Arkansas voters hold varying views on three statewide elected officials who are all polling below 50% in job performance approval.
A new survey from TBP-Hendrix College, conducted a week ago, shows Gov. Asa Hutchinson with the largest margin of approval, while attitudes toward U.S. Senator John Boozman are evenly split. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton has the highest approval rating of all three politicians, but he also has the highest disapproval number.
Hutchinson, the first-term GOP governor, is up for re-election in 2018, while Republican senators Boozman and Cotton are in the middle of their six-year senate terms.
As part of a statewide poll of 784 voters, respondents were asked:
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?
28.5% Don’t Know
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator Tom Cotton is doing?
15% Don’t Know
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator John Boozman is doing?
29% Don’t Know
In April 2017, Hutchinson’s job approval standing was 53-39%, while Cotton and Boozman have not been surveyed this year.
“As a longtime observer of Arkansas politics, the variance in these numbers is very telling,” said Roby Brock, TB&P Editor-in-Chief. “My take is that Republicans don’t think enough is being done, Democrats don’t like what’s trying to be done, and Independents are unhappy with hyper-partisanship from both parties. People of all political persuasions are very frustrated and they’re signaling this in these job performance numbers.”
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the poll. He offered this analysis:
Governor Asa Hutchinson remains solidly “above water” with 46% of Arkansans approving of his work while 26.5% disapproving. That said, he does so with a somewhat atypical coalition of support.
Importantly, the Governor is running a full 20 percent behind President Trump among Arkansas Republicans at 59% approval (as we reported earlier, Trump is at 79%). This shows a vulnerability for Hutchinson — who sharply criticized Trump during the 2016 GOP primary season — among “Country First” Conservatives, as core Trump supporters were described in last week’s Pew analysis of the American electorate. Hutchinson eventually threw strong support behind Trump and spoke positively for his candidacy from the convention through the election.
While Gov. Hutchinson has numerous advantages in any GOP primary — name recognition, fundraising, and control of the state Republican party — he could have some vulnerability if a Trump-like opponent was able to gain external support and resources in next May’s primary. Gun activist and Fox News personality Jan Morgan has announced an exploratory campaign against Hutchinson.
Hutchinson’s comparative weakness with his fellow partisans is compensated by his relative strength with Independents (they break 43% approve/33% disapprove for Hutchinson) and Democrats (31% approve of his performance). In particular, for a Republican, Hutchinson shows distinct popularity among African-Americans who break for Hutchinson 44% approve to 32% disapprove.
The Governor does perform relatively poorly with voters under 45. Among both those under 30 and those 30-44, his approval numbers are in the 20s, but there is relatively little variation across gender or geography in his ratings.
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton has developed his own “brand” during his relatively short time in electoral politics. To be sure, he is a polarizing figure, but the fact that he has loyal supporters aids him during a tough time for his party nationally and, to a lesser degree, in Arkansas. All told, 46% approve of Cotton’s performance, 39% disapprove, and 15% “don’t know.”
Cotton performs strongly with Republicans (73% approve), among men (50% approve), and in Northwest Arkansas (55% approve). He also nears a majority among white respondents. Democrats disapprove of his performance (15% approve to 68% disapprove) as do a plurality of Independents (40% approve to 45% disapprove). He also does poorly with African-Americans (53% disapproval) and also lags with women (although his approval rate is higher than disapproval slightly).
As he has been since his arrival on the political scene, Cotton is a lightning rod, but through being high-profile on issues of foreign affairs and immigration, he has been able to stand out at a time when most D.C. figures are seen as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution.
Despite his two overwhelming elections for U.S. Senate, Senator John Boozman remains amazingly unknown among his constituents with nearly three in ten Arkansans without a clear opinion of his job performance. Because of the ill-will towards D.C. and towards the GOP establishment of which Boozman is a low-profile member, Boozman’s overall popularity suffers. The good news for the veteran politician is that his re-election was last year and another campaign is well in the future.
Boozman performs particularly poorly with Republican voters (only 49% approval) and trails with Independents (31% approval to 42% disapproval). More unsurprisingly, 53% of Democrats disapprove of Boozman’s work in the Senate.
As a former Third Congressional District congressman, the highest recognition numbers for Boozman are in Northwest Arkansas although his approval numbers are lower in that region than are those of Hutchinson, Cotton, or Trump. Boozman is relatively strong with African-Americans and with women, but attitudes of other groups (whites and men) with whom he has traditionally performed well pull down his overall numbers.
In short, Sen. Boozman is a victim of a time in which his party is both divided and is blamed for the country’s being off the track.
This survey was conducted on Monday, October 23, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.5%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 784 Arkansas voters statewide. Age and gender were weighted.
12% Under the age of 30
24% Between the ages of 30 and 44
39% Between the ages of 45 and 64
24% 65 or older
78% Caucasian or White