Arkansas Poll Released
Arkansas residents’ opinions about the economy, the presidential election, medical marijuana and other issues were revealed yesterday as the results of the 14th annual Arkansas Poll.
For the third straight year, the economy was named as the most important issue facing Arkansas residents, although the number fell from 67 percent last year to 47 percent this year.
“It’s almost always the number one issue. It is a significant dip, but that reflects an economy that is recovering, albeit slowly,” said Janine Parry, poll director and UA professor of political science.
Health care, with 15 percent of likely voters naming it as their chief concern, came in second on the list of important issues, followed by drugs and education.
Parry found the most interesting result to be the number of Independents who were leaning fairly heavily to the right, she said.
In 2010, there was a move away from both political parties toward Independents, and the electorate divided into roughly equal thirds, she said. However, now more than 40 percent of Independents identify more with the Republican Party, according to the poll.
“Independents are determining outcomes in this state,” Parry said. “It makes me more confident in the fact that Republicans will be competitive, if not dominant, in the state of Arkansas. That’s new for Arkansas.”
The shift from Democratic to Republican alignment has been sustained for three years now, Parry said.
“This year there is actually a lot of stability,” Parry said. “I find it to be reassuring. It means that these are values people hold over time. Most of what you see is not surprising.”
In the presidential election, the poll indicated that Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney had a 20 percentage point advantage over President Barack Obama among residents in Arkansas. If the election was today, 53 percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Romney, and 34 percent would vote for Obama, according to the poll.
A ballot measure that would legalize the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions showed that the majority of Arkansans oppose the measure. Forty-four percent favored the measure and 55 percent opposed the measure, according to the poll.
“Arkansas is not in the Deep South. We do have some Midwestern flavor,” Parry said. “If the supporters can show they got 40 percent this time, they can come back with a tighter proposal in the future. People have been trying to run this since I got here. Even getting the signatures is a huge feat.”
Public opinion was also split on whether to increase the statewide tax from 6 to 6.5 percent to generate money for Arkansas highways and other road construction projects.
Other issues such as gay marriage remained relatively stable from previous years, with 55 percent believing there should be no legal recognition of a gay couples’ relationships. Opinion also varied little from previous years in regard to immigration. More than half of Arkansans thought the government should allow undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they met certain criteria such as learning English and paying back-taxes.
The poll began in 1999 because of changes in the political landscape. It was also used to track the movement of Republicans who were gaining strength at the time. No entity was regularly collecting public opinion, Parry said.
“Most polling data people read is national and yet most public policy changes are really made at the state and local level,” she said.
The survey was conducted between Oct. 9 and Oct. 14 by Issues & Answers Network, Inc. Telephone surveys were conducted among a random sample of 800 Arkansas adults, according to the Arkansas Poll. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points in either direction of the survey results.