PHOENIX — President Trump remains more popular in Arizona than in the nation as a whole.
But pollster Mike Noble said that may not help the Republican Party hang on to the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.
His new, 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 33 percent and a Gallup survey with his positives at 38 percent.
That’s not necessarily a surprise, said Noble, managing partner of political consulting firm OH Predictive Insights, who said no client paid for his survey.
“I think he’s holding the line a little bit better (in Arizona) because illegal immigration, especially with Republicans, is still a top issue,” Noble said. He said that has been reinforced by Trump’s promises to Arizona audiences to build a border wall.
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.
And while the president remains strong among Arizona voters who describe themselves as conservative, moderates find Trump’s first-year performance disappointing by a margin of 2-1, his poll found.
And with independents making up more than a third of the state’s registered voters, that, in turn, is not good news for Republicans in the 2018 Senate race, he said.
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 in his poll, 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 Democratic nominee, Noble said the current numbers give Sinema a 3-point edge — within the poll’s 4-point margin of error.
In a head-to-head against McSally, Sinema has just a single-point lead in the survey.
Noble said neither potential GOP nominee should take comfort from these early numbers given the 12-point edge Republicans have in voter registration, and the effect Trump has had on politics.
“Look at the Virginia election” this fall, he said. There was a “surge” in Democrat turnout, much larger than the increase among Republicans. And the independents in that state skewed the election away from GOP contenders at all levels on the ticket, he said.
State GOP spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair dismissed all the results, questioning the methodology.
She pointed out — and Noble acknowledged — that the survey was skewed to catch more voters 55 and older because he is calling only landlines and not cell phones. Sinclair denied that should actually make the results more favorable to Trump and Republicans in general.
“The Arizona Republican Party has seen an increase in voter registration and activism since President Trump’s election,” Sinclair said.