POLL: 61.8% of Arizona Voters Believe Confederate Capitol Mall Monument Should Be Kept

High Ground

Survey reveals the complexities of navigating this controversial issue as independent and unaffiliated voters lean towards keeping monument

PHOENIX (August 24, 2017) — A statewide survey of likely Arizona 2018 General Election voters revealed that nearly 62% of voters believe that the memorial to Confederate Soldiers on the Arizona Capitol Mall should be kept. The results are derived from the same survey that showed President Trump with a 41.8% approval rating and 56.8% opposition to a pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Q.        In the past week, there has been a national discussion over whether or not statues honoring members of the Confederate Army should be removed from public spaces. Currently, there is a memorial to Confederate soldiers at the Capitol Mall, which is on public land across from the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix. Do you think this specific memorial should be kept in its current location or removed?

51.5%  Definitely Kept
10.3%  Probably Kept
6.0%    Probably Removed
26.3%  Definitely Removed
6.0%    Don’t Know, Refused

AZ Confederate Monument“These results show that this debate is not simply a partisan issue. More than 61% of independent voters and 60% of unaffiliated voters believe that the memorial should be kept.  Bear in mind, these are the same groups that currently have lower than 33% approval of the President,” said Chuck Coughlin, President & CEO of HighGround Public Affairs, which conducted the poll. “It is clear that this issue is complicated and deeply personal.  As the political parties continue to appeal to smaller and smaller audiences and cater to identity politics, they will find it increasingly difficult to address complex issues.  The challenge that the survey reveals is that there are mixed results with an ‘either/or’ approach.”

The survey specifically asked about the Confederate monument that currently stands on the mall in front of the Arizona State Capitol.  It did not address any of the other Confederate monuments or freeway names throughout the state.

“Instead of simply using this issue as a partisan wedge to cudgel opponents with or advance an ideological agenda, we need our leaders to lead a constructive dialogue.  Arizona is a unique state with an independent spirit and has shown time and again that it is up to the challenge to face and have thoughtful discourse on tough issues,” Coughlin concluded.

As I have said before, we must find our way back to discussing, learning, and growing from meaningful discussions about our collective past. Taking a hard and fast approach to this issue may not have the desired results for those seeking to build a General Election coalition.  It is my hope that these results will be viewed as a call to bring people together to have a thoughtful dialogue.”

The audience tested in the statewide live caller survey was set to reflect the 2018 General Election in Arizona.

About the Survey

The poll surveyed 400 likely Arizona 2018 general election voters who have a history of electoral participation and was balanced to model the likely turnout of voters across party, age, region, and gender.  The live interview survey of voters was conducted by HighGround Public Affairs to both landline and cell phone users.  Anticipated turnout for the Arizona 2018 General Election has a partisan gap of Republican +12%.

Q.            In the past week, there has been a national discussion over whether or not statues honoring members of the Confederate Army should be removed from public spaces. Currently, there is a memorial to Confederate soldiers at the Capitol Mall, which is on public land across from the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix. Do you think this specific memorial should be kept in its current location or removed?

51.5%  Definitely Kept
10.3%  Probably Kept
6.0%    Probably Removed
26.3%  Definitely Removed
6.0%    Don’t Know, Refused

The survey was conducted on August 18-19th and the margin of error of the survey is ±4.88% with 95% confidence.  The HighGround team has built a reputation of reliable and accurate polling over the past ten years – our research has been featured on Nate Silver’s 538, Real Clear Politics, Huffington Post, and many other publications. Last year, HighGround “nailed” the Prop 123 election results within 0.2% of the outcome prior to the May 2016 Special election. Clients and surveys conducted by HighGround include League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, Restoring Arizona, Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association, Education Health and Safety Coalition, local school districts, and various candidate campaigns.  Visit our website to learn more about HighGround’s polling experience.

Survey Demographics

Age Group:

10.8%    20 to 29
15.3%    30 to 39
19.7%    40 to 49
29.5%    50 to 64
24.7%    65 Plus

Sex:

48.0%    Male
52.0%    Female

Party:

44.2%    Republican
31.8%    Democrat
15.0%    PND
9.0%      Independent/Other

Congressional District:

11.0%    CD1
14.3%    CD2
7.0%      CD3
11.0%    CD4
12.3%    CD5
13.7%    CD6
6.0%      CD7
13.0%    CD8
11.7%    CD9

View HighGround’s post HERE.

Follow the Money…..

MIHSThe recent mental health contract awarded by the state to Maricopa County Integrated Health System or MIHS is raising eyebrows. MIHS, a government funded and owned entity, is on the cusp of receiving a 3-year contract that is potentially worth $3 billion dollars.

Any $3 billion dollar deal should be viewed as suspect by watchdog groups and taxpayers, but what makes this deal special is that MIHS is a government owned, property tax levying entity bidding against private providers.  In fact, MIHS currently collects nearly $60 million dollars in property taxes each year.  MIHS is even allowed to go into debt with revenue bonds that can be paid for through the district’s operating property tax levy without voter approval.

To secure the lucrative contract, MIHS teamed up with Aetna-owned Schaller Anderson, Medicaid provider Mercy Care Plan, Carondelet Health Network and Dignity Health.  Not surprisingly, private providers Magellan Health Services and UnitedHealthcare (both of whom bid on the same contract) have filed formal protests against MIHS and MIHS CEO Betsey Bayless.

MagellanWhy would the state award the largest contract its ever offered to another government entity in what appears to be a clear violation of the Arizona Constitution’s “gift clause?”  When you pull the thread and follow the money trail, it’s hard to not suspect corruption, cronyism, and a healthy dose of conspiracy.

MIHS was created by Proposition 414 in 2003 after voters approved the measure in a special election by a margin of 58% to 42%.  At the time, AZ Republic columnist Robert Robb called the establishment of a property-tax-supported hospital district “unnecessary and unwise.”  Robb even warned voters that “…special tax districts, focused on only a single service with independently elected boards, are bad fiscal policy.  Hard choices are good for taxpayers and make for more efficient government.”

Robb even called the publicity pamphlet and ballot question used to promote the measure “the most blatant case of government propagandizing I’ve seen in over a quarter century of Arizona elections.”  Bold statement for a columnist who typically calls it as he sees it.

The lobbying firm responsible for the passage of the ballot referral legislation at the Capitol also ran the ballot campaign.  Phoenix-based HighGround public affairs is run by consultant Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign advisor and a man who has been referred to as Arizona’s “shadow governor.”   According to their website:

“Our team was the principal public affairs and lobbying team for the legislation that authorized the creation of the new Maricopa County Hospital District on behalf of Maricopa County.  Following the successful passage of the legislation, HighGround was retained as the principal campaign consultant for the Yes on 414 Committee.”

Fast forward to 2008.  HighGround is once again rewarded for their work and is retained by MIHS with their first lobbying contract.  Today, HighGround works hand-in-hand with Betsey Bayless who was hired as MIHS’ CEO in September 2005.

BaylessIn February 2013, Bayless was given a 33% pay raise, an extra $125,000 per year, bringing her annual taxpayer-funded salary to a whopping $500,000.  This despite a poor rating issued by a national accrediting group, the Joint Commission, which found widespread record-keeping problems and other flaws that posed risks to patients’ safety.  This even despite the fact that Bayless has already announced she’s leaving her position at the end of 2013.  Two of MIHS’ board members even voted against the pay raise, saying they opposed raising the pay of a CEO who is leaving in less than a year and working for a public hospital.

“It really rubs me the wrong way that we’re spending this type of money,” board member Elbert Bicknell said. “Don’t get me wrong. Betsey is a smart … woman, and she’s done a hell of a job from 2005 to now. But a ($125,000) raise in a year when we give our janitors maybe a 1 percent raise or lay off people? It just doesn’t make sense.”  Dissenting board member Sue Gerard commented: “I think having that kind of salary is totally inappropriate.”

Could the pay raise have anything to do with the fact that it was widely speculated that MIHS was going to be awarded the enormous mental health contract?  Was this Betsey’s “swan song” on her way out the door?  Possibly.

But where this story gets really tangled is when one considers the ramifications of the state adopting Governor Brewer’s Medicaid expansion proposal.  Again, the value of the contract could increase an additional $1 billion dollars if the state accepts federal Medicaid dollars.  Who is running the campaign in Arizona for Medicaid expansion?

If you guessed Chuck Coughlin and HighGround, you’re correct.  Serving as Coughlin’s wingman is Peter Burns, a former Brewer budget advisor.  Perhaps that explains the governor’s complete flip-flop on this issue from less than a year ago.  The Wall Street Journal went as far as to describe the governor’s flip-flop as a “political 540°” and “a case study in the political pressure and fiscal gimmicks designed to get states to succumb.”

The New York Times sums up the magnitude of political forces and financial incentives behind this coordinated effort:

Recently, 40 lobbyists, representing at least 110 groups pushing for the expansion, among them hospitals, health care associations and business organizations, huddled in the executive wing of the State Capitol to update the governor’s advisers on their progress and hone strategies.

The Wall Street Journal goes further, discussing how “Ms. Brewer was nonetheless besieged by health-industry lobbying, especially from hospitals that want more government money and the insurers that administer Medicaid.”

There is something wrong with the State of Arizona climbing into bed with private business to give away billions of dollars in public funds.  When those decisions are tied to the largest health contract the state has ever awarded and possibly the biggest expansion of federal government our state has ever seen, tax-paying citizens are owed an explanation and deserve transparency.

Aside from the arguments of whether accepting federal Medicaid dollars related to the full implementation of Obamacare is good or bad policy, the one thing that is clear is that the consultants, lobbyists, and hospital administrators pushing the plan stand to make millions of dollars in profits.

Money makes people do strange things, indeed.