Survey: What political issues are relevant to Mississippi voters?


What political issues are relevant to Mississippians? That’s the question the ninth Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey seeks to answer.

Some of what the survey discovered may come as a surprise. What may not be surprising is that voters are divided in their perception of whether the state is headed in the right direction.

“Mississippi voters are split on the question of the state’s direction just a few weeks before the elections that will determine who holds all of the statewide offices and every single seat in the legislature,” said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College, in a statement.

There was an eight-point reduction in the share of voters who believe that the state is heading in the right direction from the summer 2019 survey to the fall 2019 survey, and the lowest share of voters —about a third—who say that the state is heading in the right direction over the course of nine quarters of polling.

“The fall 2019 State of the State Survey also finds that voters are only mildly enthusiastic about the crucial November elections, with just over half saying they are enthusiastic,” Shrader said.

On one issue, gun regulation, Mississippians are nearly all united. Nine in ten Mississippi voters are united in their support for requiring background checks for all firearm purchases in the state.

Another issue that unites many in the state is opioid addiction. Huge majorities agree that the opioid addiction crisis is a serious national problem, 92 percent, while 86 percent believe it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in Mississippi.

The survey also asked questions related to immigration and the recent ICE raids in the state.

The issue of immigration has roiled the Magnolia State since Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted raids of several Mississippi chicken plants in August, arresting nearly 700 workers. Nearly half of Mississippi voters report that they favor allowing individuals who are in the United States without legal authorization to remain if they are employed, pay their taxes, and do not have a criminal record. Just over 39 percent say that those who are here without legal authorization should be arrested and deported without exceptions.

Despite the stark differences on this question, nearly 70 percent of Mississippi voters agree that the businesses hiring those without legal authorization to be in the United States should also face prosecution, compared to just 16 percent who oppose such actions.

Other key findings from the fall 2019 State of the State Survey are:

  • Just 33 percent of voters believe the state as a whole is heading in the right direction, but that number improves to nearly 40 percent when voters are asked to consider their own area of Mississippi.
  • Voters were asked to “grade” Gov. Phil Bryant on his eight years in office: 22 percent say he deserves an A, 22 percent give him a B, 21 percent provide him with a C, 14 percent give him a D, and 17 percent award him an F.
  • Mississippi voters are split on whether their consumer behavior will change as a result of retailers asking customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms inside their establishments or if they decide to stop selling certain kinds of military-style ammunition and ammunition for handguns.
  • President Trump’s tariff policies are supported by 46 percent of Mississippi voters and opposed by 41 percent.
  • 55 percent of voters embrace moving to a “jungle” or top-two primary system where all candidates of all parties run together on the same ballot with the top two advancing to a runoff; just 23 percent oppose such a change.
  • Mississippi voters are skeptical of ranked choice voting and eliminating primary runoff elections all together.

“We are pleased to help produce the ninth quarterly in-depth study of Mississippi voter sentiment for all to review,” said Brad Chism, President of Chism Strategies, in a statement. “There is useful information here for voters of all political persuasions. We applaud the Millsaps Department of Government and Politics for their commitment to enhancing the public policy debate in Mississippi.”

The State of the State Survey involves a partnership between the Millsaps College Department of Government and Politics and Chism Strategies. The survey was conducted from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14 with a sample size of 606, with 50 percent of interviews conducted via cell phone and 50 percent via landline. The survey has a +/-3.98 percent margin of error. Results were weighted to reflect the likely voter turnout for the 2019 Mississippi elections. To read or download the entire survey, click here.