Blue Wave! New Arizona Poll Shows Democrats Ahead by 7 Points

A new article in POLITICO asks: Is this the year Arizona finally turns blue?

Based on polling data, it appears that the answer is finally “yes.”  A new POLITICO/AARP poll shows Democrats ahead by 7 percentage points in generic ballots in both the governor’s and Senate races.

“In Arizona, a new POLITICO/AARP poll shows Democrats ahead by 7 percentage points in generic ballots in both the governor’s and Senate races”

The poll analysis also makes an important point that is a sobering fact for Democrats: actual election victories depend on voter turnout, not on opinion polls.

As the POLITICO article says:

But to actually win statewide elections in this highly ethnically polarized state, Democrats will need to juice turnout among younger and especially older Latinos, who have tended to vote at lower rates than other voters in their age group — who are also trending ever more Republican. And not just in purplish Arizona: All across the American Southwest, Latino voters could be the key to flipping Republican strongholds from red to blue, if only the Democratic Party can figure out how to get enough of them to the polls. Solve that mystery, and even a GOP-dominated state like Texas could suddenly be in play.”

Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said that historically Latinos have not realized their true power at the ballot box. According to Garcia, “Latinos think of Arizona as a red state, so they’ve tended not to vote.”

The question now, in the era of Donald Trump, is whether or not the old assumptions and voting patterns still hold true.

Even though Latinos are about 30% of the population in Arizona their voting turnout and involvement in politics has lagged. In most elections only about 18 to 20 percent of ballots have been cast by Latinos, but this may change.

Arizona’s Latino population tripled from 1990 to 2015, going from 700,000 to about 2.2 million.  The median Latino Arizonan is aged 27 while the median white Arizonan is 47 years old, and over half of public school students in Arizona are Latino.

It is due to this explosive growth that political participation is not currently as high as it should be given the Latino population size.

“Arizona is in a place California was in the 1980s with respect to Latino involvement in politics,,” said Montserrat Arredondo, who is in charge of One Arizona, a Phoenix nonprofit that registers Latino voters. According to Arredondo, their goal is for “political representation to reflect the local population.”

This may be the year that happens. In the new POLITICO/AARP poll only 34 percent of registered voters said they would vote for the current Republican governor if the election were held today. If the Senate election were held today, 42 percent of Arizona voters would support a Democrat, compared to 35 percent who said they’d support a Republican candidate, according to the poll.

And if it does happen, if Latinos vote in large enough numbers to fairly represent their percentage of the total population, then surely this will be the year that Arizona turns blue.