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Arizonans give Legislature bad review

Two-thirds of Arizona voters are dissatisfied with the state Legislature, according to a survey by ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

The Morrison Institute collaborated with Knowledge Networks, an online research and polling company, to conduct the poll, which was released Tuesday.

David Daugherty, director for research at the Morrison Institute, said the level of discontent was unexpected.

“If anything, the degree of dissatisfaction surprised me,” he said. “Normally, you would expect that Republicans would be less dissatisfied than they are.”

Of the Republicans polled, 61 percent held a negative view of the Legislature. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats disapproved of the Legislature.

But voting patterns are likely to stay the same despite this dissatisfaction, he said.

ASU political science associate professor Paul Lewis agreed, saying the results may not impact the elections at all.

The survey taps into the general anger and distrust of government in the country right now, he said, but that anger might not translate into a party shift.

“I don’t suspect it would change our expectations of the elections,” Lewis said. “For one thing, I think if you did this survey in 49 other states, you can find the same results.”

He pointed to the Public Policy Institute of California, which has done similar polls.

The group conducted a poll in May of this year and found that both registered and non-registered California voters were also dissatisfied with their state Legislature, with 76 percent of registered voters disapproving.

Lewis also pointed out that many of the voters who show up at the polls on Election Day are not moderates, though the majority of Arizonans in the poll favored more moderate politicians.

“People who show up for the primaries tend to be really die-hard Democrats or Republicans, and people who show up in non-presidential elections like this tend to be some of the more energized or motivated voters,” he said. “The ambivalent moderates, who are kind of tuned out of politics, many of them will not show up in November.”

The poll also found that the majority of Arizonans thought Gov. Jan Brewer had “provided good leadership in formulating state public policy,” with 52 percent approving.

State Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, said this was interesting because the vast majority of policies the governor signs into law are first passed by legislators.

“They support the governor’s policies, but the governor doesn’t receive these policies to approve them except through the Legislature,” Gray said.

The inconsistency between supporting the governor and opposing the Legislature can arise as subjects are being polled, Daugherty said.

“When people are answering polls, they don’t think through all the nuances,” he said. “In all fairness, a lot of people don’t go through that chain of thought to get to that conclusion.”

Lewis said this could be because the Legislature is an abstraction, or “headless body,” whereas the governor is an identifiable person.

Her support of Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, may also be the cause of her high approval, Lewis said.

“Some of this might depict some of the rallying behind her for SB 1070,” Lewis said. “The governor becomes the symbol of the bill, even though she didn’t write it and just signed it.”

The poll was based on the responses of 614 Arizona voters between July 16 and Aug. 6.

This was before the gubernatorial debate on Sept. 1, where Brewer drew criticism for a poor performance and dodging questions about claims of headless corpses in the desert.

Lewis said the poll being taken before that debate might have explained Brewer’s favorable numbers.

Sen. Gray is currently running for reelection in Legislative District 10 against Democratic opponent Justin Johnson.

Johnson said this poll is indicative of what he’s seen while campaigning. He said public support for the governor might be due to voters’ knowledge of only a couple of bills she’s signed.

“It depends on which bill you’re talking about,” Johnson said. “How many of the bills that were passed did voters actually get a chance to look at?”

Gray said the poll probably won’t influence the election because of previous themes of “change” being unsuccessful.

“Last election, there was a huge cry for change, and I think people realize that this crying out for change may not be the best thing for our country,” Gray said. “People need to go and research what the candidates have stood for.”

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