Thursday, September 23, 2010

Resume Padding Costs Maes’ Republican Support

Rasmussen’s September 12 automated poll shows the first shift in position among Colorado gubernatorial candidates since the August 10 primary.  After more than two weeks of controversy over resume padding, Republican nominee Dan Maes has fallen into third place behind third party candidate Tom Tancredo, who gained several important Republican endorsements in recent days.  Of course, the two conservatives split the Republican vote and continue to lose to Mayor John Hickenlooper by 21 percentage points.

Maes has lost 10 points since the primary.  Tancredo gained seven and Hickenlooper three.  Given the short time left before early voting starts and the predominance in financing by Hickenlooper, the race is effectively over and Hickenlooper is the presumptive governor.  Maes’ damaged reputation may indeed leave him in a weak third place on Election Day.

(Also see Washington Times article)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buck Maintains Slight Edge

Even after a major onslaught of negative advertising, it appears Ken Buck, Republican nominee for Senate, maintains a slight lead over U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

In a September 14 Rasmussen poll, Buck has 49 percent to Bennet’s 45 percent. Both candidates have improved their position slightly since the August primary.

Bennet’s problems appear to be a combination of the general dislike of incumbents, especially Democrats, and his own inability to establish a positive image since his January 2009 appointment.  Not even the Democrats’ strong campaign technique may save him.  “‘Overall, in a year that’s looking grim for Democrats.  If anything can save them, or at least diminish the losses,’ it’s going to be an even more sophisticated early-vote operation than the party ran in 2008, when Barack Obama’s campaign did a masterful job of banking ballots ahead of Election Day.” (Associated Press, Sept. 16, 2010)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Colorado’s Fiscal Ballot Issues

Colorado’s three fiscal ballot issues may be generating more interest than the partisan races. A recent survey by Ciruli Associates, reported in the Denver Post, drew criticism from both ballot opponents and proponents. The initiatives were not doing well in late August. Still, opponents have been raising millions to oppose them based on polling and pundits who said they were going to pass.

The Ciruli Associates poll shows two of the fiscal ballot issues (Amendments 60 and 61) have only one-third of Colorado voters supporting them, and Proposition 101 has barely 50 percent. However, large numbers of voters have little or no knowledge of them. The polling test provides a snapshot of the public opinion status of the three initiatives prior to post-Labor Day campaigning.

Previously conducted polls had showed the measures gaining support among voters. But, after several months of campaigning dominated by the opponents, and considerable political news coverage since the August 10 primary, the current position of the three initiatives has changed.

  1. A steady diet of news coverage has focused on opposition to the ballot issues by local business, civic, nonprofit and government interests. Newspapers have also offered analysis of the dire impact of the proposals.
  2. Supporters have been largely invisible. Their invisibility has raised credibility issues, and newspapers and others have attacked them as stealth proponents. The court case involving Douglas Bruce, who opponents allege is the mastermind behind the initiatives, and his reaction to it has reinforced the perceived eccentricity of the supporters.
  3. With the exception of Tom Tancredo, who likely won’t carry much voter-base with him, no high level politician has endorsed the three measures. To the contrary, large numbers of conservative Republican officeholders are opposing the proposals.
  4. The primary refocused voter concerns for the general election. Some behavior and positions are now seen as outside the mainstream. These proposals have joined that category. They are political orphans labeled as extreme.
The Ciruli poll of August 23 tested the three initiatives using the way they would be placed on the ballot – that is, toward the end and without any introduction or questions that could bias or prime voter responses and using ballot titles commonly referenced in the media.

As of August 23, results are:
The campaign opposing the initiatives appears to be working, along with the facts that they’ve found little support, even among traditionally conservative elected officials; their known supporters have been largely invisible and lack credibility; and the voters themselves have recognized that – after enduring some hard-fought primary campaigns – that some things do go too far.

Karl Rove May Be Wrong, Again

Karl Rove, called “the Architect” by President George W. Bush, is predicting a Republican sweep in the midterm election. Though an effective manager of George Bush’s presidential campaigns, Republicans should again be cautious of Rove’s powers of prediction.

In 2006, Rove organized G.W. Bush’s midterm election strategy, which led to one of the Republican Party’s historic defeats – losing 30 seats in the House and the hard-won control they seized in 1994. At the time, Rove repeatedly claimed the election would be a contest between Democratic and Republican candidates and not a referendum on Bush.

He may have over-learned that lesson. He now claims, along with many other pundits, that this election will be a referendum on President Obama, and the outcome of a GOP sweep is nearly inevitable. However, this time around there are a series of reasons the Democrats may be able to turn at least some of the contests into an election about the candidates, thereby holding their losses down to a low of 20 or so House seats and four to five Senate seats. Some factors that distinguish this year’s election and which help the Democrats:

• In 2006, Democrats recruited moderates and conservatives to fit the swing districts and states they were targeting. This year, a revolt in the Republican Party against the establishment is handing the GOP nomination in many races to fringe candidates who are much more conservative than those the districts and states usually nominate or elect.

In addition, Democrats are not shy in distancing themselves from Obama and his national agenda when necessary. Colorado Democrats have rejected his call for more stimulus, and none of the embattled candidates are proposing any more presidential visits.

The situation in Colorado highlights the Republican challenge this year. Its senate candidate, Ken Buck, won after a bitter primary. And, although he may not be much more conservative than the woman he beat, the primary campaign moved him even further to the right and established his Tea Party identity. Democrats have launched the “He’s too extreme for Colorado” campaign as their main message.

• Polls show that both parties are disliked – but, Republicans even more so than Democrats. The Republicans’ only advantage is being in the minority, and their ability to tap into the prevailing sentiment that Obama and the Democrats in Congress have overplayed their hand. In 2006, because Democrats were not as recently tossed out of power, it was easier for them to run without much of a platform and for voters to imagine a change from GOP governance.

• Obama will campaign to both stir his base and help frame the issues. Although he won’t be useful in some states, he is much better at it than George W. Bush, and much less disliked at this point in his presidency (although he may be headed to Bush’s low approval rating in the mid-30% range).

• There is an entire new standard of campaign, created by the Obama bid in 2008. The Obama campaign outspent John McCain by more than 2-to-1; it pulled in early votes, thereby locking up the race in many states before McCain made a late surge; and it micro-targeted its message to persuade voters and send instructions to core supporters. In addition, new interactive media and targeted message delivery were utilized in new and more ingenious ways.

If these same campaign techniques are employed during the next 60 days, the Democrats could hold their losses to a minimum and Karl Rove can give up prognosticating.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Colorado U.S. Senate Election a Toss-Up

As the Colorado U.S. Senate candidates begin their sprint to early voting and Election Day, Republican Ken Buck leads his Democratic opponent, Michael Bennet, by two percentage points.

This poll points out a few post-primary challenges for Buck. Although both candidates are losing similar numbers of partisans to each other, Bennet is winning the unaffiliated voters 38 percent to 33 percent. More than one-quarter (29%) of unaffiliated voters are undecided. Secondly, there are more Republicans (11%) saying they are undecided than Democrats (9%).

The statewide survey of 550 likely Colorado voters was conducted by Ciruli Associates from August 19 to 23, 2010. The political questions were a separate section of a survey sponsored by a consortium of grocery and convenience stores. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points. Ciruli Associates is responsible for the questions and analysis.

Some conclusions from the poll:
• President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is a weak 44 percent. A presidential job performance rating below 50 percent is a danger zone for incumbent Democrats. Obama’s approval rating among the crucial unaffiliated voters is 45 percent, among Democrats it is 80 percent, and among Republicans, 11 percent.
• The only region Bennet wins above his 42 percent statewide average is the six-county metro area with 49 percent. He carries only one-third of the rest of the state. Buck wins his home Larimer and Weld counties with 51 percent. He also wins a majority of voters in the South Front Range (51%) and the Western Slope (53%).
• The gender gap favors the Republican candidate. Women back Bennet by 11 points (37% Buck to 48% Bennet); however, Buck carries men by 16 points (51% Buck to 35% Bennet). Buck’s advantage narrows because women dominate the electorate 54 percent to 46 percent.
• Bennet is winning young Baby Boomers and older Generation Xers, but is losing the youngest age cohorts (18 to 34 years old) 31 percent to 43 percent for Buck. He is also losing seniors 39 percent to 51 percent.

Other Pre-Labor Day Polls
Surveys conducted prior to Labor Day (automatic dial polls) show Buck ahead 2 to 9 points, with the exception of a September 1 poll that had Bennet ahead by 3 points.

With the Senate race tightening and the race for Governor abandoned by many conservatives, the coming days and weeks promise an expensive, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners battle to determine who will be the junior senator from Colorado.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Economy Top Issue for Next Governor and Legislature to Address

In the latest statewide Ciruli Associates poll, the economy, followed by illegal immigration, are the top issues Colorado voters want the governor and state legislature to address.  The economy, including unemployment and the recession, currently dominates the public agenda.

The latest Ciruli Associates voter poll shows how the priorities of voters change from year to year. Although the economy and illegal immigration have been in the top five issues since 2006, their positions have shifted. K-12 education also tends to be a perennial concern. But, the state budget and tax burdens have appeared for the first time in the five-year span.

The statewide survey of 550 likely Colorado voters was conducted by Ciruli Associates from August 19 to 23, 2010. The political questions were a separate section of a survey sponsored by a consortium of grocery and convenience stores. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points.

Partisan Similarities and Differences

Some partisan differences exist among the top issues, although voters of both parties and those registered as unaffiliated mention the economy as the top issue. Republicans rate illegal immigration and tax burdens higher than Democrats. Nearly one-half of Democrats rate the economy as the critical issue the state legislature and governor must address. Unaffiliated voters say education and the state budget are slightly more important than illegal immigration and tax burdens.

The economy is the top issue for voters around the county.  The issue array, including the economy, illegal immigration, state budgets and tax burdens, gives some advantage to Republicans who have not been in office and who take a conservative approach on immigration, budgets and taxes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hickenlooper Starts the Post Labor Day Campaign Ahead

He Leads in Three-Way Race for Governor
Garnering 54 Percent of Denver Metro Voter Support

John Hickenlooper may be leading a charmed life. His first run for any political office – the mayor of Denver in 2003 – was pretty easy even though he began as an underdog. After winning his second term as mayor in a cakewalk, he is poised to become the next governor of Colorado. In what is, by any other measure, a great Republican election year, his two opponents have combined support of only 42 percent of voters. Barring any unforeseen event, Hickenlooper, a Democrat, should easily win this race, having never run statewide or for partisan office before.

As the campaigns begin their post-Labor Day sprint to early voting and the November 2 Election Day, Hickenlooper is winning a three-way governor’s race with 44 percent of the vote. In the Denver metro area, he has 54 percent of voter support. Statewide, embattled Republican nominee Dan Maes has 28 percent and American Constitution candidate and former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo has 14 percent support. One out of ten voters is undecided.
The statewide survey of 550 likely Colorado voters was conducted by Ciruli Associates from August 19 to 23, 2010. The political questions were a separate section of a survey sponsored by a consortium of grocery and convenience stores. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points. Ciruli Associates is responsible for the questions and analysis.
• Although Maes dominates among Republicans in this poll, 55 percent compared to 20 percent for Tancredo, a substantial number may have since become undecided in light of Maes’ loss of major party endorsements and controversies over his resume.
• Hickenlooper has support from 78 percent of Democrats and a substantial plurality (45%) of unaffiliated voters, while his opponents combined have only 32 percent of unaffiliated voters. He receives 13 percent of Republicans. In the six-county Denver metro area, Hickenlooper dominates with 54 percent of the vote compared to only 19 percent for Maes and 16 percent for Tancredo. Maes’ strongest region is the Western Slope (47% support).

·         In spite of his claims that he can win a two-way or three-way race, Tom Tancredo barely registers support from Republicans (20%) or unaffiliated (14%) voters.  Even among self-identified conservatives, Tancredo receives only 22 percent compared to 50 percent for Maes.  Whatever Tancredo claims, he enters the post Labor Day race perceived as a spoiler by most Republicans and a single issue radical by most others.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Colorado’s Independent Voters Are The Battleground

Colorado’s partisan voter registration is currently neck-and-neck in the November elections. The two political parties each attract about one-third of the state’s electorate. Although Republican voters appear to be more enthusiastic in this midterm election, it is the unaffiliated voters, who also claim one-third of the electorate, that the candidates must pull in to win statewide.

In a recent survey, Floyd Ciruli examined the preferences of Colorado’s unaffiliated voters in the 2010 election. Ciruli Associates conducted the statewide survey with 550 likely Colorado voters from August 19 to 23, 2010. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points.

Unaffiliated voters are ideologically diverse. Colorado voters who have not declared a political party are diverse in their ideological leanings between liberal (25%), moderate (35%) and conservative (35%). Republicans are more homogenously conservative (76%) and Democrats are generally liberal (58%), but 40 percent identify as middle-of-the-road or conservative.
In this election, partisan voter loyalty is weak. Only about one-half of Democratic and Republican partisans claim to be loyal to their registered party when asked. Fifty percent of Republicans claim to be “strong identifiers,” 21 percent are “not strong identifiers” and 18 percent say they are “independent-leaning Republicans.” Two percent are registered Republican, but identify as Democrat.
A similar pattern exists for Democrats, with 46 percent claiming to be strong in loyalty, 16 percent saying they are “not very strong” and 26 percent claiming to be “independent-leaning Democrats.”
Hence, both parties can only depend on the loyalty of one-half of their registered base. The rest are weak or see themselves as more independent than partisan.
Unaffiliated voters split their loyalty between being independents or siding with one of the two parties. Forty-four percent of unaffiliated voters, when asked about partisan preferences, identify as pure independents. Twenty-eight percent identify more with Democrats and 25 percent more with Republicans.

Unaffiliated voters mostly support Hickenlooper. Unaffiliated voters are largely staying away from the Republican and American Constitution Party candidates for governor, with support for Dan Maes (17%) and Tom Tancredo (14%), and giving most of their backing (45%) to John Hickenlooper. These Independents add about 10 points to his support from Democrats and Republicans to give him 44 percent to Maes’ 28 percent and Tancredo’s 14 percent among all voters.

Unaffiliated voters give a small plurality to Bennet.  Michael Bennet, the Democratic appointed U.S. Senator, has lost most polling match-ups with his Republican opponent, Ken Buck. But, in this pre-Labor Day poll, Bennet is winning the crucial unaffiliated vote by 5 percentage points (38% Bennet to 33% Buck).

He is still behind Buck among all voters, by 42 percent to 44 percent. Buck is boosted by winning two percent more cross-over Democratic voters than he loses Republican voters to Bennet. In addition, GOP turnout may be higher, with two percent more Republicans than Democrats saying they are going to vote.

To date, Colorado’s race for senate is a toss-up, and how the unaffiliated voters end up casting their votes will likely decide the outcome.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Voters Unsure on Statewide Ballot Issues

In a recent statewide voter poll on the tax and debt issues on Colorado’s November ballot, only one has majority support, and upward of one-half of voters are either unsure or offer only weak support or opposition on the remaining ballot issues.

Proposition 101, which lowers the state income tax, telecommunications fees, and auto taxes and fees, is the one ballot issue passing with 51 percent support.

Amendment 60, which cuts the local school property tax, has only 32 percent support and 45 percent opposition. Amendment 61, which limits state and local debt, has 36 percent support and about the same percentage of opposition (34%).

More voters are saying they will definitely vote against Amendments 60 and 61 than definitely vote for (see chart below for question wording and detailed data). Only the income tax reduction issue has more definite supporters than definite opponents (36% “for” to 24% “against”).

The statewide survey was conducted by Ciruli Associates with 550 likely Colorado voters from August 19 to 23, 2010. The political questions were part of a survey sponsored by a consortium of grocery and convenience stores. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points. Ciruli Associates is responsible for the questions and analysis.

Partisan Differences

Although there are partisan differences between voters who are definitely supporting and definitely opposing the proposals, the differences are as expected. And, the percentages only climb above 40 percent on two items: Forty-four percent of Republicans support Proposition 101, the income tax, auto and telecommunication tax and fee reduction measures, and 43 percent of Democrats oppose Amendment 60, which would cut local school property taxes.

Clearly, Amendment 60’s impact on schools has generated considerable opposition early in the campaign, while voters still have little information or awareness of the other two issues. Proposition 101’s statutory changes to the income, auto and telecommunications taxes and fees appear to have some initial attraction – again, before any real campaign has started.
Titles that will appear on the ballot:

Amendment 60 (property taxes):
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning government charges on property, and, in connection therewith, allowing petitions in all districts for elections to lower property taxes; specifying requirements for property tax elections; requiring enterprises and authorities to pay property taxes but offsetting the revenues with lower tax rates; prohibiting enterprises and unelected boards from levying fees or taxes on property; setting expiration dates for certain tax rate and revenue increases; requiring school districts to reduce property tax rates and replacing the revenue with state aid; and eliminating property taxes that exceed the dollar amount included in an approved ballot question, that exceed state property tax laws, policies, and limits existing in 1992 that have been violated, changed, or weakened without state voter approval, or that were not approved by voters without certain ballot language?

Amendment 61 (state and local debt limitation):
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning limitations on government borrowing, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting future borrowing in any form by state government; requiring voter approval of future borrowing by local governmental entities; limiting the form, term, and amount of total borrowing by each local governmental entity; directing all current borrowing to be paid; and reducing tax rates after certain borrowing is fully repaid?

Proposition 101 (motor vehicle, income and telecommunications taxes and fees):
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning limits on government charges, and, in connection therewith, reducing vehicle ownership taxes over four years to nominal amounts; ending taxes on vehicle rentals and leases; phasing in over four years a $10,000 vehicle sale price tax exemption; setting total yearly registration, license, and title charges at $10 per vehicle; repealing other specific vehicle charges; lowering the state income tax rate to 4.5% and phasing in a further reduction in the rate to 3.5%; ending state and local taxes and charges, except 911 charges, on telecommunication service customer accounts; and stating that, with certain specified exceptions, any added charges on vehicles and telecommunication service customer accounts shall be tax increases?

(Captions are not official titles)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hickenlooper at Top of Political Field; Tancredo at Bottom

In a newly released poll of Colorado voters, Mayor John Hickenlooper had a 56 percent favorability rating, the highest of eight politicians tested, whereas Tom Tancredo ranked the lowest on the favorability index with a 28 percent rating.

Other government officials receiving high unfavorable ratings included President Obama (48%) and Governor Bill Ritter (46%). However, Tancredo had the worst favorability-to-unfavorability ratio at a negative 1.6.

“The favorability of all the politicians tested was low,” said Floyd Ciruli, who conducted the poll. “People are not in a good mood about politics and politicians.”

The statewide survey was conducted by Ciruli Associates with 550 likely Colorado voters from August 19 to 23, 2010. The political questions were a separate section of a survey sponsored by a consortium of grocery and convenience stores. The statistical range of error is ±4.2 percentage points. Ciruli Associates is responsible for the questions and analysis.

The favorability question probed voters’ impressions of officeholders and candidates with no title or description attached to their name. Voters were asked to rank the politicians on a scale from “very favorable” to “very unfavorable”, and encouraged to say if they did not know the person, or just didn’t have an opinion. It is a good test of voter awareness and goodwill toward the elected official and candidate.

Observations concerning the favorability table:

• Hickenlooper has had a high favorability rating for much of his political career. He was rated near the top of the field (61% favorable) in 2006, just behind Gov. Bill Owens (63% favorable) as Owens neared the end of his term.

Hickenlooper had a 9 percent unfavorable rating in 2006, which has grown, but is still very low (27%). He had the best positive-to-negative ratio (2-to-1) of the eight current politicians tested in the poll.

• Gov. Ritter leaves office with a weak favorability rating and more voters rating him negatively than positively (46% unfavorable to 41% favorable). In September 2008, Ritter had a 57 percent favorability rating, similar to Hickenlooper’s (58%), with only a 28 percent unfavorable rating.

• Senator Michael Bennet received 45 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable ratings, with 82 percent of voters identifying him. His opponent Ken Buck’s favorability was lower at 40 percent, but his favorable-to-unfavorable ratio was the same as Bennet’s. His name identification was 10 points lower. Generally, in Colorado elections cycles, as a candidate becomes better known, his favorability will usually rise. Of course, Democrats are trying to keep his favorability low by running extensive negative advertising.

• Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for governor, was only recognized by 65 percent of voters, the lowest on the list, and had a 34 percent favorable rating, with 31 percent not favorable. Tom Tancredo was the most polarized politician tested. Three times as many voters rated him “very unfavorable” (32%) as considered him “very favorable” (11%).

• President Obama had only 14 percent of Republicans rating him favorably, but 85 percent of Democrats were positive. Unaffiliated voters, as expected, were in the middle at 52 percent favorable.