Thu, Feb. 20

Poll shows conservatism waning in Arizona

PHOENIX -- The rising tide of conservatism may have peaked, at least in Arizona.

A new poll by the Behavior Research Center shows the number of adults who consider themselves "conservative' is now 43 percent. While that is still a large number, pollster Earl de Berge points out it is down three points from last year.

It is within the survey's 3.8 percent margin of error. But de Berge noted that even among Republicans, the percentage who label themselves conservatives dropped from 71 percent last year to just 65 percent now.

What really convinces de Berge's there is a trend is that the percentage of Arizonans who label themselves "moderates' is up by four points, to 36 percent.

That reverses a general trend going back more than a decade, to 1988, when half of the state's adults put themselves in that category. More to the point, de Berge said the movement toward the center is not coming from the left, whose self-proclaimed members remain less than a quarter of the state, but from the right.

He said there clearly was movement in the conservative direction in the last few years. But de Berge said some of those are now returning toward the center.

"It may be because they're uncomfortable with what they see as the apparent deepening of partisan positions, the personalization of attacks on people and the inability, apparently, of compromises to be achieved in the public interest,' de Berge said.

Still, there is a deep -- and potentially deepening -- pocket of those who characterize themselves at the extreme right.

The poll of 700 adult heads of household, conducted during the last half of April, found one out of every five questioned describing themselves as very conservative. That is double what it was in 1988.

One thing that has happened in the last decade is there are an increasing number of Hispanics in Arizona. But de Berge said the latest shift toward the center is not simply a reflection of the state's changing demographics.

"I think there's been a real movement among Hispanics,' he said.

A decade ago, de Berge said, many Hispanics, particularly those born in the state, were strong supporters of not just Republicans but also conservative causes. He said Jon Kyl got a "significant' number of Hispanic votes when he last ran for reelection in 2006.

"The trend in the Hispanic community is more toward the left, toward the center,' de Berge said, possibly driven by the events within the state in the last couple of years and what some perceive as an attack on Latinos.

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