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Annual Arkansas Poll shows widespread support for death penalty

by Brandon Riddle | November 4, 2015 at 11:29 a.m.

An annual poll conducted last month found widespread support for the death penalty, at a time when state law regarding secrecy of execution drugs is being challenged.

The Arkansas Poll, a survey of views from Arkansas voters on a variety of political and lifestyle topics, was conducted between Oct. 19 and Oct. 25 and released by the University of Arkansas on Wednesday. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

According to the data, 71 percent of respondents supported capital punishment for people convicted of murder, with 19 percent opposed. The figure in support is about 10 percent higher than the national average seen in Gallup polling.

Support was strongest among men, white voters, Republicans and conservatives, state polling showed.

Arkansas' annual poll found that 78 percent of men were in favor of the death penalty, compared with 67 percent of women. It also showed that more whites than members of minority groups supported it, 76 percent to 50 percent.

"What I find interesting is that support for the death penalty seems to be higher across the board in Arkansas; women, minorities, Democrats and even liberals support the death penalty at levels above the national averages for these groups,” Rodney Engen, UA associate professor of sociology, said in a statement.

The poll also presented data as state voters begin to make early decisions regarding in-state and federal races in the 2016 elections.

Approval for U.S. Sen. John Boozman remained consistent with 2014 results at 38 percent this year. Boozman is focusing on a re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor.

Ahead of the coming U.S. presidential election, 42 percent of Arkansas survey takers said they would vote for a Republican. Thirty-two percent said they favored a Democratic candidate, and 26 percent were unsure.

Respondents were asked about their views on gun control. Of those surveyed, 39 percent supported stricter gun control laws while 18 percent believe laws should be less strict on gun ownership. Thirty-six percent favored no changes in gun control.

On a related topic, 51 percent of those surveyed said they support an open carry law, with 40 percent in opposition.

The poll marked a shift in support for a marijuana ballot measure in the state at 68 percent in favor this year, an increase from 44 percent in 2012 data.

The Arkansas Poll surveyed a random sample of 800 adult voters in the state by telephone, including 200 cellphone users. Forty-four percent of those polled were male while 56 percent were female.


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