LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas voters are almost evenly divided on a ballot issue to legalize medical marijuana in the state, a new poll shows.
The University of Arkansas’ annual Arkansas Poll, released Wednesday, shows that 49 percent of respondents who identified themselves as very likely voters said they support Issue 6, which would allow the sale and use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. Forty-seven percent said they oppose the measure, and 4 percent said they did not know or refused to answer.
The difference between the level of support and the level opposition is within the poll’s margin of error of 4.1 percent.
Issues & Answers Network conducted 800 phone surveys Oct 18 through Oct. 27 for the poll.
The sponsor of Issue 6 and a coalition of groups opposing the measure both said Wednesday they were encouraged by the results.
“I think we’re actually higher than that,” sponsor David Couch of Little Rock said.
Couch noted that a rival medical-marijuana proposal, Issue 7, was struck from the ballot by the state Supreme Court on Oct. 27, the last day that interviews were conducted for the poll. He said he believes some people who were opposing Issue 6 but supporting Issue 7 will now support his measure.
“Circumstances have changed. We’ve spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on TV and other advertisements since then,” he said.
Couch also said he believes some people who support medical marijuana may have been unwilling to admit their support when they were polled because of the controversial nature of the issue.
State Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, spokesman for the coalition Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, said Wednesday, “Obviously, it’s a dead heat. But it’s encouraging because we started out so far behind.”
Bledsoe said that at one time polling showed majority support in the state for medical marijuana, and that supporters of the measure have outspent the coalition 10-to-1.
“I think we’ve covered a lot of ground and done a good job,” he said.
Elsewhere in the poll, respondents were asked whether they approve or disapprove of the job performances of Arkansas’ governor, the state’ two sitting senators and the president.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson received 66 percent approval and 18 percent disapproval among very likely voters. Sixteen percent did not know or refused to answer.
Republican Sen. John Boozman received 38 percent approval and 29 percent disapproval among very likely voters. Thirty-three percent did not know or declined to answer.
Boozman is facing a re-election challenge from Democrat Conner Eldridge and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who is not up for re-election this year, received 50 percent approval and 29 percent disapproval among very likely voters. Twenty-one percent did not know or refused to answer.
President Barack Obama received 36 percent approval and 60 percent disapproval among very likely voters. Four percent did not know or refused to answer.
When very likely voters were asked if they favor laws making it more difficult or easier to get an abortion, or favor no change to existing laws, 48 percent said they favor laws making it more difficult, 14 percent said they favors laws making it easier, 33 percent said they favor no change and 5 percent did not know or refused to answer.
When very likely voters were asked if they favor stricter gun control, less strict gun control or no change to existing laws, 31 percent said they favor stricter gun control, 14 percent said they favor less strict gun control, 53 percent said they favor no change and 3 percent did not know or refused to answer.
Asked to assess the news coverage of global warming, 25 percent of very likely voters said it is generally underestimated, 22 percent said it is generally correct, 45 percent said it is generally exaggerated and 9 percent did not know or refused to answer.
Asked if they think global warming will pose a serious threat to them or their way of life in their lifetime, 25 percent of very likely voters said yes, 67 percent said no and 7 percent did not know or refused to answer.