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Poll: Clinton, Trump in dead heat in Arizona, but quarter of voters undecided

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are neck and neck in the presidential race in Arizona with more than 20 percent of the state’s likely voters undecided, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News Poll.

In the statewide poll of 704 likely voters, 35.1 percent said they supported Clinton while 33.5 percent said they supported Trump. With a margin of error plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, the race is a statistical dead heat with 22.9 percent of respondents saying they haven’t decided.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson had 6.9 percent support while Green Party candidate Jill Stein had 1.5 percent.

“We are in uncharted territory with this presidential election,” said Douglas Cole, the senior vice president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, a political strategy firm based in Phoenix. “For the first time in our country’s history, we have two candidates that have extremely high negatives and the conversation becomes in this presidential campaign about who’s the less of the perceived evil.”

Arizona’s GOP history

Since Harry Truman carried Arizona in 1948, Bill Clinton is the only Democrat to win the state when he was re-elected in 1996. Trump has made four campaign stops in the state, including unveiling his immigration plan last week in Phoenix. He has gained support of several top-ranking Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey, former Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Republican Sen. Jon McCain said he will “support the party’s nominee,” but GOP Sen. Jeff Flake has been an outspoken critic of Trump. But Tim Sifert, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party, said in reaction to the poll numbers that rumors of Arizona as a swing state are common. “It’s like a broken record we hear that every election,” he said, adding that Republicans usually have an advantage when it comes to voter turnout in the state. Mario Diaz, president of Mario E. Diaz & Associates, a public affairs firm and a Democratic political strategist, said “this is a dream election for Democrats, especially for Secretary Clinton. In Arizona, if Democrats can keep a statewide election within the margin of error, there is a significant opportunity for a Democrat to win.” Clinton visited Arizona in March, along with President Clinton. She has just opened offices in Phoenix and Tucson in an effort to ramp up grassroots campaigning in the state. “This is a traditionally Republican state, but Hillary’s not taking anything for granted,” Luis Heredia, a Democratic National Committeeman based in Arizona, said. “The Arizona Democratic party has built the strongest ground game we’ve seen in history and we will continue to register voters, contact voters–get them engaged so they are voting early,” she added.

Convincing undecideds

Trump’s support comes from self-identified Republicans (73 percent) and Independents (24.4 percent), while Clinton has support from 78.6 percent of Democrats and 26.7 percent of Independents. Of those who said they have not decided, 19.1 percent identified as Republican, 18.9 percent as Democrat and 30 percent as Independent. As with the national poll numbers, Trump holds the edge over Clinton with voters who have not earned a college degree while she leads in those who have a bachelor’s or higher. Trump holds a 5.2 percentage point lead with men while Clinton holds an 8.1 percentage point lead among women in the state. More than 20 percent of men and women respondents were undecided. Heredia said Democrats will try to persuade undecided voters through more positive messaging from Clinton. “If you even disagree with her, I think she is pragmatic enough to lead our country forward and really try to solve problems,” he said. “I think what you see from Donald Trump is blame and that’s not necessarily a solution.” Sifert said the GOP is working to grab more millennials by November, with 19 different field offices throughout the state with phone banks. “They’re calling a lot of the undecided voters to talk to them, persuade them, find out what they’re interested in and lobby on behalf of our candidates and our Republican slate,” he said. “It’s a really effective way to get involved.” Both candidates have high unfavorable ratings. Trump is considered very unfavorable or unfavorable by 60 percent of 784 people polled and 59 percent said they thought Clinton to be unfavorable or very unfavorable.

Thom Reilly, the director of The Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the organization that conducted the poll, said that with nearly a quarter of undecided voters, these numbers could have big implications for the remaining months of the election.

“It could indicate that Arizona’s in play,” he said.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy contracted with Behavior Research Center to conduct the poll from Aug. 17 to 31. Using up-to-date voter registration lists, almost 1,700 live landline and cellphone calls were used to obtain an average of 800 valid responses from likely voters per question. The interviews were performed in English or Spanish. The margin of error fluctuates by question between plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points.

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