OPINION: ‘Ark Poll’ stings Sanders with a ‘low’ approval

Just last week, another public body blow to the much-embattled psyche and bravado Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was landed solidly when the much-respected Arkansas Poll showed our young, aggressive governor's approval rating was, well, a failing grade.

The Arkansas Poll, the University of Arkansas's annual survey, said 39% of Arkansans say they disapprove of Sanders performance, the highest of any governor since the poll began in 1999.

Stop and consider that last sentence.

She has the highest disapproval rate of any governor or any party serving since 1999.


Among self-identified "very likely" voters, her disapproval rate is only 40%.

Sanders' approval rating stands at 48% (or 51% of very likely voters), the lowest since Mike Huckabee -- Sanders' own father -- garnered a 47% approval rating in the 2003 Arkansas Poll.

And that was in the elder Huckabee's fourth term as governor, when such issues as the Lakeview School District court order were plaguing the governor, along with a majority Democratic-led Legislature.

Governors Mike Beebe, a Democrat, and Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, never saw their approval ratings, as measured by the annual poll, dip below 67% and 57%, respectively.

Never is the key word there.

As in never – ever – saw their approval ratings drop so low after multiple years on the job.

Again, I remind Gov. Sanders and all her out-of-state hired experts and her acerbic press secretary, Arkansas voters turned out a young, vibrant, and overconfident Bill Clinton from his first term of office for such seemingly high-handed acts witnessed by the state's voters.

It could happen again. Even with a huge financial edge and all the muster and bluster she can throw at the "woke" forces and those who seek to demean Arkansas.

The voters in this state can and will throw out the baby with the bath water over less than a $19,000 lectern scandal and a frowning, stubborn chief executive.

The Arkansas Poll was the third recent survey that's shown mounting voter dissatisfaction with Sanders.

Another poll, just to be fair, from a conservative group, Opportunity Arkansas, found that support for the governor declined from 52% to 45% from the first quarter of the year to September.

And yet another poll, from Emerson College Polling, said earlier this month that just 40% of Arkansans approved of the governor.

But not all polls are created equal.

The Arkansas Poll, the brainchild of veteran UA political science professor Janine Perry, has become the absolute standard in terms of insights into political motivation and behavior in our state.

And no one can claim Perry is a 'homer' for either the Republican or Democrat Parties of Arkansas. Far from it.

Perry documented (and accurately predicted) the flip-flop transformation of Arkansas in the elections of 2010 and 2014, among others. The first of her predictions marked the year the GOP took control of the Arkansas Legislature; the second saw Republicans, including Asa Hutchinson, sweep all statewide offices and solidify control of the statehouse.

And Dr. Perry, for those who don't remember, is a woman who like Sanders hasn't stood silently by while the Good Ole Boys (yes, even in academic polling circles) doubted she could do the job. But doing the job and doing it well, she has done well and without little or any criticism.

Sanders and her mob of vitriolic supporters would do well to leave any criticism of Perry and the Arkansas Poll alone.

Sanders won the governorship almost a year ago with 63% of the vote. And overall, Republican control of Arkansas shows little sign of fracturing.

The Arkansas Poll found, for example, that just 33% of the state approves of Joe Biden as president, while 63% disapprove.

Sanders remains far more popular than Biden in the state.

But between her relative weakness in recent polls and a newfound willingness to challenge her among some Republicans, the iron grip she appeared to hold in her first few months in office may be loosening.

Democrat spokesmen gloatingly said, "It's official: Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has the worst approval rating of any Governor in the past 20 years. And the kicker, the last Governor with an approval that low was her father."


Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at maylon[email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.