4 in 5 Arizona voters in ASU survey favor nonpartisan primary system

Study finds broad support for election security measures combined with the need for reforms

July 17, 2023

Arizona voters strongly support requiring high-ranking state and local elections officials to be elected in a nonpartisan manner and take an oath to perform their duties in a nonpartisan fashion, according to a new Arizona State University study.

In addition, more than 80% of respondents – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents – said they want Arizona to adapt a nonpartisan primary system. However, a bare majority backed ranked-choice voting. Stickers on a table that read "I voted." Photo courtesy Unsplash Download Full Image

Voters surveyed took a dim view of election officials overseeing decisions that might impact their own elections, along with publicly endorsing and fundraising for other candidates for office, the study from ASU’s Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy revealed.

Moreover, respondents strongly approve of voting by mail and broadly support measures to ensure election integrity, including publicly testing voting machines, enacting stricter requirements for voter identification and auditing election results.

The survey of 1,063 Arizona registered voters was proportionally divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents, and reflected the state’s ethnic, education and age makeup. It was conducted by telephone May 17–26, and the results have a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1%.

The survey, funded by the Arizona Clean Elections Commission and Greater Phoenix Leadership, was initiated to better understand which changes and adjustments might increase voter confidence in Arizona’s election system.

The study found significant areas of agreement among respondents, despite heated and polarizing rhetoric from both ends of the political spectrum, said Thom Reilly, co-director of the ASU center and a professor in the School of Public Affairs.

“We found there is a considerable amount of common ground regarding our election system, and voters’ views align more than partisan politics would suggest,” Reilly said.

Center Co-Director Jacqueline Salit said the study represented a “deeper dive into these questions, trying to get past the standard partisan cues and assumptions. Voters responded with a keen sense of needing a new framework and a belief that it’s possible to paint a bright line between partisan actors and nonpartisan administration. So, now we have a roadmap to build upon.”

The study asked voters to weigh in on two major reform initiatives:

  • Nonpartisan primary elections: a notion that drew broad and deep support, including from independents, who are now a third of the state’s electorate.
  • Ranked choice voting: a practice which involves voters ranking candidates in order of their preference, e.g., first, second, third and so on. Democrats and nonvoting independents comprised the bare majority of respondents in support of ranked choice voting. Republicans who voted in 2022 are strongly opposed to the practice, with non-voting Republicans split on the idea.

The survey’s other findings include:

  • 65% of voters surveyed said they are either somewhat or very confident in the outcome of Arizona’s elections, while the same percentage expressed that they believe political interference in elections has increased recently.
  • 73% of voters approve of voting by mail.
  • Respondents have low levels of trust in all sources of information about elections. In fact, no institutions were trusted by a majority of respondents.

Friends and family, universities and outside election observers were the only groups that were more trusted than mistrusted in the study. Television, radio and print media, social media, clergy, political leaders and business leaders were widely distrusted.

The Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy and the School of Public Affairs are part of ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Cruise control: Gliding bacteria and their role in antimicrobial therapy

New research may help overcome antibiotic side effects, resistance

July 17, 2023

Throughout life, diverse communities of bacteria circulate in the mouth, performing an array of useful tasks. They help break down food particles, inhibit pathogens, produce vitamins and other essential nutrients, regulate pH levels and protect against tooth decay and gum disease.

The dysregulation of oral microbes, however, is linked with a variety of diseases. Artistic depiction of bacteria. Harmful bacteria are often shrouded with sticky accumulations that form a biofilm, allowing bacteria to adhere to surfaces and protect themselves from predation. The new study demonstrates that phages — viruses that infect bacteria — can be carried in the wake of helpful microbes, targeting and helping to eliminate the biofilm. Download Full Image

In new research, Abhishek Shrivastava and his colleagues describe the gliding activity of oral bacteria and their ability to transport phages — a class of virus known to infect bacteria — like hitchhikers catching a ride in the bacterial wake.

Shrivastava is a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics and an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

The research appears in the current issue of the journal Microbiology Spectrum.

The study demonstrates how the corkscrew-like gliding motion of oral bacteria provides a delivery system for these highly specific and powerful antibacterial agents. Surfing within the "swarm fluid" produced by beneficial bacteria, phages eventually reach their targets — harmful bacteria that the body seeks to eliminate.

Such harmful bacteria are often protected by biofilms, sticky accumulations that help the bacteria adhere to surfaces and act as a protective fortress. But as the new study shows, the one-two combination of beneficial bacteria and phage viruses can break through these defenses. The helpful bacteria bore tunnels into the biofilm, allowing phage viruses to penetrate and reach deeper layers where harmful bacteria are hiding, infect these bacteria and then destroy them.

“We have identified a promising opportunity through this discovery. By showcasing the ability of gliding bacteria to serve as vehicles for antimicrobials and beneficial viruses, we have established a solid foundation for future application development,” Shrivastava says. “Our next step is to utilize this proof-of-concept to create practical and impactful solutions.”

The research is a significant advance for the field of phage therapy and may help overcome some of the drawbacks associated with conventional antibiotics, including their side effects and the development of antibiotic resistance. The research also sheds new light on the subtle and dynamic interactions taking place within colonies of oral microbes.

Phage therapy, which uses viruses to treat bacterial infections, is commonly used for treating burn wound infections and chronic ear infections. This study has demonstrated improved delivery of topically applied phages within an E. coli biofilm in laboratory settings. The research paves the way for improved delivery of phages for clinical conditions, a potential advance for infection treatment.

ASU Assistant Professor

Abhishek Shrivastava

Microbial metropolis

The human mouth is home to diverse microbial communities, with over 700 different species of bacteria identified. While the total number of bacteria in the human mouth is difficult to precisely quantify — as it can vary greatly depending on factors such as oral hygiene, diet and overall health — it's estimated to range from hundreds of millions to billions. These vast colonies play a crucial role in oral health and overall wellness.

An imbalance in this community can lead to oral diseases such as caries, gum disease and can potentially contribute to systemic conditions including heart disease and diabetes. Regular oral hygiene practices like tooth brushing, flossing and dental check ups are crucial to maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.

In a series of experiments, the researchers demonstrate that the oral bacterium Capnocytophaga gingivalis forms tunnel-like structures within Escherichia coli biofilms – slimy fortresses that these sometimes-harmful bacteria create to stick to various surfaces and shield themselves from assault.

Once C. gingivalis has successfully infiltrated the E. coli biofilm, phages carried along in the bacterium’s "swarm fluid" are able to penetrate areas within the biofilm that were previously unreachable.

The study suggests that active transportation of phage viruses by the gliding bacterium C. gingivalis is significantly more effective than natural diffusion. During natural diffusion, phage viruses spread out slowly and randomly in all directions, and this process can be inefficient for reaching their target, especially in complex environments such as biofilms.

However, when carried by C. gingivalis, the phages are transported within the fluid flow produced by the bacteria's movement. This method provides the phages a more direct and rapid route to their target, increasing the interaction rate between the phages and the bacteria they prey on.  

Turning viruses into allies

The ability of C. gingivalis to form tunnel-like structures in an E. coli biofilm and deliver phages to previously inaccessible regions of the biofilm lead to a significantly higher rate of disruption in the E. coli colony compared to when phages simply diffuse to it. Indeed, the researchers concluded that phages swept along by C. gingivalis bacteria were roughly 10 times more efficient at disrupting colonies of E. coli and penetrating their biofilm defenses compared with phages that travelled purely by diffusion.

The findings highlight the importance of physical forces, such as those generated by bacterial movement, in shaping the interactions between microbes and influencing the effectiveness of phage therapy.

Beyond improving the fundamental understanding of microbial ecology, the new research could be applied to enhance pharmacokinetics — the movement of drugs within the body. Further research should extend the possibilities of capitalizing on bacteria-phage relationships to develop more effective therapies against a broad range of ailments.

Richard Harth

Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU