President Obama’s selection of then Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security elevated Jan Brewer from Secretary of State to the governor’s seat. Since then Republican lawmakers have counted upon her reliable signature to pass a litany of legislation, most notably SB1070, that has brought a dubious spotlight on to Arizona. SB1070 requires police to check citizenship for individuals for which they have reasonable suspicion of being in the country without proper documentation.
Speculations have swirled that Brewer’s decision to sign SB1070 into law was a shrewd political move in light of the tough primary election she faces this fall. Like U.S. Senator John McCain, Brewer is facing sharp attacks from the right from her primary challengers. Whether her decision to sign SB1070 was political or not, the political ramifications of this decision are becoming clear. While other polls have shown a majority of Arizonans in support of SB1070, results from the LD poll (highlighted in this previous post) show strong opposition from Latinos – the group most likely to be affected by SB1070.
This same survey shows little support by Latino voters for Jan Brewer heading into the fall elections. over 2/3 of Latino voters in Arizona indicate that they will support the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor, Terry Goddard, in Arizona’s upcoming gubernatorial election. 20 percent of Latino voters indicate that they are still undecided, while only 12 percent indicate they would vote for Jan Brewer should she win the Republican primary.
At first glance, these numbers appear to bode well for Democrats’ efforts to secure the votes of Latinos. However, a further look at the survey results suggests that this non-trivial number of Latino voters expressing indecision about their voting intentions this fall could present problems for the Democrats. When asked to reflect upon the time since President Obama assumed office and what the Democratic Party has done since then, 49 percent of Latino voters in Arizona say they are less excited about the Democratic Party, while just 35 percent indicate that they are more excited. Even among Latinos who state they are Democrats, only 42 percent say they are more excited about the Democratic party today, leaving a majority – 58 percent who are either less excited or uncertain.
Furthermore, while 59 percent of Latino voters hold the Republican Party responsible for the passage of SB1070, 33 percent of Latino voters hold both parties equally responsible for its passage. More specifically, among Latinos expressing opposition to SB1070, 66 percent feel the Democratic Party did not do enough to stop the passage of SB1070. In summary, Latino voters in Arizona are not particularly enthused about the Democratic Party and, in fact, assign a fair amount of blame on to the Democratic Party for the passage of SB1070. So while Jan Brewer and the Republican Party may have written off future opportunities to win Latino voters, Terry Goddard and the Democrats run a real risk of Latinos staying home in the 2010 elections.
Rodolfo Espino, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University, and a research collaborator on the May 2010 Arizona poll