ELECTIONS

Election 2022: Kari Lake vs. Katie Hobbs poll shows tight Arizona governor race

Kari Lake (left) and Katie Hobbs are running for Arizona governor.
Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic

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A new poll shows Democrat Katie Hobbs and Republican Kari Lake essentially tied in the race to be Arizona’s next governor, separated by a single percentage point with one in five independent voters still undecided just weeks before ballots are mailed out.

The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com/Suffolk University poll of 500 likely midterm voters gave Hobbs a razor-thin lead over Lake, with 46% of respondents saying they would certainly or probably vote for Hobbs versus 45% for Lake. That’s within the poll’s margin of error.

Likely voters also were asked to evaluate outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's job performance, which sagged during the pandemic. Forty percent of respondents viewed his performance positively, while 49% rated it unfavorably. In a similar poll from October 2020, 35% viewed Ducey favorably and 42% rated him unfavorably.

Just released: Republic poll projects who’s ahead in Kelly-Masters Senate race

Hobbs, Arizona's secretary of state, also leads Lake, a former TV news anchor, in likely voters’ general views of the candidates. More of these voters view Lake unfavorably than Hobbs. Among respondents, 44% viewed Hobbs favorably, compared with 32% who viewed her unfavorably. For Lake, 41% viewed her favorably, compared with 46% who viewed her unfavorably.

Nicole DeMont, Hobbs' campaign manager, said in a statement that the poll and polling trends showed "our message of sanity over chaos is winning Arizonans of all backgrounds."

Hobbs "is the only candidate with comprehensive plans to address Arizona's toughest challenges like restoring reproductive health care access, improving schools, and lowering costs," the statement said. "Arizonans want a governor with a track record of working across the aisle to get things done, and that’s why Secretary Hobbs will be victorious in November."

Lake's campaign did not respond to questions or a request for comment for this article.

Polling highlights opportunities

The race for Arizona governor is one of the most competitive in the country. The polling highlighted areas where Hobbs and Lake should focus in the final weeks of their campaigns, according to David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

“From a strategic standpoint, both Hobbs and Lake need to focus really exclusively on independents and, secondly, Hispanic voters,” Paleologos said.

Independents, who make up about one-third of registered voters, have historically played a decisive role in elections in this swing state. This cycle should repeat that trend.

Among those polled, 17% of Hispanic voters had not decided who they would choose for governor, representing one demographic where either candidate could pick up a race-defining wave of support. That's a larger share than the governor’s race overall, in which 8% of likely voters were undecided.

That signals Hispanic voters “who obviously don't feel as connected to either of these candidates at this point," Paleologos said.

Javier Martinez, 40, of Phoenix, hasn't decided who he will vote for in the governor's race; he told a pollster he intends to vote for Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly at the top of the ticket.

Martinez, an independent, said he is looking for a moderate candidate to lead the state, one who can get past divisive, emotion-driven rhetoric. He said he doesn't see either Lake or Hobbs talking about the issues affecting him or his friends and neighbors.

"To people that I know, it's like, how are we going to pay the rent? How are we going to pay the bills? How can we afford this?" he said. 

But on Tuesday, the same day the poll was released, both Hobbs and Lake's campaigns signaled a ramping-up in the final weeks of the election that could target those undecided voters — and Lake's large unfavorable rating.

Hobbs' campaign announced a new advertisement promoting her plan to lower costs for Arizonans by supporting a child tax credit and waiving the sales tax on essential items, like diapers and over-the-counter medicines. Lake's campaign also unveiled a new advertisement, one that highlights her personal story growing up in Iowa in a big family with eight siblings and just hints at her common campaign theme of attacking the media.

"You've heard a lot of lies about me this past year, but here's the truth," Lake says in the advertisement. The advertisement presents a softer image of Lake than she often portrays on the campaign trail.

Undecided voters were equally split when ranking their top issues, identifying inflation/the economy and abortion, according to the poll, which was conducted around the time a Pima County judge allowed a Civil War-era law banning most abortions in the state to take effect.

Charles Bishop, 76, of Apache Junction, told a pollster he wasn't sure who he would cast his ballot for in the governor's race, but said Tuesday he was leaning toward Hobbs, though typically he doesn't align with Democratic policies on abortion. Bishop, a father of five and grandfather to 15, said he was "pro-life."

"I'm an independent. I happen to think that Kari Lake is an extremist denier of the results of the election, rabidly so," he said.

Lake has repeatedly made false claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and said she would not have certified Joe Biden's win in Arizona. Lake also claimed "stealing" in the primary earlier this year without providing any evidence, though she hasn't pressed the issue publicly since then. She has not said whether she will concede the race if she loses to Hobbs in November.

Because of those positions, Bishop said he could not vote for Lake.

"I know what I'm against," he said.

The poll did not ask specifically about border security, Lake’s top issue, but more than 2% of respondents identified public safety and another about 3% said drugs/opioids were their top concern.

The polling showed a large gender gap, with Lake holding a 16-point advantage among men and Hobbs drawing more support from women, also by 16 points.

About the poll

Political polls offer a snapshot of how voters are feeling at a point in time and don’t always predict a race’s outcome. Polling averages compiled by political news website FiveThirtyEight show Hobbs with a 2 percentage point lead over Lake, although Lake has narrowed the gap.

The latest poll affirms political predictions: It’s a toss-up, meaning either party could win.

The Republic and Suffolk University poll was completed by cellphone and landlines from Sept. 21 through Sept. 25 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Respondents were roughly evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and independents, in line with state voter registration statistics.

About 57% of respondents lived in Maricopa County. Almost 74% of respondents were white, about 18% were Hispanic or Latino, and just under 3% were Black.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.