Clean Elections Poll

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A new poll by the Arizona advocacy network shows that a big majority of Arizonans support clean elections, a system of public campaign financing in our state. The poll also touched on other topics such as gifts to state lawmakers and conflicts of interest. Pollster Bruce Merrill, who conducted the poll, will discuss the results.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. A new poll commissioned by the Arizona Advocacy Network shows that a majority of Arizonans support the Clean Elections system of public campaign financing. The poll also touched on other topics such as gifts to state lawmakers and conflicts of interest. Joining us is pollster Bruce Merrill who conducted this particular survey. Good to see you again.

Bruce Merrill: Good to see you, Ted.

Ted Simons: What did the poll look at, what did the poll find?

Bruce Merrill: Basically looking at the whole idea of Clean Elections, should we keep it, is it valuable. The poll just overwhelmingly showed a lot of support for Clean Elections. We shouldn't be terribly surprised. We get beat up in Arizona a lot but, you know, the way we have approached elections and with Clean Elections on the forefront in the United States really of trying to clean up elections. So we have a history in Arizona of supporting electoral reform.

Ted Simons: So we have 76% of likely voters favor Clean Elections, 47 in favor, 26 strongly in favor. I thought this was interesting. 53% would oppose a candidate who wants to get rid of Clean Elections. Really?

Bruce Merrill: Yes. And only 11% would support them. Now, part of that is -- you know, when you just say Clean Elections, who doesn't want clean elections. We all want clean elections. But I think the people not only in Arizona but around the country are so frustrated by big money, dark money, perceived corruption in the electoral system, I think that's one reason it is so important that this poll found so much support for Clean Elections in Arizona.

Ted Simons: And yet, 53% would oppose candidates that would want to repeal Clean Elections. We've got lawmakers doing just that, just now.

Bruce Merrill: They are and my understanding is there's a pretty good chance it'll get through the legislature. I'm really -- I just did the poll for this foundation but I think they are considering an initiative to kind of strengthen Clean Elections in Arizona. So eventually this could go to a vote of the people.

Ted Simons: Before we get too much further into the poll -- because there are a few other rubrics here I want to touch on -- just in general we've talked a lot in a variety of forums in regarding what seems to be a disconnect between the average voter, the people you call, the folks you talk to, and those who vote in elections and those who put people into the legislature. Why is it that 53% say they would oppose these lawmakers, every single lawmaker that's going go against Clean Elections will likely win reelection. What's going on?

Bruce Merrill: Ted, we've talked about this in the past. Part of it is just the way, by the primary system we elect a legislature. There's so little competition in the primaries, by the time the primary is over there's very few districts that haven't been determined who's going to be the Representative in that district. Why that's important is that the turnout in the last election was have somewhere around 20%. Who goes to the polls when you have low turnout? You have the people that feel strongly, particularly idealogues of the right and left that go to the polls. What happens in a place like Arizona -- and we're not the only place -- the more moderate average voter really has no representation. One can ask the question, who's fault is that.

Ted Simons: Exactly. What gets those people out to vote?

Bruce Merrill: You hate to say it, but it's usually a crisis or things have to get so bad that they finally go to the polls. Maybe Clean Elections is something that could motivate that a little bit.

Ted Simons: I don't want to get too off topic. Did I see in Oregon now you basically -- you're signed up the minute you get to voting age and have a driver's license?

Bruce Merrill: Sure. And in most of the states there's pressure towards that, there's a lot of pressure towards either voting completely by mail or by the internet. Those things will happen eventually. But you know, Clean Elections I really think is terribly important in Arizona in this election that's coming up, because I think there's going to be a lot of other states that are going to look at us and know this has happened before with tobacco and some other things. They will be looking to Arizona to see what we do here. So I think it's important to get the message out to the average voter when the poll shows just overwhelming support for Clean Elections, these people have to get out to the polls.

Ted Simons: The poll also shows support for banning gifts for elected officials, a ban on lawmakers that vote on bills that financially benefit them. No surprises there.

Bruce Merrill: Absolutely not, Ted. I think that's really the problem right now. People are so alienated from politics, they are tired of politics, they really want politics cleaned up.

Ted Simons: And in the session right now you've got homebuilders voting on home building issues, school officials voting on school issues. The voters say they don't like this, but the voters keep sending those people back.

Bruce Merrill: That's the problem.

Ted Simons: Proof of citizenship for campaign donors? Why would that question even asked?

Bruce Merrill: I really don't know. You'll have to ask him next time he's on.

Ted Simons: That was through the advocacy network, as opposed to what you did.

Bruce Merrill: But it did come out pretty strongly in favor of Clean Elections position on that.

Ted Simons: And private elections donors have the same standards and Clean Elections donors.

Bruce Merrill: Clean Elections a great thing, simply an attempt to try to get the big money and special interests money out of elections. The problem is over the last several years in Arizona we're not giving the Clean Elections people particularly at the statewide office level, we don't give them enough money to compete. It's really actually helping the way it's structured right now, special interests incumbents that have all kinds of money they can put into an election. If we're going to keep Clean Elections we have to clean it up. We've got make it more -- it's got to be where the people running Clean Elections have enough no one compete with the people that are not running.

Ted Simons: The poll overall, anything surprise you?

Bruce Merrill: You know, not really. People in Arizona still don't believe that voting should be only by mail. A lot of us like to go to the polls on election day. And the other thing -- and I think sometime you need to have a program on it -- unions, particularly don't come out well in Arizona. We've been a right to work state. And yet, unions are really crucial and somehow the message needs to get to union leadership that they have got tell people what unions are all about and how helpful they can be. Right now in Arizona unions are not very well thought of.

Ted Simons: Interesting stuff. -Bruce, always a pleasure, good to have you here.

Bruce Merrill: Always a pleasure.

Bruce Merrill:Pollster;

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