Arizona Republicans’ focus on election fraud could hobble outreach to independent and unaffiliated voters, according to research by polling firm HighGround Inc.
The research indicates that while the issue of election fraud is important to the Arizona Republican base — the kind of voters who turn out in primaries — the party could struggle to build the broad coalition necessary to win general elections if they continue to emphasize the issue.
State Republicans are currently backing an audit of the election tally in Maricopa County, where Joe Biden defeated former President Trump by about 10,000 votes. However, the audit has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike over the allegedly slipshod methods employed by Cyber Ninjas, the analytics firm hired to oversee the audit.
The company has checked ballots for traces of bamboo based on the unsubstantiated theory that ballots were shipped to Arizona from Asia, while company head Doug Logan has compared the American election to the voting process in the socialist dictatorship of Venezuela. Cyber Ninjas backed out of handling the audit at the end of May but it continues under different management.
About 52 percent of Arizona voters oppose the audit, while just 41 percent of voters are in favor, according to a survey released by HighGround on May 27. One-fifth of Republicans opposed the audit, which could give Democrats an opening to win elections in Arizona, Paul Bentz, Senior Vice President of Research and Strategy at HighGround, told National Review.
“I think it’s of concern for the General Election,” Bentz said. “It’s not enough to lose a primary, but that softness among a portion of Republicans is one of the key ways Democrats have been able to win in the past.” Democratic Senators Krysten Sinema and Mark Kelly “targeted late deciding GOP women to help bolster their chances”
Among Republicans, 77 percent backed the audit while 20 percent opposed it. This point mirrors a HighGround survey from the end of March 2021, which found that 78 percent of Republican respondents believed there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, 90 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents and unaffiliated voters opposed the election audit in response to the May survey. Almost 95 percent of Democrats and around 66 percent of independents and unaffiliated voters believed there was no significant election fraud, in response to HighGround’s March survey.
“Two surveys here…both seem to track the idea that this is an overwhelmingly significant issue to the Republican base, but outside of that, they’re going to struggle to build an electoral majority out of it,” Bentz said.
Arizona Republicans, in particular State Senate President Karen Fann, have backed the audit in part because of how Senate seats are currently districted, Bentz explained. Republicans currently hold 16 seats out of 30 total seats in the State Senate, however all those seats are effectively safe Republican districts.
“This is a great issue for them [the state senators] because they win their primary with this,” Bentz said. “But they’re not going to be able to expand their base or the number of Republicans in the legislature.”
While the election fraud fight is particularly salient in Arizona, thanks to the work of those state Republicans occupying safe seats, the de facto head of the party, former President Trump, is ensuring that the issue remains top of mind for voters across the country. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Democrats “stole” the election for Joe Biden via mass election fraud and, while most congressional Republicans have insisted on looking the other way, Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) was ousted from her role as GOP conference chair because she has insisted on calling out Trump’s fabrications.
“I can’t imagine there are very many places nationally [where] pushing this fraud thing is going to be a great strategy for growing the number of Republican seats in Congress,” Bentz said of the impact that the election fraud canard might have nationally.
Media outlets including National Review have confirmed that Trump believes he will be reinstated to the presidency in August.