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AZ Central: Voters want candidates who are willing to compromise and to answer these 3 questions

Opinion: Not election integrity. Most voters believe our elections are fair and secure. Rather, they want candidates to talk about these important issues.
Posted on October 08, 2022 • Category: Op-Ed
By Sybil Francis, President & CEO , Center for the Future of Arizona

For our representative democracy to work, we must believe that our elections are fair and accurate, and we must have candidates who talk about the issues important to us.

On this, the latest Arizona Voters’ Agenda survey has good news and not-so-good news. Candidates and political reporters will find valuable advice in the results.

The good news: Despite all we hear about fraud and stolen votes, Arizonans have faith in our elections.

Three-quarters believe the state’s elections are fair, 70% say they’re secure, and 77% are confident November election results will be accurate, according to the survey of likely voters by HighGround Public Affairs commissioned by Center for the Future of Arizona. Democrats and independents are most likely to hold these beliefs, but a majority of Republicans do, too.

This is good news for democracy. We should all be gratified that those intimately involved in running elections have greater credibility than those seeking to undercut trust. Representative government works only if voters’ voices are heard, and it thrives only if voters trust the results.

Amplifying your and your neighbors’ voices is the point of the Arizona Voters’ Agenda, a partnership between Center for the Future of Arizona and HighGround.

Surveys in April and our newly released August findings highlight the gaps between what matters to Arizonans and what candidates emphasize. Opportunities abound for candidates to connect with voters, and for political reporters and forum hosts to serve their audiences by asking the questions on voters’ minds.

Arizonans are pragmatic. By a 2-1 margin, they prefer candidates willing to negotiate and compromise to get things done over ideologically rigid ones. Nearly two-thirds say they will vote based on a candidate’s position or clear plans.

But 44% say candidates are not talking about what matters to them. Significantly, nearly two-thirds of independents – the voters who generally decide elections – say candidates are not addressing their issues.

What do voters care about? It didn’t change from April to August: immigration, the economy, education, water. The August survey sought greater clarity on voters’ thinking, and the results raise important questions to ask every candidate:

  • How should Arizona invest in securing our water future, cleaner air, energy improvement in rural areas, protecting our electric grid, and managing our forests?

Three-fourths of respondents don’t expect Arizona to have enough water in the next century, and there is a clear split on how available water should be used.

More than one-fourth say current water supplies should be prioritized to ensure rivers and natural waterways sustain wildlife and recreation. About the same percentage put the priority on supporting agriculture. And another segment wants water to go toward population growth.

This means candidates and elected leaders need to find ways to meet all our needs more efficiently; it is not about sacrificing our lifestyle, per se. Voters should ask for clear and specific plans and ideas on how to balance the needs of Arizona’s many water users to ensure a sustainable future.

  • Do you believe Arizona should prioritize cutting taxes or continue investing in critical infrastructure to keep up with growth, and why?

The Legislature in June approved a $1 billion increase in education funding, so we wanted to know if voters’ opinions had changed. They barely budged. Two-thirds of respondents (including half the Republicans) said schools remain underfunded and teacher salaries are still too low.

Most support greater investments in education (60%), new roads and street repairs (57%) or public safety (50%) over a tax cut.

  • How do you propose to ensure all residents have access to housing that is safe and affordable?”

The April survey found strong support for increased housing affordability. In August, voters said that means state and local governments should ensure Arizonans have access to safe and affordable housing.

But more conversation is needed to pin down the best answers, making it even more important to find out where candidates stand.

The survey, for instance, found tepid interest in such measures as rent control or zoning changes, but strong support for expanding affordable housing options and prohibiting landlords from discriminating against people using housing assistance. Voters want to see more workforce housing options for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and health-care staff.

Four Center for the Future of Arizona surveys over the past decade have found broad agreement on the issues most important to our state. We are not as polarized as we’ve been led to believe. There may be differences in how we approach education, the economy, water and the environment, but we agree on the ultimate results we want.

How will the candidates seeking to represent you create the Arizona you want? Keep after them to answer these questions. And then vote, because your voice is important!


Sybil Francis is president & CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.