Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 28, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Cronkite-Eight Poll


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.

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