of the group’s high turnout rates—is that Boozman runs slightly better among voters aged 65 and above. Bequette, who touts his football and military careers in his campaign, gets his second place standing by running stronger with male voters than does Morgan.

“The Democrats also have a multi-candidate race for their nomination for the U.S. Senate, but none of the underfunded and, ultimately, longshot candidates has been able to break out of the pack. Natalie James and Dan Whitfield garner 17% and 15% each in the field while Jack E. Foster trails with just 5%. The big story in the race is the monstrous undecided vote with 63% of the Democratic electorate unclear of their vote in a race where none of the candidates are able to effectively communicate with voters. James’ fragile lead is driven by her stronger position with the youngest voters, with voters of color, and with college graduates in the Democratic electorate. She also runs well with male voters although this is driven somewhat by the 71% of Democratic female voters who lack clarity about their vote later this month.”

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:

“In the four-way race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, Sen. John Boozman fails to hit 50%, but leads opponents Jake Bequette, Jan Morgan, and Heath Loftis with 45% of the vote. Despite significant ad dollars being spent by candidates and outside groups,18% of Republican primary voters remain undecided. Boozman leads the ballot among all age groups, with his highest support (49%) among voters 65 and older – a key voting block in Republican primaries. Self-identified Republicans support Boozman at 47%, while he takes a dip with those who consider themselves to be independents (39%). While Boozman and Morgan have consistent support across gender lines, Bequette’s support tilts somewhat toward men (22%) with slightly lower support among women (15%).

“The primary for Governor could play a factor in how this race plays out as some cross-race preferences are visible. Jan Morgan underperforms her overall ballot percentage with Sarah Huckabee Sanders voters (13%), while hitting 38% among voters who prefer Doc Washburn in the gubernatorial race. Conversely, Boozman hits 50% with voters who plan on voting for Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Governor. Given that 15% of that group is currently undecided, and Sanders has endorsed and strongly supports Boozman, there is a clear opportunity for him to grow with undecided Sanders’ voters in the final weeks.

“Undecided leads the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate with 63% of the vote with candidates Natalie James (17%) and Dan Whitfield (15%) getting comparable levels of support. Whitfield and James have roughly equal shares of white Democratic primary voters, while James leads Whitfield among African Americans (+10). With none of the candidates having established a brand prior to May 24th, this race will be a toss-up.”

METHODOLOGY
The survey of 802 likely GOP primary election voters was conducted May 2, 2022, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. The survey of 597 likely Democratic primary election voters was conducted May 2, 2022, and has a margin of error of +/- 5.0%.

Responses were collected via SMS to an online survey and by phone. The poll is slightly weighted to account for key demographics including age, ethnicity, education, and gender. Additional methodology is available upon request.

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]