Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Popularity "Collapses" According to Rocky Mountain Poll, but the News Isn't Quite as Exciting as Alleged

A new BRC Rocky Mountain Poll shows Sheriff Joe's approval rating slipping in Maricopa County, though I find the poll's claim that Arpaio's popularity has collapsed to be premature.

Countywide, only 39 percent of respondents rate Arpaio's performance as "good" or "very good." That's way down from the 54 percent he got in the same category back in July of 2008.

However, 20 percent rate Arpaio as "fair," while seven percent are "not sure." Only 34 percent of respondents rate Arpaio as "poor" or "very poor," up from 28 percent in 2008.

Remember, Arpaio doesn't face re-election till 2012, a race he's already raising money for. In the 2008 election, he scored 55 percent to challenger Dan Saban's 42 percent. If Saban had not been abandoned by the state Democratic Party, he could've narrowed that gap considerably.

Should Arpaio face a substantial challenger in 2012, he can be beaten. He'll turn 80 in 2012, and if you don't have Arpaio fatigue by then, you never will.

There's also the serious possibility that Arpaio or some of his staff could be indicted by the federal grand jury looking into his abuses of power. And there's a U.S. Justice Department probe into alleged civil rights violations.

But let's not kid ourselves. Most of the snowbirds here in Sand Land -- Joe's peeps, so to speak -- care more about the buffet at Luby's than they do someone else's civil rights. Of course, they are dying off, thankfully. But not fast enough.

Federal indictments? A trial, and possible conviction? Yes, that would mean the end of Arpaio. And County Attorney Andrew Thomas would see the sudden end of his political fortunes as well.

But for now, the most the new Rocky Mountain poll shows is a softening of Joe's support, a shift by some from approval to an assessment of "fair" or "poor." That's significant, sure, but it's not the end.

In October, a Cronkite/Eight poll found that Arpaio had a 61 percent approval rating overall in Maricopa County. That pollster didn't have a category of "fair," just "approve," "strongly approve," "disapprove," etc.

If you combine Rocky Mountain's "fair," "good" and "very good," you get 59 percent. This is comparable to Cronkite/Eight's 61 percent.

A November Rasmussen poll concluded that Arpaio had the best shot against Democrat Terry Goddard in a likely gubernatorial matchup. But Arpaio's not running for Arizona's top post, even though he's enjoyed the speculation.

Also in November, Rasmussen showed that 64 percent statewide liked the fact that Arpaio was working around federal law to hunt the undocumented. Rasmussen offered no county numbers as to Arpaio's approval ratings, but he scored a 63 percent approval rating statewide according to Rasmussen.

I know the anti-Joe crowd will be trumpeting these new numbers all over the place, on Facebook, the blogs, you name it. But folks, it ain't over till the fat sheriff's deputy sings, so to speak. And no, I don't mean any one deputy dawg in particular.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons