The latest Arkansas Poll has been released, showing the state’s overwhelming support for both President Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.
Now in its 22nd year, the poll, which is designed and analyzed by University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry, aims to provide a snapshot of where the Arkansas public is for a given year. Parry intends the poll to “supply timely accurate and impartial public opinion information,” according to the poll’s website.
For the 2020 Arkansas Poll, Parry focused on the presidential and U.S. Senate races, as well as statewide ballot measures, COVID-19 outbreak approval ratings and intercultural competence.
Trump received significant support from the poll’s respondents, with 65 percent supporting him. Only 32 percent supported Biden and three percent supported “Other.” Support for Trump has only increased since he was elected to office in 2016. Trump had a 47 percent approval rating in 2017, which increased to 50 percent for 2018 and 2019. In 2020, his approval rating jumped to 58 percent and to 63 percent for likely voters. His disapproval numbers have decreased to 40 percent after spiking to 46 percent in 2018 and 45 percent in 2019.
“While it appears President Trump will win fewer states nationwide in 2020 then he did in 2016, Arkansas is likely to be one of the few states in which he actually increases his vote share. This speaks to Arkansas’s recent switch to the Republican brand, a wholesale reversal of fortune in just a decade’s time,” Parry said in a statement.
Arkansas Poll respondents also favored U.S. Senator Tom Cotton above his Libertarian Party candidate Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. Seventy-five percent of poll respondents said they would vote for Cotton, compared to 20 percent for Harrington. The “Other” category received five percent.
In 2014, Cotton swept incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor from office with 56.5 percent of the vote, compared to Pryor’s 39.5 percent. Third-party candidates Nathan LaFrance (Libertarian) and Mark Swaney (Green) each managed 2 percent. This victory put all of Arkansas’ U.S. Senate seats in Republican control.
Support for Trump and Cotton also dovetails with the poll’s record number of Republican respondents. For 2020, 44 percent of respondents identified as Republicans while only 20 percent identified as Democrats. By comparison, 26 percent of respondents identified as Republicans in 1999, the first year the Arkansas Poll was conducted, and 39 percent identified as Democrats.
The Republican numbers have risen since 1999, with minor dips and crests, but the percentages have consistently been in the 30s since 2014. The Democrat numbers have fallen for the high 30s range in the early to mid-2000s to the low 30s (and even 27 percent in 2010) from 2009 to 2015. Since 2016, the Democrat percentages have been in the 20s range.
The top concerns for Arkansas Poll respondents in 2020 were health care, the economy and politics. Twenty-four percent of respondents chose health care and 23 percent chose the economy as the biggest most important problems, while 20 percent chose politics. This was a jump for both health care and politics, as health care only had nine percent choose it as the most important problem in 2019 and only eight percent chose politics in 2019.
According to Parry, this increase in concern about politics reflects the national polarization in political discourse. Since 2017, politics has received small percentages of the vote for the “Most Important Problem” category. Four percent chose politics in 2017, while 13 percent chose it in 2018 and nine percent chose it in 2019. “If Republicans and Democrats agree on just one thing in 2020, it’s that the republic is in bad shape,” Parry said.
Parry also gauged respondents’ views on three statewide ballot measures and on the Black Lives Matter movement. The majority of respondents – 62 percent – supported an amendment extending a half-cent sales tax for roads and highways with 38 percent in opposition, and 60 percent supported an amendment to change term limits for state legislators while 40 percent opposed the measure. Fifty-nine percent of respondents opposed an amendment that would change the requirements for ballot initiatives and referrals; 41 percent supported the amendment.
Due to the police protests that occurred throughout 2020, Parry polled respondents on their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. There were 52 percent of respondents who strongly or somewhat opposed it, while 44 percent strongly or somewhat supported the movement.
To compile the Arkansas Poll, 804 telephone interviews were conducted with Arkansans from Oct. 9 through Oct. 21. The average age of respondents was 64; the average age in the state of Arkansas is 49. Of the total respondents, 55 percent were female and 45 percent were male. White respondents made up a majority of the poll at 81 percent, roughly approximately the 73 percent that makes up the state. Nine percent of the respondents were Black or African American, lower than the 16 percent in Arkansas. There were four percent multi-ethnic polled, along with two percent each of Hispanic, Native American or “Something Else, Don’t Know or Refused.”