Arizona Closer Than Expected?

A new poll out of Arizona raised quite a few eyebrows yesterday:

(CNN) – A new poll of likely voters in Arizona shows the race for the White House is a close contest in the state.

President Barack Obama stands at 44% and GOP challenger Mitt Romney has 42% in the Rocky Mountain poll released Saturday. The margin is within the poll’s sampling error.

With 11 electoral votes, the state has been considered to be leaning in Romney’s favor.

The state’s two most populous counties, Maricopa and Pima, came out in support of Obama, while Romney has a lead in the rural counties. Men are evenly split between the two candidates, and the difference between the candidates among women is only three points.

Obama is the heavy favorite among the state’s Latinos, who split for him 77% to Romney’s 10%.

Since 1952, the state has gone to the Republican candidate in every presidential race except 1996. President Bill Clinton won the state that year by a three-point margin – 47% to 44% – over Bob Dole, while Reform Party candidate Ross Perot and others picked up about 9% of the vote.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona won the state’s presidential vote in 2008 by nine points and in 2004, President George W. Bush won the state by 11 points.

Considering that every recent poll of the state had shown Romney with a comfortable lead, this is surprising to say the least. There had been some polls early in the spring that showed a close race in Arizona, but they were quickly overridden by others showing Romney far ahead, and its stayed there for months. That’s why I tend to think that this is likely an outlier, and Nate Silver isn’t all that impressed by the poll: 

I would not be too worried about the topline numbers if I were Mr. Romney’s campaign — or too enthralled with them if I were Mr. Obama’s. The survey contacted relatively few respondents — about 500 voters — and even a good polling firm can and will produce an outlying result or two with a sample size like that.

It is plausible that Mr. Obama could win Arizona if he is running strongly nationwide — but it is much less likely that he will do so in the current national environment, where the race is almost tied.

Consider that, in 2008, Mr. Obama lost Arizona by 8 points despite winning nationally by 7 points.

Part of that is because Arizona was John McCain’s home state. Historically, the home-state advantage for a candidate is on the order of 7 points. In other words, had Mr. McCain been from another state, Arizona might have been a toss-up in 2008.

Even so, that was an in election in which Mr. Obama had a clear victory nationwide. If Mr. Obama recovers from his debate swoon and wins another clear victory this November, Arizona could fall into his column. But it is unlikely to prove decisive in a tight national race.

Silver’s model gives Romney a 96% chance of winning Arizona in November as of today, and the RealClearPolitics average is +5.3 points in Romney’s favor. Given this, we’d need to see a lot more data before considering Arizona a toss-up state, something that would be very dangerous for Romney’s chances at victory.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    That AZ nonsense indeed is a howler, but I still say at present the one that takes the cake is the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist survey for Florida. The latter poll is the one in which to believe it you also have to believe there was a sudden depopulation of white voters in Fla. between Oct. 3rd and Oct. 11th. Seriously, check out the internals, they didn’t bother hiding what they did to advance their agenda. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

    In any event, it’s starting to become as clear as crystal that Ohio is the lynchpin of the entire election. Team Obama is not calling in the cavalry (Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, etc.) merely for shits and giggles. And Romney/Ryan would not be there every week if they had it locked up. Money talks, B.S. walks. Presumably Ohio is within a point or two or perhaps even less. So we might very well be looking at an ’04 redux or perhaps even something approaching a ’00 redux. Gulp.

  2. Jr says:

    Obama isn’t winning Arizona.

    But the poll does raises some questions about the Hispanic vote and if pollsters are underestimating them by only including english only. Silver had a pretty interesting article about it and this detail may have a major effect in states like CO, FL, and NV.

  3. Smooth Jazz says:

    “A new poll out of Arizona raised quite a few eyebrows yesterday:”

    Hmmm, I see you’re doing your part today to bouy the Obama campaign and Liberal spirits by posting about meaningless PPP polls and early voting #s based on 1% of the country voting – and most especially this bogus poll which jury rigged the Hispanic turnout # to get this desired result for AZ. When Obama is LOSING the massive Daily Trackers by 2 points and behind in the national popular vote, he is not winning AZ with a 44% baseline # as of today, no sirree.

    But since you’re in a polling mood, here’s another poll you can share with your readers, if you haven’t posted it already:


    If Obama is at 47% or lower in MN or any state at this point, that is a dangerous place for him to be as there are fewer and fewer for a known figure such as Obama to get to 50%. I believe this is sponsored by a Rep pollster, but, hey, if you can pass off DailyKOS’s pollster PPP without caveats or caution and post a AZ poll where half the sample is hispanic (I’m being facetious), certainly you can alert your readers that there is a poll out there that shows Romney in striking distance in MN.That out to make them feel confortable this election is in the bag.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Hmmm, I see you’re doing your part today to bouy the Obama campaign and Liberal spirits…

    You must think that by constantly repeating this line about Doug, a known libertarian who doesn’t like the President, or liberals, for that matter, that your words will somehow magically become reality…good luck with that…

  5. PJ says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    From the link:

    Now we have the explanation. Respected Republican pollster Glen Bolger ran a poll for a pro-Romney PAC, the American Future Fund, and the results show President Obama with a 4-point lead, 47 to 43

    Problem with this polls is that it’s a poll for a PAC, unless the PAC releases every poll it buys, then you should start asking yourself why this poll was released. (The answer should be obvious, even to you.)
    Same goes for any polls done for campaigns that are released. In September the Democrat running against Bachmann released a poll that showed him being only two points behind her.

    Back then, I had this to say about that poll:

    This a internal poll done for her Democratic opponent (something which Doug Mataconis has already pointed out), has his campaign released every poll they’ve done? No.
    Also, the sample size here is 401, which makes the margin of error about 5 points, so 53-41 would be within the margin of error.
    Finally this poll might even be one of the 5% of polls where the true result from the question asked isn’t within the margin of error. And considering that the Graves campaign isn’t releasing every poll they done, I’m guessing the probability for that is quite high.

    My guess, Graves released this poll so that it would look like that he has a chance to beat Bachmann hoping that it would get people to donate money to him.
    I’d want to see independent polling that showed Graves this close before I would believe what this campaign wants us to believe…

    And I would argue mostly the same things about this poll.

  6. KariQ says:

    Obama’s head in Arizona? Right, and I have some great property to sell you. And a magic elixir that will cure all your health problems, make you irresistible to supermodels, and add 40 points to your IQ. Really!

    Obama worried about Minnesota? Right. And I’ve got a bridge to sell you, some stock tips that you can count on, and a magic elixir that will make you immortal, add 60 points to your IQ and make you irresistible to supermodels, and will turn your subcompact into a Ferrari!

  7. stonetools says:

    Much as I’d like to believe this poll, its almost certainly wrong.

    I would have to see a lot more polls like that before I could buy a possible Obama victory in Arizona.

  8. Curtis says:

    This is a fine example of the problem with polls: the more shocking and hence newsworthy a poll is, the more likely it is to be a complete outlier.

    If we want to know which states are competitive, the first place to look is at the campaigns themselves. If Obama were within two points, let alone two points ahead, his campaign would be investing heavily. They aren’t. It isn’t that close.

    That being said, Arizona is becoming more purple unless the Republicans figure out a way to stop the bleeding among Latinos. And since the most the guy given the loudest microphone in the state is Sheriff Joe, that doesn’t look likely. But it would take a 5-7 point win for Obama nationally before Arizona would be competitive. But Arizona is going to be the next state that the Democrats carry – be it in 2012, 2016, or 2020 – that Obama didn’t win in 2008.

  9. EddieInCA says:

    First was California.
    Next was New Mexico.
    Then Colorado.
    Soon it will be Arizona.
    Eventually it will include Texas, as well.

    As the GOP continues to piss off, alienate, and attempt to marginalize Latino, Black, Women, and Gay voters, states will continue to turn blue as the demographics change.

  10. David M says:


    As the GOP continues to piss off, alienate, and attempt to marginalize Latino, Black, Women, and Gay voters, states will continue to turn blue as the demographics change.

    Or the GOP will be forced to embrace sane, moderate policies.