A majority of Arizonans who responded to a survey can identify the primary purpose of the state’s Clean Elections Act, but more than 20 per cent erroneously believe the agency that administers the law gets to decide who can, and who can’t, run for public office.
The Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center discovered those and other findings in a telephone survey of 701 Arizonans conducted between July 14 and 18. Barclay Communications, a public relations and marketing firm in Phoenix, commissioned the survey as part of its contract with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The survey cost $5,400.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission is the state agency that administers public funding of political campaigns for state offices. Voters approved the Clean Elections Act as a ballot measure in 1998, and it has provided public funding to candidates who choose to participate in the system for the 2000 and 2002 elections.
The survey asked six questions from a representative sampling of heads of households, chosen through a random selection of telephone numbers. The first question read: “Thinking about legislative and statewide elections here in Arizona, would you say you are very familiar, somewhat familiar, not very familiar, or not at all familiar with the election funding program called Clean Elections?”
Nine per cent of the respondents said they were “very familiar,” while 35 per cent were “somewhat familiar.” Eighteen per cent responded that they were “not very familiar” with Clean Elections, while 38 per cent said they were “not at all familiar” with public funding of campaigns.
Those who answered that they were familiar with Clean Elections were asked, “In general, would you say that your impression of the election funding program called Clean Elections is very favorable, favorable, unfavorable, or very unfavorable?”
That question drew a “very favorable” response from 6 per cent of those who were asked the question, while 57 per cent said they had a “favorable” impression of Clean Elections. Eighteen per cent said they had an “unfavorable” opinion of Clean Elections, while 4 per cent said they had a “very unfavorable” opinion. Fifteen per cent described their impression as “neutral.”
The answers about the impressions of Clean Elections are broken out along party lines. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all had “favorable” or “very favorable” opinions, although the overall favorable opinion was strongest among Democrats, at 71 per cent, the weakest among Republicans, at 59 per cent, with independents in between at 63 per cent. Republicans led the group with overall “unfavorable” and “very unfavorable” at 26 per cent, followed by independents at 19 per cent and Democrats at 16 per cent.
Asked of those who said they have some familiarity of Clean Elections was the question, “From what you have read or heard, does the election funding program called Clean Elections do or not do the following things?”
A majority of respondents picked the answers “provides funds to candidates who pledge to abide by the Clean Elections laws” (59 per cent), “penalizes candidates who violate Clean Elections laws” (53 per cent), and “identifies candidates who are in violation of Clean Elections laws” (51 per cent) – all of which are functions of Clean Elections. Twenty-two per cent of the respondents, however, have the misimpression that Clean Elections “decides who can and cannot run for public office in Arizona.”
’Benchmark’ For Publicity Campaign
Colleen Connor, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the poll “gives us a good benchmark to set against our new publicity campaign.”
That publicity campaign, for which Barclay Communications has a $105,000 contract to run, is part of the Clean Elections Act’s requirement that 10 per cent of its spending be done for voter education.
Previous publicity efforts concentrated on presentations and mailings to accountants and tax attorneys to suggest their clients take advantage of the $5 tax credit available to those filing state personal income tax returns. In 2002, the publicity campaign also included the mascot Five Dollar Bill, who is not expected to be part of the current publicity campaign.
The publicity campaign now includes appearances by the commission’s voter education manager before civic groups, particularly organizations in rural areas where the survey indicates that voters are less likely to be familiar with public campaign funding, Ms. Connor said. —