Alloy Analytics and J.L. Partners recently completed a poll and two focus groups on the state of Arizona's Republican Primary race for Governor.
Kari Lake is the clear front runner of Arizona's GOP Primary race for Governor. With 37% of respondents selecting Kari Lake, she is sitting at a commanding 22% lead at this state in the race. With tremendous name ID entering the race from her tenure as a Fox 10 anchor, the endorsement of former President, Donald Trump, and a stream of viral moments Kari Lake has become a serious force that all other candidates will need to contend with directly,
In second place, 15% of respondents selected Karrin Taylor Robson. This is a positive sign for the former member of the Arizona Board of Regents and businesswoman who has improved her position significantly after jumping into the race with little name ID. This is also a clear indicator that her recent advertising blast has been effective in introducing her to voters thus far.
9% of respondents selected former congressman, Matt Salmon. The Freedom Caucus co-founder has been endorsed by big GOP names like Andy Biggs, Jim Jordan, and Ted Cruz but has yet to build significant momentum. With Salmon's credentials and competitive fundraising haul, this could change quickly as campaigns ramp up their outreach as August's election gets closer.
Despite Lake's lead, it is very early, and voters are largely open to changing their mind as they vet out the other options in the field. 34% of respondents stated that they were unsure who they would vote for out of the candidates listed, and of respondents who selected Kari Lake as their choice in the Primary, only 38% said their mind was made up.
This softness in support leaves plenty of room for campaigns to make significant moves by defining themselves and their opponents over the coming months.
Focus Group Insights
Two focus groups of likely Republican primary voters were conducted on March 8th.
The groups were split into two: one, more male group of ‘Trump Republicans’ who said they “definitely support” Donald Trump more than they do the Republican Party, and another more female group of ‘Traditional Republicans’ who said they “definitely support” the Republican Party over Donald Trump.
The Arizona Governor race is the Kari Lake show. For these voters Kari Lake’s candidacy dominates this primary race. Almost every voter knew who Lake was, and many spoke positively of her – describing her favorably as “not a politician” and saying that she was in the race “for the right reasons”.
For the Trump Republicans in particular, her frankness and direct style appealed strongly – as well as her background on Fox 10. These voters are sick of polished politicians, and for them Lake is the antithesis of that, and also provided positive comparisons with Trump. Strikingly, Lake dominates the race so much, that when it came to talking about how they would vote, people spoke about it in reference to “her” and “what she would say” on a given issue. Doubled with the fact very few people were able to name any other candidates, these voters are currently viewing the race more as a referendum on Kari Lake than a traditional primary competition.
“Some people think Kari Lake is wackadoodle. If she is willing to cut ties with her career and pursue politics for the right reasons she has my vote” – Trump Republican, 48, male, technician
“What made Trump so successful is he was not a politician, Kari Lake is the same. She is an outside to what is going on and because she is an outside I will look on her more favorably.” – Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
“Everything she says is awesome” – Trump Republican, 61, male, unemployed
“I think we need something that is not a seasoned politician” – Traditional Republican, 67, female, retired
But voters have not made up their minds, and are very much in flux. People also spoke about not yet having tuned into the race (largely due to events in Ukraine and the primary not being until August), and most said they would be willing to consider other candidates – tallying with the high level of undecided voters in the poll. Though Lake has strong appeal, it is possible that much of her lead may be due to the absence of other candidates with significant name recognition.
“I haven’t heard much about these elections at all” – Trump Republican, 54, male, painting contractor
“Because of things going on not in our country I haven’t seen much on television” – Traditional Republican, 67, female, retired
There are also some potential cracks in the Kari Lake armor that other candidates might yet effectively exploit. Opinion was not universally positive towards Lake. Amongst Traditional Republicans, there was a concern about her general style after playing them Kari Lake’s launch ad, with voters saying they were put off by the adversarial approach that seemed to be more focused on “want[ing] a response” than “what she would do for the state”.
The most potent hesitation was the concern that she might be good at performing on TV and being a “celebrity” but that she did not have the substance to make things happen and get things done as Governor. Traditional Republicans hesitated at her tone in the ad, with the focus on “fake news” which made people worry she was being “sensationalist” rather than “telling us what she is going to do”.
“The way she entered and talked about Trump endorse and fake news just seems like she wants a response. I want to her what she would do for the state” – Traditional Republican, 57, female, homemaker
“I’m still waiting for more issues and more substance from her. It’s still early but we’re moving quickly and I’m just looking for a little more meat on the bone” – Traditional Republican, 54, male, financial advisor
“She needs to tell more about what she’s gonna do.” – Trump Republican, 50, female, paralegal
“The concern isn’t that she changed her mind but if she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, if she’s a fake” – Trump Republican, 48, male, sales
“She seems a little fake to me, just because she’s been in the news and she seems like just phony to me” – Trump Republican, 50, female, paralegal
“I would prefer for someone to tell me what they're going to do and what they can do for us rather than squash someone else” – Traditional Republican
Karrin Taylor Robson was not well-known, but appealed to some for her tough stance on the border and “strong and stern” presentation. Only a very small number of people were able to name Karrin Taylor Robson unprompted, with very few aware she was running for Governor. Two ads that the groups were shown, though, generated divergent opinions. The Voiceover Ad, which does not have Robson speaking directly to camera did not resonate well – with voters worried she lacked a connection, didn’t “come off as authentic”, and lacked the “fire” of Lake.
“She sounds like an excellent candidate, I know Jan Brewer endorsed her” – Trump Republican, 65, male, retired
“I think she knows how to say what needs to be said for people to get on her side. She’s not like Lauren Broebert or Greene, she doesn’t have that fire in her… I am worried she will become another Ducey.” – Trump Republican, 50, female, paralegal
“She does not come off as authentic at all. I don’t know why I can’t put my finger on it” – Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
The Border Ad, however, resonated very positively. People said she came across as believable, strong, and like she had more of an “action plan” than they assumed Lake to have. On this basis, coupled with the poll results, there is the potential for Robson’s campaign to cut through the more they see of her – especially in direct contrast to Lake.
“She comes across as strong and stern” – Traditional Republican, 60, female, customer service rep
“You know what she promises… she has an action plan and thought through her plan” – Traditional Republican, 57, female, homemaker
“Yes yes yes to all of that” – Traditional Republican, 70, female, retired
“She’s handling the invasion and she’s there at the scene” – Traditional Republican, 67, female retired
“You can tell she feels really strongly about it by the way she presents herself… She felt strongly about the issue and was straight to the point, so far that’s who I would vote for.”- Traditional Republican, 61, female, reservations manager
Few knew Matt Salmon was running, but he won plaudits for being Arizona through and through – though for some he was too much of a “polished” politician. Again, very few people knew that Matt Salmon was running for Governor. When they did, some remained neutral but others expressed positive surprise as they knew he was an Arizona conservative staple or remembered his time as a congressman.
The Salmon launch video landed positively in the Trump Republican group, with people saying it proved he was a “conservative” as well as a Republican with its references to Critical Race Theory. The “Arizona first” focus also appealed strongly. However, people in both groups questioned whether he was too much of a conventional politician.
“I'm glad to know that he's running for governor because I haven't seen this. I've always liked Matt salmon. I liked him when he was representative of Arizona.” – Trump Republican, 68, female, self-employed
“Conservative. He’s not a RINO” – Trump Republican, 48, male, technician
“He came across very well, I liked the Arizona first agenda” – Trump Republican, 50, female, paralegal
“I love that ad, he said everything I wanted to hear and he gave reasons why. He’s not just a republican he’s a conservative. Border, Radical agenda.” – Trump Republican, 68, female, self-employed
People were aware that “he’s been in government before, I don’t want another government official”, and this led people to question whether he will “lead the fight” or simply “be the establishment and status quo”. The Traditional Republican group was even more sensitive to this, saying that he is a “seasoned politician” who “has been part of the political climate for 30 years”.
“Has he had a real job, does he know what that’s like? He’s a seasoned politician so he knows what he needs to say” – Traditional Republican, 67, female, retired
“He’s been in government before, I don’t want another government official. Everything he said I’m in, if he’s the nominee he has my vote but I don’t want a politician.” – Trump Republican, 55, male, business owner
“He said he will lead the fight, and will he really at his age? And being a long term politician will he lead the fight or be the establishment and status quo?” – Trump Republican, 48, male, sales
“Very comprehensive, I completely forgot the man was back. I think he’s had his day but that’s just me. He’s been part of the political climate for 30 years and he’s a little bit too moderate for me” – Traditional Republican, 54, male, financial advisor
It is the candidate who is the most convincing ‘anti-politician’ – who can also deliver results – that will win this race. A constant theme – particularly in the Trump Republican group but also amongst Traditional Republicans – was an aversion to elites and career politicians.
The definition of elite was not money or status, but a lack of relatability and personality – the archetypal elite was simply who did not “seem to understand” them, and instead lived in a world of IOUs and favors between other elites. The ideal candidate for these voters is someone with that relatability, who is not seen as a career politician – but is also able to get things done. This blend of relatability and action, is the way to win Arizona’s Republican primary voters. Though Kari Lake has the personality, it is not yet clear to voters she has the plan. If another candidate can bring together both these qualities, it is possible the gap could close between now and August
About the Firms
Alloy Analytics is an Arizona based polling and data analytics company founded by political data analyst, Landon Wall. Alloy Analytics focuses on multi-mode polling, combining the best techniques created by traditional pollsters with modern polling technology. By utilizing the full range of outreach methods, Alloy reaches the full range of voters that traditional pollsters using only live call polls are missing.
J.L. Partners which advised on the focus groups and polling, is a U.K. based research firm run by James Johnson and Dr. Tom Lubbock. For three years, J.L. Partners’ James Johnson and Tom Lubbock were the chief pollsters at 10 Downing Street to former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. Since leaving office they have set up one of the leading British polling and focus group companies and they are now bringing their business to the United States as a Republican research firm.
J.L. Partners had its polling covered in Axios, The Daily Mail, Politico, The Times, Channel 4 News, The Sun, ITV, The Guardian and The Independent, appearing regularly on BBC News and Sky News. Amongst clients they have worked with are The Conservative Party, the UK Government, leading NYSE companies, and the Munich Security Conference in partnership with Kekst CNC.
This poll of 433 likely Republican Primary voters was conducted using a mix of voter file matched online panels and SMS text-to-web surveys. The sample was weighted based on 2020 Presidential election vote, education, age, race, party, DMA, and primary voter history. Weighting targets were derived from a statewide voter file, appended with consumer data and the 2020 Presidential Election to accurately reflect the demographics of likely midterm Republican Primary turnout. Interviews were collected March 9th-12th, 2022.
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