Mark Kelly leads in Arizona Senate race hinged on abortion, economy, immigration — CBS News Battleground Tracker

Arizona is another battleground where strong opposing forces support the fight.

Democratic candidates enjoy a stronger personal rating, while Republican voters think more about national control of the Senate. There’s a tough economy and a desire for tougher border controls that help Republicans, versus abortion that helps Democrats.

And in this state that was so close in 2020, electoral denial is not finding favor beyond a handful of those in the Republican base — nor do voters want to be the focus of the campaign.

What works in Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s favor is the majority approval of his job performance and the fact that he is personally likable. In fact, he is the most personally likable of the four statewide candidates tested for Senate and governor. In contrast, more than six in 10 dislike the way Blake Masters personally handles himself.

Also, Kelly has support from those who want abortion to be legal — which most voters do.

But while abortion is important to Democrats, it doesn’t rank as high among voters overall compared to the economy, inflation or immigration here. And Democrats face a deficit on those numbers.

The economy and immigration are central, and voters have negative views of the economy — both Arizona’s and the nation’s. That helps Republican candidates: they win over voters who say these issues are top of mind.


Two key issues driving the Senate race: Abortion and immigration

Like Democratic candidates elsewhere, Kelly enjoys a big lead among voters who say abortion is very important, but that advantage is somewhat offset by voters who emphasize immigration.

Immigration ranks third in the state as “very important” (higher than nationally), just behind the economy and inflation. And among voters who say immigration is very important, Masters leads by a wide margin, helping to keep the race close.



Kelly enjoys a small crossover vote from Republicans, with about one in 10 backing him, similar to the level he won in 2020. In that case, he’s more likely to get support from Republicans who believe abortion should be legal than by those who do not.

Abortion: Most want it legal, oppose its criminalization

In the wake of a judge’s decision to reinstate a law that bans almost all abortions in the statemost voters would make abortion legal in all or most cases in Arizona — and most voters would not criminalize it.

Women, more than men, say an illegal abortion should not result in criminal penalties for the women who perform the procedure, the doctors and medical staff, or anyone who helped the woman pay for or obtain the abortion.


There is some division among Republicans on this. Almost half would not punish a woman for having an abortion, even though many oppose the procedure, but most would favor criminal penalties for a doctor who performed an abortion.

That said, 57% of self-identified “MAGA” Republicans would criminalize a woman who gets an abortion, along with even greater support for punishing doctors and medical professionals and anyone who paid for it.


Voters who want abortion legal are more likely than those who do not to prioritize it as a voting issue, and those voters support Kelly over Masters. As we’ve seen elsewhere, abortion is also a top issue for Democratic voters here in Arizona.

Most Arizona voters believe Kelly will support policies to protect abortion access, and most believe Masters will support policies to restrict it.


There is a clear gender gap. Kelly has a big lead with the women and Masters has a double digit lead with the men. Kelly also leads with younger voters and Hispanic voters. Masters leads with older voters, White voters and Evangelicals.



Migration: Close to home and moving house. voters want tighter border security

When asked directly about border security, more voters believe Teachers would support policies that make the border more secure than Kelly.


Just over half of Arizona voters say immigration has changed the area where they live at least some in recent years, and a large majority who say so say it has changed for the worse.


Voters who feel this way care deeply about immigration. Nine in 10 of them say it is very important to their vote in 2022, and they overwhelmingly support Republican candidates in both the Senate and the gubernatorial races here.

Overall, however, a majority of Arizona voters feel that most of those trying to cross the border are motivated by the search for work and a better life. But just the same, they would make the US tougher on those trying to cross the border. This is driven by Republicans who overwhelmingly feel this way, and a smaller majority of independents. More Hispanic voters also want the U.S. to be tougher than easier on those trying to cross the border.


As in other battleground states and nationally, the economy and inflation in Arizona are top issues for voters, and Republican candidates lead among voters who call these issues very important.


As with most midterm elections, this is at least partly a referendum on the current president. More Arizona voters say their Senate vote is to oppose President Joe Biden than to support him. His approval rating here among registered voters is 39%, which is lower than his latest national number.

Electoral Denial: Not mainstream, but still influential among the GOP

The outright denial of the election resonates little with Arizona voters: Fewer than one in five Arizona voters want their elected officials to say that Mr. Biden is not the rightful winner of the 2020 contest.

However, many do not care at all. Additionally, the 2020 election is nowhere near the top issues the candidates want to talk about — it pales in comparison to the economy and immigration, among other issues.

However, it may be affecting the race a bit, in terms of what the GOP candidates are talking about — at least as a distraction from other issues.

For example, independents who say they’ve heard Blake Masters talk about the 2020 election are less likely to vote for him than those who say they’ve heard him talk about the economy. And they are more likely to call him “fringe”, rather than “mainstream”.

And electoral denial may still be a key test among some in the GOP base.

For Republicans for whom an official’s stance matters, denial still outnumbers acceptance: By a 4-to-1 margin, they would prefer officials who said Biden didn’t win legitimately to those who said he did.



Looking ahead, the vast majority of Arizonans want their governor to accept the results of future elections, regardless of which party wins.

But three in 10 Republicans say the next governor should question and investigate the election when Democrats win — and they overwhelmingly support Republican gubernatorial candidate Cary Lake.

The race of the ruler

While the Democratic nominee holds a slim three-point lead in the Senate race, the Arizona governor’s race is even between Democrat Katie Hobbs and Lake.


Lake — who doesn’t have the added hurdle of running against an incumbent — is generally more likable than her Republican counterpart running for Senate. Lake trails Hobbs by nine points among registered voters in Arizona on how she handles herself personally, but that’s far better than Masters’ 20-point deficit over Kelly on that measure.


When asked whether each of the four candidates’ positions were “mainstream” or “extreme,” Lake is seen as extreme by slightly fewer Arizona voters than Blake Masters, although both are more likely to be seen as extreme by Democratic opponents their.


Here again, we see a known Democratic advantage on abortion as very important, while voters more concerned about immigration and the economy favor the Republican candidate.

Lake’s tighter race compared to the Masters is partly explained by ever-so-small differences, such as a slightly smaller gender gap, slightly less attrition from her own party, plus those comparatively better favorability ratings.

This CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey was conducted with a representative sample of 1,164 registered voters in Arizona interviewed between September 30 and October 4, 2022. The sample was weighted by gender, age, race, education and geographic area based on the US Current Census Survey, as well as for the 2020 presidential election. Margin of error is ±3.8 points.

Top lines

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *