More than half of those polled by the University of Arkansas in a recent telephone survey of 800 "very likely" voters favor a proposed sales tax increase to support $1.3 billion of state highway revenue bonds.

The 14th annual Arkansas Poll conducted by Issues & Answers Network found that 53% of state residents surveyed in mid-October favored the 10-year, 0.5% sales tax increase while 42% are opposed.

The constitutional amendment that would levy the additional tax is Ballot Issue No. 1 at the Nov. 6 election.

The tax increase is expected to generate $1.6 billion over 10 years for the program by the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to build a network of four-lane highways connecting major cities in the state. Cities and counties will share a total of $400 million for local road efforts over the span.

Arkansas's highway bonds are rated Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's.

Poll director Janine Parry said although Arkansas voters favor Republican challenger Mitt Romney over President Obama by a margin of 58% to 31%, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe remains popular.

"Since 2007, approval of Gov. Beebe has never dipped below 70%." Parry said. "That level of support for a Democratic governor in a Southern state is remarkable in this political climate."

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 %. Pollsters said 20% of all respondents were cell phone users, and 10 of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.

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