Poll watching UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Poll watching UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 9:40 AM

The Arkansas Poll from the University of Arkansas is out.

As I predicted this morning, it continues to show a good spread for John McCain in Arkansas. The polling was spread over three weeks and I do wonder whether the numbers reflected any movement as the market has continued to crumble and Barack Obama enjoyed generally rising numbers elsewhere (yesterday's dead-heat AP poll a significant outlier)? Poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton would be leading McCain in Arkansas today. 54 percent said they would have voted for her.

PRESIDENT: The poll is out and you can see full details at the link. McCain is up by 13 over Obama, 49-36 (51-36 among registered voters) and, yes, it's still the economy at the forefront of most people's thinking. A significant numer of Dems favor McCain. Full summary on the jump.

GET A SEDATIVE FOR JERRY COX: 55 percent of the more than 1,600 polled OPPOSE INITIATED ACT 1, which would place limits on private adoptions. (55-38 was count.) Though a 2007 poll showed a bare majority of Arkansans supported a prohibition of adoption and foster parenting by gay people (that is the unstated aim of this initiated act), the 2008 poll shows a majority of people oppose a blanket prohibition against both gays and straight unmarried couples, as Act 1 would impose. Let us hope this good news prevails. VOTE NO ON INITIATED ACT 1.

Say "amen" to UA poli/sci prof Janine Parry:

“Personal feelings about an issue can be different from policy preferences,” Parry said. “After looking at this issue for several years, it seems to me that many Arkansans – both liberals and conservatives – are uncomfortable dictating the family arrangements of others, whether they agree with them or not.”

LOTTERY: It enjoys 65 percent support, just about what I would have predicted.

OTHER TIDBITS: 54 percent would have voted for Hillary Clinton for president -- a majority in all four congressional districts. But McCain led Obama in every district. Questions on racial attitudes show scant affection for affirmative action. A healthy majority (59 percent) support allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet certain criteria, such as learning English and paying back taxes. Even the Third District couldn't muster more than 40 percent in favor of the Initiated Act 1, which ought to send a message to the legislative candidates of both parties who've acted as if sufficient homophobia was the primary issue of concern to voters this year.

Respondents were asked party identification. The results by congressional district, Democrats first: 1) 38-20; 2) 35-23; 3) 30-30; 4) 36-21. Rest are independent, other or didn't say. Overall, it was 35-24 Dem.

NOTED: Blacks were underrepresented in the sample. A little more than 9 percent versus almost 16 percent of the state's population. That could swing the presidential results a few points.


Arkansas Poll: In Arkansas ‘It’s the Economy’ and It Is Also McCain

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In response to the 10th annual Arkansas Poll, a strong majority of Arkansans ranked the economy as the most important problem facing Arkansas. Although this finding lines up with national polling results – results that appear to give Sen. Barack Obama the edge in the presidential race – voters in Arkansas prefer Sen. John McCain to Obama, 49 percent to 36 percent.

 “While the economic slowdown is serving as an engine of sorts for the Obama campaign nationally, Arkansas voters – even Democrats – do not conform to this pattern,” said Janine Parry, the poll’s director and a professor of political science at the University of Arkansas. 

In the recent past, election results in Arkansas have paralleled voting in most Southern states, as well as in swing Midwestern states with many rural white voters. This year, the poll collected twice as many responses as usual, allowing researchers to examine results for each of the state’s four congressional districts and yielding regionally based information particularly useful in predicting swing state voter behavior.

Most Important Problem

In response to a closed-ended question – “Which of the following do you think is the most important problem or issue facing people in Arkansas today?” – an unprecedented majority of Arkansans named the economy. Economic issues topped last year’s open-ended question as well with 29 percent of respondents selecting it over education and healthcare.  

“While the economy has been named the most serious issue in most previous Arkansas Polls, this year, 56 percent of respondents named it the most important problem facing Arkansas,” Parry said. “In our 10 years of polling, no issue has ever been ranked that high. Previously, the highest percentage we had found was in 2005 when 31 percent viewed the economy as the main issue.”

The Election

The economy is a pressing issue for both McCain and Obama supporters.  Fifty-four percent of respondents favoring McCain and 61 percent of Obama supporters selected the economy from among six issues presented. A similar modest gap was evident on the second most pressing issue: health care. Eighteen percent of Obama supporters placed health care as their first priority as compared with 11 percent of McCain’s supporters. Roughly one in 10 respondents of either camp cited education.

“While the magnitude of people’s economic concerns is unusual, there’s actually a lot of consistency here,” Parry said. “Not only do the bread and butter trio of the economy, health care, and education remain foremost in people’s minds as in years’ past, but they hold true – in the same order – for Arkansas Republicans and Democrats.”

When voter preferences for president are narrowed to registered voters only, support for McCain rises to 51 percent while remaining at 36 percent for Obama. By congressional district, support for Obama varies between 35 and 38 percent. The 4th Congressional District in southern Arkansas shows the strongest support for McCain at 53 percent, while 46 percent of voters support McCain in the 1st Congressional District in northeast Arkansas.

Among those who identify themselves as Republicans, 90 percent support McCain. Obama is supported by 67 percent of Democrats, with 16 percent of Democrats not reporting whom they plan to support. In comparison, exit polls in the 2004 presidential election showed that 82 percent of Democrats supported John Kerry. Independents, who are nearly a third of the Arkansas electorate, are breaking for McCain, 53 to 30 percent.

“The comparatively low enthusiasm among Arkansas Democrats for Obama’s candidacy is probably a consequence of several factors,” said Pearl Ford, Parry’s colleague in political science and a collaborator on this year’s poll. “The fact that Clinton earned her strongest support here has to play a significant role. Many rural white voters in particular seem to be having a hard time connecting with Obama. That’s certainly working to McCain’s advantage.”

Another factor, Ford noted, was the late arrival of the Obama campaign in Arkansas.

“The first campaign office opened only last month, and Obama has never visited the state. As a result there was limited opportunity for voters to become familiar with Obama or for the campaign to develop a strong ground organization, which has been critical in swing states and red states that we may see turn blue,” Ford said.

Hillary Clinton had a strong base of support in Arkansas, with 54 percent reporting they would have voted for her for president. Of those voters, 57 percent are backing Obama, with 26 percent going for McCain. That leaves 17 percent who are still undecided or declined to specify.

This year the poll included a series of questions about race relations as part of a research project conducted by Ford. She asked several standard polling questions related to opinions about opportunities and hurdles for Black people in the United States.

“The results will be used to further understand voter attitudes toward Obama, the first African American candidate to run as the nominee of a major party, and to gauge the potential for African American politicians to run successful campaigns for local and state offices in the future,” Ford said.

Ratings for the state’s national senators and representatives remained positive and stable, while Gov. Beebe’s approval rating climbed to 74 percent, a record in 10 years of statewide polling. In line with national ratings, President Bush’s approval rating was 27 percent, “which is noteworthy for a state that cast its electoral votes for Bush in both 2000 and 2004,” Parry said.


When asked whether they favored or opposed Arkansas Proposed Initiative Act 1, which would prevent anyone who cohabitates outside a valid marriage from adopting or fostering a child, 55 percent opposed the initiative. Some proponents have advocated for Act 1 to prevent adoption and foster parenting by gays and lesbians, and the 2007 Arkansas Poll had revealed that 53 percent of Arkansans supported prohibiting adoption and fostering by gays and lesbians. Even so, when it comes to voting for Act 1, Arkansans appear to be rejecting a blanket prohibition.

“Personal feelings about an issue can be different from policy preferences,” Parry said. “After looking at this issue for several years, it seems to me that many Arkansans – both liberals and conservatives – are uncomfortable dictating the family arrangements of others, whether they agree with them or not.”

Parry said that the results of previous Arkansas polls suggested that while Arkansans oppose casino gambling, a lottery – especially one connected to funding for education – would fare well. Bearing this out, 65 percent of those polled favored the proposed lottery amendment.

When it comes to the hot button issue of gun control laws, a greater percentage of Arkansans supported no change in the laws – 54 percent in 2008, up from 47 percent last year. Those who believe gun control laws should be stricter dropped to 29 percent from 37 percent in 2007. There was little change in the numbers who thought laws should be less strict.


While the Arkansas Poll usually collects a statewide sample of about 750 people, this year’s sample size is more than twice as large. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 21, the university’s Survey Research Center completed 1,628 telephone surveys among a random sample of adult Arkansans.

On most questions, the survey's margin of error statewide is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, meaning that the researchers are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 2.5 percentage points in either direction of the result the sample produced. At the congressional district level, and for a handful of questions asked of only a portion of the statewide sample, the margin of error is 4.9 percentage points.

To assess the representativeness of the sample drawn for the poll, the Arkansas Poll team publishes what most polling organizations do not, a comparison of survey respondents' key demographic characteristics to those of the state as a whole. This information is available on the poll Web site. A full summary report of the 2008 poll results and data from past Arkansas Polls are available at http://new-www3.uark.edu/ARKPoll/.

The 2008 Arkansas Poll is sponsored by the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. The poll was designed and analyzed by political scientists Janine Parry and Bill Schreckhise. Results of previous polls from the years 1999 through 2007 can be accessed online at http://www3.uark.edu/arkpoll/.

A Web cast of the news conference will be posted on http://researchfrontiers.uark.edu/13816.php on Friday, Oct. 24.


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