Arkansas Poll: Politics Steady, Most Support Overhaul of Campaign Finance

by Sarah Campbell-Miller  on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 9:22 am   3 min read

Most Arkansans believe that the system of funding political campaigns in the U.S. should be "completely rebuilt," according to the 19th annual Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas and released Tuesday.

This was the first year the poll included a question about campaign finance, and it found that 55 percent of respondents believe that "the system has so much wrong we need to completely rebuild it." This falls in line with nationwide enthusiasm for a total overhaul, researchers said in a news release.

Nine percent of respondents said "the system works pretty well, only minor changes needed" while 25 percent agreed "there are some good things but fundamental changes are needed."

As in past years, the poll showed that partisanship in Arkansas remained steady, with 29 percent of respondents identifying as Republican, 24 percent as Democrat and 35 percent as independent. 

But 26 percent of the respondent who identified themselves as independents said they lean closer to Democrats, up from 18 percent in 2016. 

The poll was designed and analyzed by Janine Parry, a UA professor of political science. 

"I'm unconvinced either party should get too worked up about this," Parry said in a news release. "But it does mark a reversal from the dramatic move to the right we've seen among Arkansas independents since 2010, a move that has flipped election outcomes upside down. So, it's something to watch as we approach the next big round of state elections in 2018."

The poll, sponsored by the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics & Society at the UA, was conducted statewide Oct. 12-22 and included 801 telephone interviews, 320 of which were to cell phones. The survey's margin of error was +/- 3.5 percentage points.

More: The full 2017 Arkansas Poll Summary Report is available here.

The economy remains the biggest issue for Arkansas voters, while concern for health care and other issues, including crime, politics and education, dropped slightly from last year. Respondents raised a new concern this year as well: 8 percent identified drugs as the most important issue facing Arkansans.

The poll also found that 84 percent of Arkansans think homosexuals should have equal rights to employment, and 78 percent think they should have equal rights when it comes to housing. Significantly fewer support equal treatment in adoption (43 percent) and marriage (35 percent). "Support for housing and employment rights has been overwhelming nationally – at least 85 percent – for at least 10 years," Briana Kordsmeier, a public policy graduate student that helped with the poll, said in the news release. "Marriage and adoption rights also now have the support of a strong majority of Americans. The average Arkansan is far more reluctant than the average American to support equal treatment for gays and lesbians in family arrangements in particular."

Arkansans' attitudes also deviated dramatically from a nationwide pattern when it came to the death penalty: 72 percent of respondents said they support the death penalty for murder convictions. 

"Nationally, support for the death penalty has been declining since the mid-1990s," Parry said. "In fact, the Pew Research Center now shows that just under half of all Americans support the death penalty."

Approval ratings were flat for Gov. Asa Hutchinson (62 percent), Sen. John Boozman (39 percent) and Sen. Tom Cotton (48 percent). Hutchinson's ratings went up by 2 percentage points. Boozman's went up by 4 percentage points, and Cotton's went up by 3 percentage points, compared to last year's poll.

Sixty-four percent of respondents feel that Arkansas is headed in the right direction, and 54 percent said that they are about the same financially as they were a year ago. Half think they will be about the same next year.

The poll also included questions about climate change, abortion and gun control.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents favor stricter gun control laws, compared to 31 percent last year. 

But attitudes on abortion were consistent with the 2015 poll. Forty-five percent, compared to 46 percent in 2015, favor making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion.

Also, most Arkansans said they did not believe climate change would pose a serious threat to them or their way of life in their lifetime. Sixty-one percent said so, compared to 64 percent last year.



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