Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Twenty Years, the Issue of Gay Rights Has Gained Majority Support, While the Fight for Abortion Rights Has Lost Ground

In 1992, Colorado passed an anti-gay amendment to the state Constitution. In 1993, President Bill Clinton tried to loosen the statutes on gays in the military. His effort was stymied.

Americans were not supportive of gay rights in 1992 and are now:

• 48% say gay and lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal (1992)
• 69% say relations should be legal today

In 1996, Americans were strongly pro-choice and now are barely supportive:

• 56% pro-choice in 1996
• 49% pro-choice today

Americans are highly conflicted on abortion, with 27 percent say it should be legal under any circumstance, 22 percent believe it should be illegal under all circumstances and a majority (50%) believes it should be legal under some circumstances. That is to say local and national authorities can regulate and discourage it. Legal under any circumstance has dropped about 5 to 10 points since 1992 and illegal in all circumstances increase 5 to 9 points.

What is the difference in the two major social issues of the era and the direction they have gone with the American people?

See Gallup polls:
Americans Still Split Along “Pro-Choice,” Pro-Life” Lines
Support for Legal Gay Relations Hits New High

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gay Marriage has a Majority

In a new poll, Gallup registers a majority of Americans support gay marriage for the first time.  The 53 percent to 45 percent support is the product of a sudden surge of support from Democrats and unaffiliated voters since 2010.  Opposition has collapsed from 68 percent in 1996 to a low of 45 percent today.  Support has doubled during the same 15 years.

A host of recent actions have influenced public opinion. President Barack Obama has offered gay rights high-profile support and signaled his opposition to gay marriage is soft. Congress, with support from the military brass, changed the rules of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010. Also, five states have legalized same-sex marriage with no apparent controversial consequences: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Pew also reports a shift toward acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage (45% favor to 46%, up from 35% favoring in 2009).

The 9News/Denver Post Debate Frames the Final Two Weeks

There wasn’t much new in the 9News/Denver Post May 23 debate, and it’s unlikely to have changed many minds. But, Chris Romer’s and Michael Hancock’s final strategies were on display.

Hancock remains the nice person and emphasizes his experience in government. He hopes Romer’s attacks will fail. In fact, he intends to use Romer’s high-profile negative campaign as his main final message – Romer lacks character and doesn’t reflect Denver values.

Romer recognizes his favorability is below Hancock’s (in fact, he repeatedly says voters should not consider personality) so he remains aggressive and does not back off his negative attacks. In fact, while defending his controversial advertisement during the debate, he re-attacked Hancock’s pay raise vote.

Romer argues the benefit of having a mayor from outside of city government. He also telegraphed his Hispanic strategy with a high-level defense of in-state tuition for children of undocumented parents and advocating opting out of the new national immigration identification law.

Romer also uses debates to collect and highlight Hancock’s missteps. He pushed on a Hancock’s statement concerning vouchers, which then shortly became a new attack direct mail piece.

Also, Romer offered strong support for educational choice to counter the impression his partnership with James Mejia signaled a drift from the reform agenda.

The two candidates are very close on most issues and, in general, ideology, but different in style. Romer’s campaign has a very deliberate strategy and is very well executed, but if he loses, it will reflect a city that prefers the familiar and the more liberal. His aggressive outsider strategy will have failed to connect with voters.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bill Armstrong, Colorado's Senior Republican

Walt Klein, one of the state’s most successful political filmmakers, has produced a first-rate tribute film to former Senator Bill Armstrong.

While Armstrong has been out of office for 20 years, he remains the state’s most respected Republican and most influential behind-the-scenes opinion leader.

Click here to see video

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DPS Reform Will Face a Renewed Test in November

Denver Public Schools (DPS) November board election will host a rematch battle between what has been described as the forces of reform vs. tradition.

The board is divided 4 to 3 in favor of the superintendent’s efforts at reform, mostly holding off an eclectic group trying to tamp down or slow down changes. Some community and Hispanic activists, fueled by the Teachers union money and advice, have kept DPS in a state of considerable tension and conflict for more than two election cycles. And November will provide more of the same.

The current election line up is:

Traditional Faction
Arturo Jimenez, seeking re-election in northwest Denver
Jeanne Kaplan, incumbent, not up
Andrea Merida, incumbent, not up

Reform Faction
Nate Easley Jr., incumbent, northeast Denver, not up
Bruce Hoyt, not running, southeast Denver, open seat
Theresa Peña, not running, at-large, open seat
Mary Seawell, incumbent at-large, not up

Polling data related to DPS shows:

• A 29 percent favorability rating is extremely low
• Voters tend to not know incumbent board school members and have only a vague sense of the issues and different viewpoints
• Turnout in November should be rock bottom

Hispanic and African-American voters were the most harsh judges of DPS, with large percentages giving the schools a poor rating. But, opinion was divided with a third of each group rating the schools “excellent” or “good.”

The battle over control and direction of DPS has spilled over into the mayor’s race. James Mejia may have lost the endorsement of the Denver Post and possibly the general election due to his distancing himself from school reform position. Although both Chris Romer and Michael Hancock were associated with the DPS reform position in the run-off, Romer, with the endorsement of Mejia, has moved away from a stout reform position, especially in northwest Denver, one of the areas up for grabs in the election.

To some extent, the battle between reform and traditional forces reflect a division within the Democratic Party. Social Democrats represent the interest group party and nearly always protect organized labor and tend toward increasing the size and role of government – they tend to be beer drinkers.

The other faction is wine drinkers. It is socially liberal (gay rights, abortion), but it is comfortable with non-union, non-government solutions to social problems. They like competition and accountability.

The DPS election will be characterized by very committed stakeholders representing the two factions. They will recruit candidates and raise funds. Very large amounts of money for a non-paying job will be invested. One of the biggest stakeholders is the Denver Post. Clearly, the publisher has made it one of his interests and the pro-reform editorial page is very aggressive.

See articles:
Education News ColoradoField taking shape for DPS elections
Denver PostDenver mayoral candidates line up support in education

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Chris Romer is learning the cost of going negative in Denver. His 1,000 point TV advertisement attacking Michael Hancock has been nearly universally panned. It caused Gov. John Hickenlooper to demand the reference to him when mayor be removed.

Romer looked defensive when challenged by Hancock about it and appeared both cynical and deceptive when he grudgingly pulled it.

All in all, a poor performance.

It may have been campaigning by the book, and Romer does appear to be gaining, but the tone of his campaign is now his biggest liability.

See Denver Post article: Hancock, Romer argue over whether Hickenlooper asked that ad be pulled

Monday, May 23, 2011

Denver Mayor’s Race Fault Lines

The main faults in the Denver mayor’s race trace along party and ideology lines. A review of the Colorado Pols poll (May 11, 2011) shows:

• 28 point gap among partisans. Unaffiliated 40% to 37% Hancock.
• 60 point difference between liberals and conservatives. One point advantage Romer among moderates.
• Anglos one point difference, Hispanics 6 points to Romer and African-Americans 46 points to Hancock.
• Largest geographic difference, 29 points to Hancock in northeast.

The poll shows there are many moderate and GOP voters who haven’t decided (some may not vote). Hispanic and unaffiliated voters are closely split between the candidates.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We are Really Getting Older

Do you know someone over 85 years old? Over 90? My mother-in-law is 91, a Texan, who, of course, still drives and plays bridge. She’s not uncommon. New U.S. Census data shows she’s a member of one of the fastest growing demographic groups in America – people over 85. The group grew 33 percent in the last decade to more than 5.5 million – better life style, better medicine.

I am one of the oldest members of the Baby Boomers. Born in 1946 and just turned 65. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are also members. Along with most of Washington politicians, if you know someone talking about retirement or Medicare, it’s not a surprise. The leading edge of the Baby Boomers – people aged 50 to 64 – are the fastest growing group of the electorate, 43 percent, or 35 million.

The entire Baby Boomers has 78 million members, and the youngest members are now 46, born in 1964. Barack Obama is at the youngest end of the Boomers (born in 1961).

Denver Voting has Started

As voting begins in Denver, whatever lead Michael Hancock had is being challenged by a tough, targeted campaign by Chris Romer.

A couple of polls reported on May 12 gave Hancock a 4 to 15 point lead, largely based on Hancock’s higher favorability rating and strong support among Denver liberals.

Recognizing he was behind and would likely lose, Romer immediately went on the offensive to raise Hancock’s negatives. From day one he attacked Hancock in forums, on TV and later in direct mail for his pay raise vote. This helped Romer solidify support among Republicans, older voters and some less attentive independents (few will vote).

To help his favorability rating, keep momentum in the media and attract some particular constituencies, Romer made the deals necessary to get high value endorsements. Auditor Dennis Gallagher, who represents old Denver, especially northwest Denver, and older voters, came on board. James Mejia, as the third largest vote-getter in the general election, was a prize and helps with Baby Boomers and Hispanic voters. Federico Pena’s endorsement gathered considerable high-profile coverage and reinforced Romer was a dealmaker, a talent needed to run a big city. Pena has a liberal identify and is the city’s highest-profile Hispanic leader.

Romer’s advertising, besides attacking Hancock’s votes, focused on issues such as jobs and education, which is what a politician with poor favorability substitutes to attract voters.

Hancock’s weird endorsement on including creationism in schools may have been his campaign’s second biggest mistake after his pay raise vote. Creationism is a view that is not widely shared and hurt him with his liberal base. Romer was happy to exploit it.

See articles:
9News – Poll shows Hancock with lead over Romer
Denver PostFormer Denver Mayor Federico Pena to endorse candidate Chris Romer

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Denver is Liberal, But its Politics Diverse

Although its politics is liberal, a majority of Denver voters describe themselves as moderate or conservative (54%). And, as reported in this blog before (May 6, 2011), Denver voters are closely divided on whether or not government needs more money (44% yes; 40% no).

In a recent survey, voters were asked their preference for political philosophy on a liberal to conservative scale and if they identified most firmly with the Democratic Party, Republican Party or neither party.

More than half (54%) describe themselves as Democrat and only 17 percent say they are Republican.

Only one-quarter of Democrats (26%) say they are very liberal. Two-thirds claim to be moderately liberal or middle-of-the-road. Similar with Republicans, although one-quarter identify themselves as very conservative, 69 percent say they are moderately conservative or middle-of-the-road.

Unaffiliated voters are also diverse in their political ideology, with about one-half (47%) claiming to be middle-of-the-road, but 24 percent saying they lean to the liberal side and 23 percent to the conservative side.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Colorado Voters are Old

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that the average age of U.S. voters is almost 50 years old. In two recent surveys of registered likely Colorado voters in Denver and Larimer counties, the average voting age population is even older. In Denver County, one-half the electorate is 56 years old or older and in Larimer County it’s 57 years old.

More than ten percent of the electorate in each county is 75 years old. Census data points out one of the fastest growing segments of the population is people 85 years old and older.

Baby Boomers (45 to 65) continue to dominate the Colorado electorate with slightly more than 43 percent of voters.  The percentage of Millenniums (under 44 years old) and seniors (above 65) is closely balanced between a quarter and 30 percent of voters in each age group.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Romer Going Negative

Chris Romer made clear at the first post-general election debate he intended to make the election about Michael Hancock’s alleged lack of fortitude to say no to city employees’ pay demands; his responsibility for the deficit; and most importantly, Hancock’s voting a future pay raise for the next group of city council members.

This is hardly a new issue. Carol Boigon, who now endorses Hancock, used it in an advertisement earlier during the general election.

If Hancock becomes the candidate of government, he can expect to lose the election. He might do somewhat better than Don Mares did in 2003 when John Hickenlooper crushed him 65 percent to 35 percent, but Hancock will not win.

Hancock wanted to run a positive campaign; that is, no negative advertising. But, it would be unprecedented in a close race when an opponent goes on the attack using a well-known public incident (and vulnerability for Hancock) to not use advertising to both defend, but go on the counterattack.

And, time is short. Mail-back voting will begin in a week, about May 23.

See news articles:
9News – Denver mayoral campaign advertising goes negative
Denver PostRomer, Hancock turn test at Denver mayoral debate
Denver PostDenver mayoral candidates face off at pair of forums

Monday, May 16, 2011

Immigration Reform in 2012 – No Chance

Politics totally dominates immigration reform. Facts and evidence or even public opinion is secondary to partisan calculations.

Clearly, the border is somewhat more secure and illegal immigration is down because of enforcement and the weak economy. The public, when asked, demands a secure border, but will also support a path to citizenship.

But, there is no chance reform will pass in Washington, and having a “dialogue” in Colorado as President Obama proposes, will be nearly impossible. The issue has no salience among the public, and any conversation will be dominated by already committed stakeholders.

In recent polls in Denver and Larimer counties, when voters were asked the top issue for public officials to focus on in their respective jurisdictions, the economy and local government budgets were top and immigration barely registered.

In a recent speech by Frank Newport of Gallup at the national conference of pollsters in Phoenix (AAPOR), the lack of salience of immigration was confirmed in national polls (3% in recent open-ended question surveys). Newport also said:

• The issue is latent in that if an event takes place, people do become much more concerned.
• “Immigration reform” is perceived as illegal immigration and is seen negatively.
• People believe security first. And there is a vocal subset that can’t be satisfied.
• The majority of people do reflect positively on some combination of border security and solution to current undocumented immigrants.

See Denver Post article:  White House launching new immigration-reform campaign

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why the Denver Mayor’s Race Will be Close

The Denver mayor’s race has many conditions that should lead to a close election. The two candidates came out of the general election with similar vote margins (27% Hancock and 28% Romer). They have similar possibilities for raising funds, even if Romer is stronger with out-of-state sources from his bond house relations and father’s contacts. They both have a polished political speaking style. Hancock is personable and friendly; Romer is fast-talking and makes business-like points.

But, what may most define the closeness of the race is that Denver voters are evenly divided in their fundamental values concerning government size and funding – one of the key issues in the campaign and the one Romer hammers the hardest as “Dr. No.”

In a recent Ciruli Associates poll, likely Denver voters were described Mayor Vidal’s revenue and expenditure committee and asked if they leaned toward cutting more out of government or adding more revenue. They were closely divided.

In the first debate sponsored by DDI and others, it was clear Hancock supports a balanced budget, but he emphasizes social justice when considering cuts and the distribution of services around the city, whereas Romer stresses budget cutting and especially targets city employees. Romer’s aggressive style questioned Hancock’s vote on a pay raise a couple of years ago. He was obviously trying to highlight Hancock’s recent vote for a council pay raise without saying it.

Hancock must be mindful that Romer’s strategy is to make him the Don Mares of the runoff, Denver’s last minority candidate who became the representative of government and city employees. He was left with 35 percent of the runoff vote. John Hickenlooper crushed him.

Romer, no doubt, scored points with the business crowd and was far more aggressive in debate style, but ultimately Denver likes its austerity with a deft touch for what Hancock alludes to in his slogan, “We are all Denver.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Romer Leads, But Hancock Came From Behind for Second Place

Chris Romer won the general election with 28 percent, or 32,000 voters, in a record low turnout (112,000). It represents a 6-point improvement from the last poll in mid-April that gave him 22 percent in a tie with James Mejia.

But, the story of the night is the late come-from-behind-victory of Councilman Michael Hancock. That same poll gave him 18 percent, yet he finished at 27 percent. Better than Romer, it represents a 9-point improvement. He was 1,587 votes behind Romer and 1,491 votes ahead of Mejia.

James Mejia has to be disappointed. He appeared to be heading for the runoff after the April poll, but only moved up 4 points. In the final two weeks, his fundraising lagged as Hancock’s surged. And, in spite of some early criticism of his campaign, Hancock’s final get-out-the-vote worked.

The winner of the general election does not necessarily win the runoff. In 1991, Auditor Wellington Webb (30%) lost the general election to District Attorney Norm Early (41%), yet won the runoff with 58 percent of the vote.

The runoff starts close. The three top candidates were only separated by 3,000 votes out of 111,000 cast – 3 percentage points. They dominated the race, receiving 81 percent of the votes cast. Romer’s 28 percent is the lowest general election win in the modern history of the race and the smallest margin separating him from his runoff opponent.

See articles:
9News – Denver mayor election results: Romer and Hancock will be in runoff
9News – Other Denver races also headed for runoffs
denvergov.org – Final unofficial election results – May 3, 2011
denvergov.org – Unofficial write-in results – May 3, 2011
Denver PostRomer, Hancock a study in contrasts in sprint to runoff