Sheriff Joe Arpaio's approval rating drops to 57% in Maricopa County.

According to a poll commissioned by American Traffic Solutions, the Scottsdale company that bills itself as "the largest provider of photo traffic enforcement programs to America’s big cities," Sheriff Joe Arpaio's approval rating is at 57% in Maricopa County, plus or minus 3.5%. The poll was reportedly done by Phoenix's Behavior Research Center in January of this year, according to Josh Weiss, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for ATS.

Weiss told me that his company commissioned a BRC poll on the public's approval of photo traffic enforcement programs in the state, but that they "had some extra room on the poll," and so decided to ask the 800 participants their opinions of a notable Arizona political leader, finally deciding on Arpaio. The poll on the photo enforcement was released February 29, but ATC's press release made no mention of the results concerning Arpaio, because, Weiss claimed, ATC never intended to release them.

Eventually, Weiss said, someone at ATC informed the MCSO of the results, and both Arpaio and his flack Paul Chagolla have been talking them up to reporters of late, save with the mischaracterization that the poll showed Arpaio with an approval rating in the 80th percentile. According to Weiss, the poll shows nothing of the kind. Statewide, the survey has the Sheriff with an excellent or good approval rating of 74% among Republicans; 44% among Dems; and 52% among Independents. Of course, such statewide numbers are meaningless. Joe's not running for Republican Sheriff of Arizona. The only stat that matters for him is the one for Maricopa County: 57% across the board.

This 57% number rings true. That's the percentage Joe won with in 2004 in the general election. It's also two points down from the BRC/Rocky Mountain poll released in December of '07, which showed Joe with a 59% approval rating. And it's down four points from the overall 61% approval rating (or 65% of those who had an opinion) from the Cronkite/Eight poll released November 20, 2007.

This means Buckeye police chief and Joe-foe Dan Saban is within striking distance, and the campaign hasn't even begun in earnest yet. This is not good for Joe, whose approval ratings have hovered at the 80th percentile in previous years. Joe is beset by controversy: the Honduras scam, budget shortfalls, jailhouse corruption and cruelty. Even his pet issue of illegal immigration blew up in his face this past week when the Hispanic community turned out by the hundreds to protest Joe's racial profiling patrols around Bell and Cave Creek Roads.

Interestingly, Joe and his flack Paul Chagolla have been trying to soft-peddle this poll to journos, telling them that a recent poll showed Arpaio in the 80th percentile. They tried this one on me back during the Sheriff's press conference for the recent 32nd Street and Thomas Road posse operation. And Joe mentioned it in passing during his speech to the members of the anti-immigrant hate group United for a Sovereign America. Knowing the results as we do now, this poor attempt at salesmanship on the part of Chagolla and Arpaio strikes me as both desperate and delusional.

Chagolla sent out an e-mail to the media today after Joe apparently said something about the poll in his press conference. Joe must really be losing it. If he'd kept his trap shut, no one would know about this poll. After all, it's nothing to be stoked about, unless you're in Saban's camp.

PS: Check this dialogue from the 32nd and Thomas press conference, and tell me if you think Joe's a liar or not: [Joe] continued: "A lot of people don’t like me. About 20%. The other 80%, according to the latest poll, [support me]."

"60 percent," I corrected him. The most recent poll dealing directly with his approval rating had him in the 60th percentile.

"No, it’s 80 percent," he insisted. "You should get the latest poll. Because we don’t mail them."

I later e-mailed Paul Chagolla, asking for a link to a recent poll that has the sheriff at 80%. Maybe there is one, but he hasn't sent me the link yet.

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