Economic Worries At the Top in Arkansas Poll

The University of Arkansas' 13th annual Arkansas Poll, released Wednesday, shows economic worries at the top of Arkansans' concerns and mixed approval ratings of public officials.

"We're seeing concern about the economy at the highest levels by far in the 13-year history of the Arkansas Poll," said Janine Parry, UA professor of political science, said in a news release.

"The economy has led the list of problems for Arkansans since the 2007 poll, but this year's results were striking. Fully 67 percent of all respondents and 70 percent of the ‘very likely' voters named the economy the most important issue facing Arkansas."

The UA said that other issues, such as education, health care and drugs, were named most pressing by 5 percent or fewer respondents.

Taxes were cited as the most important issue by only 3 percent of respondents, the UA said. And 63 percent of all respondents and 65 percent of "very likely" voters favored a state bond issue, based on revenue from existing fuel taxes, to support improvements to interstate highways in Arkansas.

Click here to read more about the poll. And click here to download the summary report (PDF).

Approval Ratings

The poll also gathered approval ratings for public officials.

Gov. Mike Beebe continued to receive high ratings with 72 percent of respondents approving of how he handles his job.

Approval ratings for the state's U.S. senators, John Boozman and Mark Pryor, held close to 2010 levels, the US said. Of "very likely" voters, 44 percent approved of Boozman's performance, and 48 percent approved of Pryor's performance.

Among "very likely" voters in Arkansas, 31 percent approve of Barack Obama's performance as president, the same as in 2010. His disapproval rating increased from 62 to 64 percent.

Obama's approval rating among "very likely"Democratic voters was 63 percent, compared to 7 percent among Republicans and 22 percent among Independents.

Party Affiliation

For the second year, the poll suggested a move away from Democratic Party identification and toward either the Republican Party or no affiliation.

But the poll found small gains by both Republicans and Democrats and a drop in people who called themselves Independents. In 2010, 41 percent of "very likely" voters called themselves Independent; this year, that number fell to 31 percent.

"There's simply a lot of volatility in partisan identification among Arkansans right now," Parry said. "Both parties' affiliates have returned to relatively normal levels, but independents remain rightward-leaning, which is likely to again advantage Republican candidates in 2012."

The 2011 Arkansas Poll was conducted by Eastern Research Services. Between Oct. 14 and 19, interviewers completed 800 telephone surveys among a random sample of adult Arkansans. Twenty percent of all respondents spoke with the center's interviewers via cell phone. Nearly 2 percent of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.

The survey's margin of error statewide is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.