Opening up the West


Executive Summary

In the 2006 election, Democrats made significant gains throughout the country, primarily in the Northeast and Midwest, but including some seats in the South. Among the most promising developments for Democrats was their ability to encroach on the long-held Republican stronghold in the interior West. These victories include John Tester’s win in Montana, two congressional conversions in Arizona and one in Colorado, as well as the on-going political success of Democratic Governors in red states such as Janet Napolitano (AZ), Brian Schweitzer (MT) and Dave Freudenthal (WY).

Is this region of the country evolving? Is it leaving the Republican camp? Are Democratic gains there—like most elsewhere—merely a reaction against Republican governance and the war in Iraq, or do they preview a potential realignment of this part of the country?

In order to find out the answer to some of these questions, Democracy Corps is committing serious resources to research in the interior West over the next two years, leading up to the 2008 presidential election. This memo reports on the first wave of that research conducted in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. In this first round, we profile our nation’s Western residents, exploring how they live their lives, their political world views and offer a starting point for this critical battleground.

Methodology

This report is based upon Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research for Democracy Corps, including a survey of 1,207 likely voters in AZ, NM, NV, CO, UT, WY, ID, and MT which fielded March 7-14, 2007, and included an oversample of 290 Hispanic voters. The report also reflects focus group research among swing voters in AZ, MT, and WY in January, 2007.

Key Findings

  • Western voters have little patience for political or ideological debate. They want action and they want the parties to work together to get things done.
  • Western voters expect candor and honesty from their elected officials; they expect candidates and their political leaders to tell them exactly what they will do in office.
  • Environmental concerns throughout this region are diverse, from water to sprawl to difficulty of making a living from the land.
  • Two critical issues matter: immigration and guns. In the south, immigration is on the top of voters’ minds. Voters also are satisfied with the “truce" between the gun control and anti-gun control forces.

 

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