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October 27, 2009

Host: Richard Ruelas

Cronkite-Eight Poll

  |   Video
  • Results from our statewide poll conducted October 22-25.
  • Dr. Bruce Merrill - Director, Cronkite-Eight Poll
  • Dr. Tara Blanc - Associate Director, Cronkite-Eight Poll

View Transcript
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.

State Government Technology

  |   Video
  • Vice Chair of the Ad Hoc Legislative Committee on Government Information Technology talks about the work the committee will be doing to improve service and communications at state agencies.
  • Carl Seel - Vice Chair of the Ad Hoc Legislative Committee

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: An ad hoc legislative committee on information technology met today, trying to figure out ways to improve service and communications in state agencies. Here to talk about the committee and its task is vice chair of the group, state representative Carl Seel, republican of Phoenix. Thank you for joining us tonight here on "Horizon".

Carl Seel: Thank you for inviting me, Richard.

Richard Ruelas: You were back at the capital already, gee!

Carl Seel: Believe it or not.

Richard Ruelas: How did the committee meeting go today?

Carl Seel: I think it went exceptionally well. Many of the agencies we thought were in worst shape than initially than we thought but many that we interviewed were pleasantly in better shape. They have challenges but they were in better shape than we thought.

Richard Ruelas: What's an example of the outdated things that we might expect people to have that they don't.

Carl Seel: You wouldn't expect this but some of the agencies reported having computers that were dated as back as/late as the early 90's. Literally, still using machines from the early 90's. Incredible!

Richard Ruelas: That's that do to hamper efforts? What kind of savings are we looking at if we update this?

Carl Seel: Many of the directors of the agencies we talked with, the department of revenue for example, indicated that they've really done a good job of starting to bring their machines forward. What they looked at is that by having these older machines, the cost of maintaining those systems is greater than the potential cost of actually upgrading. D.O.R., Department of Revenue did a good job of starting moving that forward. Some of the other agencies we spoke to today, department of transportation, particularly motor vehicles division, and the -- of those departments had indicated -- Access for example had indicated they really need to upgrade their systems, although I did take a tour of access's systems today and it was very impressive.

Richard Ruelas: Impressive in the way of?

Carl Seel: Impressive that they're handling a lot of data. There's unfortunately well over 1.3 million people on access of public assistance as far as medical is concerned. The fact they're managing that database is impressive.

Richard Ruelas: And I guess the public sees consequences of this in terms of like say the state unemployment benefits which seem to run into a little bit of a road block inside the computer system in getting people paid benefits on time. Is that what caused your concern? Is that the reason why we're looking at this? Those kinds of outcomes?

Carl Seel: The committee was formed for two fundamental ideas to help government operate better and serve the public better and reduce overhead and costs in that regard and also look at making efficiencies as well as reducing fraud. You'd be surprised. We're the identity theft capital of the country and there's a lot of fraud going on. For example, identity fraud. You probably couldn't imagine dead people on access but that's been happening and we're correcting that. In addition to that you've got people in incarceration getting unemployment benefits. There's a lot of things we check on even members of the Middle East and Al Qaeda, have encouraged young Muslims to steal credit cards to use the money against us and the card we give members, people who are receiving public benefits is in essence a credit card.

Richard Ruelas: And is it -- um, are we unable to check for those because we can't cross-reference databases? That kind thing?

Carl Seel: The technology is there to do it. Gardner report shows that the state of Ohio saved well over $1.2 billion in the first year of implementation. What I was really, really happy to hear today is the I.T. director of access indicated that he's starting to use this advanced technology and that's been producing excellent results. What I plan on doing is using that across the state. In fact, I got budget provisions put in the current budget to do just that.

Richard Ruelas: You said access is -- yeah, the current government gave access to cash to implement some of the ideas. They're already seeing some results?

Carl Seel: They're already seeing some results by using advanced technology to take the various databases and bump 'em up against each other. They do that reduce the costs of operating and better serve the public. The operator indicated he was able to reduce staff and he could still handle the increased case load. That's very impressive. That'll carry across the state. In fact, like I said, the state of Ohio was much the same problems that we're having now. In their first year of implementing this advanced technology, they saved well over $1.2 billion. That's going to go a long way to bridge the deficit we have.

Richard Ruelas: A lot of things will be below the surface and caused frustration from the state employees that they had to hit the computer twice a day. It hit the state of consciousness when we had the unemployment benefits backed up. Was that a problem with computer systems? Software and engineering data or something else?

Carl Seel: I don't think so. When you look at a story that a 4-year-old received $8,000 for a first-time home buyer tax credit. I think the rush created the challenge there has.

Richard Ruelas: Too many people applying for unemployment at one time? That caused too much --

Carl Seel: Yes, many of the agencies did report not only in that agency but in others have reported that the flow of their demand is -- obviously when the economy turns down, they get an increased demand in public services.

Richard Ruelas: I guess giving them new equipment and better software and better hardware and better systems will help them deal with that?

Carl Seel: That's what I said. The I.T. director of access, very impressive gentleman. He -- that's what he'd indicated. And he was very enthusiastic. I think like I said going back to that Gardner Report and I keep driving home with that that Ohio saved $1.2 billion. We can do the same thing here. I'm encouraged by that I think the state of Arizona, not only the numbers are starting to come around. We have a solid $7.1 billion of revenue coming. As long as we bring our spending down close enough to revenue without jeopardizing the stimulus money which I think if we reduce 15% to 20%, we can do just that.

Richard Ruelas: The $1.2 billion is that a mixture of fraud detection and efficiency?

Carl Seel: Yes.

Richard Ruelas: Ok.

Carl Seel: Combination of both. Almost a 50/50 mix.

Richard Ruelas: You're asking for more dollars in a budget year. You obviously have someone for access. Have you felt a push from republicans saying this is not the time now to invest in new computers?

Carl Seel: What's interesting is my colleagues are extremely supportive of the idea. A vast majority of my colleagues signed onto my bill to put that into the budget. They're very encouraged about it. In fact, the vast majority of democrats voted against fraud reduction when you look at the bills that went through. I was very surprised -- unfortunately, I would have liked all of my colleagues both sides of the aisle would support fraud reduction but I was surprised many members of the other side of the aisle didn't.

Richard Ruelas: Yeah and in this budget year and I guess if you end up being called back into session in a few weeks, we'll see if this is an idea that comes to fruition. Thank you for joining us.