FHSU survey finds Trump leading in Kansas, half say BLM deepens racial divide

Deep support in poll for recreational marijuana, Medicaid expansion

Law enforcement supporters and Black Lives Matter activists converged outside Topeka's city hall during August. Fort Hays State University's statewide survey shows 49% of Kansans believe Black Lives Matter sharpened the racial divide in the United States. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Law enforcement supporters and Black Lives Matter activists converged outside Topeka's city hall during August. Fort Hays State University's statewide survey shows 49% of Kansans believe Black Lives Matter sharpened the racial divide in the United States. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A statewide poll of Kansans revealed a majority support re-election of President Donald Trump, nearly half believe the Black Lives Matter movement deepened the nation’s racial divide and two-thirds endorse legalization of recreational marijuana.

The annual survey by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University indicated 68.5% believe the state was heading in the right direction, which was a decline from 77% last year. Six of 10 people want Kansas political leaders to expand eligibility for Medicaid, and a comparable percentage wouldn’t complain if cigarette and alcohol taxes were increased.

Brett Zollinger, the Docking Institute’s director and a co-author of the polling report, said the pre-election timing of the release Monday could be of benefit to voters.

The annual survey of Kansans by Fort Hays State University indicates 66.9% of those polled are supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age or older. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
The annual survey of Kansans by Fort Hays State University indicates 66.9% of those polled are supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age or older. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

“We hope that findings released ahead of the election are particularly interesting to Kansans now when so many of the public affairs issues covered in the survey are on Kansans’ minds as they solidify their voting intentions,” he said.

The survey of 417 adult Kansas residents from Sept. 21 to Oct. 1 showed that Trump had a 14.4% lead over Democratic nominee Joe Biden among registered voters who planned to cast a ballot. The margin of error for the poll was 4.8%.

The protests of Black Lives Matter left an impression on Kansans with 49% concluding that bringing attention to use of lethal force by law enforcement officers against Blacks made racial issues worse in the country. Only 17% in the survey said Black Lives Matter had improved race relations.

The new survey of Kansans said 66.9% of participants would back legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 years of age. On raising alcohol taxes, 62.5% said that wouldn’t be a terrible development. And, 66.1% didn’t have strong objection to higher cigarette taxes.

In a repeat of last year’s Kansas Speaks question about Medicaid expansion, 63.5% would applaud broadening eligibility for the national health program serving low-income Kansans. Nearly 72% of people surveyed said the additional federal and state expenditures to health care providers would benefit Kansas hospitals.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest marks in the survey went to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, with 51.5% approving of his leadership. Trump’s approval rating in terms of the coronavirus that has killed an estimated 220,000 in the United States was 42.9%, while the work of Congress netted endorsement from just 16.9% of poll participants.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s approval rating was 47.5% on the pandemic, while the Kansas Legislature was held in high regard on the issue by 26.7% of those polled. People in the survey said “their county” deserved a 38.6% approval rating. The same question of “my city” elicited a positive response from 42.3%.

More than 70% agreed wearing a mask or face covering helped reduce the spread of COVID-19, but nearly 15% were convinced of the opposite.