Published: Oct. 22, 2018

New survey results by CU Boulder political scientists give gubernatorial candidate and Democrat Jared Polis a 12-point lead over his Republican opponent Walker Stapleton in the upcoming midterm election. 

The Colorado Political Climate Survey by the American Political Research Lab at CU Boulder also finds a 9-point lead in the generic congressional ballot, a poll question that asks voters whether they’ll vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress.

Colorado capitol building

Colorado capitol building (Credit: CU Boulder)

“National polls suggest a strong year for Democrats in House races around the country,” said Scott Adler, chair of the political science department and head of the American Political Research Lab. “It is often the case that the president’s party takes losses in midterm elections. Our results comport with these narratives.”

Undergraduates in a survey research class assisted with the survey, which came out just as ballots were hitting mailboxes in Colorado.

While there are expected patterns when looking at vote preference by partisanship, the study finds identical support for Polis among male and female voters in Colorado, with 53 percent of male voters and 54 percent of female voters supporting him.  

Meantime, Trump’s approval in Colorado hovers around 40 percent, mirroring national trends. President Trump remains very popular among Republicans with 89 percent of Republican voters expressing approval or strong approval of the president, and very unpopular among Democrats, with only 3 percent of Democratic voters expressing approval of the president, according to the survey. 

“We see some evidence of a modest gender divide on approval of the president, with more women expressing disapproval,” wrote study authors Adler, Associate Professor Anand Sokhey and graduate student Carey Stapleton. 

Approval of Congress and the Supreme Court mirror other partisan trends.  

Congressional approval remains low overall, but is considerably higher among Republicans than Democrats. Approval of the Supreme Court hovers around 50 percent, with dramatic differences by partisanship (nearly three-quarters of Republicans approve, while roughly two-thirds of Democrats disapprove). 

2018 ballot predictions

The pollsters also took a look at four Constitutional amendments and two propositions that are on the Colorado ballot this November. 

Four measures look likely to pass: 

  • Amendment Y, which would create a 12-member commission responsible for approving district maps for Colorado's congressional districts; 
  • Amendment 73, which would establish a tax bracket system vs. a flat tax rate and raise taxes for people earning more than $150,000 per year, raise the corporate income tax rate and create the Quality Public Education Fund; 
  • Amendment 74, which would require property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations; and 
  • Proposition 111, which would reduce the annual interest rate on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminate all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending.

Amendment 75 looks likely to fail, the survey finds. The constitutional amendment, if approved, provides that if any candidate for state office directs more than $1 million in support of his or her own campaign, every candidate for the same office may accept five times the aggregate amount of campaign contributions normally allowed.

One ballot issue—Proposition 112—remains too close to call with 52 percent of voters say they support it; and 48 percent saying they will vote against it. If approved by voters, Proposition 112 would mandate that new oil and gas development projects, including fracking operations, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as ‘vulnerable.’ Adler said there were stark partisan differences on Proposition 112, with Democrats offering considerably more support, and Republicans considerably more opposition.  Seventy-three percent of Democratic voters said they support Proposition 112, compared to 25 percent of Republican voters.

An extended report, including additional items, expanded breakouts and comparisons to previous Colorado Political Climate surveys will be forthcoming later this year.

Taking Colorado’s political pulse 

The CPC is a survey of the political and policy attitudes of Coloradans. Now in its third year, the survey is designed to gauge the public’s political and partisan leanings, their opinions on a number of key issues facing the state, their attitudes toward major statewide and national political figures, and the outlook for the 2018 election.

The survey instrument was developed by APRL in fall 2018 and was administered online to a panel of Coloradans by the company YouGov between October 12-17, 2018. The sample is representative of registered voters in Colorado and consists of 800 individual responses. The sample has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The margin of error for subgroups is larger due to smaller sample sizes. To generalize to the state of Colorado, YouGov employed a weighting procedure based on demographics and political characteristics.