Arizonans agree more than we disagree on what’s important to Arizona’s future. That’s what the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) learned when we partnered with Gallup to ask Arizonans what they thought we should be doing to create a stronger and brighter future for our state. Supermajorities of Arizonans – at least 70% or more – agree on seven shared public values and 42 action items to drive them forward. That’s the good, even surprising, news given what we read in the news every day about division and polarization.
Arizonans are less confident about the future, however, and they doubt our elected leaders can work together to deliver on our shared aspirations for Arizona. That’s the not-so-great news, but there are ways to turn that around.
These survey findings and more can be found in “The Arizona We Want: The Decade Ahead,” a report jointly issued by CFA and Gallup. Gallup heard from more than 3,500 people across the state of all ages, ethnicities, income levels, political affiliation, religion and education levels, making this one of the most comprehensive measurements of public opinion in Arizona.
The survey found that 70% or more of all Arizonans agree on seven shared public values:
- A highly educated and skilled population.
- Affordable health care.
- Good paying jobs and the education and training needed for all Arizonans to fully participate in a vibrant economy.
- Sustainable practices that protect our air, land, and water and quality of life.
- Civic engagement that solves problems and democracy that works for all.
- Fair, just, and equal treatment of all people.
- Comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.
Also, 70% or more of all Arizonans support 42 actions to help make their shared public values a reality, including:
- Closing gaps in educational outcomes for Arizona students.
- Making mental health services available and affordable for all Arizonans.
- Enacting regulations to protect rural water supplies.
- Reforming criminal justice with a greater emphasis on substance abuse and mental health issues.
Unfortunately, the survey also found that Arizonans are not optimistic they will see their hopes become reality. Fewer than half think the state is headed in the right direction; among college-educated millennials, only 32% say it is. Barely one in four Arizonans have faith that our elected officials can work across the aisle. Even fewer see a focus on long-term visionary planning from our leaders.
I understand the realities of electoral politics. Most districts are dominated by one party or the other. The key to being re-elected lies in pleasing the most passionate members of your party, who tend to be the most conservative Republicans or progressive Democrats. It can be challenging to advance what more than 70% of Arizonans want if a small minority of contrary partisans can vote you out in a primary.
Arizonans understand this, too, which is why there is wide support for electoral reforms that encourage civic participation and empower the broader electorate:
- 79% support early in-person voting over multiple weeks before Election Day.
- 77% support automatic voting registration when applying for a driver’s license or state ID.
- 73% support sending all registered voters a ballot by mail, while maintaining polling places for those who prefer to vote in person.
- 60% favor ranked-choice voting, which would force candidates to be less partisan and appeal to a broader electorate.
- 59% support same-day voter registration. We see big gaps in what Arizonans want for our state and what they are getting. For example, only one in four Arizonans believes Arizona’s K-12 system is high quality even though they rank a high-quality education among their top priorities. The actions listed above and the others listed in the report are the best way to close the gap between what Arizonans want and the reality of what they have.
The 2020 Gallup Arizona Survey showed us where we agree. Arizona leaders should take heed. It is up to all of us to make change happen. To look to each other, our communities, and our elected leaders to rebuild trust based on our shared public values and to hold each other accountable for our actions.
Seven in ten Arizonans are proud to call this state home. And three in four Arizonans are willing to speak with others who hold different views in order to work through issues. This is a wonderful foundation on which to come together to create change.
Learn more about your fellow Arizonans and their views by going to CFA’s website and downloading “The Arizona We Want: The Decade Ahead.” Use the findings to inform policy, practice, and investments to ensure action that supports what Arizonans want. Eventually, our leaders will have to follow.
Sybil Francis is president & CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.