BLOG / March 31, 2021

Sinema Unpopular in AZ After Filibuster Stance

By Abigail Jackson

Arizonans are growing tired of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s excuses. For the past couple of months, Senator Sinema has been a vocal supporter of the filibuster, an arcane procedural rule in the Senate that was used to block civil rights legislation in the Jim Crow era. In recent years, it’s been overwhelmingly used to block popular legislation from ever being voted on. Now, Republicans plan to use it to block all the popular items on Democrats’ agenda, unless Democrats eliminate it. Sinema claims she supports the rule because it leads to bipartisanship and better legislation, though currently, the opposite is true. 

Democrats, who have the majority in Washington D.C., should be able to accomplish everything on their popular agenda. Yet it seems that Kyrsten Sinema, the first Arizona Democrat elected to the Senate in 30 years, will stand in the way of progress.

Sinema’s stubborn refusal to eliminate the filibuster and her exaggerated vote against the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage increase in the American Rescue Plan marked a notable shift in Sinema’s popularity. 

Backlash after stance on filibuster, minimum wage

The video of her gleeful no vote on the minimum wage increase spread like wildfire on social media. Individuals in Arizona started requesting $15 from her personal Venmo account, demanding she eliminate the filibuster and raise the wage. Numerous Arizona voices have also called on her with the same message: the filibuster is no excuse for not doing anything. One weekend, a group of Arizona progressive organizations called on Sinema to abolish the filibuster and projected the thumbs down video on to the Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe, Arizona. Since then, every tweet from either of Sinema’s twitter accounts is ratioed (when the negative response to a tweet vastly outweighs positive) almost immediately with demands for her to put progress ahead of arcane Senate rule. Poll after poll shows that voters support Democrats’ agenda and say that passing legislation is more important than the filibuster.

Sinema regards herself as having a good read on her constituents, and what is popular with them for reelection, but she seems to have made a serious miscalculation. It’s even more evident when looking at her approval ratings in Arizona over time. 

Polling reflects Sinema’s unpopularity

Daily polling of Arizonans conducted by Civiqs over the past year highlights how Sinema’s popularity has dropped drastically since her vocal filibuster stance in February and her no vote on the $15 minimum wage increase. 

  • Among all Arizona voters, Sinema dropped net -17% in favorability.
    • She went from 41% favorable, 35% unfavorable prior to February, to 29% favorable, 40% unfavorable.
  • Among Arizona Democrats, Sinema dropped a net -23% in favorability. 
    • She went from 67% favorable, 14% unfavorable prior to February, to 48% favorable 25% unfavorable.
  • Among Arizona Independents, Sinema dropped a net -26% in favorability. 
    • She went from 40% favorable, 34% unfavorable prior to February to 24% favorable, 44% unfavorable.

These numbers are significant, especially the rating from Independents, where her support has dropped immensely. Independents are a group to which Sinema attributes many of the votes that won her the election in 2018. For all her efforts to stall Democrats’ agenda and attract Independents by supporting the filibuster, Sinema is losing approval among this coveted group, while getting nothing from Republicans in the Senate. The popular American Rescue Plan was negotiated down in an attempt to win Republican support, just to pass without a single Republican vote. Meanwhile with Arizona Republicans, Sinema’s favorability rating is net -38%, up only three points prior to February. 

Kelly popular, outperforming Sinema

Notably, Sen. Mark Kelly, who has not staked out a vocal claim in support of the filibuster, and voted yes on the minimum wage increase, has remained steadily popular over the last year among Democrats and Independents alike. 

Polling done in early March of 2021 reinforced Kelly’s popularity. OH Predictive Index found that Kelly is vastly outperforming Sinema among Independents at +20% net favorability and Democrats at +68% net favorability. Meanwhile, Sinema is sitting at just +2% net favorability (36% favorable, 34% unfavorable) among Independents, and only +20% net favorability (50% favorable, 30% unfavorable).

Arizona is not the state it used to be

Democratic priorities (and those who support them) to reform democracy and raise the minimum wage are clearly popular, more popular than an arcane Senate rule like the filibuster. Sinema is making the wrong calculations, and her error is one of timing. The Arizona that elected Sinema hadn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than thirty years. In 2021, things are different. 

For one thing, the electorate is changing, and rapidly. Arizona voters are becoming younger, more Latino, and more progressive. 

There’s also the fact that Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are leading the nationwide GOP effort to suppress voting rights. The massively popular For the People Act (S. 1, which Sinema cosponsors), an antidote to many of the anti-voter bills in state legislatures, can’t pass the filibuster. As a plurality of Arizona voters support abolishing the filibuster to pass S. 1, this will be a true test for Sinema. 

And of course, coming out of a pandemic, and frankly, after the last four years of chaos under Donald Trump, Arizonans are ready for change—this was apparent when they voted for Joe Biden and Mark Kelly in 2020. What worked in Arizona three years ago, isn’t what works today—comparisons of Sinema’s and Kelly’s favorability make that obvious. Policies like the $15 minimum wage increase and democracy reform are popular and more important to voters than the filibuster, and the politicians who fight for them will be supported by them. 

If Sinema has any dream of reelection, she needs to pay close attention to these numbers. Sinema can talk all she wants about bipartisanship and how she supports raising the wage or passing democracy reform. But, supporting legislation is not the same thing as passing it. There are no excuses for failure in delivering the popular legislation voters want while Democrats have the power to do so.


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