Arizona Republic: 'We do have things in common': New poll shows what Arizona voters agree on
Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic
Arizona voters overwhelmingly agree on increasing teacher pay, creating a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, securing the state's water future and more, according to a new poll.
The survey, from the Center for the Future of Arizona in conjunction with HighGround Public Affairs, suggests that voters across the political spectrum show similarities in what issues they care about.
It resulted in the Arizona Voters' Agenda, a list of policy points reflecting voter priorities that the center created for political leaders and candidates.
Sybil Francis, the president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, said the list aims to counter narratives of political division.
"We may not agree on everything, but we do have things in common," she said.
"The first step is to agree that we all want to get to similar outcomes, and until you know that, we're just going to be in gridlock."
For a policy point to make it onto the list, it needed a majority of respondents to indicate that they strongly supported the issue. In addition, the issue needed more than 50% support among every political affiliation and age group surveyed.
Read the full report: Arizona Voters' Agenda
Issues such as addressing inflation, increasing housing affordability and increasing investments to prevent forest fires on state land made the list. Proposals around eliminating mail-in voting and banning so-called critical race theory did not meet the support thresholds.
Paul Bentz, senior vice president of research and strategy at HighGround Public Affairs, said the survey suggests that politicians and election campaigns are out of touch with some of the main issues Arizonans care deeply about.
"Candidates are defined by the crowds they stand in front of, which is a small representation of the electorate," Bentz said. "Candidates don't talk about this stuff because they're scared to talk about it, because it's an uncertainty. They won a certain way, which is by catering to one audience, which then drives the discussion, so it's a cycle that fulfill itself."
The survey establishes outcomes that voters largely agree with, but it doesn't address the different ideas voters might have about how to accomplish them.
Francis said the poll is intended to serve as a launch point for dialogue and ideas from political leaders.
"We know these are things of interest to voters," Francis said. "And we're not saying that we have the answers. Let's hear that from the candidates."
The poll was conducted in April and recorded responses from 500 likely voters with a history of electoral participation, balanced to model the likely turnout of voters in the 2022 general election across party, age, region and race.
Based on previous midterm election trends, the partisan advantage was set at 8% more Republicans. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.3%.
Here are the areas where the poll found common ground.
Nearly all voters surveyed support ensuring that schools have "quality" teachers and leadership, according to the poll, with 96% of Republicans, 95% of unaffiliated voters and 98% of Democrats in agreement.
That finding matches responses from a different poll run by the Center for the Future of Arizona in conjunction with Gallup in 2020.
The poll found that voters also strongly support increasing teacher pay, increasing funding for K-12 public education and expanding career and technical education opportunities. Nearly 70% of respondents wanted to see more students pursue education or training beyond high school, and 80% of those polled indicated some level of support for reducing financial barriers for students going to college.
A majority of voters surveyed said they wanted to hear candidates talk about increasing affordability of early learning and closing gaps in educational outcomes for low-income children, children with disabilities and children learning English as a second language.
In May, Education Forward Arizona conducted an additional poll expanding on the Center for the Future of Arizona's survey. That poll found that a majority of voters surveyed supported increasing the number of counselors in schools.
It also found strong support among respondents for ensuring math proficiency and reading proficiency by the end of third grade. Voters surveyed generally opposed closing failing schools. Instead, respondents strongly favored providing support and resources to fix underperforming classrooms.
The state budget includes $1 billion in new money for K-12 education for the 2022-23 fiscal year, money approved by the Legislature in a bill signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
But Rich Nikel, president and CEO of Education Forward Arizona, said he believes education funding will remain a crucial issue for voters, pointing to items that have yet to see additional state funding, such as early education, secondary education and ongoing training.
"We don't think this education funding issue has been solved, and we don't think that the public will think that, either," Nikel said.
Economy and inflation
The survey findings demonstrate strong support among voters for addressing inflation and increasing job creation and business investment. Respondents shared concerns about reducing gas prices, rising costs and housing affordability.
Tax cuts, however, did not make the list. Voters indicated that they would prefer political leaders invest surpluses into education, public safety, roads and critical infrastructure.
Water and environment
Nearly all respondents said securing Arizona's water future and addressing long-term drought were important. Nearly 75% of voters polled said Arizona needed to take action to ensure long-term water supplies.
Additionally, 93% of Republicans, 95% of unaffiliated voters and 99% of Democrats said they supported protecting rivers, natural areas and wildlife. Roughly 65% of all respondents strongly supported sustainable practices to protect the environment.
Investing and passing measures to prevent forest fires on state land also made the list, with the support of 90% of Republicans, 93% of unaffiliated voters and 95% of Democrats, as did improving air quality, with 88% total support.
More than 85% of those polled agreed that all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, should have the same signature requirements to qualify for an elected office.
Currently, candidates in statewide races affiliated with a recognized political party are required to collect a minimum number of signatures equal to 0.25% of registered voters. Arizona recognizes only the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party.
Candidates running independently or with other parties are required to collect a minimum number of signatures equal to at least 3% of the total registered voters who are not members of a recognized political party.
That leaves those candidates collecting more signatures relative to their party size than Republican, Libertarian and Democratic candidates.
Respondents also said that early, in-person voting should be offered over several weeks leading up to elections, with 74% total support. About 87% of respondents agreed with a statement that said Arizona should keep its elections secure while preventing barriers to voting.
Clara Migoya / The Republic
Surveyed voters said they supported creating a "functioning" border for commerce and immigration, as well as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people brought to Arizona as children.
More than 80% of respondents indicated support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Voter surveyed said they believe immigration reform would strengthen the economy and make the border more secure.