Arizona ballot audit shows signs of backfiring on GOP

Trump has cheered on the Maricopa County audit and continued to advance baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud as Republicans from other states he lost have made pilgrimages to Phoenix to review the idea of exporting the concept. But Arizona Republicans who pay close attention to the state’s changing demographics say the audit isn’t a political winner.

“It’s a failure. It’s a joke,” said Sean Noble, a top GOP operative in the state, advising Republicans elsewhere to “avoid it. The election is long over, time to look forward.”

Noble said public opinion surrounding the audit is just too baked in to change, even though the firm that conducted the effort, Cyber Ninjas, hasn’t finished its work. On Friday, Cyber Ninjas announced its team had finished photographing and recounting the 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots.

The final report is widely expected to make claims about election fraud, reflecting the politics of Cyber Ninja’s founder — he appeared in a conspiracy theorist’s documentary film rife with falsehoods, according to Arizona press reports.

By 49-46 percent, Arizona voters are opposed to the audit, which puts the result within the poll’s margin of error. But the survey of 600 likely voters found that the intensity of opposition to the audit exceeded the intensity of support, with those strongly opposed to it outnumbering those strongly in favor by 5 percentage points. And while Democrats and Republicans broke along familiar partisan lines, independent voters upon whom the state pivots in close elections opposed the audit by 18 percentage points.

“As bloody red meat for the MAGA Republican base, the audit is manna from heaven, but the problem is that Arizona is not a red state any more. It’s a swing state,” said Fernand Amandi, who conducted the survey. “The audit may be serving two interests: firing up the MAGA base but giving Democrats the opportunity to make the case to Arizona voters to stick with them.”

If a candidate supports the audit, the poll shows, Arizona voters would be less likely to support that politician by a margin of 9 percentage points.

Bendixen & Amandi International typically surveys for Democrats and accurately forecast Trump’s reelection troubles in Arizona more than a year before the 2020 vote. A Florida poll the firm conducted before the election also accurately warned Democrats that Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County were leaning more strongly toward Trump than many expected.

Arizona opposition to the audit grew wider — with 51 percent against it and 44 percent in favor — when respondents were informed about the partisan nature of the effort: it’s being conducted by a firm with no experience in the field, and election experts, Democratic officials and Republican members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors oppose the recount. Those opponents have pointed out that the voting machines have already been checked by an accredited firm and that the election results were validated by a previous audit.

The new polling numbers are similar to a May poll from Arizona-based High Ground Inc., which tends to survey for Republicans, that found 55 percent opposed the audit and 41 percent supported it. That survey also found that, by an 11-point margin, Arizona voters would be less likely to support a candidate who backed the audit.

In Amandi’s poll, Biden’s favorability rating is almost equally divided, with 49 percent holding positive views of him and 48 percent with a negative view. Trump is in negative territory, with 46 percent holding a favorable opinion and 51 percent a negative opinion of him.

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