Why Arizona voters might not be as polarized as they seem

Oct 3, 2022, 12:15 PM | Updated: 12:23 pm
Doug Wilks, executive editor of the Deseret News, left, moderates a panel with Paul Carrese, Jack M...
Doug Wilks, executive editor of the Deseret News, left, moderates a panel with Paul Carrese, Jack McCain, Sybil Francis and Lea Marquez Peterson at the Deseret News Elevate forum in Tempe on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Blake Wilson, BW Creative)
(Blake Wilson, BW Creative)

Voters aren’t as divided as it seems, but it will take work to make politics reflect that reality.

That was the message at a Deseret Elevate panel held last week in Tempe, hosted by the Deseret News. Panelist Sybil Francis, president of the Center for the Future of Arizona, said Arizonans don’t feel they are extreme and don’t feel that they know many people who are.

“What we’re hearing from Arizonans and voters is they’re flustered with this narrative of polarization and division,” Francis said. “We have a foundation of common ground. We actually agree much more than we disagree.”

The center’s survey found a majority of Arizona voters agreed on issues including expanding career and technical education opportunities (97%), increasing funding for education; public safety, roads and other critical investments (82%); and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship (81%).

Interestingly, divisive issues prominent in media and politics, such as critical race theory and completing the U.S.-Mexico border wall, didn’t receive enough support in their survey to even be included. It suggests news media coverage of politics and political rhetoric reflect only a loud minority of voters.

“We have an incentive structure that rewards extreme views in both political parties,” she said.

Francis said a recent poll conducted by her group asked likely voters if they preferred a candidate who was willing to reach across the aisle and negotiate in the interest of getting something done or a candidate who stuck to his or her ideology. The candidate willing to compromise won out.

“Two-to-one, people are more interested in candidates who are willing to reach across the aisle and compromise,” she said.

One challenge preventing our political system from reflecting the way many voters feel is an us-versus-them mentality, said Jack McCain of the McCain Institute. People assume those with different political views must be ignorant, stupid or evil, he said.

“That drives a lot of the dynamics you see today,” McCain said.

He said it’s easy to make money and fundraise in politics by being loud, but getting something done is significantly more difficult. Still, “you’re starting to see some politicians pivot.”

Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, said the U.S. needs to improve its civics education.

“As an educator, there is a huge deficit of civic education and it isn’t just in K-12, it’s in higher education as well,” he said.

Lea Marquez Peterson, chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, said she’s “seen firsthand a lot of the divisiveness that has occurred” in her role as an elected official. The commission passed a code of conduct, she said, and “maybe it doesn’t have a lot of teeth, but’s a Girl Scout, Boy Scout promise.”

“We need to agree to disagree, we need to be respectful,” she said.

A version of this story was originally published Sept. 28, 2022, on Deseret News.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Arizona Chamber of Commerce president says Super Bowl could bring state up to $2 billion

Danny Seiden, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, projects the state to strongly benefit from the Super Bowl.
12 hours ago
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, left, wants to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayor...

Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona aims to impeach Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona plans to unveil articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of border security.
12 hours ago
Beyoncé (Carlijn Jacobs Photo)...

Beyoncé announces Renaissance World Tour with metro Phoenix stop

Get ready for a royal visit, as Queen B herself, Beyoncé, is bringing her 2023 stadium tour to the State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
12 hours ago
Steven Ryan Michael (Peoria Police Department Photo)...

Man arrested after allegedly sexually abusing jogger in Peoria

A Phoenix man was arrested Saturday, accused of sexually abusing a woman who was jogging in Peoria, authorities said.
12 hours ago
Linda Cain (Photo via Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)...

Silver Alert issued for woman with cognitive issues missing from Phoenix

A Silver Alert was issued early Wednesday for a missing woman who has cognitive problems, authorities said.
12 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo/Jeremy Schnell)...
Griselda Zetino

Empty seats: Chronic absenteeism spikes in Arizona schools in recent years

Chronic absenteeism is a problem in Arizona. The issue, defined as missing 10% of the school year, skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Why Arizona voters might not be as polarized as they seem