AZ Central: Why our poll accurately predicted Arizona election results when others failed Opinion: Polls on the November election added once again to the perception that they cannot be trusted. But maybe they’re asking the wrong questions.
Polls sought to tell us who was ahead in the days and weeks before the November election.
In the final days, most had Kari Lake leading in the Arizona governor’s race and Blake Masters close or leading in the U.S. Senate race.
Nationally, polls suggested a red wave would sweep Republicans into strong majorities in the U.S. House and even the Senate.
They were wrong, adding once again to the perception that polls can’t be trusted.
But maybe they’re asking the wrong questions.
Our poll ran counter to election narratives
Twice throughout the 2022 election cycle, Center for the Future of Arizona polled Arizona’s likely voters. We didn’t ask about candidates or how people planned to vote. Instead, we sought to understand what issues and candidate qualities were important to voters and whether they trusted the state’s election system.
The results ran counter to the narrative of polarization, division and mistrust of elections, which could have made it easy for skeptics to dismiss the findings: More than three-fourths of Arizonans expressed confidence that the November election results would be accurate, and by a 2-1 margin, they preferred candidates willing to work across the aisle and compromise to get things done over ideologically rigid candidates.
The votes were cast and counted, and the survey results were borne out.
Candidates who emphasized practical solutions and working across the aisle defeated those who took rigid ideological positions or cast doubt on the state’s election system. In contested races, Republican Kimberly Yee was the top vote-getter. Her campaign eschewed election conspiracies and focused on the practical actions she would emphasize as state treasurer.
These findings suggest that political narratives may not, in fact, reflect where Arizona voters stand on issues or fairly represent their outlook on politics. Political narratives, including ones that would have us believe we are hopelessly divided or polarized and don’t trust our election system, may instead serve those perpetuating those views. Our survey results suggest this is the case.
Arizona wants focus on education, water
Many issues that rise to the top of public discussions and political narratives are not, in fact, representative of what the majority of Arizonans care about.
How many ads did we see that promised to build a border wall? Yet, in our survey, voters did not rank this as a priority; they were far more interested in seeing comprehensive immigration reform, including providing a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers.” That finding was validated by the passage of Proposition 308, which guarantees in-state tuition to all Arizona high school graduates regardless of immigration status.
Attacking the election system was also a losing strategy. In our August survey, three-quarters of respondents across political affiliations said the state’s elections are fair, 70% said they’re secure and 77% were confident that November election results would be accurate.
The faith in our election system that Arizona voters displayed appears to have been reflected across the nation as we witnessed the defeat of prominent election deniers.
Arizonans were clear on what they want leaders to focus on: an education system that works for all students. Investments that keep up with growth. Protecting water, air, and the environment. They care more about issues and plans than ideology and want leaders who will work across the aisle and compromise to find solutions to complex issues.
We knew all this going into Election Day. Now that the results are in, voters have said they really meant it.
So, what do our leaders do? Will a Democrat governor and Republican-led Legislature work together to create the Arizona we want?
That’s what the state’s residents told us they expect.
Sybil Francis is President & CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.