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Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll shows Obama-Romney race a 'toss-up' in Arizona

April 24, 2012

With the 2012 presidential election just over six months away, the latest statewide Merrill/Morrison Institute poll found that Arizonans are evenly divided on whom they will support in November.

According to the poll of 488 registered voters, 42 percent said they would vote for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, while 40 percent said they would support President Barack Obama and 18 percent were undecided. Because the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, if the election were held today the contest for Arizona’s 11 electoral votes would be a “toss up.”

The poll found that the electorate is divided along party lines: 80 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Romney, 78 percent of Democrats for Obama. Although the sample of political independents is small (n=166), independents appear to be breaking slightly more for Obama (38 percent) than Romney (28 percent). However, the independent vote is still up for grabs because 34 percent of independents said they are undecided.

“In Arizona, like the rest of the nation, political independents may determine who wins in November,” said poll director Bruce Merrill, a senior fellow at Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “The eventual outcome also may be dependent on whether former Surgeon General Richard Carmona can mount a vigorous campaign for retiring Sen. John Kyl’s seat, a campaign that would stimulate turnout in the Hispanic community. While I think if the election were held today Romney probably would win, it appears Obama can mount a competitive campaign in Arizona.”

Romney appears to have the Tea Party support. Among the 39 percent of the electorate who said they support what the Tea Party stands for, 75 percent said they would vote for Romney.

But the poll also found that younger voters disproportionately support Obama while older voters support Romney. No “gender gap” was found among Arizona voters, however, as 40 percent of both men and women said they would vote for Obama.

"As the poll shows, the independents will decide this election in Arizona," said David Daugherty, director of research at Morrison Institute for Public Policy. "But, it’s important to remember the state’s history: Arizona has supported only one Democratic presidential candidate since Harry S. Truman was elected in 1948. Winning Arizona will be an uphill battle for President Obama."

Arizona voters also were evenly divided on who they would like to see control Congress after the election is over in November. Forty-one percent said the Republican Party, 40 percent want the Democrats in control, and 19 percent said “neither.”

Fifty-nine percent of the 488 telephone interviews were conducted in Maricopa County, 16 percent in Pima County and 25 percent in Arizona’s other counties. Forty-nine percent of the voters interviewed were men; 51 percent women. The sample was weighted to be 36 percent Republican, 30 percent Democrat and 34 percent registered independents or “others.” The sample was selected so as to include representative samples cell phone users and Hispanics. The sampling error for the statewide sample survey is plus or minus 4.4 percent. The interviews were conducted in the second and third weeks of April 2012. (The overall sample was surveyed April 10-14 and April 16-18. The Hispanic oversample was surveyed April 19-20.)

The poll was directed by Merrill, who also is a professor emeritus in the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU. Tara Blanc, a lecturer in ASU’s School of Public Affairs, was the poll’s associate director.

Established in 1982, Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and public outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

Question wording:

If the presidential election this fall ends up as a choice between President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney, would you vote for Obama or Romney?
Obama  –  40%
Romney  – 42%
Undecided/no opinion – 18%

Regardless of who wins the presidency in November, after the election is over would you rather have the Republicans or Democrats in control of Congress?

Republicans – 41%
Democrats – 40%
Undecided/no opinion – 19%