The Arizona Republic
Oct. 25, 2005 12:00 AM
Gov. Janet Napolitano
, a Democrat, appears to be more popular among Republicans than President Bush is among all Arizona voters.
In an Arizona Republic Poll of 600 voters statewide, 43 percent of voters gave Bush a rating of "good" or "very good," compared with his 55 percent victory in last year's presidential election.
Napolitano scored an overall approval rating of 57 percent. Among Republicans alone, she had 46 percent approval, or 3 percentage points more than Bush's overall standing. advertisement
Napolitano's ratings mark her as an overwhelming favorite, at least for now, in the gubernatorial election next year. Other recent polls have indicated similar levels of popularity.
State Republican Chairman Matt Salmon acknowledged Monday that Napolitano is running strongly but said he is not worried about fielding "an extremely competent and qualified candidate" against her.
"I'm certainly not writing this race off," Salmon said.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 6-9. Its margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Answers to another poll question indicated that Arizonans are about equally divided on whether the war in Iraq was the right decision (47 percent) or a mistake (45 percent). Eight percent were undecided.
Almost identical results turned up when participants were asked whether funding for the Iraq war should be reduced to provide more resources for hurricane recovery. Forty-eight percent said no, and 46 percent said yes. The undecided factor was 6 percent.
The job-approval ratings illustrate waning enthusiasm for Bush during a period of protracted insurgency in Iraq, a fumbled reaction to a devastating hurricane, and an administration tainted by accusations of misconduct.
Bush had a 39 percent negative rating, 4 points below his positives. The narrow spread means a virtual toss-up because it is within the poll's margin of error.
The governor, in contrast, had a rating of poor performance from only 16 percent of respondents. That made for a 41-point difference between favorable and unfavorable assessments.
Many participants, 18 percent in Bush's case and 27 percent in Napolitano's, expressed neutral positions or did not give a rating.
Napolitano said her poll ratings prove that Arizonans like what she is doing.
"I'm going to keep working on the things that concern Arizona," Napolitano said. "We're taking care of issues about safety and security and prosperity moving forward. These polls are early polls, but they do validate what we've been doing.
"I'm hoping to give the Legislature an agenda that we can all agree is good for Arizona. I want to keep moving on a common-sense agenda."
The president scored favorably among Arizona members of his own party, but his 62 percent "good" or "very good" rating represented a 20-point drop in one year.
"I think he probably thought he had more political capital than he had," state Democratic Chairman Harry Mitchell said. "I think this shows that either he spent it all or he just didn't have much."
Noting that Bush's approval rating dipped to 39 percent in a recent USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll, Mitchell said a higher showing of 43 percent would be expected in Arizona, which Bush carried in last year's election by a margin of 10.5 percentage points.
From the GOP viewpoint, Salmon said that the Bush ratings fit with a pattern of declining support of any president toward the middle of his term and that they will pick up as next year's election draws near.
Of the lukewarm support for the war in Iraq, Salmon said, "It speaks about how in America we don't like to see the atrocities and genocide but at the same time have a low threshold for pain.
"It's very understandable because the war is very painful. But we're there for a good cause and good reason."
A month ago, a poll of 390 Arizona voters, conducted by Channel 8 (KAET) and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also measured a 43 percent approval rating for Bush. That poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
More than two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents in that poll approved of Napolitano's job performance vs. 19 percent who disapproved.
Glendale resident Bob Riley, 65, one of 262 Republicans contacted in the Oct. 6-9 poll, said Bush's performance has been "neither good nor poor" but gave a solid plus for Napolitano.
"She legitimately tries to deal with problems, as opposed to politicizing them," Riley said. "I consider her an intelligent, thoughtful lady who is trying to do the best for Arizona."
Riley said he has never had full faith in Bush, but his opinion has slid after rising early in the president's first term.
"He has the guts to do things but not the foresight," he said. "It was a disgrace for the U.S. to attack a country because of a mistake."
Another GOP respondent, Heather Kirk, 40, of Scottsdale, rated both Bush and Napolitano "good."
"It takes someone who has a stance on what they believe, not someone who is swayed by public opinion," Kirk said.
Although she disagrees with the governor on some social issues, notably abortion, her performance on administrative, economic and crisis issues, such as the break of a fuel pipeline in 2003, earns her high marks, Kirk said.
"She's handled them well, without trying to make everybody happy," Kirk said.
Salmon attributed the governor's poll strength to an improving economy that offers more job opportunities.
"People in Arizona are pretty happy with the status quo in state government," he said. "Even though government doesn't create jobs, it gets the credit. People aren't going to squawk too loud as long as they've got a job."
He said the GOP expects to field three to six candidates in its primary next September.
After some of the state's most widely known Republicans decided not to run, the field now stands at two: former state Senate President John Greene and former state employee Don Goldwater, a nephew of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Former state and federal transportation official Mary Peters is considered likely to run.