Poll Shows Tight Race For Arkansas 4th District, Womack With Wide Lead In 3rd

Oct 21, 2014

Arkansas’ open Fourth District Congressional race suddenly got interesting. In a new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, Republican Bruce Westerman still has a lead over his Democratic rival, James Lee Witt, but the margin has shrunk from 14 to two points.

In late July, Westerman led Witt 48-34%, but now his lead stands at 44-42% in a new survey of 607 likely Fourth District voters.

Q: In the race for Congress in your congressional district, the candidates are Republican Representative Bruce Westerman, Democrat James Lee Witt, and Libertarian Ken Hamilton. If the election for U.S. House were today, which candidate would you support?

44% Republican Representative Bruce Westerman
42% Democrat James Lee Witt
4% Libertarian Ken Hamilton
10% Undecided

The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll was conducted on Oct. 15 and 16, 2014 among 607 respondents among landline and cell phone users. It has a margin of error +/-4%. Demographics for the poll are provided in the methodology below.

“In July, we identified Witt as needing to shore up his Democratic base, especially among African American voters. He has made gains in that area,” said TB&P Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock. The latest round of polling also shows Third District Republican Cong. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, easily on his way to re-election against Libertarian Grant Brand. No Democrat or Green Party candidate filed for the office.

Q: In the race for Congress in your congressional district, the candidates are Libertarian Grant Brand and Republican Congressman Steve Womack. If the election for U.S. House were today, which candidate would you support?

19% Libertarian Grant Brand
64% Republican Congressman Steve Womack
17% Undecided

The Third District poll was also conducted on October 15 and 16, 2014 among 426 likely voters via landlines and cell phones. It has a margin of error of +/-4.7%.

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 4:

The most dramatic shift in our polling since July shows itself in the Fourth Congressional District. There, Democrat James Lee Witt, who still trails Republican nominee Representative Bruce Westerman, has shrunk a 14-point deficit in July to a two-point margin that is within the survey’s margin of error.

In July, Witt showed difficulty in coalescing the support of his fellow partisans and of African-American voters. That is no longer the case. Witt now has an 85%-6% lead with Democrats, nearly equaling Westerman’s 88%-6% lead with Republicans. As is the case with most Republican candidates in Arkansas, Westerman leads with Independents (53%-28%), but the historic Democratic advantage in the district in terms of partisan identification helps prop up Witt’s candidacy.

Similarly, Witt now leads among African-Americans 75%-5%, a major improvement from July when one in five African-Americans surveyed voiced support for Westerman. Even with this marked improvement, Witt shows some additional room to grow in his standing with African-Americans in the closing stages of the campaign. Former President Bill Clinton’s visits to several outposts in the Fourth District last weekend was clearly targeted at further cementing Witt’s standing with key parts of the Democratic base in the District.

Westerman is performing well with older voters (he leads those over 65 49%-43%) and with men (where he leads 46%-40%), but Witt has leads with women and voters under 65.

The race shows all the signs of being exceptionally close in the end but, at this stage, it appears that James Lee Witt, still with more funding for advertising than does Westerman for the stretch run, has a legitimate chance to pull the Fourth District back into the Democratic fold.

Congressional District 3:

There is little to be said in analyzing the Third District Congressional race where Representative Steve Womack is on his way to his third term in Congress. Womack leads with almost all demographic and political groups in the district with the exception of Democrats (who lack a clear option in the race) and the district’s small number of African-Americans.

The key question now: Does Womack plan to hold the safe district the remainder of his political career or consider a higher office in 2016 or 2018?

METHODOLOGY

The Fourth 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 through live contact calls among 607 likely Arkansas voters in the district.

Only respondents who positively identified that they planned to vote in the November 4th general election were allowed to complete the survey. 13% 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
42% Between the ages of 45 and 64
32% 65 or older

Ethnicity (weighted according to historical patterns):

16% African American
0.5% Asian American
78.5% Caucasian or White
2% Latino
3% Other

Party Identification (unweighted):

36% Democratic
28% Independent
28% Republican
7% Other

Gender (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote):

46% Male
54% Female

The Third Congressional District poll was conducted on Oct. 15 and 16, 2014 among 426 likely Arkansas voters in the district using IVR survey technology and through live contact calls. It has a margin of error of +/-4.7%.

Age (weighted according to 2010 statewide vote):

8% Under the age of 30
19% Between the ages of 30 and 44
42% Between the ages of 45 and 64
32% 65 or older

Ethnicity (unweighted):

3% African American
1% Asian American
93% Caucasian or White
0.5% Latino
2.5% Other

Party Identification (unweighted):

25% Democratic
34% Independent
36% Republican
5% Other

Gender (unweighted):

43% Male
57% 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.