Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trends to Watch in the Arizona Republican Primary

1) Turnout in the Arizona primaries will be an important indicator for the general election. In Colorado, we saw a low turnout for the recent caucuses, particularly in wealthier suburban and exurban counties where Republicans tend to be more moderate. Turnout stayed pretty steady, or even jumped, in the most conservative parts of Colorado, which suggests that the candidates' efforts to play to the party base may have alienated moderate voters. Keep an eye out for similar trends in Arizona, as the candidates' focus on social issues has only intensified since the Colorado caucuses. Arizona has been hit harder than most states by the recession and housing crisis, and we know from recent PNA polling that Republicans in Arizona want their government focused on job creation, just like the rest of the Arizona electorate. The perceived focus on distracting social issues could be at the heart of low turnout on Arizona.

2) Arizona has semi-open primaries, meaning registered independents can vote tomorrow, but not registered Democrats. According to CNN exit polls, 18% of GOP primary voters were registered independents in 2008. It will be interesting to see whether Republicans can match that number this year. If they don't, it's likely an indication that independents are sour on the GOP field compared with '08.

3) In 2008, 8% of GOP primary voters described themselves as liberal. 26% called themselves moderate, and 66% ID'd as conservative. Look to see how these numbers compare to '08. An increase in the percentage of self-Identifying conservative voters could be indicative of moderate Republicans' lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field. It also could signify the Republican party's move to the right since 2008.

4) In 2008, 7% of GOP primary voters were Hispanic. It will be interesting to see whether Hispanic participation in the Republican primaries decreases even further in the wake of SB1070 and its aftermath. We know that Hispanic voters were a crucial factor in the defeat of Russell Pearce, voting against him by a 3-1 margin. That 3-1 margin represents a larger percent voting against the Republican than we're used to seeing for Arizona, and the Republican Presidential candidates have largely embraced Pearce's positions on immigration. It will be interesting to see whether Hispanics shy away from participating in the GOP caucuses.

5) Also keep an eye on the Mormon vote. In 2008, exit polls showed Mormons were 8% of GOP caucus-goers, and they voted heavily for Mitt Romney . Early projections show that the LDS vote will be higher than in 2008, and that's something to keep in mind. Mormons make up only a small portion of the overall electorate in Western battlegrounds like Arizona and Nevada, but they are high-propensity voters, and their enthusiasm could be a factor in November.