Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 28, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Cronkite-Eight Poll

  |   Video
Guests:
  • Dr. Bruce Merrill - Director, Cronkite-Eight Poll
  • Dr. Tara Blanc - Associate Director, Cronkite-Eight Poll
Category: Cronkite-Eight Poll

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello. Welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons, democrats in the state legislature say a republican plan to cut $800 million from education in the upcoming fiscal year budget, some of that money might be back filled with federal stimulus cash. The public does not like cuts to education. That is a result in the latest Cronkite Eight polls conducted by 8TV and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. The poll of 390 registered Arizona voters was conducted April 23rd through the 26th and has a margin of error of plus or minus five percent. Here to talk about the results Dr. Bruce Merrill, director of the poll, and associate director, Dr. Tara Blanc. Thanks for joining us.

Bruce Merrill:
Good to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let's get it going here. Tara, education, two-thirds saying leave education alone.

Tara Blanc:
Yes, they did. We asked two open end questions on this poll, what areas did they think cuts could be made in the budget and, second, what area would you say cuts should not be made? Interesting enough, when we asked where cuts should be made, half of the people could not come up with an answer and the rest scattered across the board. Where cuts should not be made, far and away the overwhelming answer was education. Almost 70% of people we talked to said do not cut the budget for education.

Ted Simons:
Surprise, so much significantly more, public safety 10%, health care 3%, children services 3%, border patrol, high profile ideas yet education trumps them all.

Tara Blanc:
The interesting part about this, maybe we don't give voters enough credit for looking at how society works and what goes into what makes society better for everybody. Education touches everybody. For some reason, education seems to be the one that people value the most and are just adamant about. They don't want to see anymore cuts made to it.

Ted Simons:
Bruce, is that one of the reasons we see so many protests and why the legislature is having a tough time balancing the budget with any kind of cuts to education?

Bruce Merrill:
Absolutely. In fairness to the legislature, approximately half of our entire state budget goes to education. So, by constitution, we have to have a balanced budget, and when you have to make cuts, there is no question that some cuts have to be made in education, because that's half of our budget. If not, you would get rid of every other service provided by the state. I think Tara is absolutely right. I think people understand our future economically in Arizona is dependent upon improve our education system and giving kids a better head start.

Ted Simons:
Controversial subject in education is all-day kindergarten, and we asked the question regarding all-day kindergarten, and it sounds like a lot of folks like the idea.

Tara Blanc:
They do. A lot of people thought it was very important that all-day kindergarten be continued. That goes back to what Bruce said earlier, about educating our population, looking at the economic base. Arizona is trying to move to a knowledge based economy, and without education, we wouldn't be able to do that. Voters understand that.

Ted Simons:
The next panel, what you referred to earlier, the idea of what could be, you know, if you wanted to make a cut, what could be made, a whole list of things here. What would you want to cut? As you can see, administration, roads, all of this kind of stuff. Don't cut anything, 3%. The next panel though, it sounds as though no one, Bruce, had an answer. What's going on here?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, there is absolutely no question that, you know, people don't have a lot of detailed information about the budget. And there has been a lot of emphasis in the news about cutting education. That's one reason when you ask an open-ended question, that's what's on people's minds. That's why to some degree they're saying education. But, you know, the budgeting process is a very, very complex issue, and I think all you can read into this is people don't have a clear idea of where cuts should be made, but they have a very clear idea that they do not want education cut unless it is absolutely essential.

Ted Simons:
Let's keep it moving here. The governor, job approval rating for the governor, and it sounds like folks that know about the governor seem to like the governor.

Bruce Merrill:
Well, I think that's true. I, however, I do think that one of the most important findings in the poll is that more than a third of all registered voters in Arizona don't know enough about the governor to give her a rating. And when we ask about her policies, to bring the state out of this economic recession, one out of every five voters said that they didn't know enough about her policies to rate them. And so you have a situation I think where we have a governor that works very hard with the legislature, kind of behind the scenes, but so far has not projected a strong leadership persona in the mass public.

Ted Simons:
Let's look at the numbers Bruce referred to as to whether or not the governor has the ability or is capable of handling the economy. Again, 19% no opinion. But there is not a lot -- is this as much a concern about the economy, maybe even more so than it is the governor's performance? Could you put anybody in the governor's office right now and get much different numbers?

Tara Blanc:
I suspect it is a mix of the two. Again, it goes back to the idea that a lot of the voters are not familiar enough yet with Jan Brewer to get a feel for what she is doing and I think again as you mentioned it is just the economic situation. People are still fairly pessimistic. Some of the news lately has been better in some areas, but I think people are worried and I think that's reflected in the numbers that we see here.

Ted Simons:
The numbers regarding a temporary one cent sales tax to help balance the budget. Any surprise at all that the supporting numbers were as high as they were.

Bruce Merrill:
Not really. This is I think the third time that we have measured that, second or third time, and other polls done, and consistently show about a 60% support for that, and I think it goes back to Tara's point, and that is that people know something has to be done, and I think they're willing to make their sacrifice also and pay more taxes.

Ted Simons:
If we had lawmakers here, do you think they would be sitting there going I just don't believe these numbers or they just don't know what they're saying? At the legislature, the concept of a tax increase is simply verboten.

Tara Blanc:
I know. It is interesting. When Governor Brewer first announced the idea for the sales tax, there was a lot of upheaval among republicans about this idea, but I think what is important here is that the voters are looking at this and saying we need to do something. And we're willing to be part of this by, you know, contributing a little bit more, at least temporarily to get the budget balanced and moving forward.

Ted Simons:
A couple of questions regarding President Obama. First of all, job approval rating numbers, Bruce, what do you make of this?

Bruce Merrill:
Well, they're high, 60%. They're down two or three percentage points compared with the national ratings which run 62 or 63. The most important thing is how partisan we found this to be. 80% of the democrats think he is doing a good job. About 30% of the republicans think he is doing a good job. In Arizona, the independents hold the balance of power, and 68% of them think he is doing pretty well. It is a very partisan rating.

Ted Simons:
Same kind of thing, the question was asked whether the President is doing a good job or can handle the economic crisis. Same kind of partisan divide here?

Bruce Merrill:
Yes, not quite as much partisan divide, but clearly the republicans are less optimistic than the democrats.

Ted Simons:
Okay, as far as foreign affairs, it sounds like folks -- did they think he is -- it sounds like he is improving the U.S. image out there, but little difference, 19%, no opinion, 6%. Much of an improvement there?

Tara Blanc:
It is not much of an improvement. It pretty much breaks the same way as the general Obama question and the economic one. I think people are still kind of hanging back and waiting to see what Obama is really going to do. And so I think part of that -- part of what we found in this overall rating, all of the ratings we asked about might be reflected in that. Obviously, Arizona is a republican state. I suspect there might be a little hangover from the election. John McCain ran a campaign that toward the end was pushing, trying to scare people about Obama. With the economic situation and the tension in the world, that people are sitting back and they're a little nervous about what is going on.

Ted Simons:
All of that globe trotting, do you think the numbers might have been higher?

Bruce Merrill:
I was going to say, what's interesting, the rest of the world likes what Obama is doing much more than Americans do.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Financial crisis, interesting question. Has it affected you personally? And it sounds like everyone has been hit in one way, shape, or form.

Bruce Merrill:
I think that's basically true. 75% of the people in Arizona say that this economic downturn has directly affected them or their family. Stop and think about it. That is a huge number of people.

Ted Simons:
Yeah, and as far as whether or not you think the economy is going to improve in the future, stay the same, these sorts of things, again, Tara, 49% say it is going to stay the same. That says something considering so many folks don't think it is all that hot to begin with.

Tara Blanc:
I think it goes back to the idea that people are nervous about what is going on, pessimistic, sitting tight, and hoping, but maybe not expecting things to get better.

Bruce Merrill:
I think the interesting thing there, Ted, 75% of the people in Arizona think the economy is going to stay the same or get worse next year.

Ted Simons:
Yeah.

Bruce Merrill:
There is not a lot of optimism right now.

Tara Blanc:
That will have an effect on what happens. Our attitude towards what happens will affect what happens.

Ted Simons:
Before you go, both of you, was the poll shaped by more pessimism than optimism overall?

Bruce Merrill:
I think Arizona is one of those states like California, really soared when the economy is good. Arizona is one of those states that has really been hit hard.

Ted Simons:
Agree with that?

Tara Blanc:
Oh, yeah, very definitely. We heard that in responses we were getting. One of the tell-tale signs about this, when we do the poll, it is like pulling teeth to get people to talk to us. We did not have this problem this time. People wanted to talk about what was going on.

Ted Simons:
Thank you. Great stuff. We appreciate it.

Swine Flu

  |   Video
  • What is Arizona doing to get ready for the swine flu and is the problem as bad as it is being portrayed? Arizona Acting State Health Director Will Humble discusses the swine flu.
Guests:
  • Will Humble - Arizona Acting State Health Director
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Concerns continue to grow about the new strain of swine flu, 64 confirmed cases in the United States, no fatalities as yet. Mexico 150 deaths are being blamed on the disease. Arizona has no reported cases, although four samples are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control to see if they test positive for swine flu. First, here is some reaction from city and county officials.

Phil Gordon:
The fact of the matter is there isn't -- there is not an emergency here in Arizona, but that Arizona, because of its training, participation as a state throughout the state, the state to the counties to the cities, and particularly our involvement with the state and the federal and the county of Maricopa, are prepared and well trained to handle an emergency if it should arise. Let me acknowledge secondly right off the bat as of a few minutes ago, there are still no reported cases of the swine influenza in the state of Arizona.

Claude Mattox:
Centers for disease control has actually put out -- every flu season they put out a list of things that you should be doing to stay healthy. The first is to avoid close contact. If you know someone who is ill, you know, just stay away from them. Don't shake hands. You know, this -- this particular influenza is airborne, so keep distance from folks like that. If you are sick, to avoid infecting other folks stay at home. Simple way to avoid getting other people sick. Cover your mouth and your nose if you are going to be coughing or if you are around someone that is ill, make sure that you use a mask. Make sure that you're not breathing directly from them. Clean your hands wash your hands. That is very simple, but this virus obviously is something that can be left behind. So, just wash your hands more frequently. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Again, washing your hands will help in that regard. And also as we learned to practice no longer do you want to cough into your hands. You want to cough into the crook of your arm or something to that effect. And then finally just practicing good health habits. Get plenty of sleep. Get exercise. Eat nutritious food. Drink water. These are common-sense ways to keep yourself healthy and avoid becoming a victim of this influenza.

Deborah Ostreicher:
We have been working with the local, state, and federal officials throughout the last several days, as well as into today to figure out what it is that we can do at the airport to help mitigate the transmission of this disease through air travel. For now, if a passenger does arrive at Sky Harbor with symptoms of the flu, the customs and border protection will isolate that person, give them a mask, work with them and contact the centers for disease control and figure out how to proceed. I'm sure they will have updated information for you of exactly how that is going to work. We have 18 daily nonstops between Phoenix and Mexico. I can give you more information on where those go and the times. We are cleaning carefully as we always are throughout the airport to make sure that disease that could be passed through touch is mitigated as much as possible, but we at the airport encourage you to heed the advice about taking your own precautions as responsible members of the public to do whatever you can to help mitigate the issue. We will keep you posted as to anything that changes at Sky Harbor in the coming days. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Here to talk about Arizona's reaction to the swine flu, Will Humble. Good to have you on the show. Thank you for joining us.

Will Humble:
Good evening, thanks.

Ted Simons:
No reported cases in Arizona as yet. Little surprised by that?

Will Humble:
We don't have any cases yet. We may get some in the next few days. We don't really quite know. We have stepped up our surveillance in the last few days, especially since Friday. Previous to Friday we were in our routine public health surveillance phase. After Friday, we kicked up to what we called enhanced surveillance, which means we're doing more specific outreach with emergency departments, community health centers, and individual clinicians out there in the field so that as they do test the folks, what is called a rapid test out there in the field, out there in the doctor's office, we're encouraging them to send in samples to the public health laboratory when folks test positive to influenza A that we can really look at that individual sample and determine if it is the swine flu variant, or like we have been finding all week long, just the regular seasonal flu.

Ted Simons:
What happens if you do find it is swine flu? What changes here in Arizona?

Will Humble:
Okay. The first thing we would do is get back with the county health department and that individual clinician to make decisions about what kinds of public health interventions to conducts. So, for example, if we were to find a case in, say, an eight-year-old child in the second grade, all right, we talk to the county health department. The county health department would talk to that school and sort of make decisions about where to go from there. It could mean that the county health department would work with that school to dismiss school for say one week in that individual school, not the whole district, not the state, just that individual school so that we can get through a couple of incubation periods without spreading the disease, thereby limiting the spread to the community.

Ted Simons:
From where you sit, how serious is this outbreak?

Will Humble:
Well, I mean, it is a really good question, because it depends. We know that the same -- it is the exact same virus in Mexico as it is in the U.S. This is -- we test the D.N.A., we know it is the exact same strain. In the U.S., we've got over 60 cases now, and we see a very relatively mild virus, a lot like the regular seasonal flu. It is not mild if you have a 101 fever, but relative to what we normally see, the swine flu cases we see across the country are really similar to normal flu season viruses, yet in Mexico, we see this extraordinary difference where it is far more lethal and the symptoms are more severe. It is puzzling for us public health officials because really the outcomes for the patients ought to be the same. We haven't really gotten an answer yet. But what is striking to me is that each day that goes by in the U.S., we see the same kind of symptoms relatively mild, very few hospitalizations, and no deaths, and as we build our end, what we call in the business, as we get our sample size larger, the body of evidence points to this maybe not being as extreme as an epidemic as it appeared to be with the initial Mexican national reports.

Ted Simons:
That being said, do we know enough about this disease to get a vaccine ordered, get a vaccine considered or do we have to wait and find out more?

Will Humble:
That process is actually already starting. The C.D.C. has gotten samples from some of the states that have had cases and they put that in what they call their seed stock. The C.D.C. has actually got this new swine flu variant in their seed stock and they're going to use that to start that process towards developing a vaccine. Now, whether they actually proceed and include the swine flu variant in the next seasonal flu vaccine, or whether it is a separate vaccine or whether they don't do it at all, depends on what happens between now and the next couple of months.

Ted Simons:
The vaccine everyone got last year, is that making any difference at all with this?

Will Humble:
No, the vaccine that people got last fall, and, by the way, still vaccine out there for the regular seasonal flu, that vaccine does not cover this new swine flu H1N1, variant. That will not provide protection from this flu. There is regular seasonal flu out there in Arizona. All of the samples that we tested today all of them were seasonal flu, except for a few which we sent to CDC.

Ted Simons:
We hear about the threat of a pandemic. What makes a pandemic?

Will Humble:
Well, a pandemic means it is a brand new virus, which we know this is. It is a virus easily transmitted from person to person, right? We know we have that. It needs to be easily transmitted within communities, right? And then it needs to become global. When you have all four of those components, you've got a pandemic. But, and here is an important thing, not all pandemics are created equal. Everyone has heard about the 1918 pandemic. There are books written about it. Grandparents tell stories about it. There was two others pandemics in the 20th century, in 1968 and '59. No one hears about those pandemics because they were almost like regular seasonal flu years. What we could very well see is this turning into a pandemic, but a pandemic that looks an awful lot like the regular flu season.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. I have been reading about the Spanish flu, the 1918 epidemic, and it sounds like young people were hit especially hard there, because their immune systems were so strong. Is this similar at all?

Will Humble:
Well, in the U.S., we're seeing that people recover. In the Mexican cases, in the cases from Mexico, the cases seem to be -- seem to look like that, where the folks who are in their 20s were hardest hit. The people who have the most vigorous immune system. We're not seeing the same thing here.

Ted Simons:
Can what's happening in Mexico wind up evolving into something in America that more resembles what is going on in Mexico?

Will Humble:
Well, we know it is the same virus. The virus in Mexico is the virus that we have in the U.S. It is the same virus. That is what is so puzzling. The disease manifests itself in the Mexico City population in such an aggressive way and yet we see something different here in the U.S. Time may well -- It may get more severe as we get a larger sample size in terms of the number of cases here. So far, the last couple of days, I would say, have been in the U.S. encouraging despite the increased number of cases.

Ted Simons:
The President says it is a reason for concern, not alarm. You would agree?

Will Humble:
Sure, I would agree with that. It is reason to take action in terms of implementing solid public health measures that we know work.

Ted Simons:
Okay.

Will Humble:
So, that's where we are today. There is enough, I think, concern in the public health community to implement those things that we know work in terms of public health interventions, and that's what we're doing, because that's our job.

Ted Simons:
And the state has a good stockpile at the ready or increasing as we speak.

Will Humble:
Well, we've got -- there are two antiviral medications that we have a stockpile of that we bought three years ago with federal money. And so we have that in place already, and over the next couple of days, we are going to be receiving a portion of the strategic national stockpile, which will include additional antiviral medications plus masks, gowns for use in emergency departments and so forth.

Ted Simons:
Last question here. It is always wise to remind folks to wash your hands for goodness sakes and not cough on other people. But it is nice to hear these techniques again. Overall, is there a chance that we are overreacting to this?

Will Humble:
Well, you know, when we had those initial reports from what was going on in Mexico that was compelling evidence that something needed to happen because of the severity of what we were at least hearing about in Mexico. As we progress and see what is happening here in the U.S., we need to take that into consideration as we continue to progress through this outbreak. I mean, one of the things that we always talk about, I always talk about with my staff is look at the data. Look at the information that we see today, because that needs to drive our decision making. I don't want to make decisions based upon perception or liability or anything else. Just let's look at the science and let's do what works.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Will Humble:
Take care.

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