Arkansas Poll: Executions, Marijuana, LGBT Rights & Political Prospects

File photo of U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R) at Little Rock's VA Hospital in 2014.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., has a job approval-disapproval rating of 38-18%, while 44% didn’t know or refused to answer the question.

Those numbers come from the latest Arkansas Poll sponsored by the University of Arkansas’ Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society. Eight hundred Arkansans were randomly sampled by telephone.

Boozman’s numbers improve to 44-18% when only “very likely voters” are included. The Republican senator is running for re-election against Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.

In 2013, incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor had a 33-41% approval rating in the poll, with 26% saying they didn’t know or refusing to answer. He lost the 2014 election to Sen. Tom Cotton.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson enjoys a 57-18% approval rating with 25% not knowing or refusing to answer, while Cotton is approved by 45% of respondents and disapproved by 27%, with 29% not knowing or refusing to answer. Both of their approval numbers increase six points when only “very likely voters” are considered – Hutchinson’s to 63%, and Cotton’s to 51%.

President Obama has a 28-62% approval rating. In 2007, President George W. Bush had a 30-65% approval rating.

In the presidential race, 42% of respondents said they were more likely to vote for the Republican, while 32% said they were more likely to vote for the Democrat. When only very likely voters are considered, the numbers change to 50-31% for the Republicans.

Asked which party they identified with, 27% said Republicans, a number that rises to 32% when only very likely voters were counted, while 32% said they were Democrats. Another 32% said they were independents, and 3% said they where “other.”

Among independents, 42% said they were closer to Republicans, including 52% of very likely voters, compared to 23% (and 20% of very likely voters) who said they were closer to Democrats.

In 1999, 23% of Arkansans identified as Republicans, 35% as Democrats, and 31% as independents.

Sixty-five percent of voters said life is moving in the right direction in Arkansas, compared to 21% who said it is moving in the wrong direction.

Eighteen percent said they were better off financially now compared to a year ago, while 54% said they were about the same, and 26% said they were worse off. That 18% was the second lowest in the history of the poll dating back to 2003, with only 2013 (14%) with a lower percentage. The number saying they were worse off was higher every year from 2008-12.

Looking ahead, 22% of Arkansans said they would be better off next year, 55% said they would be about the same, and 18% said they would be worse off.

The poll found 43% of respondents saying the economy is “the most important problem or issue facing people in Arkansas today.” Second was health care, with 8%.

Respondents were more dissatisfied than satisfied with the conditions of the state’s roads and highways (40-52%) and with the state’s public welfare system (27-50%). They were more satisfied than dissatisfied with the state’s K-12 public education (54-27%), with parks and recreational facilities (78-12%), with colleges and universities (71-12%), and with “the quality of state and local government service considering the taxes you pay,” with the tally being 50-38%.

On other issues:

– Thirty-nine percent said gun control laws should be stricter, while 18% said they should be less strict and 36% said there should be no change. Fifty-one percent support an “open carry” law, while 40% oppose one.
– Forty-six percent of respondents said laws should make it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion, while 12% said abortion should be easier and 30% said there should be no change.
– Twenty-nine percent said same-sex marriages should be recognized, while 63% said they shouldn’t. However, 72% said gays and lesbians should have equal rights in housing, and 79% said they should have equal employment opportunities.
– Seventy-one percent support the death penalty for those convicted of murder, while 19% oppose it.
– Sixty-eight percent support allowing patients to use medical marijuana if supported by their doctor, while 26% oppose.
– Twenty-eight percent have a favorable opinion about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, while 51% have an unfavorable opinion.
– Regarding undocumented immigrants, 60% of respondents said they should be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they meet criteria such as learning English and paying back taxes, while 25% said they all should be deported. Six percent said they should be allowed to remain in the United States to work for a limited time, while 4% said they should become permanent residents with no requirements.

– On climate change, 22% said the threat is generally underestimated, while 21% said it is generally correct and 46% said it is generally exaggerated. Asked if climate change presents a threat in the respondent’s lifetime, 25% said yes and 65% said no. Forty-five percent said increases in the Earth’s temperature are due more to natural causes, while 39% said they are due more to human activities. Forty-four percent say climate change is an urgent problem requiring immediate attention, while 46% said it is a longer-term problem.