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Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll: Support For Abortion Limits, Medicaid Expansion

Popular support seen for the two controversial topics.
The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College survey of Arkansas voters tested a battery of questions related to abortion, Medicaid, guns, a steel mill superproject and Arkansas political figures.

During the next several days, Talk Business and Hendrix College will be releasing various questions from this poll of 675 Arkansas voters. The survey was conducted statewide and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%.

“We’re right around the midway point of the legislative session and we wanted to test some of the issues being hotly debated as well as get a gauge for what Arkansans think of their current political leadership,” said Talk Business executive editor Roby Brock. “These results we’ll be rolling out provide some fascinating insight into voter attitudes. I suspect elected officials will find the results useful in making some of their political and policy decisions.”

ABORTION & MEDICAID
Today, we explore the subjects of abortion and Medicaid, which show popular support for the two controversial topics.

On Thursday (Feb. 21), the Arkansas House of Representatives is expected to consider SB 134, the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway). The pro-life measure would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an abdominal ultrasound and if a heartbeat was detected an abortion would be prohibited with certain exceptions.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: The General Assembly is also considering an array of bills related to abortion. One such measure would require a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, medical emergency, and if a mother’s life is in danger. Do you favor or oppose such legislation?

60%  Favor
33%  Oppose
7%    Don’t Know


Our second question for release today examines the major budget and public policy question of potentially expanding the state’s Medicaid program. The U.S. Supreme Court decision last June on the federal health care law gave states the option of whether or not to expand Medicaid. Arkansas lawmakers have indicated positions from embracing full expansion to opposing it to finding some flexibility for a partial expansion.

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: In the current legislative session, the General Assembly is considering an expansion of Medicaid to cover medical expenses for individuals living just above the poverty level. The expansion would be fully funded for several years by the federal government with the state incurring up to 10% of the cost later.  Arkansas has the choice whether or not to expand its Medicaid program to include an additional 250,000 Arkansas residents. Should Arkansas expand or not expand Medicaid?

53.5%  Expand
40%     Not Expand
7.5%    Don’t Know

ANALYSIS

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

Abortion: Of the various abortion limitations that have been considered by the legislature, the most restrictive is that by Sen. Jason Rapert. The so-called “heartbeat bill” has been amended, but would still make illegal most abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Still, 60% of Arkansas voters support the measure showing the decided pro-life tilt of the Arkansas electorate.

Support for limiting abortion access in the state is shown across all age and demographic groups. Slightly larger percentages of male voters support the measure, but 58% of women do as well. However, a plurality of Democrats oppose the measure (50% opposition), while all other partisan groups support it.

Medicaid: By all accounts, the big issue of the 2013 legislative session is whether Arkansas will expand Medicaid to cover Arkansans up to 138% of the poverty level.

Governor Beebe, most Democrats, and some more moderate Republicans have all staked out support for expansion while more conservative Republicans have voiced concerns about the step.

Our survey indicates that the majority (53.5%) of Arkansans support the expansion while 40% oppose it. This represents change in the pro-expansion direction since the last time we polled the issue just after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act last summer. Then, a plurality of Arkansans (46.5%) opposed expansion while 42.5% supported it.

The expected partisan splits show themselves on the issue. While 82% of Arkansas Democrats support expansion of the program, Republicans oppose it by a 57%-41% margin.

Independents are more evenly divided with 45% supporting and 49% opposing expansion. With the exception of those aged 30 to 44, all age and racial groups favor expansion but a decided gender gap emerges on the issue with men evenly split on the topic while women favor expansion by a 57%-35% margin.

POLL METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.8%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 675 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.

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