Slimantics: State-wide poll gives insight into coming elections


Slim Smith



Millsaps College, in cooperation with Chism Strategies, released the finds from its latest quarterly poll of Mississippi voters this week and the results show some intriguing views as Mississippians go to vote next month and next year. 


While the poll did not ask voters for their preferences for the two US Senator seats that will be decided on Nov. 6, the attitudes reflected in the poll do shed some possible insight into those races, especially in the three-way competition to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Than Cochran. 


Neither Cindy-Hyde Smith, appointed this spring to hold Cochran's seat until the Nov. 6 election; nor Tea Party Republican Chris McDaniel, who narrowly failed to unseat Cochran in a bitter campaign in 2014; nor Democrat Mike Espy, the former Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration, were on any poll questions. 


Even so, there were a couple of poll questions that might give a hint as to what voters may do. 


This is especially true for Hyde-Smith, who has so thoroughly hitched her star to Donald Trump that she can scarcely utter a sentence without invoking the president's name. 


In the 2016 Presidential race, Trump captured 58 percent of the vote in Mississippi. Perceived as a Trump stronghold, the President visited Mississippi during the campaign and twice since, most recently last week when he held a rally in Southhaven to support Hyde-Smith, whom he endorsed earlier this year. 


But the results of the Millsaps poll suggest that Trump's support in Mississippi has eroded, somewhat. 


Trump's approval rating in Mississippi is 51%, with 43% disapproving of him. In Mississippi, that number is alarming and it calls into question Hyde-Smith's "all-in" identification with the President, if not in the Nov. 6 election, in what will almost certainly be a run-off, most likely against Espy. 


McDaniel, whose desire for the Trump endorsement has been almost palpable, may see a silver lining in the poll results. With just half of the voters support Trump, not having that endorsement may not be as damaging as previously thought. 


In another poll conducted by NBC, Hyde-Smith and Espy are tied with 25 percent, but McDaniel is within striking distance at 19 percent. 


The message: Don't count McDaniel out just yet. 


If the poll is potentially bad news for Hyde-Smith, it also has some potential bad news for Espy as well. 


According to the poll, only 50% of Mississippi voters are enthusiastic about voting in the upcoming November midterm elections while 43% are either somewhat enthusiastic or not enthusiastic at all. For a Democrat to win state-wide, high turn-out is essential, especially among black voters, who generally vote in smaller numbers than whites. 


The exception to that was in 2008 and 2012 when black voters turned out to vote for Barack Obama. Will those voters turn out for another black candidate in Espy? The poll numbers don't suggest that's going to happen. 


As for next year, when statewide offices are elected, the poll continues to show encouraging news for the only Democrat to hold state-wide office. As it has in all of its previous polls, the Millsaps/Chism poll shows strong approval of Attorney General Jim Hood while less than glowing support for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Hood's presumed opponent in the governor's race. 


Hood has an approval rate of 50 percent, with just a 27 percent disapproval rate. Meanwhile, Reeves approval rate is just 37 percent with a disapproval rate of 32 percent. 


Whether the poll results turn out to be accurate indicators of what will happen this November or next November, they are worth noting.


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]


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