Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 3, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Political Impact of SB 1070


  • ASU Professor Emeritus Bruce Merrill, an expert in political behavior, shares his views on how Arizona’s tough new immigration law could impact the governor’s race and other elections.
Guests:
  • Bruce Merrill, ASU Professer Emeritus
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: sb 1070, immigration, ASU,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," The political impact of Arizona's new immigration law. And turning scientific ideas into commercial products. That's coming up next on "Horizon." Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not make a run for governor. Arpaio made the announcement today. He says he plans to complete the final two years of his term as sheriff. Arpaio would have had to resign in order to run for governor, which means that his successor would've been named by the county board of supervisors. Arpaio's been feuding with the board for several years, and he says that indeed was something that weighed into his decision. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon will not file a lawsuit on behalf of the city challenging the state's new immigration law. The mayor planned to file suit on his own after the city council refused to support such a court action. But today, the city attorney released a statement saying the mayor doesn't have the authority to do that either. Gordon now says he will join other mayors in a legal action that won't use city funds. When Governor Jan Brewer signed senate bill 1070 into law, she touched off a national debate on immigration reform. The new law has been praised and protested, but what kind of impact will it have on upcoming elections? Earlier today, I talked with ASU political scientist, Bruce Merrill. Bruce, thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Bruce Merrill:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let’s get right to it. Political impact of SB 1070, ure politics. What do you see?

Bruce Merrill:
Pure politics? It has already had a dramatic effect on the governor's race in that the governor's popularity according to the recent polls has gone up to 10 to 15 percentage points, so it has certainly helped her in the republican primary.

Ted Simons:
Is that a sustainable bump?

Bruce Merrill:
It really depends, Ted, on the demonstrations against this bill if they get more intense, more dramatic, if there is tear gas, et cetera, and if the media continues to cover them, then the longer that drags out, the more it probably helps her.

Ted Simons:
The idea of republican candidates, specifically, we'll start with republicans in the primary, it sounds as though when you're talking primary it is a more conservative crowd for the republican side, this bill probably helps the conservative candidate.

Bruce Merrill:
Well there is no question about that, but again, the governor by signing this bill has taken some of that initiative away from somebody like Dean Martin, for instance, some of the more conservative candidates in the race. They can't out-conservative her on that particular piece of legislation.

Ted Simons:
Okay. And in general, on the democrat side, not just for governor but for all the races which there are primaries, can a democrat -- in the same way a republican probably can't say, I don't like this bill all that much and maybe do well in a primary, can a democrat say, I kind of like this bill and have any success in the primary?

Bruce Merrill:
It would depend on a few very specific geographical areas but in general, no. Research shows that 75 to 80 percent of all the registered democrats in Arizona are opposed to this bill. And particularly for the governor's race, Terry has the advantage of not having a primary opponent so he doesn't really have to do much of anything on this race and I think in the general election it could actually help him among independents and moderates.

Ted Simons:
Let’s take it to the general election, whether it is Governor Brewer, Dean Martin, any republican candidate against a Terry Goddard. You past the primary, you're now out in the wide open. If you support this bill, does it help or hurt?

Bruce Merrill:
I think it is how they do it. There is no question that 65 to 70 percent of all registered voters in Arizona actually support it. But again, I think it depends on what's happening with this legislation. The demonstrations, the media coverage in the late summer and just before the election.

Ted Simons:
So if there is a court action, which kind of slows things down. If the media loses interest and finds something else to jump on, you're saying this is not as big an impact as it could be?

Bruce Merrill:
That is absolutely correct. And there is other scenarios. What if the courts strike this down? It goes away real quick in the media, it is old news, and I still think the major issue underlying everything with this up-coming election is the economy. And I think that's going to be the major issue, if this dies down.

Ted Simons:
Okay, let's kind of tie it into the economy a little bit here. Does SB 1070, the immigration law, the fact that that is now law and you've got voters out there with that in mind, does that affect the sales tax vote?

Bruce Merrill:
I think that it possibly does. In this sense, that it may energize or maybe make more committed, the conservative that have the highest probability of voting in a special election. Remember, you pointed out correctly Ted, that the people that vote in the primary, and remember you only have a 30, 35 percent turnout, tend to be the more conservative anti¬tax people. But among the people that vote in a special election, it is going to be even a lower turnout which means more of the conservative right wingers and it may be that all this discussion over this illegal immigration bill makes them even more angry and more committed to voting this time. So I might think that it has an impact in the sense that maybe making it more difficult to pass the tax increase.

Ted Simons:
You mentioned independents. Do we know or have an idea, general thought, as to where they fall on the immigration issue in general, and SB 1070?

Bruce Merrill:
I would say that overall they are slightly more in favor of the legislation than against. But keep in mind, the independents, the biggest problem that the candidates are going to have in terms of figuring out the independents is that it's not a homogeneous group, it is about a third independent-leaning democrat, about a third independent-leaning republican, and about a third real independent, and those real independents are more libertarian-type people, really anti¬tax, anti¬government people. So on balance, I think that the independent vote actually will not help, but you know, the interesting thing about independents, Ted, is they don't vote. They don't vote in much more of a percentage than the Hispanic vote in Arizona.

Ted Simons:
So someone who is very proud to say I'm not a party to either party, they don't even bother to vote.

Bruce Merrill:
And they've become independent because they're so alienated by politics that both political parties, the political process, so who are they going to vote for? They're turned off to politics. They're glad to get out and so what they’re doing, they're not going to vote at all.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of folks who traditionally don't vote, it would sound as though republican candidates would be worried about this, democratic candidates would be hopeful for this, and that is the Latino vote with the passage of this law. But historically, the Latino vote hasn't been there.

Bruce Merrill:
Absolutely. The Hispanic vote, if it ever develops the leadership and the potential to mobilize, could control Arizona politics within five or six years, but the problem traditionally and there is a lot of reasons for this, but traditionally the Hispanics do not vote. In the last election, for instance, they were about 20 percent, 22 percent of registered voters and six or seven percent of the turnout. So the problem with Hispanics is they don't vote. They have the potential to influence election, but they have not so far.

Ted Simons:
The national perception of Arizona, a lot of folks are very concerned about that in a variety of ways. Does that impact our elections?

Bruce Merrill:
There's no question. I've been giving a lot of interviews to the national and international press, and the first thing they say to me when they pick up the phone is what in the heck is going on in your state? And in terms of potential impact, not everybody that's going to be viewing this program is as old as I am, but all I say to a lot of people, is remember Evan Mecham. That controversy in the media costs this state hundreds of millions of dollars, probably well over a billion dollars. It lost us the opportunity to bring companies here that were looking at relocating here. And so there is no question that if this issue continues, and intensifies in the media, this could end up hurting the state in terms of its image and the economy significantly.

Ted Simons:
Will voters translate what they perhaps see as a damaged image, will they translate that to votes or are people so locked in these days, if they don't want to come here, there you go?

Bruce Merrill:
They're pretty locked in. Voting is down, and again, one of the independents to try to explain that, Ted, one of the things about independents is that as the independents have left both parties, what has it done? It's left those that are in both parties much more partisan. So that, that's why we have so much incivility right now, so much yelling and screaming, because the people that are left, the independents have fled the scene, and what's happened is the democrats and republicans are left are the pure ideologues and they’re not going to compromise.

Ted Simons:
And come election time, we hear about anti-incumbents fever out there as well, let’s put it all together; do you see Arizona moving differently than the rest of the country, in terms of going a little left or a little right? Does this SB 1070 put us on a different playing field than from the rest of what we see from the country in November?

Bruce Merrill:
Maybe a little bit Ted, but not enough to change the direction the country is headed. We have something called surge and decline in American politics, which means the party that wins the presidency tends to lose seats in the off year election anyways. It’s around 20. So it is no question that the democrats nation wide will lose seats in congress, it is how many are they going to lose. In Arizona, the fact that if the conservatives really come out because of 1070, we may not go quite in the same direction as the country, but I think it's going to depend upon the specific congressional districts. Two particularly, somebody -- well, there is really three that there's district one, there's Harry Mitchell's district and Gabby Giffords' district and all of those districts are pretty marginal. And so 1070, if it really drives conservatives out, could influence all three of those congressional districts.

Ted Simons:
Fascinating stuff. Bruce, always good to see you.

Bruce Merrill:
Good to see you again, Ted.


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