Results from the 15th annual Arkansas Poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, found respondants blaming President Barack Obama and the Democrats for the partial government shutdown.
The poll, conducted from Oct. 10-17, also showed declining approval ratings for Arkansas' two Senators, Republican John Boozman and Democrat Mark Pryor, who faces a tough re-election challenge by U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Respondants were also "dramatically more pessimistic about the future while continuing the trend toward identifying as Republican-leaning Independents. And the economy remains the most important problem facing Arkansans.
A summary of the poll, its questions and full results are available here.
Among the findings:
- When it came to the partial federal government shutdown, Arkansans blamed the president and Democrats. A full 37 percent of respondents and 39 percent of likely voters blamed President Obama and the Democrats for the shutdown. Only 26 percent of respondents and 27 percent of likely voters blamed the Republicans in Congress.
- John Boozman received his lowest approval ratings yet, 34 percent of likely voters, down from 45 percent last year. His disapproval rating jumped to 29 percent of likely voters from 18 percent last year.
- Only 34 percent of likely voters approved of Mark Pryor’s performance, down from 53 percent last year. His disapproval ratings were also dramatically higher, with 44 percent of likely voters disapproving of his performance, up from 21 percent last year.
- Both current senators are polling well below the Arkansas Poll numbers for former Sen. Blanche Lincoln during her last year of office. She was voted out of office in 2010. At her lowest in 2009, 43 percent approved and 34 percent disapproved of her performance.
- Gov. Mike Beebe's approval rating declined from 72 percent to 68 percent of likely voters; the increase in his disapproval rating was "not statistically significant."
The poll found the 2014 elections "too close to call" but that likely voters "were more likely to choose someone from the Republican Party" in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives or state Legislature for which no candidates were specified. In all, the poll found likely voters "leaning right."
Janine Parry, who oversees the poll, said results pose a key question about how permanent Arkansas' political shift will be.
"The question is does the rightward shift in Arkansas voters solidify to continue beyond this particular president, who continues to be peculiarly unpopular here, or can the Democrats white-knuckle it to 2016 and win back at least some of the brand loyalty they enjoyed for more than 100 years?" she said. "Or is Republican ascendance permanent?"
Once again Arkansans gave low ratings to Obama. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters approve of the president, 66 percent disapprove.
The poll also asked about the 2016 presidential election, asking a speculative question that showed 44 percent of likely voters choosing Hillary Clinton over a Republican nominee, with 42 percent choosing the Republican.
- When asked about life in Arkansas, only 63 percent of respondents agreed that Arkansas is generally headed in the right direction, 10 points lower than last year. The only time confidence levels have polled this low was in 2003, when the rate was also 63 percent.
- A "historic record low" of 14 percent of people reported being better off financially as compared to a year ago, down from 23 percent last year.
- Only 18 percent of respondents expected their financial situation to be better next year, the lowest level of confidence since this question was first asked in 1999.
- An "unprecedented" 24 percent of respondents expect finances to be worse, up from 13 percent last year, and well above the most pessimistic past response of 20 percent in 2010.
The poll also found less than a quarter of Arkansans supporting marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.
When it comes to the statement "There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship," only 46 percent of Arkansans agreed, the first time the response has dipped below 50 percent.
The poll also asked whether gays and lesbians should have equal rights in job opportunities. Eighty-one percent of likely voters agreed that they should.
For the first time, the poll asked about support for granting in-state tuition to graduates of Arkansas high schools who are in the country illegally.
Thirty-six percent of likely voters approved of that option; 54 percent disapproved.
Also: 59 percent of Arkansans support allowing undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain criteria, similar to the 56 percent that supported it last year.
The poll was conducted by Issues & Answers Network between Oct. 10 and 17 through800 live telephone interviews among a random sample of adult Arkansans. Twenty percent of all respondents were cell phone users.
The survey’s margin of error statewide is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, meaning that researchers are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 3.5 percentage points in either direction of the result the poll’s sample produced.