Published: Jan. 25, 2018 By
colorado ballot box

Coloradans “firmly disapprove” of President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress, have waning confidence in state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, overwhelmingly support “Dreamers” and would likely favor a Democrat if a congressional election were held today.

These are some key findings from the second annual Colorado Political Climate Survey released Thursday by the American Politics Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Key takeaways
  • 34 percent of Coloradans approve of Trump’s performance.
  • 14 percent approve of Congress' job performance.
  • 71 percent said they favor allowing “Dreamers” to stay in the country.

“Not surprisingly, people in Colorado are unhappy with the state of politics right now, and it is affecting how they view lawmakers and policy issues at the local level,” said political science professor and lab director Scott Adler, one of three collaborators on the survey.

Launched in 2016, the nonpartisan lab supports research, education and public engagement about American politics. The survey was administered online to more than 800 demographically diverse residents in November, asking questions ranging from how they feel about providing tax incentives for large companies, like Amazon, to their views on climate change and marijuana legalization. The survey also asked how respondents might vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The Colorado Political Climate Survey is the first to offer a comprehensive, annual look at political attitudes of residents in the battleground Centennial State over time.

“The survey adds to the public discourse by focusing on issues that are important for both state and national policymakers that other surveys do not ask about,” said Carey Stapleton, a fourth-year PhD student who helped develop the survey.

Trust in elected officials on the decline

On the national level, only 14 percent of survey respondents (18 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats) approved of Congress' job performance, down from 26 percent in 2016.

Thirty-four percent (79 percent of Republicans and four percent of Democrats) approved of Trump’s performance, with more men expressing approval than women. This compares to the 57 percent overall approval rate respondents gave to Obama in 2016.

Despite a slight decline in his approval rating, a majority (53 percent) of Coloradans still approve of Gov. John Hickenlooper. But both Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner saw their approval ratings slip below the 50 percent mark: 44 percent approve of Bennet’s performance, down from 53 percent in 2016; 25 percent approve of Gardner’s performance, down from 43 percent in 2016.

“Gardner saw the biggest change in job approval among statewide elected officials,” the report states. “Not only is Gardner’s overall approval rating very low among Democrats (12 percent) as we might expect, but he scores quite poorly among independents (23 percent) and lacks majority approval among Republicans (46 percent).”

On the state level, approval of the legislature fell from 51 percent to 43 percent overall.

While trust in local government remained unchanged and fairly robust, trust in the federal government plummeted: In 2016, 1 in 4 said they trusted the federal government. In 2017, 1 in 10 said they did.

Coloradans split on issues, except DACA

Coloradans were split along party lines on most policy issues. But on immigration, a notable exception emerged: 71 percent (including 52 percent of Republicans) said they favor allowing undocumented residents who came to the country as children, aka “Dreamers” to stay in the country via policies like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Scott Adler

Scott Adler

“With the current national debate on immigration, I think it is important to note that a majority of all partisans—Democrats, independents and Republicans—support allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States,” Stapleton said.

Coloradans also gave lukewarm support (56 percent) for tax-incentives to bring large companies to Colorado. Two-thirds support marijuana legalization, and 60 percent support increased gun-control measures.

Looking forward

When asked whether they would support a Democratic or Republican candidate in the next congressional election, respondents favored Democrats by almost 20 percentage points, a spread that has grown since 2016. Democrats fared better in urban and suburban areas, while in rural areas, to the surprise of the authors, the vote would be “dead even.”

The authors say it is too early to tell whether Colorado is shifting from purple to blue “but our numbers from the past two years would seem to be consistent with such a trend.”

The survey will be repeated next fall, with results released before the 2018 election.