A University of Arkansas poll released Wednesday found a strong preference among Arkansans for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to win the presidential election over President Barack Obama but showed a much more divided sentiment when it comes to a pair of measures on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The 14th annual Arkansas Poll also depicted a state whose residents are worried about the economy but are enthusiastic about their governor and confident in the direction of the state, poll director Janine Parry said in a statement.
In addition, the poll found that 43 percent of Arkansans want to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to more low-income people, while 45 percent wanted to keep the program as it is, with no additional federal funding and no change in who is covered.
When asked about allowing illegal aliens who graduate from high school in the state to qualify for in-state college tuition, 58 percent disapproved, while 33 percent favored granting DREAM Act recipients in-state tuition.
The poll also asked “very likely” voters about support for two measures on the Nov. 6 ballot: the first to increase the state sales tax to fund road construction; and the second to legalize the medical use of marijuana for certain conditions. Among those surveyed, 53 percent favored the sales-tax measure, while 42 percent opposed it, UA said. When it comes to the medical-marijuana measure, 53 percent opposed the measure, while 43 percent favored it.
For the presidential race, “very likely” voters in Arkansas favored Romney over Obama by a wide margin, 58 percent to 31 percent.
“To the surprise of no one, there’s at least a 20 point gap between Obama and Romney among Arkansas voters,” Parry said. “A more interesting finding may be the continued enthusiasm for Gov. Mike Beebe. Since 2007, approval of Gov. Beebe has never dipped below 70 percent. That level of support for a Democratic governor in a Southern state is remarkable in this political climate.”
There was little change in the approval ratings for other elected officials since 2011, UA said. Among “very likely” Arkansan voters, 45 percent approved of Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman’s performance and 53 percent approved of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat.
When asked about life in Arkansas, 73 percent of poll respondents agreed, “Arkansas is generally headed in the right direction,” UA said.
The economy again led the list of most important issues to Arkansans, with 47 percent naming the economy as their chief concern. Health care was listed as the top priority by 15 percent of respondents, drugs by 12 percent and education by 11 percent. Taxes and immigration followed in the single digits.
The poll, conducted by Issues & Answers Network from Oct. 9-14, randomly surveyed 800 adult state residents in live telephone interviews and carried a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Twenty percent of all respondents were cell phone users, and 10 of the interviews were conducted in Spanish, UA said.
Data from current and past polls are available at http://www.uark.edu/depts/plscinfo/partners/arkpoll.php.