Senator Kyrsten Sinema is catching up in popularity to junior Senator Mark Kelly, who may have an unstable lead for reelection in the 2022 senatorial race.
Sinema angered many in the Democratic party in March after voting against increasing the minimum wage in Arizona to $15 from its current $7.25. Senator Bernie Sanders sought to include the minimum wage increase in a White House-backed coronavirus relief package. Sinema was one of seven senate democrats to vote “no” on the bill.
According to OH Predictive Insights’ last Arizona Public Opinion Pulse, Sinema was significantly behind Kelly in March (Sinema Net: -1, Kelly Net: +11). Now, Sinema’s net favorability (45/36, +9) is close to even with Kelly’s (45/38, +7).
OHPI Chief of Research Mike Noble believes Sinema has time to improve her favorability before her next election in 2024. “While she still needs to attract those voters back into her camp, Sinema’s outreach to Republicans continues to pay dividends,” Noble said.
The differences between the favorabilities of Arizona’s two senators rests on their positions on the state’s top issues.
OH Predictive Insights’ report said that supporters of Sen. Sinema believe immigration is Arizona’s top issue (Sinema: 35%, Kelly: 27%), while Sen. Kelly is preferred by those who believe education (Kelly: 57%, Sinema: 52%) or healthcare (Kelly: 56%, Sinema: 47%) should be priorities in Arizona.
Media consumption could be a factor in the favorability of Arizona’s senators. Voters who watch conservative-leaning Fox News favored Sinema (57%) over Kelly (40%), while those who reported watching liberal-leaning MSNBC at least weekly prefer Kelly (86%) to Sinema (68%).
Sinema’s favorability is increasing among Democrats as 54% view her favorably, but Kelly is significantly more liked by members of his party with 72% approval. These approval ratings are similar with Independent voters in Arizona (Sinema 44%, Kelly 42%), though Republican voters prefer Sinema (37%) to Kelly (22%).
Sen. Kelly is on the ballot for re-election in 2022 as he held office for the last two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s term.
Early polls have shown Kelly is ahead of potential competitors as the incumbent at this time, but he does not exceed the 50% mark, giving the Republican Party a chance of flipping the seat.
Kelly holds the lead due to his favorability with Independents and Hispanic/Latino voters. Noble said that Hispanics/Latino voters have proven to be the most influential group of voters in recent elections.
One-third of Maricopa County’s residents identify as Latino, according to census data. President Joe Biden won Maricopa in the 2020 election, and he subsequently won the race.
Noble said that Kelly’s current lead over his Republican opponents does not mean he will win the seat.
“He’s still vulnerable below the all-important 50% threshold, meaning Arizona’s upcoming Senate seat is still up for grabs,” Noble said.
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