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Sanders' approval rating lags in annual Arkansas Poll

Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses the crowd after she was sworn in as the 47th Governor of Arkansas in January 2023.
Karen E. Segrave
Arkansas Advocate
Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses the crowd after she was sworn in as the 47th Governor of Arkansas in January 2023.

The annual Arkansas Poll has released its results. The poll, conducted by the University of Arkansas, asks respondents what political parties they align with and what issues they feel are most important. The poll has been conducted for 35 years now.

Governor's approval rating

The poll recorded a 49% approval rating for Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, lower than any Arkansas governor in the past 30 years. The second lowest came from Sanders’ father Mike Huckabee, who was governor in the early 2000s. His approval rating scored in the 40s in 2002 and 2003. The last two governors, Asa Hutchinson and Mike Beebe, saw generally high approval ratings, with Hutchinson reaching 69% in 2020.

University of Arkansas political science professor Janine Parry says the governor's lower-than-average approval ratings are due in part to her unpopularity among Democratic voters, who rank her in the single digits.

“In nationalizing your rhetoric and nationalizing the way you govern, you are also going to nationalize your approval ratings,” she said.

Sanders still fared better than Republican Arkansas U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton with approval ratings in the low 40s.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has one of the lowest approval ratings in 30 years.
University of Arkansas
Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences
Results from the annual Arkansas Poll show the approval ratings of Arkansas' past four governors.

Party and policy

The poll also asks about party affiliation. In the poll's 30-year history, the results have typially split evenly between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

“Stability is the main thing we see,” Parry said.

This year had one exception. When a voter says they vote independent, the poll will ask them to clarify. Parry has noticed independent voters becoming more conservative in recent years.

On specific policy issues, respondents are tilting more liberal than in previous years, especially on abortion, guns and global warming.

“We've seen for some time that the Arkansas Legislature is out of step with public opinion,” Parry said about abortion.

The majority of Arkansans surveyed said they were not concerned about climate change. This is consistent year after year, but the number of people who are concerned has gone up 20 points in the past decade.

The poll asks voters to name their issue of top concern.

“The issues that people care about, they bounce around a little bit but they are usually the economy, education and health care,” Parry said.

This year, 36% of respondents named the economy as their primary concern.

The poll asks whether respondents think the country is “heading in the right direction.” This year was the highest recorded group of people saying the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction at 33%. Parry said most of the people who felt this way were Democratic voters.

The poll surveyed 801 people across Arkansas through phone calls. Parry says this is above industry standard and it has a margin of error of 5%.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.