GOP Race for Arizona Governor is Wide Open

Latest survey shows “undecided” leading the pack with double digit lead & widespread angst within the electorate over the current immigration crisis

PHOENIX – (July 14, 2014) A statewide survey of high efficacy primary voters conducted July 10-12 shows that, despite heavy ad buys in the gubernatorial primary, Republicans in Arizona are still overwhelmingly undecided on who will be their party’s nominee to succeed Governor Jan Brewer.

The survey shows that 44.8% of voters who participated in at least two of the last three Republican primary elections in Arizona are undecided on the race with another 5% that didn’t know or refused to answer.

The live telephone survey (attached) was conducted by HighGround Inc. of 400 high efficacy Republican primary voters with a 4.9% margin of error at a 95% confidence interval. The survey was balanced to reflect the anticipated turnout in the 2014 primary election by age, gender, party affiliation, congressional district turnout and early voters who are on the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL).

Q: If the Republican primary election for Governor were held today, who would you vote for: [Randomize names]

17.3% Doug Ducey
15.3% Christine Jones
9.8% Scott Smith
3.5% Ken Bennett
3.0% Andrew Thomas
1.5% Frank Riggs
44.8% Undecided
5.0% Don’t Know, Refused

“We believe the results show that the Republican primary is a wide open race between the top three candidates – Ducey, Jones and Smith,” said Paul Bentz of HighGround, Inc., who has conducted surveys for the firm and its clients for the past 10 years. “With just two weeks left before early balloting begins, nearly half of the likely primary voters are still undecided. It looks like it is going to be a marathon to earn every vote, not a jog to the finish line for any of these candidates.”

Immigration Now Higher than at the Peak of SB1070

In addition to measuring the candidates head to head, the survey also delved into the issue of immigration and border security. Voter interest has spiked because of the crisis of child migration into the United States from several Central American countries.

Q: What do you consider to be the top issue facing Arizona today? [Randomize]

62.8% Immigration and Border Issues
20.8% Jobs and the Economy
8.5% Education
3.5% State Budget
2.8% Healthcare
1.5% Taxes
0.3% Transportation

Nearly 63% of the primary voting Republican electorate indicated that immigration and border issues were by far and away the top issue facing Arizona today. “In a June 2010 survey two months after Governor Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, 49% of the primary electorate considered immigration and border issues the top issue. Today, it’s a full 13 points higher than at the height of that public policy crisis,” said Bentz.

Immigration and Border Issues Considered Major Crisis

The survey also revealed that over 65% of the respondents indicated that immigration and border issues were a ‘major public policy crisis’ facing Arizona today. Another 22% believed that it was a ‘serious issue.’

Q: On a scale of 5 to 1 on which 5 means a major public policy crisis, 4 means a serious issue, 3 is not an important issue, 2 means an ordinary issue, and 1 means an overblown issue, how would you rate immigration and border issues in Arizona?

5.8% Overblown issue
1.8% Ordinary issue
4.5% Not an important issue
21.8% A serious issue
65.3% A major issue crisis
1.0% Undecided, Refused

Support for Immigration Reform Measures amongst Republican Voters

A slim majority of Arizona Republican voters support the general notion of ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ Without any additional description, 51.5% of the primary voters stated that they supported the concept, while 30.0% opposed.

Q: Do you support or oppose comprehensive immigration reform?

22.5% Definitely Oppose
7.5% Probably Oppose
19.0% Probably Support
32.5% Definitely Support
18.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“We acknowledge that comprehensive immigration reform means many different things to different voters, so we decided to dig a bit deeper into this issue,” Bentz stated. “We fielded a more specific policy question that has been articulated as a potential response to the ‘Gang of 8’ proposal supported by Arizona’s two U.S. Senators.”

Q: Would you support an immigration reform policy that would secure the border with more agents, fencing and technology; crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants; provide a 10 year waiting time to apply to become a lawful permanent resident, but NOT citizenship; and develop a system to issue temporary visas for limited periods for both high and low skilled workers where jobs are not being filled?

10.0% Definitely No
5.8% Probably No
34.0% Probably Yes
43.0% Definitely Yes
7.3% Don’t Know, Refused

The data show that 77% of Arizona Republican voters overwhelmingly support a policy to:

  • Secure the border with more agents and technology;
  • Crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants;
  • Provide a 10-year waiting time to apply to become lawful permanent resident, not citizenship; and
  • Issue more visas for both high and low skilled workers where jobs are not currently being filled.

“There is a path forward with Republican voters on immigration reform, but it appears that the key to finding common ground on the issue is settling the issue of citizenship,” Bentz stated. “Republicans are much more likely to support a policy that does not include citizenship.”

Strong Demand for Immediate Return of Unaccompanied Children

Q: What do you think the Federal Government should do about the estimated 50,000 children who have entered the U.S. illegally in recent months? [Rotate]

66.3% Immediately return unaccompanied children back to their country of origin
17.0% Permit children to stay with relatives in the US while deportation hearings proceed
5.5% Keep the children in Customs detention centers while deportation hearings proceed
3.8% Allow the children to stay in the United States
7.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“The data suggest any continuing effort by the Obama Administration to relocate or parole these children into the U.S. will be met with fierce opposition amongst the Republican primary voting electorate,” said Bentz.

The law requires Health and Human Services to take custody of these ‘unaccompanied children’ pending the children’s immigration hearing within 72 hours after determining that such child is an unaccompanied alien child, but it has been pointed out that the President could use his Executive authority to require expedited deportation or removal hearings to begin to send these children home and deal with this issue as a foreign policy crisis rather than making it a domestic policy crisis. Also, the current law does not require the Administration to parole these children into the United States to live while waiting for their deportation or removal hearing (8 U.S. Code 1182 (d)(5)(A) and 8 USC 1232 (c)(2) and (3)(A) and (B)).

In addition under current law, children accompanied by an adult when apprehended need not be paroled to live in the United States and may be immediately returned to their home country under what is called the ‘expedited removal process’ (8 U.S. Code § 1225 Subsection (b) (1) (A)(i)). Further, ‘unaccompanied children’ from Mexico and Canada may be immediately returned to their home country in an ‘expedited removal process’ for unaccompanied children from a ‘contiguous country’ (8 USC 1232 (a)(2)).

Nearly 58% of Republicans Would Support Raising Arizona Taxes to Secure the Border and Increase Immigration Enforcement

Q: If the Federal government refuses to secure the border, would you support the state of Arizona increasing taxes to allocate additional resources to securing the border and increasing immigration enforcement?

24.5% Definitely No
12.3% Probably No
20.5% Probably Yes
37.3% Definitely Yes
5.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“In our research, we have found very few issues where members of the GOP are willing to increase taxes,” Bentz stated. “Needless to say, this came as a bit of a shock but it does show the depth of frustration within the Republican electorate. Republicans are so fed up that they are willing to try almost anything, including breaking the cardinal rule of Republican politics —raising taxes— to secure the border,” stated Bentz.

“I believe these results reflect the stubborn independent voter streak which lies within the Arizona electorate and its distaste for the protracted and inefficient Federal response to this crisis,” Bentz continued. “The spirit of Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes and Mo Udall lives in the hearts and on the minds of Arizona voters. The ‘Hell, if they won’t do it, we will!’ attitude is alive and well in the Grand Canyon State.”

More than a Third of Primary Voters Identify Themselves as Independents, Rather than Traditional GOP or Tea Party

Q: If you had to chose, would you more closely identify yourself as [Rotate]

35.8% Part of the traditional Republican Party
23.3% Part of the Tea Party Movement
34.5% An independent
4.0% Other
2.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“Several other surveys have shown a lower number of undecided voters in the gubernatorial contest but we believe those surveys may have oversampled self-described ‘tea party’ supporters. In fact, many samples only reflect traditional GOP and tea party supporters. However, we must be mindful of the growing number of voters who are registered and vote in Republican primaries but increasingly do not identify themselves as Republicans despite their registration,” said Bentz.

“While we remained conservative on our modeling of Independent and PND turnout, this block of voters’ increased participation is something to look out for. This election cycle may be unusual for the number of Independent and PND voters who participate in the electorate along with a large number of registered Republicans who no longer identify themselves with their own party. With early ballots two just weeks away, it appears the Governor’s race is wide open and will go down to the wire,” concluded Bentz.

About HighGround & Public Opinion Polling

HighGround, Inc. has a long history of successful public affairs work that reflects their unique ability to manage and characterize public policy issues in various environments. HighGround and Bentz have conducted live call surveys for the past 10 years in Arizona, working often with Margaret Kenski of Arizona Opinion, Moore Information, and others. The firm has a great deal of experience in determining and measuring statewide, regional, and local voter behavior.

HighGround’s data capabilities are unparalleled in their depth and samples are based on reliable voter data and historic voting trends. HighGround has performed surveys for clients on a wide variety of statewide and local issues including Medicaid restoration, school funding, minimum wage, transportation, local ballot initiatives, and candidate campaigns, among others.

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