Region & State

Arkansas Poll reports lowest governor approval rating in 20 years

Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses a crowd after she was sworn in as the 47th Governor for the State of Arkansas. | Karen E. Segrave/Arkansas Advocate

Fewer than half of Arkansans approve of the job Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing in her first term in office, according to the 25th annual Arkansas Poll

By ANTOINETTE GRAJEDA | Arkansas Advocate

Sanders received a 48% approval rating, the lowest for an Arkansas governor in the last two decades. The lowest approval rating for Sanders’ father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, was 47% in 2003. The lowest approval ratings for former Govs. Mike Beebe and Asa Hutchinson were 66% in 2013 and 57% in 2021, respectively.

However, Sanders fared better than the approval ratings for Republican U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (42%) and John Boozman (40%), and President Joe Biden (33%).

Janine Parry, poll director and professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, started to poll in 1999, making it one of the oldest state-level polls in the country, according to a press release.

This year’s poll was conducted through 801 phone interviews — cell phone and landline — with randomly selected adult Arkansans from Oct. 4-22. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

In addition to approval ratings for public figures, poll questions addressed life in Arkansas, political party and ideology, current issues, level of satisfaction with public services and willingness to seek help for mental health concerns.

The poll found voters were most concerned about the economy, politics/politicians and education. While the number of respondents reporting concerns about the economy declined three points from last year, it was still more than all other concerns combined, except for the “Other/don’t know/refused to answer” category.

The question, “Do you feel AR is headed in the right or wrong direction?” saw a 6-point increase of people answering “right.” However, Parry noted that the portion of respondents answering “wrong direction” has increased in recent years, to 1 in 3.

“A volatile economic and political environment is likely influencing some people’s general sense of well-being, in Arkansas and elsewhere,” she said.

The overwhelming majority of respondents said they were “very satisfied or satisfied” with state and local services like police protection, public libraries or colleges and universities. The only two areas where “unsatisfied or very unsatisfied” ratings approached or exceeded 50% were K-12 public schools (47%) and the public welfare system (53%). 

These were also the two areas of highest dissatisfaction 20 years ago, “showing the durability of that dissatisfaction over time,” according to the press release.

Parry, who will retire from the university in 2024, estimates the poll has completed more than 23,000 interviews, typically containing more than 60 questions. That has resulted in an estimated 1.4 million data points about what Arkansans think about, and want from their public servants.

“Shepherding this project has never been dull,” Parry said. “Polling during the elections of 2010, 2012, and 2014 — in the thick of Arkansas’s rapid party flip — was stressful. But by maintaining gold standard methods and full transparency we’ve produced an enviable track record.”

The full 2023 Arkansas Poll Summary Report is available online.

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