Poll: Support grows for recreational marijuana; majority favors change to abortion law

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 5,394 views 

Arkansas voters support a ballot initiative by a 2-to-1 margin to legalize recreational marijuana, and, by a slim margin, they want to see changes made to the state’s abortion law.

The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted on Sept. 12 and has a margin of error of +/-3.8%.

Q. On November 8th, voters will be asked to consider one proposed constitutional amendment proposed by the people. Issue 4 would authorize the possession, personal use, and consumption of cannabis by adults in Arkansas sold by licensed adult use dispensaries and provide for the regulation of those facilities. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against Issue 4?

58.5% For
29% Against
12.5% Undecided

A Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll conducted in February 2022 showed support for adult use recreational cannabis at 53.5%.

“This issue is in the hands of the Arkansas Supreme Court to determine if it will appear on the ballot this year. If it does, voters are poised to support it overwhelmingly,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “We see support for the measure across a variety of demographics suggesting that opponents will have a tough time peeling off votes to defeat the proposal. Should it be kicked off the ballot this cycle, our polling suggests it may just be a matter of when, not if, that it becomes legal in Arkansas.”

Q. Currently abortions are illegal in Arkansas except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother. Do you support these current restrictions on abortion or do you believe that Arkansas law should be changed?

43% Support current law
50.5% Should be changed
6.5% Don’t Know

For those who thought the law should be changed, they were asked the additional question:

Q. Thinking more about changing the current abortion law, in your opinion should it be changed to make it easier or harder to get an abortion?

92% Easier
3% Harder
5% Don’t Know

“This is an issue that is driving a lot of voter participation in other states. Though Arkansas has a very traditional conservatism towards abortion, our polling observes there is a mood to change current law from its strict one exception to accommodate other exceptions,” Brock said.

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:

“We remain unclear whether the votes will actually be counted on Issue 4—the ballot measure put forward via the petition process that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults in Arkansas—but if they are, our polling suggests it will easily be affirmed by the voters. By a two to one margin, those Arkansans who have an opinion on the issue plan to vote for it. Looking across subgroups of voters, the notion of further opening Arkansas’s marijuana laws is popular across racial and ethnic groups, among women and men, among both college-educated voters and those who are not, and across the geographical quadrants of the state (although it is least supported in the rural First Congressional District centered in northeast Arkansas).

“Pluralities of every age group also support the measure, although recreational marijuana is exceptionally popular with the youngest category of voters with nearly four in five voters aged 18 to 29 supportive of it. It is now also supported by pluralities of partisan groups although, unsurprisingly, it performs weakest among GOP voters; it is particularly popular among Democratic (75%) and Independent (63%) voters. Because of the division among Republicans, this strong showing by Issue 4 does put GOP candidates in a challenging spot as they determine whether to stay quiet or oppose the measure. On the other hand, we will likely see Democratic candidates taking a stronger stance in support of Issue 4 as they attempt to attach themselves to a popular measure, particularly with low-propensity younger voters. The biggest question of all, of course: Will those votes even count at all?

“Just as an active campaign on marijuana legalization in the state could reshape the electorate for the general election, we are seeing evidence in other states that the late June Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the precedent from Roe v. Wade (1973) is impacting registration patterns and interest in participating in November with younger voters, particularly younger women who appear fired up to vote this fall. When Dobbs was handed down, Arkansas’s ‘trigger law’ activated and the state became one of the states with the most limited access to abortion; only a genuine threat to the life of the mother can be the basis for an abortion procedure in the state at any point in the pregnancy.

“We asked Arkansas voters whether they preferred to keep that trigger law in place or alter it in some manner. A slight majority of voters wish to alter the law and a follow up question indicates that almost all in that subgroup wish to make it easier to obtain an abortion in Arkansas. When the questions are considered together, the state’s electorate is fairly evenly split on the topic.

“The groups most supportive of liberalization of the state’s abortion regulations are the youngest voters, college-educated voters, and women voters. While Republicans (73%) solidly support retention of the current legal standards, healthy majorities of Democrats (87%) and Independents (57%) support change in the law with almost wholesale support for expanded access (92%). Again, much like marijuana, the hot-button issue of abortion promises to have some impact on the electorate in 2022 with Democrats benefiting slightly from that voter activation.”

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:

“A clear majority of Arkansas voters (58.5%) in this survey would vote to legalize adult use cannabis by voting for Issue 4. Sentiment on Issue 4 correlates with age, with the highest support among voters under the age of 30 (79%) and the lowest among those 65+ (46%). However, it is notable that support tops 60% with both of the middle age categories (67%, 63%), and that a plurality of those 65+ support the measure.

“According to this survey, Republican voters net support Issue 4 by 4-percentage points, Democrats support the measure overwhelmingly (75%), along with 63% of independents. Support is consistent among those with and without a 4-year college degree and among both men and women. While an anti-legalization campaign has recently begun the groundwork of opposing Issue 4, at this stage, the advantage lies with proponents who undoubtedly will be well funded in their efforts to pass it.

“Forty three percent (43%) of Arkansas voters surveyed support the current abortion law, while 50% believe it should be changed. A majority of voters under 30 and 31-44 support change, while nearly half of voters 45-64 and 65+ agree.

“The abortion issue has always been divided sharply along party lines as are the findings of this survey. 73% of Republicans support the current law while 21% believe it should be changed. Meanwhile, change is the predominant view among Democrats (87%). Independents (57%) fall between the two, with the majority favoring change. Voters with a college degree are more supportive of change (58%) while those without a degree are evenly divided (46%).

“The starkest difference of opinion comes along gender lines, as might be expected. A plurality of men (49%) support the current abortion law, while 45% believe it should be changed. Among women, however, 55% believe the law should be changed compared to 38% who support the current law. Geographically, the highest levels of support for change are in the 2nd Congressional District (53%) and the 3rd Congressional District (59%). CD1 and CD4 are more evenly split.

“The abortion issue, post-Dobbs, continues to be a driving force behind a shake-up in the political environment – pushing independents and female voters away from a core Republican policy position. Movement of independents has to be a key area of focus for Republican campaigns as they set their sights on the general election.”

The survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted Sept. 12, 2022, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%.

Responses were collected via SMS 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].