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State of the state survey: Mississippians weigh in on voting

Photo by News Mississippi.

Mississippians support several potential policy changes to help improve the state’s electoral process, including the expansion of early voting and automatically registering eligible voters upon turning 18 years of age. According to the newly released July 2018 Millsaps College-Chism Strategies State of the State Survey, voters strongly favor the state’s existing Voter ID law and are evenly split on whether state and municipal elections should be moved to weekends instead of Tuesdays. Meanwhile, the survey finds that voters are skeptical of treating Election Day as a holiday for Mississippi workers, using a vote-by-mail system, and allowing for online voter registration.

Voters ranked repairing the state’s roads and bridges as their top policy priority, making this the fourth consecutive quarter in which the electorate indicates that they want Mississippi’s leaders to address this problem above all else. According to the survey, 35% of respondents believe that the state is on the right track as opposed to 29% who sense that it is on the wrong track.

The survey also includes approval ratings of numerous elected officials and finds that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann remains among the most popular elected leaders in the Magnolia State. Nearly 50% of Mississippi voters approve of the job being done by Hosemann as opposed to just 14% who disapprove of his work.

“Mississippi is entering a three-year period of perhaps the most important consecutive election cycles that the state has seen in decades,” said Dr. Nathan Shrader, assistant professor of political science and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. “The 2018, 2019, and 2020 elections will be vitally important to the state and her citizens, yet voter participation in the 2018 primary and primary runoff elections was distressingly low. Our objective with this survey was to explore the extent to which Mississippians are open to modernizing or adjusting our current electoral system to perhaps improve our weak voter participation rates. Among our most consequential findings is that Mississippi voters have identified fixing roads and bridges and increasing funding for public schools as their top policy priorities for the fourth consecutive quarter. This demonstrates stability among the public’s policy preferences in these areas.”

Election Laws

  • 57% favor allowing for early voting while just 25% are opposed.
  • 49% support and 37% oppose automatically registering eligible Mississippians to vote when they turn 18 years of age.
  • 39% oppose moving all Mississippi elections to weekends while 38% support the move.
  • 49% oppose making Election Day a holiday for workers in Mississippi and 42% are in favor.
  • 56% support continuing with in-person voting while only 6% back using mail-in-voting. Another 37% favor utilizing a mixture of in-person and vote-by-mail elections.
  • 81% favor maintaining Mississippi’s Voter ID law.
  • 47% oppose online voter registration while 38% support such a change.

Elected Official Ratings

  • 48% approve of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s job performance while 15% disapprove.
  • 37% approve of State Treasurer Lynn Fitch’s job performance while 17% disapprove.
  • Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has a job approval rating of 31% and a disapproval rating of 14%.
  • 29% of Mississippi voters approve of Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson’s work while 11% disapprove.
  • Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley has a job approval rating of 29% and a disapproval rating of 13%.
  • State Representative Mark Baker (a declared candidate for Attorney General in 2019) has an overall approval rating of 14% and a disapproval rating also of 14%.
  • Only 22% approve of the work being done by the State Legislature with 35% disapproving. The difference between those who approve and disapprove of the legislature’s performance is consistent with the previous two State of the State Surveys.

Policy Priorities

  • 25% of respondents say that fixing roads and bridges is their most important priority. This is the fourth consecutive quarter where it has topped the list of concerns expressed by the voters.
  • More funding for public schools (22%) and making healthcare more affordable and accessible (18%) were the second and third highest ranking policy priorities.

Chism Strategies is pleased to team with Millsaps College to measure public sentiment on different ways to make voting easier in our state,” said company president Brad Chism. “We look forward to the legislature’s consideration of all the options for increasing voter participation in Mississippi and this data should make for an informed debate.”

The survey was conducted June 28-29. The sample size of 623 with 67% of interviews conducted via landline and 34% via cell phone. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/-4.0 %. Results were weighted to reflect likely 2018 general election turnout for age, race, gender, and partisanship.

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