A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 1,780 likely state voters shows Republican Asa Hutchinson with a 46-41% lead over Democrat Mike Ross in the Arkansas Governor’s race.
The poll, which was conducted July 22-25 across all four Congressional districts, has a margin of error of +/-2.3%.
Q. In the race for Governor, the candidates are Democrat Mike Ross, Republican Asa Hutchinson, Libertarian Frank Gilbert, and Green Party Candidate Joshua Drake. If the election for Governor were today, which candidate would you support?
41% Democrat Mike Ross
46% Republican Asa Hutchinson
3% Libertarian Frank Gilbert
2.5% Green candidate Joshua Drake
“This current state of the race is obviously good news for Asa Hutchinson and if some of the trends in this poll continue, it will become his race to lose,” said Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock.
“However, I view the Governor’s race as much more fluid and lacking in definition than the Senate race. With neither candidate breaking 50% at this point in the campaign, I won’t be surprised to see the race go in any direction over the next three months.”
Two previous Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College polls have shown this potential gubernatorial match-up to have volatility. In October 2013, a hypothetical race between the two candidates showed Hutchinson with a four-point advantage over Ross at 41-37%. In April, our survey suggested the race was a dead heat with Ross leading 44-43%. The Libertarian and Green party candidates each settled at 3% and 2% respectively in the April survey.
In the latest poll, several key demographics provide insight on how the Governor’s campaign is unfolding. Like the U.S. Senate race, Republican Asa Hutchinson has a comfortable lead with independent voters. Hutchinson holds a 50-32.5% lead over Ross among indies. Hutchinson is leading Ross among male voters by 48.5-39% and has a one point lead among female voters 44-43%. Hutchinson also leads 47.5-43% among voters age 65 and older. Conversely, Ross is doing very well with African-American voters, winning this voting bloc by a 70-18% margin.
“Asa is in a very solid position at this point. To me, It is difficult for anyone to dispute that Hutchinson leads in this race,” said Clint Reed, strategist with Little Rock-based Impact Management Group, which works traditionally with GOP candidates.
“I have seen a steady stream of public and private polling showing Asa ahead. Hutchinson continues to outpace Ross among Independent voters (+17), he leads among white voters (+10), he is doing very well among seniors, and there is no significant gender gap in this poll,” he added.
“This a very healthy, broad base of support to begin the final thrust of the campaign. The DGA and Ross recently spent almost $2 million collectively to define Asa, but Asa still maintains a significant lead. Take all of this and add in the mix that Ross’ early money has evaporated. Every single piece of evidence shows that Asa Hutchinson has the momentum in this race,” Reed said.
Robert McLarty, Democratic campaign strategist with Little Rock-based Markham Group, offered a different perspective.
“Mike Ross has never run for statewide office, so his name ID is still relatively low across the state and still has some room to grow. Asa Hutchinson’s lead at this point is most likely the result of his high name ID from his four decades of running for statewide office, but it’s got to be troubling to the Hutchinson campaign that he still can’t seem to break 50 percent,” McLarty said.
“Just like in the Senate race, this polling sample under-represents African-Americans as 8 percent of the electorate, when the real number is closer to 12 percent. This sample also has Ross at 70 percent with African-Americans, and based on historical trends, African-Americans are likely to break 90–10 for Ross, which would make the head-to-head actually 45 Asa, 44 Ross,” he added.
“In addition, I feel confident that Mike Ross will begin to show support among the key voting block of women voters. This poll has Ross and Asa essentially tied among women, but that will change as we get closer to Election Day once his plans for pre-kindergarten, job creation, domestic violence and child abuse start to reach voters,” McLarty said.
ANALYSIS Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped analyze the survey results.
The results from our survey of Arkansas voters show a lead for Republican Asa Hutchinson in the governor’s race that is just outside the margin of error. In our last survey, a statistical tie was shown between Hutchinson and Democratic nominee Mike Ross. Thus, Hutchinson seems to have grown a small lead in the race moving into the last 100 days of the contest.
The patterns across key demographic, geographic, and political groups track those seen in our results in the U.S. Senate race.
First, as in the Senate race, a gender gap is showing itself in the race. Among men, the Republican has a sizable lead (49% to 39%) while a near dead heat is show among women (Hutchinson leads 44% to 43%).
Second, Hutchinson leads strongly among white Arkansans (49% to 39%) while Ross, the Democrat, leads solidly among African-Americans (70% to 18%). That said, our polling in the last couple of cycles shows a consistent chunk of African-American voters supporting Republican candidates, a marked difference from the recent past. While the percentage is still a distinct minority, in a close race an underperformance by Democrats among a group of voters that the party has relied upon consistently could spell real difficulties.
Like Senator Mark Pryor, Ross leads in the Second Congressional District, but trails by a large margin in the Third Congressional District (50% to 36%) and by single digits in the other congressional districts.
Because Ross did represent the Fourth Congressional District in Congress for a dozen years, his small disadvantage there is notable. However, it should be noted that the district was reconfigured significantly in the post-2010 redistricting and Ross never ran in much of the area that now falls in the district.
Finally, expected patterns show themselves among partisan groups. Ross is running slightly better among his fellow partisans than is Hutchinson but both have shored up their bases nicely. While Ross can afford some deficit among independent voters on election day, he cannot survive the kind of lead now shown by Hutchinson among that group of voters (50% to 33%). That is the key to what is now a very small, but real lead for Hutchinson.
Editor’s note: Dr. Barth has been a financial contributor to the Ross campaign.
METHODOLOGY & DEMOGRAPHICS
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Tuesday-Friday, July 22-25, 2014. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-2.3%, was completed using IVR survey technology and through live contact calls.
Approximately 18% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone with live callers. This is in response to the increased reliance by voters on cell phones. Additionally, we applied our standard weighting to the poll results based on age, gender, and Congressional district.