Voters fill out ballots at Eudora Welty Library in Jackson during the Mississippi Senate runoff election Tuesday, November 27, 2018.

A majority of “Republican leaners” and independents who normally vote Republican are not enthusiastic about the upcoming November general election, according to the quarterly Millsaps polls conducted by Mississippi-based Chism strategies.

According to the poll, respondents who label themselves as “strong” Republicans or Democrats “are energized about the November general election.” But the pollster pointed out when comparing those who “lean Democrat” to those who “lean Republican” and self-styled independents who normally vote Republicans “Democrats hold a considerable advantage in voter enthusiasm.”

According to the poll, 53 percent of the Democratic leaners “are very or somewhat enthusiastic” while 63 percent of Republican leaners are “not very enthusiastic” or “disappointed in their choices.”

The poll, conducted Sept. 9-14, comes on the heels of a contentious Republican primary and runoff election for governor where the eventual loser, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., refused to endorse the winner, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

The poll of 606 registered voters in the state has a margin of error of less than 4 percent. It is the ninth quarterly survey conducted by Millsaps and Chism Strategies. Chism has done some contractual work for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Hood, the state’s attorney general.

The poll results did not include any head-to-head matchups.

The poll was weighted to reflect the expected demographics of the upcoming election with 33 percent of the respondents being black Mississippians and 65 percent white.

Perhaps a saving grace for Republicans is that their leaners represented about 8 percentage points more of the total respondents than did the Democratic leaners. Independents represented almost 20 percent of the respondents.

Overall, voter enthusiasm was greater, based on the poll, than that in the previous two elections. The poll found 66 percent of those identified as strong Democrats extremely or somewhat enthused to 62 percent of strong Republicans.

Perhaps another indicator heading into the November general election is that there was an 8 percentage point drop to 32.5 percent of those who believe the state is heading in the right direction compared 37.4 who believe it is headed in the wrong direction. The right direction number was the lowest of the nine points conducted by Millsaps/Chism Strategies. But the number improved to nearly 40 percent who believe the state is heading in the right direction when asked specifically about their region of the state.

In other results:

  • 89.5 percent support background checks for all firearm purchased in Mississippi.
  • 48 percent believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to work in the state if they pay their taxes and do not have a criminal record compared to 39 percent who believe all should be deported.
  • 46 percent support President Donald Trump’s policy on tariffs while 40.6 oppose it.
  • 68.1 percent believe owners of companies that employ undocumented workers should face prosecution.
  • 22 percent give Gov. Phil Bryant, who is completing the final months of his second and final term, an A while 22 percent give him a B, 21 percent a C, 14 percent a D and 17 percent an F.
  • 55 percent support a so-called “jungle” or open primary where candidates from both parties appear on the same ballot.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.