A poll taken right before a controversial radio ad produced a skirmish in the Second Congressional District race shows incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, with a slightly growing lead over his Democratic challenger, State Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock.
In early September, Hill had a nine point lead over Tucker in a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey. In a new poll conducted Oct. 17-18, Hill’s lead is a 12-point advantage.
About the time the poll was coming out of the field, a controversial radio ad produced by an independent expenditure committee called Black Americans for the President’s Agenda was condemned by both candidates. Hill and Tucker joined Talk Business & Politics in separate interviews this weekend to discuss the ad and the accusations of negative campaigning as the race heads into the early voting period.
The TB&P-Hendrix Poll also surveyed Second District voter attitudes on President Donald Trump and found a nine-point positive swing in the president’s standing from early September. The biggest political story during the six-week interim of polling was the Brett Kavanuagh confirmation process to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4%, asked likely Second District voters:
Q: If the election for Congress in the Second Congressional District were being held today and the candidates were: Representative Clarke Tucker, the Democrat, Congressman French Hill, the Republican, and Joe Swafford, the Libertarian, for whom would you vote?
39.5% Representative Clarke Tucker
51.5% Congressman French Hill
2% Joe Swafford
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Donald Trump is doing?
43% Strongly Approve
11% Somewhat Approve
6% Somewhat Disapprove
36% Strongly Disapprove
4% Don’t Know
“There are lots of factors influencing this Congressional race and I believe the final two weeks will see the race tighten as they often do. That said, it is clear from the polling data that improvements in President Trump’s standing in Arkansas – a likely outcome of the contentious Brett Kavanaugh hearings that dominated the news during the interim – has helped Congressman Hill’s re-election bid,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief.
Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College will release additional polling results Monday and Tuesday in the races for Governor, Attorney General, and Arkansas Supreme Court.
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:
“Our second look at the Second Congressional District general election contest between incumbent Republican French Hill, Democratic challenger state Representative Clarke Tucker, and Libertarian entry Joe Swafford reiterates results from last month. Despite an increasing ferocity in the ad wars in the race, the results show a marginal shift in the incumbent’s direction. It is important to note that the sample employed is slightly more pro-GOP and pro-Trump than other samples of voters in the Second District in recent months. Still, despite a lot of spending by the two major candidates, we see little evidence of a shift in the race.
“Looking below the topline results to the crosstabs, we see that Hill is running up large margins in the counties outside of Pulaski County. Tucker is winning the largest county in the district by a 50%-41% margin, but he needs to perform better in both men’s home county if he is to have any hope of pulling off an upset in the race. More troubling for Tucker, our poll suggests that he is significantly underperforming with African-American voters in the district. Tucker leads with African-American respondents but by only a 51%-34% margin. Importantly, this survey was taken before conflict erupted over a racially charged radio ad being run by a super PAC in support of Hill on African-American radio stations in Little Rock. Hill leads soundly with the district’s white voters (56%-37%).
“As is often the case with Democratic candidates, Tucker does best with voters with the least and most education levels. Hill leads with voters in all age groups with his lead increasing as voters get older. There is a gender gap in the race, with Tucker performing better with women than men, but he trails with both groups (Hill leads among men 56%-36% and among women 48%-42%). Finally, while both major party candidates have solidified support with their partisan bases, Hill leads with Independents by a margin right at his overall lead in the horse race.
“On all fronts, the fundamentals of the race continue to favor incumbent Hill as we enter the early voting period of the campaign.”
Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
“Congressman French Hill continues to lead Representative Clarke Tucker in the race for the Second District. These survey results are virtually unchanged from September, with a very slight widening in the race from a 9 point Hill lead to 12 points. Hill leads among all age groups, and has his widest lead among voters 65 and older (+16 points).
“Each candidate is getting nearly all of their own party’s support, yet Hill maintains a 12 point advantage with Independent voters – the best overall barometer for where this race is. President Donald Trump’s approval in the 2nd District bodes well for Hill at 54%, which also signals that independents are aligning moreso with Republicans.
“Tucker’s biggest challenge is the sharp contrast between voter sentiment in Pulaski County and the rest of the district. While Tucker hits 50% in Pulaski, most of his support levels outside Pulaski hover in the 25-30% range. Even with an Election Day bump in Pulaski, it’s hard to see the gap closing for Tucker without an increase in his floor across the rest of the district.”
This survey was conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 17-18, 2018 among likely Second Congressional District voters. It has a margin of error of +/-4%. The poll was completed using IVR survey technology and live cell phone respondents among 590 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 25% 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
Gender (weighted according to 2014 exit polls)
Geography (weighted according to 2016 general election results in district)
52% Pulaski County
48% Outside Pulaski County