New Poll: Hays Has Small Lead In 2nd District, Crawford Comfortable Lead In 1st

Oct 20, 2014

The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll shows First District Republican Cong. Rick Crawford with a comfortable lead over his Democratic opponent, Jackie McPherson, while the battle for an open Second District Congressional seat has Democrat Pat Hays ahead of GOP rival French Hill.

FIRST DISTRICT

“The First District has solidified for Crawford in part thanks to the power of incumbency and his fundraising advantage,” said Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock. “But there’s a real battle being waged in the Second District, which comes as no surprise to that region’s residents who have seen the intensity of the Hays-Hill contest.”

The First Congressional District poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College surveyed 437 respondents by cell phone and landline. It has a margin of error of +/-4.7% and was conducted on Wednesday, Oct. 15 and Thursday, Oct. 16.

Q: In the race for Congress in your congressional district, the candidates are Republican Congressman Rick Crawford, Democrat Mayor Jackie McPherson, and Libertarian Brian Scott Willhite. If the election for U.S. House were today, which candidate would you support?

52% Republican Congressman Rick Crawford
30% Democrat Mayor Jackie McPherson
4% Libertarian Brian Scott Willhite
14% Undecided

The poll shows positive traction for Crawford from late July when he held a 47.5%-33% edge over McPherson. Demographics for the poll are provided in the methodology below.

SECOND DISTRICT

The Second District poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College surveyed 605 respondents by cell phone and landline. It has a margin of error of +/-4% and was also conducted on Wednesday, Oct. 15 and Thursday, Oct. 16.

Q: In the race for Congress in your congressional district, the candidates are Democrat Patrick Henry Hays, Republican French Hill, and Libertarian Debbie Standiford. If the election for U.S. House were today, which candidate would you support?

46% Democrat Patrick Henry Hays
41.5% Republican French Hill
4.5% Libertarian Debbie Standiford
8% Undecided

Hill held a one-point lead on Hays, 44%-43%, in the last TB&P-Hendrix Poll conducted in July. Since then, Hays and Hill have run combinations of positive and negative ads for months owing to both candidates being well-funded. Demographics for the poll are provided in the methodology below.

ANALYSIS

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped analyze the latest polls. He offered this analysis of the poll results.

Congressional District 1:

With one candidate — the Republican incumbent Rick Crawford — having served as a low-profile Congressman and his challenger — Heber Springs Mayor Jackie McPherson — underfunded and having to rely upon a grassroots campaign, little has changed since we last checked in on the race to represent Arkansas’s First Congressional District. In July, Crawford led McPherson 47.5% to 33%. Now, Crawford has grown his lead marginally to a slight majority of those expected to vote between now and November 4th.

The story of the race is the candidates’ comparative performance among the three major partisan groups. Crawford is pulling 16% of self-identified Democrats and continues to blow McPherson out among Independents 70%-13%. On the other hand, Crawford dominates with Republicans with McPherson only pulling 3% of that group in our sample.

While McPherson is performing solidly with African-American voters (winning 72%-8%), white voters are solidly in Crawford’s camp. McPherson is only losing the youngest group of voters slightly (although many are undecided), but majority support for Crawford among those above 45 (the group most likely to turnout) is driving his lead. Finally, and a rare case in Arkansas in 2014, there is no decipherable gender gap in the race.

While McPherson may reduce the gap if African-American and younger turnout is as high as Democrats anticipate, it is hard to see a scenario where Crawford is not returned to Congress for a third term.

Congressional District 2:

In July, the closest congressional race was found in central Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. The race remains close, but now has a different leader. In July, Republican French Hill led 44% to 43%. Now, a combination of effective positive ads by the Hays campaign and sharp attacks on Hill by Hays and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have pushed Hays into the lead.

What are the demographic, partisan, and geographic keys to Hays’s current lead?

  • The former North Little Rock mayor is the beneficiary of a significant gender gap. He leads among women 50%-38% while Hill leads among men 46%-41%. ·
  • Hays has a strong lead with African-Americans (74%-8%), but is also holding his own with white voters in the district (Hill leads that group 47%-43%).
  • On the age front, Hays leads with every group under 65 and even among the oldest voters the race is an essential dead heat.
  • In terms of partisanship, both candidates have sewn up their fellow partisans but the district does skew more Democratic than the other three Arkansas congressional districts. Hill leads with Independents 50%-35%, but that is a smaller lead with that group than other Republicans in the state.
  • Finally, as I’ve written elsewhere, geography often tells the tale in the outcome of Second Congressional District races. The district’s largest county tends to skew Democratic, while the suburban counties around it veer Republican. In our sample, 57% of the voters are from Pulaski County (a decent approximation of the final geographic division in the district). Of that group, Hays leads 55%-35%. Outside Pulaski County, Hill leads 51%-34%, but Hays is holding his own in counties like Faulkner that is a particular target for state Democrats in this cycle. In 2012 (the only election cycle with the current district lines), Pulaski County supplied just over 54% of the vote in the Second Congressional District. While a stronger field operation may well boost that percentage in 2014, with a 54% weighting on Pulaski County, Hays still maintains a 46%-42% lead.

With these patterns emerging in the fundamentals of the race, all signs are that the Second District race will go down to the wire.

Editor’s note: Dr. Barth’s household has contributed financially to both the Hill and Hays campaigns.

METHODOLOGY

The First Congressional District survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Wednesday and Thursday, October 15 and 16, 2014. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4.7%, was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 437 likely voters in Arkansas.

Only respondents who positively identified that they planned to vote in the November 4th general election were allowed to complete the survey. 17% of respondents were cell phone users.

Age (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote)

8% Under the age of 30
19% Between the ages of 30 and 44
41% Between the ages of 45 and 64
32% 65 or older

Ethnicity (weighted according to historical patterns in district)

16% African American
1% Asian American
80% Caucasian or White
1% Latino
2% Other

Party Identification (unweighted)

37% Democratic
27% Independent
28% Republican
9% Other

Gender (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote)

46% Male
54% Female

The Second Congressional District survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Wednesday and Thursday, October 15 and 16, 2014. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4%, was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 605 likely voters in Arkansas.

Only respondents who positively identified that they planned to vote in the November 4th general election were allowed to complete the survey. 14% of respondents were cell phone users and Pulaski County made up 57% of the total sample.

Age (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote)

8% Under the age of 30 
19% Between the ages of 30 and 44
41% Between the ages of 45 and 64
32% 65 or older

Ethnicity (unweighted)

12% African American
1% Asian American
83.5% Caucasian or White
0.5% Latino
3% Other

Party Identification (unweighted)

36% Democratic
31% Independent
26% Republican
7% Other

Gender (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote)

46% Male
54% Female

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.