A to Z

Dissecting the differences between the Democrats

By: - September 25, 2018 10:45 pm

Photo by Nick Youngson | Alpha Stock Images/CC BY-SA 3.0

The latest poll of Arizona’s two most high-profile races by NBC News and the Marist Institute for Public Polling at Marist College follows the recent trend of polling in the contests for U.S. Senate and governor: Democrat Kyrsten Sinema holds a small lead over Republican Martha McSally for the former, while Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has a comfortable lead over Democrat David Garcia.

In August, The New Yorker wrote about the competing strategies that Sinema and Garcia were employing to win in a historically red state:

Sinema is campaigning with an eye toward the fact that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state, and that there are about as many Independents as Republicans. She’s trying to attract those in the center, perhaps on the assumption that the Democratic Party base will be loyal to her in spite of her centrist positioning. Garcia, meanwhile, is making direct and impassioned appeals to the progressive base, hoping to get enough of them to polls in November to put him over the top.

A deep dive into the NBC/Marist polling shows that Sinema’s approach to winning is bearing more fruit than Garcia’s, particularly among a couple of key swing voting blocs.

Broadly speaking, Sinema’s message of “common sense solutions” and “reaching across the aisle” is resonating substantially better among self-described moderate voters in the NBC/Marist poll than is Garcia’s unabashed progressivism. Among those voters, 56% side with Sinema over McSally, while only 42% choose Garcia over Ducey.

(Whether Garcia’s plan to energize the growing progressive base of the Democratic Party is working is also called into question in this poll: Sinema has the support of 89% of Democrats and 81% of those calling themselves liberal or very liberal; Garcia checked in at 80% and 79% among those groups, respectively.)

Among white voters, Sinema and McSally are in a dead heat, 45% to 46%; Garcia trails Ducey mightily, 37% to 54%. Although Garcia is doing substantially better among Latino voters than Sinema (55% to 44%), only about 1 in 5 likely voters are Latino, not nearly enough to make up such a large deficit among the nearly 2 in 3 who are white.

More specifically, the electoral bloc most at play in Arizona (and nationally) is white women with a college degree. Why? Because these voters have had a visceral and negative reaction to the rise of Donald Trump, with many becoming politically engaged for the first time.

Roughly 1 in 6 of the likely voters surveyed by NBC/Marist are college-educated white women, and it’s among this group that the differences between Sinema and Garcia are laid bare. These voters despise Trump: 62% strongly disapprove of him and 68% of them say their vote in November will be to send an anti-Trump message.

Sinema is out-performing Garcia among these women by 8 percentage points, 64% to 56%.

Among white women with no college degree, about 1 in 5 voters surveyed, Garcia fares even worse, sporting a 12-point gap to Sinema. While Sinema’s 41% support in that bloc leaves her only slightly behind McSally’s 45%, Garcia manages the backing of only 29%, a full 30 points less than Ducey.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.