Poll Director Bruce Merrill and Associate Director Tara Blanc discuss the results of their latest poll on immigration and a proposal change to Arizona’s primary elections.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former Senate president Russell Pearce could be in line to get money from the state to pay for his recall expenses. The Capitol Times reports a provision in the constitution requires that the state pay for "Reasonable special election campaign expenses." State lawmakers will have to figure out exactly what that means and how much they would have to pay Pearce. Pearce has indicated that he might take advantage of the provision.
Ted Simons: A new poll is out with some interesting numbers regarding Arizonan' attitudes on immigration studies. The poll was conducted by Dr. Bruce Merrill. Survey also questioned Arizonans on a proposed ballot measure, a proposed ballot measure, I should say, that would create an open primary system in the state. Here now to discuss the poll results are Dr. Bruce Merrill and Dr. Tara Blanc, the poll's associate director. Good to have you both here again. Let's start with the number, let's go ahead and get right on into it. The idea of a path to citizenship in Arizona. What exactly was asked?
Bruce Merrill: Well, what we were interested in, and remember, this is a special population. And we asked about people that had been here in the state illegally for a number of years. Many of them who had children that were American citizens, and what we should do about that population. And what we found is what we've consistently found over the years, that when you talk about illegal immigration in Arizona, it's really a complex term. Part. It relates to the border and being tough on the border. And the state is overwhelmingly hawkish on that issue. Everybody in Arizona wants more border security. But when you ask people what to do with this population that's been here for a long time, they tend to be much more moderate in that question, and consistently, 65 to 75% of the registered voters or the adults living in Arizona, support what McCain used to call an earned path to citizenship.
Ted Simons: Let's go ahead and take a look at some of these results here.
Bruce Merrill: Sure.
Ted Simons: Because some folks will be surprised not just by the overall results, but as we get diaper into some of these numbers, that's, Tara, that's pretty significant there. Were you surprised at these results?
Tara Blanc: Well, we weren't surprised because again, we have asked this question before. When we used to do the Cronkite eight polls we asked those questions all the time. A high percentage of people who really do support this. It's interesting because our research shows voters see this as a separate issue. We talk a lot about illegal immigration and tend to see this as kind of a monolithic issue, what to do about people all in the same problem. As Bruce mentioned it's clear people want the borders closed but it's also very interesting that people do see this as a separate issue. And so we weren't surprised to find that that high a percentage of people would support some kind of path to citizenship.
Ted Simons: Do you think that the percentage was higher because, in the question, you brought up -- it wasn't just, do you support a path to citizenship.
Tara Blanc: Correct.
Ted Simons: You kind of explained the issue, got more information out there.
Tara Blanc: Correct. And the more information you give people, the better an answer they can give, obviously. So we did offer people some information about the steps that would be involved. For this population in order to earn citizenship which is a pretty long path. But I do think that that information helps people give a more accurate answer about their feelings about this.
Ted Simons: Agree with that?
Bruce Merrill: Absolutely. The interesting thing, Ted, is this is almost the same plan that McCain had offered when he ran for the presidency. He later changed it to some degree, but as Tara said, we have found the same results over the last four or five years.
Ted Simons: The break down of Democrats, Republicans, independents, talk to us about that. Because conventional wisdom would be that Republicans would not be all that much in favor. As you mentioned John McCain had to draw back just to get out of his primary, just to get the base happy. Republicans were pretty much in favor of this, weren't they?
Bruce Merrill: Well, sure. I think it's the question that people are people. They're not first Republicans or Democrats. And I think when you explain what the situation is, it's not terribly surprising that a majority of Republicans are supportive of this issue also.
Ted Simons: 79% of independents were supportive. 69% apparently Republicans. 89% of Democrats. Again, any surprises there at all?
Tara Blanc: No. I would have expected it to break that way. I think, again, the numbers are high overall but I think the way they broke is pretty consistent with what we would find normally.
Ted Simons: More support among the young, Latinos and women, and it sounds like education was a factor as well. Correct?
Bruce Merrill: Sure, sure. The higher a person's education level, I think it's what it speaks to, Ted, is, this is a very complex issue. And the answer isn't just rounding everybody up and somehow herding them back across the border. They come back. Sure, you can make it more difficult for them to be here and that's been the policy the last few years. But again, I think what's interesting in Arizona is, people based on what's happened with illegal immigration in the last few years, kind of look at us as an ultraconservative electorate and consistently with our polling data, we don't find that. The electorate in Arizona is pretty moderate. And you give them information. They're perfectly capable of really taking that data and making good decisions with it.
Ted Simons: Someone watching this poll, watching the program, would say, yeah, but what about all the polls on SB 1070? Arizonans seem to be in favor of SB 1070. Lawmakers who were in favor of that were rewarded by the electorate. How do you reconcile the difference?
Tara Blanc: We asked a general question about what people thought were the most important issues facing Arizona. The three top issues were immigration, jobs and the economy and education. That indicates that illegal immigration is still seen as a problem, a big problem, and as Bruce mentioned earlier, it's clear that Arizonans want the borders closed. And my suspicion is that when people look at things like SB 1070 and other kinds of measures like that, it's with the idea that we need do something about the problem. We need to address it. It's not that we just want to let it go away. I think that it's not surprising that there is that kind of support for things like SB 1070, but then people can turn around and look at the realities of a problem. And the reality is that there's, you know, many millions of people in this country who have been here a long time. What do we do about them and how do we practically go about addressing that issue?
Ted Simons: Does that suggest lawmaker who is want to expand on SB 1070, and run in all different directions? Might have a disconnect with the electorate?
Bruce Merrill: No. I think Tara is right. I think part of the problem, Ted, as long as we are in a recession, at least a perceived recession, people are frightened about their jobs. And it's easy to blame somebody. And it's very easy in psychology, we call it scapegoating. And this isn't a negative term. It just says, you know, how do we explain how bad things are? One way to explain how bad things are is that there's these people that came across the border illegally and they're taking jobs away from people that need them here in this country. So as Tara says, I think it's a very complex problem, and, but we don't find, if you just ask about being tougher on illegal immigration, sure. And remember, the question that we looked at is on a very limited special population.
Ted Simons: Indeed. OK. The other big question from the survey, this poll regards the open primary system. Let's take a look at the numbers here. And explain, Bruce, if you will, again, what was asked of folks?
Bruce Merrill: Well, basically, if you look at the data, what we were interested in is following very closely this proposal that's being put about by former mayor Paul Johnson, which is the, an attempt to have a California-type jungle primary, which is a nonpartisan kind of an election, where people would actually go to the polls and the candidates that want to participate, let's say, for governor, they could choose to put their party on the ballot or not. But all of the people running for governor would be voted on, if somebody didn't get a majority, the top two would be in a runoff. And the important thing here is, it wouldn't matter if they are Republicans or Democrats. Or wouldn't be a Republican running against a Democrat, it would be the two top vote getters. So it's an attempts, I think, more than anything to moderate some of the conflict that we've had, not only conflict, in the legislature, but very often I think we can make a case that the political composition, the very conservative members of the house, aren't always representative of the average voter in Arizona. So this proposal, I think to have a nonpartisan election, along with the idea of the reapportionment or the redistricting commission to have more competitive districts, is really an attempt, I think, to soften some of the political rhetoric that people are sick and tired of in this state and this country.
Ted Simons: It looked like from the results Democrats, Republicans, obviously independents were very happy with this idea. But Democrats and Republicans were in favor of this idea. And I know that the parties themselves aren't crazy about it. Were you surprised to see those numbers from party --
Tara Blanc: I was a little surprised at the Republicans were as agreeable as they appeared to be in this poll. But thinking about it, a little further, I would agree with Bruce that I think the issue is that people are really tired of the partisan bickering, the partisanship, and they see this as a way, everybody sees this or not everybody but the people who are in favor of it see it as a way to kind of go around that. In other words, looking at being able to choose the candidate I want to choose, having the option to pick the best candidate as opposed to the best candidate in my party. Maybe that might be a way around some of this.
Ted Simons: Bruce, the idea that maybe in a top-down jungle primary, whatever you want to call it that minority parties would never have a chance or would rarely have a chance. That's one of the criticisms. Some other criticisms that are out there you may not know what you are getting into if you start going down that path.
Bruce Merrill: Number one, third parties don't have any chance in the American political system anyway. We have single-member districts with plurality elections. It makes it almost impossible to have minor parties. So I don't think that changes much. Not knowing what you get into, I think that's certainly legitimate. I am not completely convinced that this is the ultimate solution to bring about a more moderate representative legislature. But it's a beginning. And you know, Ted, I think every poll comes out the way you ask the question. I think what most people heard here, like Tara said, nonpartisan. And I think that people are really tired right now of these parties fighting and bickering. And so I think anything that says nonpartisan maybe they are going to be kind of leaning in that direction.
Tara Blanc: One of the other issues, too, in the way the primary system is set up now so many of the races are decided in the primary. They're very noncompetitive by the time you get to the general election. And I suspect that some of the people who support this idea would like to see more competitiveness in these races and see this as a way to do it much like the municipalities do.
Ted Simons: With the Phoenix Merrill race and we saw to a degree, in the Russell Pearce recall election. Was that not something that to keep in mind when you are looking at this particular idea?
Bruce Merrill: Oh, absolutely. I think if people look at the Pearce race and think that all of those Pearce people changed their mind in a illegal immigration is just not the case. What actually I think 457ed in the big picture there was the high turnout brought a lot more moderates into the political system. There were enough of them to override the conservative vote, and that bodies well for maybe politics in Arizona being more moderate in the future.
Ted Simons: All right. We will stop it right there. Good to have you both here. Thank you.
Bruce Merrill: Good to be here, Ted.
Bruce Merrill:Director,Immigration Poll; Tara Blanc :Associate Director,Immigration Poll