The Arkansas Citizens First Congress completed polling this weekend on Issue 1, the proposed legislative power grab, and found some hope that the issue could be defeated with some public awareness. The same poll, by Opinion Research Associates, provided hopeful numbers in the races for U.S. Senate and governor, positive outliers to generally negative trends in other polls.
The grassroots group is interested in Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would give the state legislature authority over state agency rules normally set by gubernatorial appointees. It would further weaken the executive branch in a state with an already-weak executive, which is naturally what the legislature wants.
The poll Oct. 30-Nov. 1 indicated a lack of information about the measure. It was favored 45-35, but questioning showed voters could moved to vote against it by information about its impact. 3
William El-Amin, Chair of Arkansas Citizens First Congress, said “The problem with Issue 1 is that no one has explained it to people and the ballot title is confusing to a lot of voters. It’s not obvious from reading it that it’s just a political power grab that’s going to weaken protections that Arkansas families depend on. When voters understand Issue 1, they overwhelmingly reject it.”
￼”Voters did not like learning that Issue 1 inserts politics over the expertise of state officials responsible for protecting our health, safety and pocket books. They did not like learning that it increases the influence of special interest lobbyists in our government,” added El Amin. “We have a government of checks and balances dating back to our founding and the legislature tinkering with that now is very dangerous.”
The poll, with a 5 percent margin of error, also sampled voters on the races for U.S. Senate and governor. It showed Democrat Mike Ross with a 4-point lead over Asa Hutchinson (43-39) in the race for governor, with 14 percent undecided and 5 percent to third party candidates and Sen. Mark Pryor with a 2-point lead over Republican Tom Cotton (45-43) in the race for Senate, with 8 percent undecided and 4 percent to third party candidates. Other recent polling — including an automated Public Policy Polling sample and the Arkansas Poll, done by telephone interviews, have shown margins well outside the margin of error for Republican candidates.
The poll was a telephone survey, not an automated poll, of 400 registered voters “judged to be likely to vote based on voting history and a screening question.” The sample was drawn from the most up-do-date voter files, including newly registered voters. The sample included 25 percent from each congressional district and was made up of 53 percent women and 11 percent African-American. Opinion Research, headed by veteran pollsters Zoe and Ernie Oakleaf, has been doing polling for the Arkansas Democratic Party this cycle, polling that has generally shown more favorable results for Democrats than most, but not all, public polls. The USA Today polling by Suffolk University has also produced numbers more positive for Democrats.
Here’s how the questioning went on Issue 1, according to an Opinion Research Summary
Issue 1, the proposed amendment to establish a legislative oversight committee to review and approve administrative rules promulgated by state agencies, is favored by 45% of voters, with 32% saying they will definitely vote for the measure, and 15% saying they will probably vote for it. 35% of voters say they will vote against the measure, 23% definitely and 12% probably. 19% are undecided.
Respondents were then read the following statement and question: “If this amendment passes it would give the legislature powers that have traditionally been in the executive branch, altering the balance of power to favor the legislature over the governor and state agencies, and allowing a small number of legislators to block implementation of rules and regulations developed by professional agency staff. Does knowing this make you more likely or less likely to vote for this amendment, or does it make no difference?” 43% said it would make them less likely to vote for the amendment, 35% said it would make no difference, and 10% said it would make them more likely to vote for the amendment. 12% either said they didn’t believe the statement or were undecided.
Next respondents were read: “This amendment would take away rule making authority from agency staff and commissioners, who are subject matter experts, and give it to legislators who are influenced by politics. Does knowing this make you more likely or less likely to vote for this amendment, or does it make no difference?” Similarly, 43% said this would make them less likely to vote for the amendment, 38% said it would make no difference, and 10% said it would make them more likely to vote for the amendment. 9% either said they didn’t believe the statement or were undecided.