Presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton hold double-digit leads among the state’s most reliable voters heading into Arizona’s presidential preference election, according to an Arizona State University/KAET-TV (Channel 8) poll released Tuesday.
The survey sampled the opinions of “high efficacy” voters, defined by pollsters as registered voters who had voted in at least three of the past six elections. The survey results included opinions of voters who said they were firm in their choices, plus voters who said they were leaning toward a particular candidate.
Poll director Bruce Merrill noted that even among “high efficacy” voters, many remain undecided — 19 percent among Republicans, and 21 percent among Democrats. Arizona’s election is Feb. 5.
“In addition, polls cannot measure which candidates’ supporters will go to the polls and which will stay at home on Election Day. Nevertheless, at this time, McCain and Clinton have solid leads in Arizona,” Merrill said in a statement.
On the Republican side, McCain, Arizona’s senior U.S. senator, finished with 41 percent support. His nearest challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, trailed by 23 points at 18 percent support.
The survey marked a sharp turnaround for McCain, who had trailed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in a Rocky Mountain Poll released on Nov. 19.
The Rocky Mountain Poll pegged Giuliani with 20 percent support, against McCain’s 18 percent. The ASU/KAET poll placed Giuliani in fifth place with just 4 percent support.
There are two other notable difference between the polls.
This week’s ASU/KAET polled “high efficacy” voters, while November’s Rocky Mountain Poll by Behavior Research Center of Phoenix sampled heads of households.
Further, the tone of the national race has changed dramatically. McCain’s campaign appeared dead on arrival during the fall, but he has since recorded impressive wins in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.
According to the ASU/KAET poll, the top reasons people plan to vote for McCain: his views and positions on issues; his experience and qualifications; his military background; his reputation as a straight talker; and his honesty and integrity.
On the Democratic side, Clinton, a senator from New York, earned 45 percent support.
Her closest rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, trailed by 21 points with 24 percent support.
She has held a steady lead against Obama in major surveys of Arizona voters.
Her top attributes, according to the poll: her experience and qualifications; her views and positions; her association with former President Bill Clinton; her gender; and her leadership abilities.
The survey of 375 Republicans and 366 Democrats had margins of error of 5 percentage points for Republicans and 5.1 percentage points among Democrats.