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.

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