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How divided are Arizonans on major issues? Not very, new survey finds

Posted on April 21, 2021By Rachel Leingang, Reporter, Arizona Republic

Arizonans share broad consensus on key issues facing the state, like education and immigration, regardless of their backgrounds, a new report from the Center for the Future of Arizona and Gallup found.

It follows up on a similar 2009 survey that the center did with Gallup, which shared the views of Arizonans, what they want and where they align.

The report "holds a mirror up" to Arizona, to comprehensively assess where the state is at and where it could be, said Sybil Francis, the president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona.

"I think it's very important for people to understand the totality of who we are, what we aspire to, and what we could be if we set our minds to it," she said. 

The report offers dozens of ideas for policy changes that could address these shared values of Arizonans. And it shows that, in a time of harsh polarization, there are still many areas where people agree.

"There's so much of a narrative around political division and partisanship and all of those challenges that we've been experiencing. ... We really have much more in common. We agree on much more than we disagree," Francis said.

The results came from more than 3,500 participants, who filled out mail and web surveys for Gallup between Aug. 28 and Oct. 26, 2020. More than 29,000 Arizona households received the survey, and a random sample of 3,586 respondents was used for the report to create a statistically accurate representation of Arizona's regions and different demographic groups. 

Gallup, a public opinion polling firm, typically works at the national level, making this type of state-level deep-dive special, said Steve Crabtree of Gallup, who worked on the survey. 

The results show "strong points of consensus about what's important for the state to work on in order to provide a promising future for all of its residents," Crabtree said.

So, what do Arizonans want?

Here's what the majority of Arizonans surveyed by Gallup said they agreed on.

Arizonans want to see education improved, and there's resounding agreement on several policy ideas, like the need for highly qualified teachers and principals, increased college enrollment and closing educational gaps, the survey found. Respondents saw education as important and nearly three-fourths don't think the state is providing a high-quality public education experience.

They agree that health is important and want to see improvements on affordability, accessibility and state management of public health crises, according to the survey.

Most respondents love Arizona, too, with 70% saying they are proud to live here. But many felt uncertain about the state's future, and that was especially true for younger Arizonans who were surveyed.

They want immigration reform, with 86% supporting a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. They want a fairer criminal justice system that's focused on rehabilitation.

In the workplace, respondents wanted to see better pay, job stability and more opportunities for careers for young people. Other policies, like child care affordability, also were seen as important for job success, the survey found.

Arizonans want to preserve and improve our natural environment as temperatures continue to rise. The majority support protecting wild areas (92% saw as important), regulating rural water supplies (85%), reducing the heat island effect (84%) and using clean energy (74%). 

The majority want to make voting more accessible and supported policies like voting by mail (73% support), early in-person voting (79%) and automatic voter registration when applying for a driver's license or state ID (77%).

They want to work together to address these issues and ensure their governments are more responsive as well. They also believe the state needs to confront systemic racism and other types of discrimination. 

The center sees the report as providing data-driven background on key issues that could inform the work of other groups and elected officials. 

"We really see this being put in the hands of leaders at the highest level," Francis said.

The center will be sharing the report and findings across the state and hopes groups like nonprofits, businesses and communities see areas they can get involved to dig into the data and help it inform the work they set out to do.

Reach reporter Rachel Leingang by email at [email protected] or by phone at 602-444-8157, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.