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Poll: Arkansans Share Opinions On Mask Mandates, Corporate Vaccine Requirements

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Arkansas voters have strong opinions on mask mandates and corporate vaccine requirements, according to the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll.

In a survey of 916 likely Arkansas voters conducted Sept. 20-22, 2021, participants were asked:

Q: Last month, a circuit judge ruled that the Arkansas law prohibiting mask mandates in public schools was unconstitutional. Which of the following positions on face masks in schools is closest to your view?

29% – The state should require face masks to be worn in all public schools
46% – Local school boards should have the authority to decide whether to require face masks in public schools
22.5% – The state should prohibit schools from requiring face masks
2.5% – Don’t know

Q: Shifting now to the workplace, should companies be allowed to require their employees to show proof of vaccination for coronavirus/COVID-19 in order to work if there were appropriate religious exemptions, or should companies not be allowed to require their employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19?

51% – Companies should be allowed to require COVID vaccines for employees
43% – Companies should be prohibited from requiring COVID vaccines for employees
6% – Don’t know

“These two COVID-19 controversies have dominated political and policy discussions in Arkansas in recent months. There are some surprising and interesting consensus points on these topics,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics editor-in-chief.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is considering an appeal to a lower court’s ruling that struck down a state law banning mask mandates at the local level. For now, an injunction has allowed local jurisdictions to impose mask mandates in schools.

Arkansas lawmakers are considering options regarding vaccine mandates in private workplaces amidst a Presidential executive order that would broadly require vaccines in businesses employing more than 100 workers and those doing business with the federal government.

Talk Business & Politics released poll results on Sunday regarding President Joe Biden’s and the U.S. Supreme Court’s job performance. Later this week, more poll results will be released on a wide range of topics including Gov. Hutchinson’s and the Arkansas legislature’s job approval, the Texas abortion law, abolishing the state income tax, and the legislature’s ability to call themselves into session.

ANALYSIS

Talk Business & Politics seeks bipartisan input in the construction and analysis of its polls.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, is active in Democratic Party politics and helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“As the Arkansas Supreme Court prepares to consider the appeal of Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s ruling that Act 1002 that bars school districts from implementing mask mandates for students and staff, our polling on the issue shows that Arkansas’s voters – including the majority of Republican voters – oppose the ban.

“In the survey, we provided voters three options on the topic of masks in schools: the establishment of a statewide policy requiring masks, the statewide ban on mask mandates (as expressed in Act 1002), and leaving the decision with local schools boards (as resulted from Judge Fox’s ruling). Less than one in four voters agree with the ban, while just at three in four either express a desire for a statewide mandate or a district-by-district policy determined by school boards. Showing the intensity of opinion on the topic, only 2.5% of voters lack an opinion on the issue.

“An examination of the patterns with subgroups of voters’ views on the topic shows the general universality of the views on the topic. Healthy majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support either state requirements of masks in schools or local school district options, although they vary in terms of the two categories with just at half of Republicans and Independents favoring school board determination on the issue and six in ten Democrats favoring a statewide mandate. Majorities of the youngest subgroup of voters, Black and Latinx voters, and those who never attend religious services favor statewide mandates. Finally, gaps between men and women and college-educated and non-college-educated voters show themselves on the topic with women and more educated voters showing a higher propensity for mask mandates. Across the board, however, bans on mask mandates – the view expressed in Act 1002 – is unpopular across subgroups of Arkansans.

“A more complex story is told on the second COVID-19 related issue: whether private companies should be allowed to require vaccinations for their employees or whether they should be barred from doing so.

“It is a topic that the state legislature did not deal with directly in the spring, although they did pass legislation (Act 1030) that bars state agencies from creating vaccine “passports” for Arkansans along with using such a passport to deny individuals’ “entry, travel, education, or services.” It remains a debate whether the final section also applies to private institutions such as businesses. Some legislators continue to advocate for Arkansas creating a such a bar to the actions of private employers on vaccines.

“Here, we see a more divided public opinion with a slight majority favoring allowing private businesses to issue such mandates. Particularly interesting patterns express themselves across the subgroups of Arkansas voters. In terms of partisanship, 64% of Republicans oppose allowing such business mandates, nearly nine in ten Democrats support allowing such actions, and Independents are split with a slightly higher percentage favoring allowing the decisions by businesses.

“Demographically, the youngest and oldest groups of voters (the latter group has the highest vaccination rates), voters of color, non-churchgoers, are most likely to support corporate mandates, and college-educated voters all express solid majorities for allowing such mandates. There is also a small gender gap with women more supportive of mandates for workers.

“Geographically, a huge divide is shown between urban/suburban and rural voters with healthy majorities of Second and Third Congressional District voters in support of greenlighting such decisions by employers; rural voters (those in the First and Fourth Congressional Districts) are overwhelmingly opposed to the mandates.”

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

“One thing is for certain, there are very few Arkansas voters who don’t have an opinion on masks in schools (2.5%). Nearly half of those surveyed (46%) believe that local school districts should have the authority to decide whether masks should be required in Arkansas public schools, while 29% believe that the state should require all public schools to require masks Together, roughly 3 out of 4 voters support the possibility of Arkansas schools requiring masks to be worn by students and staff. While opposition to masks mandates in schools has received a great deal of attention, only 22.5% said the state should prohibit mask mandates statewide.

“Looking deeper at the numbers, letting local districts decide is the predominant view of all ages except those under 30, and those widely prefer a full statewide school mask requirement (57%). Notably voters 65+, an important voting block, take a more favorable view to masks with 32% preferring a statewide mandate, 46% saying local districts should decide, and only 19% favoring a law to prohibit mandates.

“While Republican voters may be presumed to be wholly against mask mandates in schools, more than half (51%) believe local districts should have the ability to decide whether or not to require masks. Despite some evidence to the contrary, the long-held Republican principle of local control is clearly not dead when it comes to this issue.

“Voter sentiment on masks aligns to some degree with how voters view corporate vaccine requirements. Among voters who believe the state should require masks in schools, 90% think that corporations should be allowed to require vaccines. On the other side, among voters who believe the state should prohibit mask mandates in schools, 92% believe corporations should be prohibited from requiring vaccines for employment. In the middle are voters who think local districts should have the ability to determine mask rules. Of that group, half (50%) believe corporations should be allowed to require vaccines, while 40% think corporations should be prohibited from requiring vaccines of their employees.

“As with masks, younger voters (18-34) and older voters (65+) view corporate vaccines much differently than their middle aged counterparts. 66% of younger voters and 59% of older voters support corporate vaccine mandates, with support dropping to only 45% in the 30-44 age group and 47% in the 45-64 group.

“Stark differences emerge when examining voter sentiment through a partisan lens. 64% of Republicans oppose corporate vaccine requirements, with only 28% favoring them. Comparatively, 90% of Democrats support corporate vaccine requirements with only 8% opposing them. Independents, which generally align more closely with Republicans in Arkansas on most issues, are roughly split on this issue with 49% supporting corporate vaccine requirements and 44% opposing them.

“Unsurprisingly, CD1 (37% to 56%) and CD4 (44% to 49%), the two areas of the state that have developed into the most conservative districts, view corporate vaccine requirements net negatively. Voters in CD2 and CD3 are much more supportive with 61% in CD2 and 57% in CD3 saying they support the rights of corporations to require vaccines.”

METHODOLOGY

This survey of 916 likely general election voters was conducted September 20-22, 2021, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.04%. Responses were collected via SMS to an online survey. The poll is weighted to account for key demographics including age, ethnicity, education, and gender.

Age:
Under 30 – 5%
Between 30-44 – 25%
Between 45-64 – 40%
65 and over – 30%

Race:
Black 9%
Asian 1%
White 83%
Hispanic 1%
Other 6%

Party affiliation
Democrat 26%
Independent 28%
Republican 38%
Other 8%

Attend religious services
Weekly 48%
Occasionally 29%
Never 23%

Gender
Female 52%
Male 48%

Education
College graduate 45%
Non-college graduate 55%

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