For the first time in the history of polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College, the Arkansas Legislature received a failing grade from state voters.
The latest survey of 550 Arkansas voters conducted on April 4, 2017, shows that more voters disapproved of the GOP-controlled legislature’s performance by a 12 percentage point margin. Voters were asked:
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas Legislature did during its recently completed session?
24% Don’t Know
While the 2017 Arkansas General Assembly passed low-income tax relief and avoided a contentious healthcare debate seen in previous years, there was plenty of controversy surrounding guns on college campuses, a potential bathroom gender restriction bill, and the implementation of a voter-approved medical marijuana amendment.
The guns on campus bill, which was altered significantly, was also surveyed and voters seemed generally satisfied with the final result to prohibit guns at UAMS, the State Hospital, and at certain collegiate athletic events. Voters were asked:
Q: Last week the legislature passed a bill that amended the “guns on campus” legislation passed earlier in the session. The new bill prevents concealed carry holders with enhanced training from carrying guns at some collegiate athletic events, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, at the Arkansas State Hospital. Do you support or oppose these changes?
9% Don’t Know
“The lower number of undecided voters throughout this round of polling indicates an awareness and attention to the business of policymaking in Arkansas,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-chief. “With these numbers, it remains to be seen if this is negativity is toward the institution of the legislature or specifically toward a voter’s representatives. With the framing of the question, I’m led to believe it is the former.”
The legislature will return on May 1, 2017, to “sine die,” or officially adjourn.
Today’s results are the final release of the latest round of Talk Business & Politics polling that also included Arkansas attitudes toward the death penalty and the job approval ratings of President Trump and Gov. Hutchinson.
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
In this survey, the Arkansas General Assembly, which has had middling approval numbers across our years of polling, goes under water for the first time.
Two years ago, our survey showed 35% approving and 24% disapproving of the legislature’s performance with a large 41% saying “don’t know.” In this year’s survey, the “don’t know” numbers dropped significantly (to only 24%), but a plurality of respondents didn’t like what they saw.
An examination of the crosstabs indicates that majorities of both Democrats (59%) and Independents (50%) disapprove of the GOP-controlled legislature; Republicans do approve of their work by a 47%-27% margin. African-Americans give the legislature higher marks than do white Arkansans; a plurality of African-Americans (46%) approve while a similar percentage of whites (45%) disapprove of the General Assembly’s work.
One reason for the overall uncharitable view of the General Assembly may well have been the messiness over the handling of the “guns on campus” legislation in the session’s closing days. After a great deal of back and forth, a law expanding dramatically concealed weapons in public places passed the legislature, but that legislation had to be “cleaned up” by a later piece of legislation barring guns from certain collegiate athletic facilities, UAMS, and the State Hospital.
We asked our respondents about that “clean up” legislation. Notably, less than 10% of respondents did not have an opinion on this issue, suggesting it did break through with Arkansans. A slight majority of respondents supported it, but some subgroups of voters opposed it. While Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly supported the legislation that limited weapons in those public places, a majority (53%) of Republicans opposed it. A gender gap also showed itself on this gun issue with men fairly evenly split on it while 57% of Arkansas’s women supported it.
This survey was conducted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4.2%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 550 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.