[Source: Dan Nowicki, Arizona Republic] — Most forward-looking reports from policy think tanks or universities face a huge hurdle: selling their proposed goals and recommendations to the people. The Center for the Future of Arizona hopes to avoid that fate. The Phoenix-based organization – or “do” tank, as it likes to call itself – went to the people first to learn their hopes and desires for Arizona’s future.
At the heart of “The Arizona We Want,” the center’s new report charting a “citizens’ agenda” for Arizona’s second century, is in-depth statewide polling data from the Gallup Organization. The findings show that many 21st-century residents are loyal and attached to the state, thanks particularly to its scenic open spaces and environmental beauty, and actually see eye to eye on a variety of issues. But they are disenchanted with their elected leaders and concerned about jobs, education and the economy. “I view the report as a platform for positive change,” said Robert Delgado, the president and chief executive of Valley beer distributor Hensley & Co. and a community leader who got an early look at the publication. “It will have the effect of saying, ‘OK, look, this is really what the citizens of Arizona want,’ and those who we elect to public office are accountable to the citizens of Arizona. I think it gives us a great road map or compass on how to go forward.”
The center, an independent non-profit, hired Gallup because of its reputation as “the gold standard” of polling companies, said Lattie Coor, the former Arizona State University president who founded the Center for the Future of Arizona in 2002. Gallup surveyed by telephone a random sample of 3,606 Arizona adults and then followed up with 831 respondents who agreed to participate in an online poll. The statewide telephone poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. “This is not so surprising, but we also found that the natural environment, the open spaces and aesthetics of Arizona, are at the absolute top of people’s view of what it is about Arizona that resonates most highly with them,” Coor said. “We found, disturbingly, but I fear I must say also not surprisingly, that citizens don’t think their elected representatives represent their interests. Only 10 percent strongly agreed that they do. We also found that Arizona is not viewed as a good place for talented young people, and we also found that Arizonans want jobs.”
The center relied on the poll results to inform its set of eight resident-backed goals for Arizona related to jobs, education, water and the environment, transportation and civic involvement. It also used the results to help identify a series of sticky problems that need resolution: inadequate “leadership and governance structures”; the lack of an “investment strategy” for priorities such as job creation and education; the need for a clear commitment by the state to compete globally; the illegal- immigration situation; and an unstable state tax system. [Note: Read the full article at Examining the most important questions facing Arizona.]