LITTLE ROCK — A poll released Thursday by the University of Arkansas shows strong support among the state’s voters for the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and governor and a proposal to raise the state minimum wage.

LITTLE ROCK — A poll released Thursday by the University of Arkansas shows strong support among the state’s voters for the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and governor and a proposal to raise the state minimum wage.


The 16th annual Arkansas Poll found that 49 percent of very likely voters said they would vote for U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, for Senate and 36 percent said they would vote for Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor if Tuesday’s election were held today.


In the governor’s race, 50 percent of very likely voters said they would vote for Republican Asa Hutchinson and 39 percent said they would vote for Democrat Mike Ross if the election were held today.


Issues & Answers Network conducted live interviews with 747 Arkansans between Oct. 21 and Monday for the poll. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.


Cotton spokesman David Ray said Thursday, "We feel good about where the race is right now, but we’re not taking anything for granted. Tom and our volunteers are working around the clock to turn out our voters and win on Election Day. Arkansans are ready for change, and they’re ready for a U.S. senator who has what it takes to stand up to President (Barack) Obama in Washington."


Ray also noted that a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday showed Cotton with 51 percent support to Pryor’s 44 percent. That poll had a margin of error of plus of minus 3 percent.


Pryor said during a Thursday campaign stop in Fort Smith that he had not seen the poll but that over the years it has not generally been a good predictor of how elections have turned out.


"We appreciate the university (for doing) that academic exercise, but it’s not normally a very good indicator of where things really are," he said.


Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said, "We are very excited by the results and our momentum that demonstrates Asa’s plan is resonating with voters, but we know how important it is to get our voters out on Election Day. We will not rest on poll numbers, but we will campaign through the finish line."


Ross spokesman Brad Howard said, "We have out-raised Congressman Hutchinson by more than $2 million in this campaign, and a poll just last week showed Mike Ross leading by 2 points, so we are excited about the strong position and momentum our campaign has heading into election day. Mike Ross is focused on the only poll that matters — the one on Election Day."


The poll that showed Ross with a 2-point lead was conducted by Opinion Research Associates for the state Democratic Party. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.


The Arkansas Poll also found overwhelming support for a proposed initiated act that would raise the state minimum wage gradually from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017, with 69 percent of very likely voters saying they favor it and 24 percent saying they oppose it.


Respondents also were asked whether they favor or oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow statewide alcohol sales and another that would impose ethics restrictions on state officials and extend legislative term limits. Both measures received strong opposition.


On the alcohol measure, 51 percent of very likely voters said they oppose it and 41 percent said they favor it. On the ethics and term limits measure, 59 percent said they oppose it and 27 percent said they favor it.


Respondents were not asked about individual congressional or legislative candidates, but they were asked whether they were more likely to vote for the Republican, Democratic or third-party candidates in the races in their areas.


For congressional races, the breakdown among very likely voters was 47 percent Republican and 33 percent Democratic, with 21 percent favoring a third-party candidate, undecided or declining to answer. The percentages add up to more than 100 because of rounding.


For legislative races, the breakdown among very likely voters was 45 percent Republican, 36 percent Democratic and 19 percent choosing another option.


Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe received a 70 job approval rating from very likely voters and an 18 percent disapproval rating. Pryor received 33 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, and Obama received 27 percent approval and 68 percent disapproval.


When respondents were asked whether they think of themselves as Republican, Democrats, independents or something else, 31 percent of likely voters said Republican, 33 percent said Democrat, 33 percent said independent and 3 percent chose "other." When independents were asked which party they are closest to, 43 percent said Republican, 23 percent said Democrat and 28 percent said they are just independent.


When asked whether they think of themselves as liberal, moderate or conservative, 14 percent of very likely voters said liberal, 31 percent said moderate and 49 percent said conservative.


Asked about their opinion of the federal Affordable Care Act, 58 percent of very likely voters said they have an unfavorable opinion and 28 percent said they a favorable opinion.


On gay marriage, 22 percent of very likely voters said gays should be allowed to marry, 23 percent said they should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships but not marry, and 48 percent said there should be no legal recognition of gay relationships.


— Times Record reporter Chad Hunter in Fort Smith contributed to this report.