by Max Brantley
Polling. If mentioned at all, it should be taken with plenty of salt unless you know who paid for it; the full survey; the internal demographics.
I can't meet these standards on the following information, so get a shaker of salt out. But it's said to be the results from "live" telephone interviews of 729 people by Clark Research. The purported results still hold some interest.
Q16 Please tell me, if the 2014 General election for United States Senate were held today and the candidates are [ READ LIST — ROTATE] For whom would you vote?
1) Mark Pryor 43
2) Tom Cotton 35
3) Unsure 18
4) Declined 3
Q 18: The next question is about a proposed constitutional amendment that may be on the ballot in Arkansas next year. This amendment would raise the minimum wage in Arkansas from $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour, and then adjust the minimum wage for inflation every year.
If the election were held today, would you vote For or Against this amendment?
1) Definitely For 54
2) Probably For 19
3) Probably Against 7
4) Definitely Against 16
5) Unsure 4
I got this data from a person well-known to me who is hired frequently to work for political candidates, generally Democrats. So there's that to raise your skepticism. And I don't know yet whether respondents were supplied with influencing information about Cotton and Pryor before the horse race question. If it's like the poll I got from a Republican-friendly instrument the other night, you'd want to call the Nut Hut to pick up anybody who still said they'd vote for Mark Pryor at the end of those "push" questions. Same thing could be at work here.
But, if the Senate race question was uninfluenced, I'd still find it credible. An incumbent with a familiar name scores ahead, but not much, of a challenger with far less name recognition. The incumbent also falls below a majority, with undecideds holding the key to the election. This is not exactly great for Pryor and sounds about right to me in this particular race, which most national prognosticators are putting in the tossup category. Sounds like a $20-million-plus TV onslaught to get those 18 percent awaits Arkansas voters.
UPDATE: I'm told that no "position" questions preceded the Cotton-Pryor test. The preceding questions all asked for favorable/unfavorable opinions on a list of names, with no titles given.
More interesting is that somebody has paid an opinion firm to ask a question on an amendment to raise the minimum wage. I'd be willing to wager that the backers of that effort (i.e., labor) are behind this poll. The history is that a campaign to raise the minimum wage was pulled back when corporate forces joined hands with Gov. Mike Beebe to increase the state minimum in 2006 rather than risk approval of a popular amendment that included indexing of the minimum wage to inflation. Arkansas is already falling behind most other states and the legislature is even more unfriendly to workers now than it was then. A bill to increase the minimum wage failed in committee this year. So I'm not surprised to hear about exploration of a campaign to take it to the people. These favorable numbers — not yet influenced by the end-of-the-world TV advertising the Chamber of Commerce would muster to oppose it — sound believable. The last minimum wage proposal enjoyed broad polling support, too. That was a key reason corporate interests got behind the compromise.
That poll question on the minimum wage is a little misleading. The state minimum wage, which applies to a relatively small number of workers not covered by the federal minimum wage, is only $6.25 an hour. But others are covered by the $7.25 federal minimum. An increase in the state minimum to $8.25 would raise the top minimum for everyone.