Economy Top Issue in 2012
The economy is overwhelmingly the number one issue facing Arkansas this election. As an issue, the economy has been on the rise since 2007, from a low point of less than 10 percent in 2003, according to the 2011 Arkansas Poll directed by a UA professor.
“The economy is so overwhelming of an issue,” said Janine Parry, poll director and UA professor. “It’s not uncommon around the country and certainly not in Arkansas, but the magnitude is 70 percent.”
The Gallup Poll also found that 68 percent of Americans think the economy is getting worse.
Also reflected the in the Arkansas Poll’s newest edition is a shift toward republicanism, Parry said.
“This year Republicans and Democrats are back to regular levels and independents are back to regular levels,” Parry said. “But independents are much more likely to lean toward Republicans so that’s the significant thing.”
Other issues, like education and health care, are always important, she said.
“In the past there’s really the big three: the economy, education and health care,” Parry said. “It’s the same nationally as well. That’s moved around a little bit but those are always the big three.”
As a nation, 44 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic about voting while 58 percent of Republicans are. Democrat enthusiasm has reached a decade low, Gallup found.
Gauging UA voter excitement is a different story. While the Arkansas Poll’s margin of error would not allow for an accurate estimation around the UA campus, Parry predicts voter turnout to be low among young voters.
“I wish I had a more encouraging answer, but I think once again, much will be hoped for on college campuses but little will emerge,” she said. “If you look at political participation, for most people, it’s a function of wealth and education, and most people on college campuses don’t have a whole lot of either yet.”
Across campus, students had a host of reasons for the decline in enthusiasm.
“There’s not as much hype this election,” said Adriel Paradise, senior. “This year’s voting, it won’t be a ‘first time in history’ election. There’s not any female candidates out front.”
For Paradise, compared to 2008, the biggest issue has changed.
Republicans and Democrats not being able to work together to solve tough problems will not help with voter turnout, said senior Blake Rogers.
“A lot of what I’ve heard is frustration that both sides can’t work together,” he said. “I would hope people will try to get people in office who agree with each other but I don’t know if people are going to try to elect people who can work together or just split things again.”
However, interest in national politics this year has been high for a non-election year. Though only 14 percent of respondents aged 18-29 in a Gallup poll followed the news “very closely,” while 35 percent of the general public did. Gallup attributed the heightened interest to the economy, unfavorable views of the direction of our country, and dissatisfaction with the way the country is being governed.
“I have all white friends and most of them are Republican,” freshman Austin Booth said. “As soon as they start talking about politics I just tune-out.”