Jun 16, 2022 - Politics

Focus group: Arizona swing voters down on Biden, uncertain in statewide races

Illustration of an "I Voted" sticker as a swing.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

With the start of early voting a few weeks away, some swing voters still know very little about leading candidates in the two biggest races in the Aug. 2 primary — governor and U.S. Senate — and are undecided about which party to back in November's general election.

  • Attitudes toward President Biden, meanwhile, were overwhelmingly negative.

Driving the news: These were some of the key takeaways from two Axios Engagious/Schlesinger online focus groups conducted Monday with 13 Arizona voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.

  • They included seven independents, five Republicans and one Democrat.
  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample, unlike a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking.

Details: Participants were shown photos of Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and Republican challengers Mark Brnovich, Jim Lamon and Blake Masters.

  • In the gubernatorial race, they were shown photos of Democratic frontrunner Katie Hobbs and GOP hopefuls Kari Lake, Matt Salmon and Karrin Taylor Robson.

Most of the swing voters recognized Kelly, who won a special election for the seat in 2020. Brnovich, who's served as attorney general for nearly eight years, was the best-known among the Republican participants, with four recognizing him.

  • Only two voters could identify Lamon and Masters by name, with two others saying they recognized Masters but couldn't name him.
  • Of the voters who plan to vote in the Republican primary, most were undecided. In the general election, Kelly led all three Republicans but fared best in a hypothetical matchup against Masters.

Most of the participants said Trump’s endorsements of Lake and Masters wouldn’t affect their decisions, while two said the endorsements would be a negative for them.

  • Voters were shown video clips of Lake and Masters promoting false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump.
  • No one viewed it as a positive, though participants who viewed it as a negative were split on whether it would disqualify a candidate from getting their support.
  • "That's how you're going to spend your money? That's what you consider important? Get over it and address the real issues," said Maureen B., 61, a Republican from Chandler.

In the governor's race, Lake had the most recognition among the swing voters, with six saying they could identify her by name and another recognizing her from her years as a Fox 10 news anchor.

  • Only one of the 13 voters was aware of racial discrimination allegations against Hobbs, a likely major Republican line of attack against her in the general election.

What they're saying: "Despite the Arizona primary being just seven weeks away, most of our Trump-Biden voters were unfamiliar with the leading candidates in the U.S. Senate and Arizona gubernatorial races — including candidates who have spent millions on ads," Engagious President Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups, tells Axios.

What we're watching: Panelists were skeptical that the proposed bipartisan legislative framework around gun safety in the U.S. Senate would curb gun violence or stop mass shootings. Go deeper.

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