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Poll: Overwhelming Support For Arkansas Voter ID And Term Timits; Tort Reform 2-To-1 Against


Arkansas voters overwhelmingly favor constitutional proposals to require voter ID and to tighten term limits, and by a 2-to-1 margin they oppose a measure to alter civil lawsuits and court rules.

The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 1,701 statewide likely voters was conducted on Sept. 5-7, 2018 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.4. The statewide survey sample is a combination of four Congressional District polls that achieved more than 400 respondents per district. Automated calls and live calls were conducted.

“I have a great deal of confidence in these polling numbers due to the breadth of our four surveys and the fact that we saw consistent results on statewide questions across all four Congressional Districts,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics editor-in-chief.

Issue 1, also known as the tort reform amendment, may wind up being the most high-profile of the five amendment proposals on this November’s ballot. The measure was referred by the legislature and was recently kicked off the ballot by a circuit court judge in Pulaski County, but is being appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Q. The Arkansas General Assembly has referred a constitutional amendment to voters, called Issue 1, that will cap attorney fees, limit damages in personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death lawsuits, and give the legislature the authority to control the rules of court procedure.  If the election were today, would you vote for or against this constitutional amendment?

25% For
47% Against
28% Don’t Know

Issue 2, the voter ID amendment, was also referred by the state legislature. It has no formal opposition. Issue 3, the term limits amendment, was a citizen-led initiative. A lawsuit to strike it from the ballot is pending.

Q. Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment, referred by the General Assembly, that would require voters in Arkansas to present valid photo identification when casting a ballot. If the election were today, would you vote for or against Issue 2?

71% For
21% Against
8% Don’t Know

Q. A constitutional amendment, called Issue 3, will be on the ballot this November to limit the terms that members of the Arkansas legislature can serve. If passed, this amendment would impose a lifetime limit of 10 years of service for members of the Arkansas General Assembly, along with specific limits of service in each house. If the election were today, would you vote for or against this amendment?

67% For
18% Against
15% Don’t Know

“It would appear that the voter ID and term limits proposals are well on their way to becoming state law unless legal appeals upend them,” Brock said. “With millions of dollars still to be spent on messaging the pros and cons of Issue 1, I expect those numbers to shift.”

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:

“Based on our survey analysis of three proposed constitutional amendments, one of them seems unquestionably poised to pass. Issue 2, which would grant the General Assembly enhanced power to institute voter identification laws, is favored by seven in ten voters and has no organized opposition. The measure, which, according to crosstabs, is popular with all voting groups except Democratic partisans (who oppose it by a 49%-38% margin); it shows majority support even among persons of color who have often been identified as targets of voter disenfranchisement as a result of the implementation of similar measures in other states. Even more important than the measure’s overwhelming public support and lack of organized opposition is the fact that the measure is not being challenged in court either on the basis of its substance or the process through which it came to the ballot.

“In Arkansas, ballot measures must not just make the ballot via either legislative vote or by petition, but they also often have to get over the hurdle of nearly inevitable challenges in the state’s courtrooms before voters get to have their say on them.

“A second measure that shows similar popular support — the term limits measure known as Issue 3 — has to get through such litigation before votes on it can be counted. In an atmosphere there a series of legislative scandals show themselves on the state’s newspapers daily, a majority of every voting group supports the amendment. Somewhat ironically considering the GOP control of state government, the amendment runs most weakly with Democrats (at 54% support) and with African-Americans (at 55%); those are groups who have historically opposed term limits and that continues even with a change in the state’s political power structure. Issue 3’s passage would have major ramifications in the balance of power in state government. We will wait to see whether a special master raises serious concerns about the signatures that paved the way to the ballot for the measure. Our survey results suggest this lawsuit is the only real barrier to the severe term limits measure being passed quite easily in November.

“Finally, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge has removed Issue 1, the so-called ‘tort reform’ amendment that also expands the General Assembly’s power over shaping judicial rules of procedure, from the ballot because of its complexity; its proponents are appealing to the state Supreme Court.

“Unlike Issue 3, our polling indicates that Issue 1 faces challenges with the voters even if it does remain alive after the completion of litigation, as a plurality of voters oppose it at this stage of the campaign. Opposition to the measure is particularly strong among voters in the Second Congressional District (55% opposition), Democrats (61% opposition), and African-Americans (50% opposition). However, just as surprisingly, the measure is not performing well among groups who have historically favored tort reform such as Republicans (a plurality of 37% oppose the measure); this tepidness among GOPers may be shaped by the opposition of pro-life groups because of concerns that the measure writes a value for a life into the state constitution. It is important to note that the proponents of the measure have not begun widescale advertising on it, waiting until voters begin paying attention after Labor Day and until the litigation status is clearer; it appears those pro-business groups do face an uphill battle if they do get a chance at the ballot box. If it’s not struck from the ballot, we will continue to track opinion on Issue 1.”

Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

Issue 1
“With TV ads just starting to hit the airwaves, there remains a significant amount of messaging yet to reach voters that could change the numbers, but these results suggest that Issue 1 proponents have a considerable amount of ground to make up before election day. According to the survey, Independents oppose the amendment 2-1, while Republican voters are roughly split. To win, proponents will need a strong boost of support from both of those groups to account for solid opposition among Democrats (61.2%). Opposition to the amendment is lower, and undecideds are higher, among females and younger voters (18-44), suggesting that those demographics may offer the best opportunities to shore up support.”

Issue 2
“While it’s a politically charged and controversial issue, voter ID polls strongly among the Arkansas electorate with 7 in 10 voters indicating that they would vote for Issue 2. Many opponents of voter ID laws understandably have principled objections to the requirement to show ID at the polls due to historical impediments that were used to restrict minority voting. Yet the lion’s share of Arkansas voters, including 55% of African-American voters and 62% of Latino voters in this survey, appear to view the issue more on a practical basis rather than from that historical perspective. Independent voters strongly support voter ID (70%), and as expected Issue 2 gets high marks (90%) from Republicans. In the absence of some unexpected funded opposition, this issue should pass comfortably in November.”

Issue 3
“The term limits amendment, barring a legal disqualification, appears to be on track for passage on November 6th. While two-thirds of Arkansas voters support the amendment, it receives its strongest support from Republicans (72.2%) and Independents (72.8%). The softest support for Issue 3 comes from Democrats (54.5%) and female voters (62.0%). With no weak spots to exploit among any demographic category, there doesn’t appear to be much room to drive up opposition at the ballot box, making a legal disqualification it’s best chance for defeat.”

Coon and Barth appeared on Talk Business & Politics this week to discuss Issues 1, 2 and 3.

This survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 5-7, 2018. It is the combination of four Congressional District polls and has a margin of error of +/-2.4%. The poll was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 1,701 likely voters in Arkansas. Only respondents who positively identified that they planned to vote in the November 6th general election were allowed to complete the survey. Approximately 23% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone with live callers.

Age (weighted according to 2014 exit polls)
12% Less than 30 years old
24% Between 30 and 44 years old
39% Between 45 and 64 years old
24% 65 or older

10% African-American
1% Asian-American
83% White
2% Latino
4% Other/Don’t know

Party ID
26.5% Democrat
38.5% Republican
26% Independent
9% Other

Gender (weighted according to 2014 exit polls)
52% Female
48% Male

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.