There’s more polling out today from Talk Business / Hendrix College, this time on voter perception of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, U.S. Sen. John Boozman and President Obama:
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Gov. Asa Hutchinson is doing?
Don’t Know 29%
Q: [U.S. Senator Tom Cotton?]
Don’t Know 17%
Q: [U.S. Senator John Boozman?]
Don’t Know 37%
Q: [President Barack Obama?]
Don’t Know 5%
Talk Business notes that Cotton’s approval-disapproval rating in a February poll was 50 percent to 30 percent, so he’s slipped in the past few months. More on that in a second.
The news for the governor is good: This is about where he was at in a similar poll in February, which means Hutchinson weathered the sometimes contentious legislative session and came out unscathed in the public eye. Most significantly, self-identified Democrats are almost evenly split on their opinion of the governor, 33 percent approval to 34 percent disapproval, despite the persistent rightward drift of his first six months in office.
Why is that? Is it because there are still significant numbers of Arkansas Democrats who lean conservative on some issues and genuinely like what Hutchinson has done with the office thus far? Or, is it more about clever branding? To people not playing close attention to state politics, Asa continues to project an image that’s more starchily centrist than staunchly conservative, all economic development rhetoric and task forces.
Or, could it be because many Arkansas Dems still feel like Hutchinson is far from the worst Republican for the job, considering the general tenor of the GOP these days? It’ll be interesting to see if similar approval numbers among Dems stick around in a year’s time. Also: Whether that 29 percent who say they don’t have an opinion about the governor’s performance breaks in one direction or the other.
Meanwhile, here’s what Hendrix’s Jay Barth (who also writes a regular column for the Times) has to say about the poll results on Cotton, Boozman and Obama:
While President Obama has had a small uptick in his national approval ratings in recent months, his standing in Arkansas remains thoroughly problematic — as it has throughout his presidency. The one-third of Arkansans who approve of the President’s job performance are disproportionately young (those under 30 approve of the President’s job performance 46%-39%); Democratic (who approve of his work 73%-23%), and African-American (70%-22% approval).
It is a tale of two Senators in examining the ratings of U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton. While Boozman has been a figure in Arkansas politics longer, he remains a decidedly low-key and unknown political figure. Nearly four in ten Arkansans have no clear opinion on the performance of their senior Senator. Those who do know enough to evaluate break two-to-one (42%-21%) in his favor.
Cotton is much better known and emphatically more polarizing. Demographically, younger voters (55% of those under 30 disapprove of his performance) and African-Americans (75% disapprove; 8% approve) go against the Senator, while pluralities or majorities of all other groups approve. Geographically, Cotton has particular challenges in the Little Rock area, being on the wrong end of the evaluation of 2nd District voters 44%-40%. And, the partisan divide on Cotton is immense; 75% of Democrats disapprove while 81% of Republicans approve; Independents split evenly on Cotton which is a problematic status for contemporary Arkansas Republicans.
As Dave Ramsey has written for this blog, polarization isn’t a by-product of Cotton’s politics: It’s the point. His is the opposite strategy of Boozman’s relative invisibility. Cotton’s brand of aggressive conservatism is intended to rile up liberals, rally his base and get media attention, all of which it does very well. If his over-the-top antics on Iran temporarily turn off some otherwise sympathetic moderate (or even conservative) Arkansans who may feel qualms about starting another war, well, the junior senator has five and a half more years before the next election to make up the difference. I doubt he’s worried.
Finally, shockingly, wide margins of Arkansans still don’t like Obama. Still, it’s intriguing to wonder what’s behind the slight improvement in the President’s numbers since the last round of polling in February. Statistical noise? The slow but now (sort of) steady economic recovery? A nascent groundswell of rural support for the Affordable Care Act as private option beneficiaries become wholesale progressives? Just kidding.