Colorado political poll finds continuing partisan splits, but invigorated residents

DENVER – Coloradans’ opinions of President Trump, their governor and U.S. senators waned in 2017, and the ideological split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents in the state continued to grow, according to a November poll of citizens released this week by the University of Colorado.

The poll was put together by the American Politics Research Lab, a nonpartisan unit at CU Boulder. It polled 800 citizens—not registered voters—out of a pool of 950 original applicants. The poll was administered by YouGov in an online survey between Nov. 9-15. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%.

This is the second year the poll has been done.

(Editor's Note: Some are taking issue with the methodology used in the poll, saying that having 47 percent of respondents identify as Democrats are not in line with state demographics. The poll also appears to have polled twice the number of minorities as people identifying as white, which would be out of line with state demographics.)

Presidential opinion drops with change from Obama to Trump

In 2016, those surveyed gave President Barack Obama a 57-percent approval rating and a 39-percent disapproval rating. But in the 2017 survey, the opinion of President Donald Trump had flipped the question, to 35-percent approval of Trump and 63-percent disapproval. While 26 percent of respondents “strongly disapproved” of President Obama, 51 percent say the same about President Trump.

Men were more likely than women to approve of President Trump (38 percent to 32 percent), but disapproval ratings of the 45th president were both above 60 percent in the poll.

But the partisan split was most showing: 95 percent of Democrats disapprove of the job President Trump is doing, while only 4 percent approve. Thirty-five percent of independents approve of Trump, while 60 percent disapprove; and 79 percent of Republicans approve of President Trump, while 18 percent disapprove the job he’s done so far.

Gardner suffers biggest approval drop, but Hickenlooper, Bennet down too

The poll asked respondents to grade their approvals of Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R).

Gardner saw the biggest hit to his reputation in the poll, dropping from a 43-percent approval rating in 2016 to a 25-percent approval rating in 2017. His disapproval rating shifted from 24 percent in 2016 to 48 percent in 2017. Just 4 percent of respondents in 2017 strongly approved of Gardner’s performance.

There was again a partisan split in the opinions of Gardner. Democrats gave him a 12-percent approval rating; independents a 23-percent approval rating; and Republicans a 46-percent approval rating.

But only 10 percent of respondents strongly approved of Bennet’s performance as well. His approval rating dipped to 44 percent in the 2017 survey—down from 53 percent in 2016. And his disapproval rating was up to 30 percent in the recent survey from 21 percent the year before.

The majority of respondents still approve of the job Gov. Hickenlooper has done (53 percent), though his approval rating was slightly down from the 57 percent it was at in 2016. His disapproval rating was up 5 percentage points (31 percent) from the 2016 survey.

The approval rating of Congress as a whole was down to 14 percent from 26 percent in 2016. The disapproval rating now sits at three-quarters of respondents. Coloradans were slightly more positive of the state General Assembly, which got a 43-percent approval rating this year, compared to a 31-percent disapproval rating.

Changes in policy focus

There was a huge focus on health care in the United States in 2017, as Republicans tried several times to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress, failing each time. President Trump eventually issued an executive order repealing the individual mandate, and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan funding was allowed to lapse by Congress for months.

As such, 24 percent of those surveyed said that health care was the most important problem facing the U.S. – leading all other policy issues. Twelve percent of those surveyed said health care was the most important issue in 2016.

The economy came in second, at 13 percent, in the 2017 survey. It was the most-important issue, according to those surveyed, the previous year. National defense (12 percent) and immigration (10 percent) were deemed to be the next most-important issues.

When respondents were asked about the most important problem facing Colorado, they said the most important issues were, in order: crime, health care, the economy, immigration and education.

Rural areas were most concerned with health care issues, while people living in urban areas were most concerned with crime, according to the survey.

Survey polls regarding Colorado questions

Respondents were also asked questions about Colorado-centric matters, like marijuana, TABOR, immigration and health care.

Support for recreational marijuana grew slightly, from 63 percent support to 65 percent support in the most-recent survey. But respondents were still polarized on the issue: 43 percent said they “strongly favored” the state’s recreational marijuana law, while 21 percent were strongly opposed. Forty-one percent of Republicans said they were strongly opposed to the law.

Opposition to the taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR) law grew in 2017 from 22 percent to 26 percent opposed. Those seeing the law favorable fell by 8 percent. But more than anything, people were “not sure” about the complicated law. Thirty percent of respondents said they weren’t sure what to think about it—up from 25 percent in 2016.

The poll asked a new question this year of whether or not respondents supported single-payer health care for all Americans. Fifty percent they either strongly favored or favored single-payer, while 36 percent said they either opposed it or were strongly opposed.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said it should be more difficult to buy a gun that it is currently, and 71 percent said they favored allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States.

Seventy-two percent of Democrats said they are concerned about climate change, while only 20 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents said the same. Sixty-four percent of Republican respondents said they were either “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” about climate change.

And 74 percent of respondents said race relations in the U.S. were bad. Only 3 percent said they were “really good” in the most recent survey.

Political demographics shift slightly

A tense year in the political realm also seems to have rubbed off on respondents in Colorado. Forty-nine percent said they were “very interested” in government and public affairs—up from 40 percent a year earlier.

Just 4 percent said they were “not very interested” in politics.

The number of respondents who identified as liberal stayed the same, but 2 percent of respondents shifted from moderate to conservative when compared to 2016.

However, 56 percent of respondents said they would support a generic Democratic candidate on a ballot compared to 37 percent who would support a Republican candidate. The support for Democrats was up 5 percent from the 2016 survey.

In urban areas, 70 percent of people said they would support a Democrat on a generic ballot. In suburban areas, 51 percent they would support a Democrat to 42 percent who said they’d support a Republican; and in rural areas, the prospective vote was split at 47 percent between Democrats and Republicans.

Most Coloradans still undecided on Colorado governor

We are less than 10 months out from the 2018 midterm election, in which Colorado will elect a new governor and attorney general, among others. The survey asked respondents about the governor’s candidates, and most responded that they were still undecided, no matter the party.

Out of 357 responses regarding Democratic candidates, 58 percent said they were undecided. Jared Polis received the highest percentage among Democrats, at 24 percent. Fifty-four percent said they were undecided on a Republican candidate, but Tom Tancredo led the rest of the pack with 25 percent.

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