Poll: Arkansas 2nd Congressional District Race Between Hill, Elliott Tied Heading Into Early Voting

Oct 16, 2020

Credit Ballotpedia/Arkansas Legislature

Voters in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District could be headed towards a photo finish in the race between GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill and Democratic State Sen. Joyce Elliott.

A new poll from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College shows Hill with 46% support to Elliott’s 45.5% among 644 likely voters. The poll was conducted on Sunday, Oct. 11-Tuesday, Oct. 13 and has a margin of error of +/-4.9%.

“This race has been competitive since we first surveyed it right after Labor Day. The race has tightened a pinch, but it remains very unpredictable headed into the home stretch,” said Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock. “With the war chests both sides have accumulated, I feel strongly this race will remain tight until the final votes are counted.”

In the survey, respondents were asked:

Q: If the election for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District was today and the candidates were Congressman French Hill, the Republican, and Senator Joyce Elliott, the Democrat, for whom would you vote?

46% Congressman French Hill

45.5% Senator Joyce Elliott

8.5% Undecided

There is no third party candidate in the race.

In early September, the Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll showed Hill with a 47.5%-46% lead over Elliott. That survey captured opinions from 698 likely voters and had a margin of error of +/-4.3%.

Elliott raised $1.4 million in the third quarter and Hill raised over $1 million leaving both campaigns flush with cash headed into the final weeks of the campaign. Earlier this week, the two candidates squared off in their one and only debate on Arkansas PBS. KATV and Talk Business & Politics offered a debate to both candidates, but only Elliott accepted. The debate forum will be held on Monday, Oct. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on KATV’s web site and Facebook page as well as Talk Business & Politics online channels.

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:

“Our early-September survey of the 2nd Congressional District electorate surprised many by showing a virtual tie with the three-term incumbent French Hill barely ahead of his challenger, veteran state Senator Joyce Elliott. This survey, just a few days before the start of early voting, shows an even closer race. Elliott’s ability to fend off blistering attacks on her record by Hill’s campaign and outside groups with her own well-funded campaign suggests CD2 will go right down to the wire with only the smallest mistake by one of the candidates or shifting external forces (such as the presidential election) determining the winner and loser. Congressman Hill’s decision to skip a debate with Elliott on Channel 7 next week may turn out to be decisive in one direction or the other.

“Most, but not all, of the demographic patterns evidenced in the September poll continue to show themselves. Elliott rolls to a large lead in Pulaski County (with nearly six in ten of the largest county’s voters supporting Elliott), while counties outside Pulaski skew towards the Republican. The same pronounced gender gap shows itself in the race with Elliott winning a majority of women (52%-41%) and Hill a majority of male voters (52%-39%). Similarly, Elliott leads with college graduates while Hill is ahead with those voters lacking a college education. Hill wins a majority of white voters while Elliott has strong majorities with voters of color in the district.

“The one interesting change is with age groups. In September, Hill was running best with the oldest voters in the district; now, it is Elliott that runs ahead with those 65 or older in a flip since September.

“In terms of partisanship, both candidates have their partisan base in solid shape. Independents, who will determine the outcome in a closely-matched district, continue to remain very close with Hill holding a marginal lead with that group in this survey. About 1 in 10 of that group, however, remains undecided.

“Buckle up, 2nd District voters, this race that may turn out to be the closest in the nation, is going to be a bumpy ride in its closing days.”

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:

“There has been little overall movement in the race for CD2 since our September survey with both candidates struggling to hit 50%. However, there are notable shifts within certain subgroups that shed light on how this race is evolving.

“As Election Day approaches, both candidates are seeing their base voters come home. In our September survey, Congressman French Hill was drawing 8% of self-identified Democrats while Senator Joyce Elliott had the support of 8% of self-identified Republicans. Those crossover votes have now dropped to roughly 3% for both candidates in this survey. Among non party-affiliated voters Hill has seen his advantage with Independents fall from 9% down to 3%, and his lead with ‘Something Else’ voters drop from 4% to even.

“Conversely, this survey does show some growth for Hill among the lowest three age groups, with the largest gains among voters under 30 (+3%) and 30-44 (+6%). Elliott has narrowed Hill’s lead with voters 45 to 64 from 4% to 2% while voters 65+ have swung her way considerably since September. Voters 65+ have moved from a 6 point advantage for Hill in September to a 12-point advantage for Elliott now. These findings are consistent with national trends, with a number of polls from across the country showing Republicans struggling with older voters in recent months. Elliott’s recent ads regarding Social Security and Medicare could also be having an impact, though it is more likely that older voter disenchantment with President Donald Trump and concerns over COVID-19 are more likely the cause.

“As we noted back in September, men and women have widely differing views on this race – as men supported Hill by 18 points and women favored Elliott by 13 points. In this survey, we continue to see a notable gender gap, however Hill’s advantage with men has narrowed by 5% and Elliott’s lead with women is down 3%.

“Finally, as in past elections, Democratic performance outside of Pulaski County is critical in determining whether this contest is competitive, as this race can’t be won by the Democrat with high margins in Pulaski County alone. One of Elliott’s strengths in the September survey was her ability to raise the floor in suburban counties including Faulkner (39%) and Saline (38%). While her performance in those counties is down in this survey, she continues to exceed 30% in both – 35% and 31%, respectively. Notably, she’s also improved by 7% in White County since September.

“With little change in the overall horserace, and partisan sentiment solidifying, this race has now moved from a contest of persuasion to a competition for voter turnout.”

METHODOLOGY

This survey of 644 likely 2nd Congressional District voters was conducted Oct. 11-13, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Respondents were contacted via landline telephones and cell phones. The poll is slightly weighted to account for key demographics.

Age

Under 30 – 12%

Between 30-44 – 23%

Between 45-64 – 37%

65 and over – 28%

Race

Black 18.5%

Asian 1%

White 72%

Hispanic 2%

Native American 0.5%

Other 3%, Refused 3% 

Party affiliation

Democrat 30%

Independent 29%

Republican 31%

Other 8%, Don’t know 2%

Gender

Female 52%, Male 48%

Education

College graduate 40%, Non-college graduate 60%

County

Pulaski 52%, Others 48%

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College. A link back to this specific story is also required for any digital or online usage by other media outlets. For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net.