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Focus on issues, not accusations, Arizonans tell presidential candidates

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Arizonans want their next president to fix the economy and improve K-12 education.

But the call by Donald Trump to build a wall apparently leaves them cold.

Pollster Earl de Berge said the survey of 700 adult heads of household conducted earlier this month by the Behavior Research Center found the top-tier priorities were fairly uniform across most demographic groups. And he said that suggests voters want meaningful answers from the candidates versus what they have heard to date.

One of the frustrations that voters have today is the national debate is really focused on personality issues, one side calling the other a liar and the other side inept and not fit for office, de Berge said. Voters want to know where these candidates are on issues.

His staffers came up with a list of 23 priorities and asked respondents to rank their importance to them on a scale of zero to 10. The questions were rotated to prevent the results from being skewed based on the order the issues were suggested.

On that scale, de Berge found improving the economy rated 9.0, followed by improving K-12 education and protecting the U.S. from terrorism at 8.8.

But other top tier issues — those rating 8.0 or higher — include reducing the national debt, providing more funding for wounded warriors, assuring safety in food sold to U.S. consumers, and providing health care to the poor.

At the other extreme, the idea of building and staffing a wall along the nations southern border rated just 4.7 on that zero-to-10 scale. Even Republicans rated it no higher than 7.3 even though it has been a priority of the GOP presidential contender.

The rallying cry of build the danged fence was a centerpiece of Sen. John McCains 2010 reelection campaign. This year, however, McCain has said little about the project.

The survey also found relatively low interest in allowing companies more freedom to drill for oil and gas, weighing in at 5.2. And the idea of deporting all Muslims who the U.S. government believes may be terrorists was rated at 5.7.

While the economy, K-12 education and terrorism was important across the political spectrum, de Berge said he found that Republicans had a much narrower scope of top priorities: Only dealing with the national debt, funding for wounded returning vets and strengthening the military ranked 8.0 or higher.

Democrats didnt see a stronger military as a top concern. But they did give top priority to the issues of more affordable university education, food safety, repairing roads and highways, and raising income taxes on the wealthy.

And independents? Theyre much more diverse in their priorities than adherents of either party.

While they dont prioritize higher taxes on the wealthy, their 8.0-plus list of issues does include lowering middle class taxes, protecting and funding the national park system, and prosecuting computer hackers.

Independents are people whove moved away from both political parties perhaps because they have a

broader scope of interests on a variety of topics than those who have labeled themselves Democrats or Republicans, de Berge said. But he also said it may be a question of demographics.

They tend to be younger and more interested in those kinds of issues, he said.

The survey has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

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