The 14th annual University of Arkansas conducted survey provides a snapshot of a state whose residents remain worried about the economy but enthusiastic about their governor and confident in the overall direction of their state. In the presidential election, very likely voters prefer Gov. Mitt Romney to President Barack Obama, 58 percent to 31 percent.
The poll surveyed Arkansans about support for two measures that will appear on the November ballot: the first to increase the state sales tax to fund road construction and the second to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Among very likely voters, 53 percent favor the sales tax measure and 42 percent oppose. When it comes to permitting the medical use of marijuana in Arkansas for certain conditions, 53 percent of very likely voters oppose the measure and 43 percent favor it.
Each year the Arkansas Poll asks Arkansans their opinion on some current issues. For the first time this year, the poll asked questions related to the expansion of Medicaid and to the DREAM Act. The health care law allows states to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to more low income people, and the poll question went on to say: "The federal government will initially pay the entire cost of this expansion, and after several years, Arkansas will pay 10 percent and the federal government will pay 90 percent. Arkansas must decide whether to go ahead with this expansion." In response, 45 percent supported keeping Medicaid as is, with no addition federal funding and no change in who is covered. Expanding Medicaid was supported by 43 percent.
In the 2012 poll, there was little change in the approval ratings for other elected officials over the 2011 ratings. Arkansans are generally positive about the way their U.S. senators are handling the job: 45 percent of very likely voters approve of the performance of John Boozman, and 53 percent approve of Mark Pryor's performance. When asked about life in Arkansas, 73 percent of poll respondents agreed, "Arkansas is generally headed in the right direction."
As in past years, the economy leads the list of important issues for Arkansans. When asked to choose from a list of the issues most frequently cited in last year's poll, 47 percent of Arkansans named the economy as their chief concern. Following at a distance were health care at 15 percent, drugs at 12 percent and education at 11 percent. Taxes and immigration were in the single digits.
The 2012 Arkansas Poll was conducted by Issues & Answers Network. Between Oct. 9 and 14, interviewers completed 800 live telephone interviews among a random sample of adult Arkansans. Twenty percent of all respondents were cell phone users. Ten of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.
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.
The 2012 Arkansas Poll was sponsored by the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas.