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Poll: Boozman, Sanders, Griffin hold double-digit leads over opponents

2022-02-22-Sarah_Huckabee_Sanders-1664.JPG
Michael Hibblen
/
KUAR News
Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders submitting paperwork on Feb. 22 at the Arkansas State Capitol to run for governor. A new poll finds her with an 11 point lead over Democrat Chris Jones.

Arkansas Republicans at the top of the ticket for U.S. Senate, Governor and Attorney General all hold double-digit leads in their races against Democratic opponents.

The latest Talk Business & Politics survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters suggest victories for Sen. John Boozman, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin over their Democratic rivals in the midst of a tumultuous political environment.

All three races were tested in the latest TB&P-Hendrix Poll:

Q. If the election for U.S. Senate were today, which of the following candidates would you vote for?

43.5%  Senator John Boozman (R)
30.5%  Natalie James (D)
5%        Kenneth Cates (L)
21%      Undecided

Q. If the race for Governor were being held today, which of the following candidates
would you vote for?

51%   Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R)
40% Chris Jones (D)
2%    Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr. (L)
7%    Undecided

Q. If the race for Attorney General were being held today, which of the following
candidates would you vote for?

49%  Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (R)
32%  Jesse Gibson (D)
19%  Undecided

“By no means do I expect these races to finish at the numbers this baseline poll shows. As political spending kicks in a higher gear and undecideds make their choices, I expect to see every candidate’s numbers rise. For well-funded candidates, I expect a dramatic rise,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “The trend lines in this poll do suggest that Independents are not leaning as Republican as they have in the past, but I’d have to see this phenomenon happen over more than one election cycle to call it a pendulum swing.”

On Monday, Talk Business & Politics will release poll results on Issues 1, 2 and 3. Survey results related to abortion and recreational marijuana have already been released.

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:

“This survey presents an opportunity to take the temperature of the Arkansas electorate on the three big contests they will decide in November: the races for U.S. Senate, Governor, and Attorney General. In all three, it is clear that Republicans are sharply advantaged and are quite likely to celebrate victories on November 8th. However, U.S. Senator John Boozman and Republican gubernatorial nominee Sarah Huckabee Sanders run slightly below expectations in their races. On the other hand, current Lt. Governor Tim Griffin has developed a strong coalition in his race to become the state’s Attorney General.

“In his race, Boozman performs evenly across the geographical quadrants of the state along with performing fairly evenly with voters with and without a college education (rare for a Republican in the Trump era). A sharp age disparity does show itself in the race with his opponent Natalie James running up a large margin with the youngest voters while Boozman overperforms with the larger, and more participatory, voters 65 and above. A gender gap also shows itself in the race with many more women undecided about their choice in the U.S. Senate race. About three-fourths of Democrats and Republicans, respectively, support their party’s nominee, but Boozman gains a plurality of the votes of Independents. The underfunded James, who would be the first Black person to represent Arkansas in Washington in the state’s history, has not coalesced the support of Black voters as she gains less than a majority of that group of voters.

“While a large undecided vote expresses itself in the Senate race, almost all voters have chosen their candidate in the higher-profile race for Arkansas Governor. While likely underperforming expectations based on her name recognition and financial advantage, Sarah Huckabee Sanders still has a double-digit lead in the race. She also is just beginning to spend the millions of dollars in her campaign coffers on a television campaign for the fall campaign drive. Still, while Sanders shows off her base in the Trump coalition of white, male, rural voters over the age of 45 lacking a college degree, Democrat Chris Jones has pulled together a coalition of college educated, younger, urban/suburban voters, including large swaths of voters of color, to stay somewhat in the game. In addition to coalescing Democratic voters, he also does win a plurality (44%) of Independent voters in the race. On the other hand, Sanders—who would be the state’s first female governor—is overperforming for a Republican with women voters although a gender gap remains with her gaining a majority of male voters but only a slight plurality of women.

“Republican Attorney General candidate Tim Griffin does the best job of the three major Republican candidates in bridging the Trump coalition with the more historic Republican Establishment. For example, Griffin performs well with voters both with and lacking a college degree and also performs most solidly of the Republicans across age bands, running only slightly behind opponent Jesse Gibson with the youngest subset of voters. Griffin also runs up a solid vote with Independent voters. Griffin seems well-poised to lead the ticket—at least in the three races we tested.”

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:

“Senator John Boozman leads the field in his re-election campaign with 44% of the vote, besting his nearest competitor, Democrat Natalie James, by 14-percentage points. 21% of voters say they’re currently undecided in the race, however among those who are decided, Boozman leads James 55%-38%, which is likely more indicative of how this race ends up in November. Boozman’s fundamentals across demographic groups are solid, depriving James of a foothold to close the gap. He leads with all age groups except voters under the age of 30, which traditionally lean towards Democrats. His ballot preference among Republicans (78%) shows that support from the base has grown post-primary, and he currently leads James by 6-percentage points with independents – a critical group where some Republicans nationally are struggling post-Dobbs ruling. Boozman leads James 45% to 26% with voters without a college degree and by 2-percentage points among those with a degree. Men overwhelmingly prefer Boozman (51% to 30%), and he has a 6-percentage point lead with women. Undecided voters aside, the headwinds that some Republicans are seeing with Independents and women do not appear to be blowing against Boozman in this race and he is on track to secure another term in the Senate this November.

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders leads Democratic opponent Chris Jones by 11-percentage points with only 7% of voters undecided in this race. Jones has likely benefitted from the lack of a real primary challenge, giving him the luxury of messaging to general election voters since the beginning of his campaign. Sanders leads with all age categories apart from voters under the age of 30, taking a majority of voters age 45-64 (51%) and 65+ (58%). As with Donald Trump, Sanders sees strength with voters without a college degree (57%), while Jones leads among those with a degree (51%). Men (54%) and women (47%) both favor Sanders, though her margin with women is narrower (+3%). Sanders leads in all four Congressional districts, running up significant margins in CD1 (+22%) and CD4 (+18%). As expected, based on Sanders’ close association with Donald Trump, she performs incredibly well with voters that view the former president strongly favorable (95%) and somewhat favorable (87%). Notably, however, she still hits 31% with voters who find Trump somewhat unfavorable, demonstrating an even broader universe of support than the former president. Overall, following the primary season and the recent Supreme Court Dobbs decision, this current political environment may be a high-water mark for Democrats and a low-water mark for Republicans this cycle, with Sanders’ numbers likely to rise to a more comfortable winning margin as millions of dollars hit the airwaves over the final weeks of the campaign.

“Lt. Governor Tim Griffin leads opponent Jesse Gibson by 17-percentage points in the race for Attorney General, the largest margin of the races tested. Griffin is ahead with all age categories except those under 30 where he trails by only 1-percentage point. Republican voters are solidly behind Griffin (85%) and he leads with independents by 13-percentage points – a healthy margin in an uncertain political environment for Republicans. Griffin’s support is anchored by men (57% to 29%), yet he also leads with women (+8%). Griffin tops the ballot in all four Congressional districts, with his highest support in CD4 and CD2.”

METHODOLOGY

The survey of 835 likely Arkansas voters was conducted Sept. 12, 2022, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%.

Responses were collected via SMS by phone. The poll is slightly weighted to account for key demographics including age, ethnicity, education, and gender. Additional methodology is available upon request.

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.