Poll: Hutchinson, Cotton Break 50% With Early Job Approval Ratings

Feb 8, 2015

Last month, Talk Business & Politics announced a new collaboration with our long-running survey partner, Hendrix College, and Little Rock-based Impact Management Group. During the next year, the three groups will work on a variety of traditional and experimental polling in an effort to gauge developing techniques in the field.

Our first survey in this collaboration involves landline polling with Internet polling for a look at the job approval ratings of several Arkansas politicians and the state Legislature.

1,079 registered Arkansas voters were polled of which 86% were landline phones reached by automated calls and 14% were surveyed via the Internet. The poll, which was conducted from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, 2015, has a margin of error of +/-2.98%. The survey questions are as follows:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Sen. Tom Cotton is doing?

50% – Approve
30% – Disapprove
20% – Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Sen. John Boozman is doing?

40% – Approve
22% – Disapprove
38% – Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Barack Obama is doing?

26% – Approve
70% – Disapprove
4% – Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas Legislature is doing?

35% – Approve
24% – Disapprove
41% – Don’t Know

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?

52% – Approve
12% – Disapprove
36% – Don’t Know

“This is certainly a good start for Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Tom Cotton, and we’ll use these results as a baseline for future polling endeavors,” said Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock. “The low disapproval results among everyone surveyed – with the exception of the President – should be viewed as a big positive for all.”

On Monday, TB&P will release survey results related to perceptions of the Private Option Medicaid expansion debate. On Tuesday, analysis of the different data between Internet respondents and landline respondents will be released.

ANALYSIS

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, offered his thoughts on the survey results.

For the past 8 years, Arkansas has become used to having exceptionally high public approval numbers. Across his time in office, Mike Beebe stood out among his peers because of his steadily high poll ratings across all political, demographic, and geographical sections of Arkansas. In our last survey of opinions about Arkansas’s last governor in July 2014, Beebe stood at 67.5% favorable and only 15.5% unfavorable.

While Beebe’s successor, Governor Asa Hutchinson is less widely known, it appears that Arkansas has traded one popular governor for another one. In our baseline poll of Hutchinson’s standing with the Arkansas electorate, 52% approve of the job he is doing to date and only 12% disapprove. Like Beebe, while minor variations in Hutchinson’s approval show themselves across key groups of Arkansans, he is approved by a plurality of all demographic, political, and geographical groups we examined.

As has typically been the case, the public standing of the Arkansas General Assembly is more middling. About this time two years ago, 43% of Arkansans approved of the legislature and 33% disapproved of its performance. In this survey, a similar result is shown with 35% approving and 24% disapproving; a larger percentage than two years ago say that they “don’t know.” Pluralities of Democrats and African-Americans disapprove of the GOP-controlled legislature; otherwise, pluralities of subgroups of Arkansans slightly approve.

This survey also marked the first time for us to examine the popularity of US Senator Tom Cotton, coming off a lengthy campaign in which he demolished incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor. His job approval ratings split 50% approve; 30% disapprove; and 20% don’t know. Interestingly, coming off the intense race with Pryor, Cotton does show himself to be the most polarizing of state political figures in Arkansas; majorities of Democrats and African-Americans disapprove of Cotton’s performance just weeks into his term in the Senate and a gender gap continues to show itself on Senator Cotton (56% of men, but 44% of women approve of his work to date).

Decidedly less polarizing, but also decidedly less well known, is Arkansas’s senior US Senator John Boozman. Just under 2 in 5 Arkansas voters (38%) lack enough information about Boozman four years into his term to evaluate him. While potentially a problem for an incumbent moving into a possible reelection campaign, the overall Republican bent of the Arkansas electorate, the general lack of opposition to Boozman (22% disapproval), and the apparent absence of a top-flight Democratic opponent all bode well for Boozman assuming he does seek a second term.

Despite all the change in Arkansas politics in recent years, one thing remains the same: the deep animosity towards President Barack Obama in Arkansas. Despite some slightly improving national approval numbers in recent weeks, a full 70% of Arkansas voters disapprove of the second term President with just over a quarter approving. Just over 6 in 10 Democrats and nearly 7 in 10 African-Americans do approve of Obama’s performance, but he performs poorly with all other groups of Arkansas voters. Most troubling for his fellow partisans, only 18% of Arkansas Independent voters approve of the President.

Clint Reed, partner with Impact Management Group, offered his analysis.

Undoubtedly, Asa is off to a very strong start. With a 5:1 approve-to-disapprove rating, voters positively approve of the job that Asa is doing as Governor in his first legislative session. These approval numbers are coming from a very broad base of support – highlighted by strong support (5:1 approve/disapprove) among independent voters (52%). Asa is providing strong leadership, and voters approve. Promises made on the campaign trail are becoming promises kept in his legislative agenda.

Arkansans’ view of the job that the legislature is doing could be headed to a more polarized view. Democrats disapprove more than approve of the job that the legislature is doing; Republicans approve more than disapprove. Arkansas has historically been immune to polarizing views of the legislature by voters, but over the last couple of years I have seen a potential emergence of a polarized state of the legislature by voters. It will be interesting to gauge public opinion on this post-legislative session.

Cotton’s numbers continue to be very strong with 50% of voters approving of the job he is doing. More specifically, he still has very high marks among independent voters (53%). Cotton, too, is off to a great start. I suspect his numbers will only rise among Arkansas voters as he tells Guantanamo Bay terrorists that they can “rot in hell.”

John Boozman, who is beginning to gear up for re-election, appears to start in a relatively good position given the Arkansas political environment (2:1 approve/disapprove ratio). While he has not had to run a campaign since 2010, it appears Boozman’s name identification lags a bit behind Cotton and Hutchinson who both just finished hard fought campaigns. The generic ballot advantage for Republicans (+23%) gives Boozman a distinct advantage headed into re-election.

Barack Obama continues to be an albatross around the necks of Democrats. 70% of all voters disapprove of the job he is doing as President. What is most striking is that 80% of independent voters disapprove, while 32% of voters in his own party (Democrats) disapprove of his job performance.

METHODOLOGY

This survey was conducted by Impact Management Group in collaboration with Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, 2015. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-2.98%, was completed using IVR survey technology and Internet respondents among 1,079 registered voters in Arkansas.

Approximately 14% of the voters in our sample were contacted via the Internet. Generally standard weighting to the poll results based on age, gender, race and Congressional Districts.

Age (weighted according to 2014 statewide vote)
12% Between the ages of 18-34
24% Between the ages of 35 and 49
39% Between the ages of 50 and 64
25% 65 or older

Ethnicity (weighted according to 2014 statewide vote)
12% African American
83% Caucasian
3% Other

Party Identification (unweighted)
24% Democratic
43% Republican
27% Independent
7% Other

Gender (weighted)
48% Male
52% Female

Congressional Districts (weighted)
25% CD1
25% CD2
25% CD3
25% CD4

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

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net, Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu, or Clint Reed at creed@impactmanagement.com.