Rooted in its western heritage, Arizona has long been a state focused on freedoms.
“Historically it was a lot of ranchers and rural,” said Valerie Hoekstra, Politics and Global Studies Professor at Arizona State University. “You’re not required to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, you can sit in the back of a pickup truck. All these things that are part of the individualistic tradition that sometimes overlap with liberal values, and sometimes just that western culture.”
But things are shifting in the Grand Canyon State.
“I don’t think we can count it as a red state anymore, it’s not a blue state for sure either,” Hoekstra said.
A Democratic presidential candidate has not carried the state of Arizona since Bill Clinton did so 24 years ago in 1996. However, Tuesday night’s election results show Arizona’s Republican preference is shifting. There’s heavy support this election for both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and U.S. Senate Candidate Mark Kelly. Both gaining major support in areas like Phoenix and Tucson, two of Arizona’s most populous areas.
Several factors may be contributing to the political shift. Over the years, Arizona has become a hot spot for transplants from across the country, especially California, a largely Democratic-leaning state. About 60,000 Californians moved to Arizona in 3017 alone, according to Census Bureau data. Then there’s also Arizona’s growing Hispanic population.
“The increasing Latino Latina population in this state that happens to be Democratic leaning and identify as Democrats,” Hoekstra said.
And then there’s the young people.
“The universities are huge and growing and the students seem to be more active.”
That’s a change from the new residents Arizona is often known for attracting.
“It was a haven for retirees and snowbirds,” she said. “People who don't really want to pay taxes and moved here for those reasons.”
State voter registration statistics show a record number of registered voters in Arizona as of November 2020, with just over 4.2 million. For comparison, the state’s population is closing in on 7.3 million people as of last year. Of the registered voters, 35.24% registered as Republican and 32.20% as Democrat. Getting those voters to turn out, is another battle.
“Just the candidates themselves mobilize people one way or another, or demobilize some people maybe, too,” Hoekstra explained.
She said just because Arizona swung blue this time, doesn’t mean it will in the future as the demographics of the state continue to change.
“It’s up for grabs.”