Richard Ruelas: Good evening and welcome to “Horizon”. I’m Richard Ruelas filling in for the vacationing Ted Simons. The Arizona Department of Transportation released some dire information based on a 15% budget cut. Governor Jan Brewer asked all state agencies to come up with a budget reflecting the 15% cut. ADOT says if it would face a budget like that all the rest areas in the state would be shut down and all but a few of the 61 Motor Vehicle Division Field Offices would be shut down. ADOT reveals it’ll lose half of its staff under such a budget. Other impacts would be reduced snow plowing and virtually no highway maintenance except for emergencies. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is still popular. And people in Arizona do not support a public option in the health care plan. Those are a couple of the results from the latest Cronkite Eight Poll conducted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and KAET Eight TV. The poll was conducted October 22nd through the 25th. 652 registered voters were polled which produced a margin of error of 3.8%. 389 people were polled for the Maricopa County portion of the poll with a margin of error of 5%. Here to discuss the poll is Director, Dr. Bruce Merrill. Also here is poll’s Associate Director, Dr. Tara Blanc. Thank you both for joining us this evening.
Bruce Merrill and Tara Blanc: Thank you for having us.
Richard Ruelas: Let’s start with Joe Arpaio. He’s one of the most popular figures. How are his numbers this time and how do the compare to previous polls?
Tara Blanc: Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s numbers are good. They’re always good anytime we poll about the sheriff. People in Arizona like him. He’s very popular. His numbers were up slightly I think over the last time we polled about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He was around the 58% to 60%. Now among people with an opinion, he’s pulling 64%. People like what he does and particularly having to do with illegal immigration.
Richard Ruelas: It appears that again with him being a polarizing figure as we see here, the no opinion number strikes me. 4% with no opinion. How remarkable is that when you’re asked about a politician?
Bruce Merrill: That’s remarkable obviously. He’s got higher name I.D. than anyone else in the state, including the governor. For comparison, Andrew Thomas who is the county attorney and also identified with illegal immigration has almost 25% of the people and Maricopa County don’t know him well enough to rate him. How is one of your guys—Richard, you’re absolutely right. You either hate him or you love him. There’s no in between. 40% of the people in Maricopa County approved of the job he was doing strongly. For comparison, 12% strongly approved of the job Andrew Thomas was doing.
Richard Ruelas: Yeah, I think Arpaio, it is striking, not only the 4% number of no opinion being striking but his strongly approving and strongly disapproving. Have we seen that shift at all over time? Did people become more strongly supportive or more strongly opposed?
Tara Blanc: I don’t think so. I think that people when he’s approved of, he’s strongly approved of. That’s what we found all along. As Bruce said, people either really support him or they don’t like him. And if you think about what the sheriff does, he is more or less a single issue figure. He’s more broadly seen as tough on crime and more specifically being tough on illegal immigrants. And people focus on that. He’s an individual. They see him as doing something whereas maybe the Federal Government isn’t doing anything, the state isn’t doing anything. They see Sheriff Joe Arpaio as getting out there trying to do something about a problem that’s important to a lot of people in Arizona.
Richard Ruelas: Yeah so the people debate about the effectiveness aside but I guess that might push those strongly to approve numbers. Looks like a lot of people really do support him. Do you have a sense of what his popularity is statewide? I know you’ve finally last checked, he was toying with governor.
Bruce Merrill: It was 60% or 65%. That’s pretty high. That’s what it was when we looked at it before. As Tara said, illegal immigration is a concern with all kinds of voters statewide. So the more he’s known, the more – the strong feelings people have about him. The thing has interesting as Tara has said is I think they see him as the only person out there that is really taking on this issue. And it’s an issue with the economy. A lot of people feel illegal immigrants is taking jobs away from people who need them. There’s support for Joe especially with the older voters in the county. People over 65 in Sun City and in the East Valley. They absolutely love Joe Arpaio. He gets numbers in those communities up around 80% to 85%.
Richard Ruelas: Where is his community of nonsupport according to the poll?
Bruce Merrill: Well, what we call generally the social liberals. This would be – for instance, one of the things that happened with public opinion in big distinctions with people that go to church regularly and people that don’t, the so-called seculars. The people that don’t tend to support Joe Arpaio are highly educated people, people who have professional degrees, people that don’t go to church, people who are pro-choice, people that are against gay marriage. I mean, -- or for gay marriage. Those are the people, the so-called social liberals that really don’t like him very much.
Richard Ruelas: Ok. Into tactics, um, you asked a question about a very specific program, the 287g program and the federal authority to arrest illegal immigrants in the community. The feds have recently taken that power away from Joe and you asked people what they thought and you discovered --
Tara Blanc: Basically 2-1. Voters in Maricopa County disagree with the federal government's decision to take the authority away from the sheriff. The authority was to actually go out and like in the field and arrest people during crime sweeps for their illegal immigration status. He's now been limited to simply checking when people are already in the Maricopa County jail. 2/3 of the people we talked to disagreed with this decision. Again, I think that goes back to this idea that people are still feeling very strongly about illegal immigration and they see that what he's doing is at least something.
Richard Ruelas: Yeah, this is a very new -- I mean, even the title in the program itself has a subsection g in the name. This is a very nuanced program and yet again, we see that the no opinion is really low, 4%. People seem to get educated or seem to feel they were educated enough on this to give a decision?
Tara Blanc: Yes, they were. And it's one of those issues -- we talk about the issues that people feel "the gut level." It’s an emotional and divisive issue. The people who disagree are people who feel very strongly that these kinds of tactics are discriminating against people that are being used unjustly against people. You see either people strongly disapprove or approve of the sheriff. You also see that in the reflection of how they feel specifically about the sheriff's power to do these things.
Richard Ruelas: Stay in Maricopa County, Andrew Thomas, someone who is looking, rumored to be seeking higher office. What do the polls say about his popularity here in the county?
Bruce Merrill: Well, basically, um, he parallels the sheriff quite a bit. It's not by accident when you see press conferences, you generally see the two of them together, because they worked together. He's the legal branch, enforcement branch and Andrew Thomas has built his own niche in terms of being very strong against illegal immigration also. So he does actually quite well. He gets a 65% job performance rating and the more there's discussion of the illegal immigration, the more you can expect he's going to do well.
Richard Ruelas: Right and 65% based those who have an opinion, the numbers we just showed, with the overalls but even now we can see in both those who have an opinion and the overall numbers, it's not as strong, overall 12% strongly approve? 9% strongly disapprove? It's not as striking as we see with Arpaio?
Bruce Merrill: No, but again, there's only one Joe Arpaio and in fairness to Joe, it's not just what he says, I mean, what he says being against illegal immigration is important but people like the way he says it. I mean, if you're going to fight crime, you want a tough kick 'em in the butt kind of a guy. And so he may seem somewhat unsophisticated to the highly educated people but to the average guy out there, they like somebody that is going to take 'em by the neck and ring their neck and throw them over the fence or something, so his style, I think, is part of his popularity.
Richard Ruelas: And you get that -- you get those style points, I guess, by -- I mean, this isn't Dr. Merrill talking, you read the comments. People give them extemporaneously as you give the poll, right? I would imagine that Arpaio gets unsolicited comments?
Tara Blanc: It is. It's interesting. So many of our callers comment after they finished an interview. They'll say, boy, that person really was either very much in favor of the sheriff or very much against the sheriff. And there just doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground.
Richard Ruelas: Right. Sticking with -- I mean again, Andrew Thomas looks to be seeking higher office. You asked about a lot of people as people who will use this as a handicapper race. We'll start going down. Governor Jan Brewer in the office just a little bit. What do people have to say about her statewide?
Bruce Merrill: We find a number of things. Number one, her name I.D. statewide is still pretty low for an incumbent governor. She's about 22% of the people say they don't know enough about her to give her a rating. And among the people that do give her a rating, she's getting I think 50%, 50/50 positive and negative so and in fairness to the governor, she's had some pretty tough issues to deal with. I'm not surprised she's not out in the media a lot and around the state a lot. She's dealing with the budget issue but there's no question that she's not as well known as some of the previous governors and that her job performance rating to this point is not very strong.
Richard Ruelas: That's interesting though because with all the battles over the budget, obviously, her name was in the news. And it could be maybe name I.D.. Do we know whether it's don't know or no opinion on that?
Tara Blanc: We don't but some of the feedback we get is that there were -- there are people who admire her for standing up to her own party on certain issues. There's some of the approval coming from that quarter. But the biggest issue seems to be the fact that especially in contrast to Janet Napolitano who was in the media constantly. She was on "horizon" on a regular basis and talk shows on a regular basis. Jan brewer has been quiet in those terms. The people we speak with, the feedback we get is that "we don't know enough about her." That's the sense we get. People don't know enough about her. The negative opinion comes from the fact that "well, what I have seen, I'm not so sure about. I'm not going to rate her positively because I don't hear from her."
Richard Ruelas: Style points?
Tara Blanc: Well, somewhat style but more so I think just some communication issues that the forever -- I mean, we tend -- the governor -- I mean, we tend to think when we look at politicians, we think of -- look at Barack Obama. When he tends to quiet down, his approval ratings begin to drop. I think the same phenomenon is true with Jan Brewer. She just isn't getting out there and talking to people. That's part of the problem.
Bruce Merrill: Tara, just quickly though -- one of the interesting things we found, Richard, is she cuts across party lines about, what? 40% of the --
Tara Blanc: Republicans didn't approve of her and 40% of the democrats did.
Richard Ruelas: Wow.
Tara Blanc: So she does cut across party lines and appeals to both sides of the aisle.
Bruce Merrill: That's important because if she runs for governor, she may have a hard time getting the nomination.
Richard Ruelas: Right, getting out of the primary but in the general, she might do well.
Bruce Merrill: Be quite strong.
Richard Ruelas: That might be an interest to Terry Goddard. What's the numbers say? How do they bode for him? It is that normal? Looks like his don't know/no opinion is 24%. His approval overall is 44%. Are any of those numbers worrisome as far as handicapping his --
Bruce Merrill No. Attorney general, state treasurer, some of the statewide races, they don't get much exposures, Tara said it's really about exposure. Among those with an opinion, I think terry had somewhere around 76% positive rating which is very, very high.
Richard Ruelas: Right.
Bruce Merrill: I think some of that is that he's done a good job and the attorney general isn't seen as much as a partisan role. He deals with fraud, retirement issues and those kinds of things.
Richard Ruelas: Jointly, Ken Bennett, Dean Martin, the secretary of state and the state treasurer, looks like a lot of people have no opinion in either of these men is that unusual for these positions?
Tara Blanc: No, not at all. These offices that are really fairly low profile. There really aren't a lot of voters who would be familiar with the individuals, particularly in how what kind of a job they're doing. Um, people just honestly don't look that much at those. So those numbers aren't at all surprising.
Richard Ruelas: I guess Dean Martin was in the news for the tragic passing of his newborn. Does a new opinion, do you think, does that reflect less name I.D. or people don't have an opinion of him in a state treasurer?
Tara Blanc: Part of it is more than likely that people don't have an opinion of him as state treasurer. As you notice, there's a difference between his name recognition -- or his recognition and Ken Bennett's. Martin's is lower. I suspect that has to do with he's got a very familiar name and there are people familiar with his personal tragedy.
Richard Ruelas: Ok, with about a minute left, health care reform. How do you see the state looking at --
Bruce Merrill: The state isn't really too different from the national polls. Basically what this poll tells us is people do want the congress to do something this year. They want to vote. They want them to vote out a bill. We did ask about a public option. I'm not sure that a lot of people totally understand what that means but when we asked them about it, I think 44% were favorable. 49% were opposed. That's within sampling error which means they're divided nationwide about 55% of the people favor a public option.
Richard Ruelas: Swell. Um and lastly, swine flu -- you have most people saying they would not get one which bodes well for those of us who want one when it comes to it.
Tara Blanc: Ha-ha. It's interesting, because 20% more of the people we talked to said they would get a regular flu shot as opposed to getting the swine flu vaccine. And we think that reflects people's fear of something that is new and unknown and they feel might be untested. That there's a sense of urgency that the swine flu is a problem and this vaccine has been rushed to the market. I think that's reflected in people being a little unsure about whether they're going to take their chances in riding out getting sick or whether or not they want to take a vaccine they're not quite sure is safe.
Richard Ruelas: It's always a great insight to look into the poll. Thank you, both, for joining us here on "Horizon."
Bruce Merrill and Tara Blanc: Thank you for having us here.