PHOENIX — Donald Trump remains more popular in Arizona than the nation as a whole.
But pollster Mike Noble said it doesn’t look like that will help the Republican Party hang on to the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.
The automated survey of 600 people likely to vote in the 2018 general election found 45 percent of those asked rate Trump’s first year in office as a success. Another 49 percent disagreed, with the balance unsure.
That compares with a new Quinnipiac University national poll showing the president’s approval rating at just 33 percent and a Gallup survey with his positives at 38 percent.
Noble, managing partner of political consulting firm OH Predictive Insights, who said no one paid for the survey, said that’s not necessarily a surprise.
“I think he’s holding the line a little bit better because illegal immigration, especially with Republicans, is still a top issue,’’ he said. Noble said that has been reinforced by Trump’s promises, made to Arizona audiences during the campaign and since election, to build a border wall, a project that has support among certain segments of the population.
But Noble pointed out that the 45-49 popularity rating comes in a state where Republicans have a 12-point voter registration advantage over Democrats.
More to the point, he said that while the president remains strong among those who describe themselves as conservative, moderates find Trump’s first-year performance disappointing by a margin of 2-1. And with independents making up more than a third of registered voters, that, in turn, is not good news for Republicans in the 2018 Senate race.
At this point, Noble said it looks like former state Sen. Kelli Ward has a strong edge over Congresswoman Martha McSally to be the GOP nominee. Ward leads 42-34 percent, though 24 percent are undecided.
McSally has not made a formal declaration of candidacy. But Noble said she already has 60 percent name ID, compared to 79 percent for Ward.
If Ward wins the Republican primary and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is the Democrat nominee, Noble said the current numbers give Sinema a three-point edge. That’s hardly a mandate, what with that being within the 4-point margin of error.
Sinema fares a little less well in a head-to-head against McSally, with just a single point lead.
Noble said neither potential GOP nominee should take comfort from these numbers given that 12-point edge Republicans have in voter registration. He said much of this can be linked to the effect that Trump has had on politics at all levels.
“Look at the Virginia election,” he said.
It starts with a “surge” in Democrat turnout, much larger than the increase among Republicans. And Noble said the independents in that state skewed this election away from GOP contenders at all levels up and down the ticket.