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Poll: Job Approvals for Beebe, Pryor, Legislature Differ

Beebe’s and the legislature’s numbers have both improved from nearly a year ago.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -  Gov. Mike Beebe (D) remains immensely popular with Arkansas voters who give his job performance a supermajority thumbs-up. The Arkansas legislature and U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D) remain in positive territory, but with much closer job approval-disapproval margins.

The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll of 675 Arkansas voters gauges public opinion on the job performance of the two top Democrats in state politics and the institution of the Arkansas General Assembly.

“At the near half-way point in the session, it’s good to see where Gov. Beebe and state lawmakers stand with voters. Beebe has a natural advantage as a well-known individual political figure over the more generic institution of a Republican-controlled legislature,” said Roby Brock, executive editor of Talk Business Arkansas.

“Senator Pryor will be a big GOP target in 2014,” Brock said. “With that in mind, we’ll be looking to gauge his prospects going forward in future polling.”

Survey respondents were asked:

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Mike Beebe is doing?
68% Approve
19% Disapprove
13% Don’t Know

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas legislature is doing?
43% Approve
33% Disapprove
24% Don’t Know

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Senator Mark Pryor is doing?
41.5% Approve
35% Disapprove
23.5% Don’t Know

Beebe’s and the legislature’s numbers have both improved from nearly a year ago. Last March, Beebe had a 64% approval rating to 21.5% disapproval. The Arkansas legislature, which had just completed its fiscal session, had 35% voter approval for its job performance to 33% disapproving and 32% undecided.

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:

Beebe
Governor Beebe’s extraordinary approval ratings, shown throughout his governorship, continue in this present survey. Indeed, his 68% statewide is particularly impressive as combative partisanship has shown itself in Arkansas state politics in recent weeks. Even 57% of Republicans approve of the performance of the Democratic governor. Beebe performs well with all demographic groups, although younger voters are slightly more cool to him. Looking at his approval geographically, his approval in the traditionally Republican Third Congressional District matches his statewide numbers.

Legislature
While Beebe is overwhelmingly popular among Arkansans, the Republican-controlled legislature is seem more ambivalently by the state’s voters. The legislature shows the same lukewarm plurality support across key demographic groups. Although women and Second District voters are evenly split on the General Assembly’s work, the only real divergence in patterns of support is on partisan grounds. A healthy majority of Republicans (58%) support the legislature’s performance, while a plurality of Democrats oppose its work (42% disapprove, 31% approve). In comparing Beebe’s approval numbers with the legislature, there is some suggestion that the Governor is well-positioned if the two branches go head-to-head in the closing weeks of the legislative session on key issues like Medicaid.

Pryor
A plurality of Arkansas voters see U.S. Senator Mark Pryor’s performance in a positive light. While he has avoided the Washington, D.C., baggage of federal officials somewhat, our survey also indicates that his approval ratings make him vulnerable to some degree heading into 2014.  A strong correlation is shown between age and Pryor’s approval with the youngest Arkansas voters most critical of him. While a majority of African-Americans give Pryor positive marks, the 23% disapproving indicates that he is underperforming among the states’ most loyal Democratic base. Democrats support him by a 62-12% margin, but a plurality of both Republicans (by 47-33%) and Independents (by 42-35%) disapprove of his performance. Finally, Pryor is lagging in both the First and Second Congressional Districts, both traditionally strong areas for Democrats. Pryor enters 2014 in stronger shape than Blanche Lincoln did in her 2010 attempt at re-election, but he shows some of the same weakness as did his former Democratic colleague.

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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