Saturday, March 22, 2014

Surprise, Arizona

In November of this year, Arizona will elect a new Governor. Incumbent Jan Brewer (44% favorable/ 42% unfavorable) is term limited and cannot run, again. Because of the Conservative leaning of the state, it is widely assumed that the next Governor of Arizona will still be a Republican.  Public Policy Polling (PPP) recently did a poll in Arizona to see how the election is shaping up out west.  Slightly off-topic, but have you ever noticed that when we talk about the location of states, we refer to the west as out west, the south as down south, the north as up north, and the east as back east?

The Republican Primary will be where all of the drama is.  There are a number of candidates who have declared their candidacy.  The list of candidates and their net favorability as found by PPP are in parentheses are as follows: Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (-12), Arizona State Treasurer Doug Ducey (-9), former General Counsel and Executive Vice President of GoDaddy Christine Jones (-6), State Senator Al Melvin (-16), former CEO of Indian Medical Center John Molina (-5), former U.S. Representative Scott Smith (+2), and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (-16).  The Democratic Party only has one real candidate in former Chairman of Arizona Board of Regents Fred DuVal (-1).  In hypothetical matchups, DuVal hovers around 35% or so of the votes, reaching 40% against Thomas.  He is currently trailing Smith and Bennett in these matchups.  In each of these matchups, over a third of Mitt Romney voters in 2012 are not sure of who they would vote for in 2014, compared to about 20% of Barack Obama voters.  Additionally, more Republicans are unsure of who they would vote for in these matchups than Democratic voters.  Based on these numbers, it's pretty clear that whoever wins the Republican primary will start with a significant edge for being elected to the Governor's mansion.

Since we're wanting to know who the Republican nominee is going to be, I'm going to turn my focus to the data on the Republican primary voters.  The net favoraiblity of the candidates with Republican primary voters are in the table below:

Ken Bennett
+5
Doug Ducey
+3
Christine Jones
-4
Al Melvin
-7
John Molina
-3
Frank Riggs
-2
Scott Smith
+9
Andrew Thomas
-6

The next table is the name recognition of the candidate.  This is just simple addition of the favorable and unfavorable ratings to give a total name recognition.

Ken Bennett
31
Doug Ducey
25
Christine Jones
20
Al Melvin
17
John Molina
15
Frank Riggs
14
Scott Smith
25
Andrew Thomas
40

Here is what PPP found for the preferences for the Republican nominee of the primary voters:

Ken Bennett
20
Doug Ducey
6
Christine Jones
16
Al Melvin
1
John Molina
1
Frank Riggs
1
Scott Smith
12
Andrew Thomas
9
Someone else/not sure
34
A quick glance at the two tables before this one, you see that either Ducey is underperforming or that Bennett is overperforming.  Additionally, Jones has a much higher ranking in the preferences than you would expect just based on favorability numbers and name recognition. This last table should clear up some of the confusion as it is the breakdown of the GOP primary voters on ideological factors and their preferences.


Very liberal (1%)
Somewhat liberal (7%)
Moderate (23%)
Somewhat conservative (39%)
Very conservative (31%)
Ken Bennett
0
24
10
21
24
Doug Ducey
0
20
4
6
7
Christine Jones
18
8
23
13
15
Al Melvin
0
4
0
0
2
John Molina
0
10
1
1
0
Frank Riggs
0
0
2
1
2
Scott Smith
0
9
16
10
12
Andrew Thomas
0
4
8
13
6
Someone else/Not sure
82
22
38
35
32
Jones is still the biggest surprise on here.  Her name recognition and net favorability among the various ideological groups is not very high.  Jones owns a 5/11 among somewhat conservatives compared to Smith who has a 20/5 but still outperforms him among the somewhat conservatives.  So, let's look at it another way.  

Among the very liberal, Thomas has the highest name recognition and net favorability (+27) but returns no votes for the GOP preference.  The somewhat liberal Ducey has the highest net favorability (+40) and Thomas has the highest name recognition (55).  The moderates see Smith most favorably (+5) and Thomas as the most recognized (43).  The important somewhat conservative category thinks Smith is the most favorable (+15) and Thomas, again, has the highest name recognition (40).  The nearly equally important very conservative group likes Ken Bennett best in terms of favorability (+21).  Thomas, as always, with the highest name recognition (37).

That's a long way of saying I'm not sure why Jones is outperforming the peripherals for being the GOP choice in the Arizona gubernatorial race.  I would expect her to regress.  It may be that there is a social desirability bias to have a female in the Governor's mansion that I have not accounted for.  

At any rate, I think Bennett is the favorite for the nomination.  Because of Smith's popularity among the somewhat and very conservative branches of the Republican Party has a pretty good chance of defeating Bennett in the primary.  The underlying numbers suggest Ducey has a shot, as well, if he is able to snag a few votes from the somewhat and very conservatives after Smith and Bennett split the votes, as he has a solid chance with moderates. I think that is a long shot.  Bennett, Smith, and Jones will be challenging for the Republican nomination.  If there really is a social desirability bias, Jones could be the nominee despite what the underlying numbers suggest. 




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