- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Less than half of Arkansas residents approve of U.S. Sen. John Boozman’s job performance as he gears up for a re-election bid, while even more don’t have an opinion of the Republican, according to a poll released by the University of Arkansas on Wednesday.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents in the annual Arkansas Poll approved of Boozman’s job performance, while only 18 percent disapproved. Forty-four percent of respondents didn’t know or refused to answer.

The poll didn’t ask about former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge, who filed paperwork this week to run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Boozman next year.

Poll director Janine Parry cautioned while the numbers signal many people don’t know much about Boozman, they don’t indicate trouble for his re-election bid next year.

“It’s not like people don’t like him. It’s just they don’t know about him,” she said. “That usually means they’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Issues & Answers Network, Inc. surveyed 800 Arkansas residents by phone between Oct. 19 and Oct. 25. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Boozman’s approval and disapproval numbers a year before the 2016 election are lower than former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who he unseated in 2010. Forty-three percent of respondents in 2009 approved of Lincoln, while 34 percent disapproved.

Boozman’s campaign didn’t express any concern about his approval ratings.

“Senator Boozman’s numbers suggest he is in touch with the concerns of Arkansans and that he is following through with their desire to push back on President Obama’s misguided agenda,” spokesman Patrick Creamer said in an email.

The poll showed higher support for the state’s other top Republicans, with 57 percent of respondents approving of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and 18 percent disapproving. Forty-five percent of respondents approved of Sen. Tom Cotton, while 27 percent disapproved.

Hutchinson and Cotton were elected in November, when Republicans completed their sweep of statewide offices. The GOP also controls all four U.S. House seats and holds a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature.

The poll also showed that President Barack Obama remains deeply unpopular in the state, with 28 percent approving of his performance and 62 percent disapproving.

The poll indicated strong support for legalizing medical marijuana, with 68 percent supporting and 26 percent opposed. Voters narrowly rejected a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state in 2012, and advocates are trying to put a similar proposal on next year’s ballot.

Seventy-one percent of respondents in the poll supported the death penalty, with only 19 percent opposed. Arkansas hasn’t executed an inmate in a decade, and the state Supreme Court last month put eight scheduled executions on hold while a judge considers a challenge to the state’s lethal injection law.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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