Friday, December 22, 2017

Republicans Get a Win After Health Care Debacle

On July 28, the Republican Party hit its lowest point in a tumultuous year with Donald Trump as president and control of both houses of the legislature.

“Repeal and replace” of Obamacare crashed and burned in a high drama vote on the floor of the Senate with John McCain joining two colleagues to sink it. But during that week, it was decided to drop the border adjustment tax and depend upon growth to make up for lost revenue from the tax cuts. That decision removed a major impediment to moving the tax reform legislation and the loss of the health care legislation made the effort an existential requirement. No tax reform, no legislative accomplishments, no control of Congress and the end of careers for many powerful members.

Analysts point out a number of conditions that helped tax reform avoid the fate of “replace and repeal.” Legislative leaders decided to:
  • Build a consensus, including with the President, around reducing corporate taxes. It was the most popular item in the caucus and the most related to the growth, highlighted by the surging market.
  • Forget the deficit. Argue growth and dynamic scoring will cover the shortfall.
  • Focus Trump and don’t let him wander off the reservation
  • Start with big number and pull it back: cuts of $2 trillion or more down to a modest $1.5 trillion, vary the rate from 18 percent to 21 percent to win votes and balance the books.
  • Get lucky. John McCain comes on early, Kevin McCarthy keeps California delegation mostly on board
  • Stay flexible on the final bill to bring on board senators with special needs
  • Set a date – year end – and use it to drive deals and decisions
From the Senate vote on December 2, to the final vote on December 20, the deals were done. Now, the questions become: Can Republicans sell what appears an unpopular bill, and separately, can they translate it into a winning theme for the 2018 congressional elections?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Will the Dow Save Donald Trump?

President Trump is stumbling into the new year with a 37 percent approval rating. It was little understood that the 46 percent start-up approval rating was going to be a high point in a year-long steady decline. He will, of course, take justifiable credit for the tax cut legislation, but like many of his policy successes over the last 11 months, he nearly always devalues them by behavior widely judged as inappropriate for an adult, much less a president.

Why is Trump not receiving credit for the economy in his overall approval rating? At 46 percent, Trump does have a job approval for the economy better than his overall rating. But, it hardly reflects the investor and business classes’ confidence in the market. Nor do the numbers appear as positive as they should given the President’s frequent mention of the market, the record-low unemployment and uptick in the gross domestic product, which is now at 3 percent after lingering at 2 percent since the great recession. There are several factors that are affecting Trump’s ability to get credit for the good economy.

Polarization
Partisan polarization, which is at record levels, affects nearly every political attitude, including people’s views about the economy and Trump’s effect on it. For example, 91 percent of Republicans approve his handling of the economy, but only 11 percent of Democrats. Of course, Trump enthusiastically participates in using partisanship, especially negative, in his politics, such as attacks on “Chuck and Nancy” in the Alabama Senate race.

Unpopular Legislation
Although congressional Republicans were no doubt right to pass the tax cut legislation simply because they were being judged politically incompetent after the loss of health care repeal and replace, pieces of the legislation are highly unpopular with the public in general. Support for the tax cuts has never exceeded a third of the public and opposition often more than 50 percent. The latest Gallup and Quinnipiac polls both report only 29 percent approve the “Republican tax plan” and only 67 percent of Republicans in Quinnipiac (70% in Gallup). Most people (64% in Quinnipiac) believe “wealthy Americans” will benefit the most from the plan.

Fitness for Office
Probably the President’s biggest approval rating problem relates to his tone and behavior that offends even those who like his policies or his anti-establishment attitude. For example, 66 percent of the public believes he should stop tweeting from his personal Twitter account, including 47 percent of Republicans (Quinnipiac).
  • 57% don’t believe the president respects people of color “as much as white people”
  • 57% not “fit to serve as president,” including 59% of independents
  • 52% “embarrassed to have Donald Trump as president”
Although the President is seen as a strong person (58%) and intelligent (55%), his behavior over the last 11 months has convinced majorities he’s not “level headed” (65%) and doesn’t have “good leadership” (59%) skills.

The President’s approach to relentlessly reinforce his base has alienated support among independents and even Republicans that would otherwise support him. Until he changes that strategy, the benefits of the economy are unlikely to lift his personal job approval.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Have the Rules of Gravity Been Suspended?

In 2016, none of the old political rules seemed to apply. How did Donald Trump win the presidency, yet lose the popular vote by an astonishing 3 million, even polling 10 points less in popularity than his competitor, Hillary Clinton, and having more than half of the electorate believing he was unfit for office?

Forecasts have become much more guarded since November 2016. But, by history and current metrics, if political gravity can be considered a law of nature, the Republicans should fall and the Democrats rise in the midterm elections. The general rule has been that the presidential party loses seats in midterms. Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in 1994 and control of the House; Barack Obama lost 63 seats in 2010 and Nancy Pelosi lost the Speaker’s gavel as a result.

And, of course, this president and his party have some exceptionally weak numbers after their first year in control of Washington, D.C. The President’s approval lingers below 40 percent. It has, in fact, hit the low 30s in some late November, early December polls.

The generic ballot test, which is judged a harbinger for a major shift in seats, has ranged from 8 to 11 points favoring the Democrats for months, a historic high. The Democrats need a net 24 seats to give Pelosi back the gavel. Finally, the seat-by-seat analysis from several analysts, such and Cook and Sabato, indicate Democrats have recruited a quality class of challengers and will fund them well – a Pelosi strength.

But this is the age of Trump and the old rules must be always tested and re-tested. While it seems unlikely, Trump and some of the policies, most of which do not have majority support of the public, could gain in popularity over the next 11 months. And, the economy continues to roll along.

In addition, Democrats must win a net of 24 seats. They have a few incumbents (12) in Trump territory that they must hold. At least three are open seats. Plus, they must win more new seats than just the 23 Republicans that are in districts Clinton carried — they are going to have to take a few seats from Republican incumbents in Trump territory. Possibly, the Alabama senate win demonstrates they can find candidates and a message to carry Republicans who have soured on either the President’s policies or his demeanor. And, of course, they won the Virginia and New Jersey governorships just as the Republicans did in the run-up to their successful 2010 midterm victory.

So if gravity holds, Democrats should have a good chance for their needed 24 seats, but it’s early and November 2016 challenged all the old rules.

Read Sabato’s Crystal Ball: House 2018: Less than a year out, race for control is a coin flip

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mayor Hancock’s Re-election Prospects – Denver Post, Jon Murray Interview

In a long Denver Post article (12-12-17), Jon Murray outlines the challenges to Mayor Michael Hancock’s third and final election for Denver mayor. The odds remain in favor that Denver’s strong major form of government will reward Hancock with his third term. Usually, guiding major revenue elections is one of the best indicators of a mayor’s strength, and Hancock just guided a successful $937 million bond election.

But, there are three factors that create a challenge for Hancock’s re-election:
  • An anti-establishment attitude that is affecting most American politics, including Denver. In 2015, it helped propel a new Denver auditor and several council people.
  • New residents and a Millennial generation have little loyalty to incumbents, memory of their accomplishments and the way things are usually done.
  • Continued political stress about growth and development. As I told Murray: “Ciruli’s advice to Hancock: ‘You should spend the next 18 months with laser-like focus on the public anxiety regarding growth.’”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SCFD, a Public Policy Success Due to Compromise, Civic Unity and Public Service

In a speech at Mayor Hancock’s award ceremony for the arts on November 27, I described why the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) has maintained voter support in four elections since 1988 that created and renewed the district, including the latest in 2016.

Denver’s district is unique in its regionalism, its broad funding distribution and frugal administration. Many areas of the country have tried and failed to create a similar district, most recently Seattle’s cultural advocates lost an election. Having helped create the district and worked on its many elections since the mid-1980s and observed the challenges that other areas around the country and state have faced, I believe three values distinguish the Denver metro area: its civic and cultural leaderships willingness to compromise, the ability to unify and the commitment to public service.

2017 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture
Acceptance Statement by Floyd Ciruli, Recipient of the Leadership in Arts Award

Thank you Mayor for the recognition. The audience is full of people who have helped during the 30 years of campaigns that have created and sustained the SCFD — an organization that has made this region such a standout in cultural vibrancy, access and educational opportunities that the entire country envies.

Some in the crowd are members of our cultural organizations’ volunteer boards, some manage the institutions and many are the campaign professionals that ensure voters know where to locate the SCFD on crowded ballots and why it’s worthy of their support.

I have had the good fortune to work with them in promoting the district for many years. They share a couple of important values. And as a new generation steps up to provide the leadership for the district, let me describe these values.

Compromise – In every year since the creation of the SCFD, a willingness to work together and compromise as we adjust the act has been a high point of the district from its creation in 1988 through the renewals in 1994, 2004 and, most recently, 2016.

Compromise is essential. We are a diverse community — from geography, to constituencies, to cultural preferences. I thank our team, especially our mayors, legislators and business leaders, for coming together and supporting the final proposals and legislation.

Civic Unity – And that highlights the second value, which is civic unity. Most recently, a SCFD-type proposal failed in Seattle’s King County, a progressive and prosperous community, primarily because they lacked civic unity. The Seattle Times opposed it, as did some vocal county leaders.

From our first visit with the Metro Mayors Caucus in 2014, that quickly pledged its support, to securing support from the county commissioners and chambers, the region’s civic leadership that pulls together for important projects is a significant asset.

Public Purpose – Finally, in every SCFD election cycle, I conducted an early poll. It asked 40 or 50 questions, but one was more important than the others. And, if it received a positive response, we could set the campaign strategy and get to work. Many of you know the question because I’ve talked about it often, and that is the favorability test.

Our cultural organizations, especially the best known, have sky-high positive reputations — higher than our universities, our sports teams and our political leaders. I believe that it reflects not only the popularity of culture, but the organizations’ multiyear, day-in and day-out commitment to providing access, education for children and families, and accountability.

As long as we continue the willingness to compromise, the ability to unify and the commitment to a public purpose, the SCFD will be around as long as Denver is around.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What the Hill Happened?

What happened in the 2016 election and does Hillary Clinton’s book, “What Happened,” offer a reasonably objective analysis? The Denver Press Club panel on Hillary Clinton’s book, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Panelists

Monday, Dec. 11: What the Hill Happened?
A discussion about the 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” on the evening of her Denver appearance at Tattered Cover.

Moderator: Vince Bzdek, editor-in-chief of The Gazette
Panelists:
Floyd Ciruli, pollster, political analyst
Mandy Connell, KOA radio host
Ian Silverii, Executive Director of Progress Now
Kim Howard, deputy political director for the Hillary for Colorado campaign

On September 26, 2017, I wrote an analysis in Colorado Politics that argued that the book’s focus and that of the Democratic Party is wrong and leaves them weaker as they attempt to prepare for the 2018 midterms and Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.

Read Colorado Politics: "What Happened?" Clinton book asks the wrong question

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Republicans Win on Taxes

Congressional Republicans recognized they couldn’t end the 2017 legislative session without a major accomplishment, especially after the high-profile failure to pass health care “repeal and replace.” Saturday morning at about 1:06 (EST), they passed a major revision of the tax code by 51 to 49 votes. No Democrat supported it and only one Republican failed to support it – Bob Corker of Tennessee on deficit grounds.

Republicans are the party to lower taxes and they now can claim the issue. As expected, they argue it will pay for itself by spurring growth and point to the DOW as evidence. Unfortunately, polls show, like health care, the law is not popular. Only 29 percent of Americans approve of it and only a quarter (24%) believe the middle class would benefit (wealthy win, 64%).

The Democrats lost the Senate vote making their usual defensive argument about distribution and equality issues instead of jobs and growth. Also, they claim the deficit will increase by up to one trillion dollars. Unfortunately, fewer people care about the deficit today than in the early Obama administration, and the Democrats, as the long-established party of “tax and spend,” has little credibility arguing for fiscal prudence. Also, few people (30%, Pew 2017) believe any significant progress will be made on the handling of the deficit.

Democrats may gain some longer term benefit as the public reacts negatively to the taxes effect on personal income, but for now, the Republicans and President Trump will claim a victory that will especially satisfy their corporate and business constituents.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Judge Moore in the Race in Alabama

Alabama Judge Roy Moore is in the first post Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, et.al. sex scandal election.

One week out (Dec. 12) and the special senate election in Alabama is a toss-up. The RealClearPolitics average has Roy Moore (R) ahead by 2 points, but two recent polls give Doug Jones (D) the lead.

Moore recovered from a November opinion deficit that developed after the November 9 Washington Post story that began a series of articles relating to various sexual encounters with young women (one was 14 at the time) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Democrat Doug Jones was ahead by 4 to 8 points in several post scandal polls. But Moore went back into the lead by November 20.

Moore won a four-person primary with 39 percent on August 15 and a run-off on September 26 over the incumbent Luther Strange by 10 points (55% to 45%). Republicans typically win the state. President Trump won by 28 points in 2016 and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose appointment set off the special election, won re-election in 2008 by 26 points and by even more in 2014 against a write-in.

Moore should win the race, and the closeness reflects fall-out from the sex scandal. Even the Washington Post poll showed Alabama voters who favored Jones said they would prefer a Republican representing the state over a Democrat by 50 percent to 44 percent. The issue that is keeping Jones in the race has voters closely divided. Thirty-five percent think Moore made the sexual advances, 37 percent are unsure and 28 percent believe he didn’t. Moore is fighting for his political survival by arguing the race is against the Washington Democratic establishment, claiming the charges are false and focusing on core conservative issues of abortion and gay rights.

If Republicans lose the Alabama Senate race, it will add more evidence 2018 could be a repeat of 2010 when Barack Obama and Democrats lost both Virginia and New Jersey governorships and then a special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s senate seat during the 2009 run-off. In January 2011, Nancy Pelosi handed the gavel over to John Boehner after losing 63 seats.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tillerson Gone?

“One by one, our old friends are gone. Death – natural or not – prison-deported.” (Johnny Ola, The Godfather Part II, 1974)
President Donald Trump smiles at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after
 he was sworn in in the Oval Office of the White House, Feb. 1, 2017 | AP
Although there were skeptics, Rex Tillerson began his term as Secretary of State with much of the foreign policy establishment hopeful his international business experience, corporate management and more mainstream viewpoints would make him effective in leading the agency.

He has been broadly judged a failure. Some of the problems have been his own making, but most are reflective of the President and the administration. On a host of levels, Tillerson was given an agency the President did not like and intended on diminishing in a world that is considerably more challenging than when President Obama began his term.

Can Tillerson make the one year anniversary on January 20, 2018?

See The Buzz:
What chaos?
Bannon about to join Flynn?

Monday, December 4, 2017

November 7 Election: Democrats Nearly Equal Republicans

Out of 3.2 million ballots mailed in the November 7 off-year election, more than a third of Coloradans (38%), or 1.2 million, returned them.
  • Democrats nearly equaled Republicans, and both beat unaffiliated voters. (There are 10,000 more Democrats registered than Republicans.)  The modest Republican advantage in Colorado appears to have disappeared during the last decade. Both parties must now fight for weak partisan and independent voters.

  • More women voted than men – 625,000 (53%) to 561,000 (47%) (data rounded to nearest thousand)
  • Voters 40 years old and younger – mostly Millennials, represented 20 percent of the electorate and older voters (61 and above) 44 percent.
  • Denver, with the most registered voters in the state (403,000), came in second (144,000 votes cast) behind El Paso County (155,000) in votes cast.

Denver Bond Win Good for Hancock Re-election

Mayors and other Colorado political executives are judged on their ability to persuade voters to support tax initiatives in the state’s constitutionally-constrained tax environment.

Denver voters’ 70 percent level of support for $937 million in new bonds for seven categories of city projects helps secure Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2019 third and final re-election, assuming he desires to run.

Nearly 46 percent of the bonds were for transportation to try to help address the top complaint from Denver voters concerning traffic and density. But the election is more than a year and a half away and Hancock will likely need more strategies on affordable housing and neighborhood development to keep the anti-growth politics manageable.

Read Denver Post: Denver voters strongly approve $937 million bond package for roads, parks, libraries and cultural facilities

Friday, December 1, 2017

Dow Leaps on Tax Cut News

On Thursday, November 30, as the Republicans appeared to be closing in on 50 votes to secure the promised tax cuts that should help corporate earnings, the Dow leaped 331 points, a 1.4 percent increase to cross the 24000 (24272) threshold in a near-record 30 trading days. It represents a 5900 point increase since the November 2016 presidential election, or a 32 percent increase and 23 percent year-to-date uptick. It is the fifth 1000-point increase since that election.

A spate of good news for investors accompanied the latest surge, including a growing economy (3% recent quarterly GDP), upbeat consumer confidence, relaxation in regulations including for banks, a new Fed chief promising more steady monitory policy, on oil a sweet spot and big technology companies promising more profit making applications and innovations.

Little has changed since the Dow crossed the 23000 on October 18, 2017:

“The Dow is benefitting from a world that appears in a synchronized recovery with Europe, China and Pacific Rim countries all experiencing steady growth after the lingering Great Recession. Federal Reserve is holding calm, oil has stayed in a tight range and earnings are still good. No doubt, a correction is coming, but as of today, the market looks slated for more growth.”

Denver Invests in its Culture

As predicted, Denver voters gave a powerful affirmation to its cultural facilities (see Denver Voters Have Historically Valued Their Cultural Institutions). In the recent $117 million bond election, a spectacular 71 percent of voters said “yes.”

Seventy-three percent of Denver voters supported renewal of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District a year earlier (November 2016), the money from which goes to operations of the facilities, including public access such as free days, art, culture and science programs and exhibits.

Cultural facilities pledged their own fundraising efforts. Improvements expected at the Denver Art Museum are new welcoming and education facilities with renovation of the historic Ponti Building; the Denver Botanic Gardens’ new science, art and education center; the Denver Zoo’s new animal hospital; the Denver Center for Performance Arts theater renovations; and improvements in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science core facilities.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Floyd Ciruli Receives Mayor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts

Floyd Ciruli was awarded the Denver Mayor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts for his 30 years of support for the creation and voter approval of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).

A news release from Denver’s Department of Arts and Venues stated:

Floyd Ciruli has worked with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District board and staff, area mayors, county commissioners, business organizations, Colorado legislators, the changing media, editorial boards, foundation leaders and many of the beneficiary organizations in SCFD. His work has been directed consistently to maintaining and building a coalition of support during the SCFD’s 30-year existence, not just during campaign times. Floyd was a constant presence thinking and preparing for the 2016 reauthorization, guiding volunteer leadership through information helpful in understanding the changing market.

A video was produced describing the creation and support of the SCFD. Watch video here.

Read Denver Post: Denver recognizes festivals, nonprofits and artists with 2017 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts

Friday, November 17, 2017

The National Dashboard – Trump and Republicans in Trouble

The November 8 election results, when combined with exit polling, confirm that the President’s tone and language have become a liability that Democrats are exploiting. Trump’s presence so dominates current politics, Republicans can’t separate from him, and if they try, anger his base. Twelve months is a long time, but the Virginia governor’s race, in particular, highlighted that the historic metrics used to predict elections have not been suspended in the Trump era.

Trump is treating his approval rating like a reality show rating. Thirty percent of the cable TV market is high, but in a two-party political environment, it’s doom, which is what happened on Tuesday night.

One year ago, Trump won the presidency with 46 percent of the vote. He began his administration with 44 percent approval on January 20, 2017. Today, he is regularly in the mid-thirty percent range. Trump’s strategy of playing his base everyday has contracted his support. And even some of those voters are losing interest. He either changes strategy or takes the party into minority status 12 months from now.

The Dashboard we maintain to track the major indicators are all flashing red warnings for the President and Republicans.

Presidential Approval. His approval rating is at a record-low at 38 percent. Approval is the most potent metric, especial when the president is high profile with specific vulnerables – Trump by definition.

Congress. Congressional approval is also at historic lows – 14 percent, and when combined with a generic ballot indicator of metrics, 7 percent. The sense in 2018, as of today, looks like s worse election.

DOW. The President likes to cite the record-level DOW. It is his best number, but stock indexes can become volatile. The public is also capable of ignoring it when they see behavior or results (or a lack of) they don’t like.

House. The Democrats need 24 seats to take the House and put Nancy Pelosi in charge, including of investigations.

Senate. Democrats need three seats and have to hold ten that are vulnerable. It was not thought likely they could do both, but if Steve Bannon really wants to damage the party by attacks against incumbents, anything is possible.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Great Dictator

President Trump is impressed with his friend President Xi’s recent coronation as paramount leader of China.

Indeed, Xi has exceeded all the leaders of Communist China except Mao. He is today the most powerful authoritarian ruler in the world, both because of his consolidation of power in China and because of the country’s dynamic economy. But Xi’s standing is even greater due to his vision, which he is implementing through a newly empowered and invigorated Communist Party.

As Xi made plain in his 3.5 hour speech to the Party Congress, he intends on the nation to be a great modern “socialist” state in the center of world affairs and dominate in its own near territory (i.e., the waters, islands and neighbors in the Far East).

Trump’s goals of dealing with the North Korean threat and trade imbalances are worthwhile tactics, but his nationalism and isolationism makes it near impossible for America to lead on alliances and multi-lateral trade that is necessary to counter China and establish America’s strategy in the Far East.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Growth is Becoming an Issue for 2018 Politics

Not since the battle over growth controls early in this century has the topic of growth and how to discipline it been more on Coloradan’s minds. A growth control initiative was placed on the ballot in 2000 that initially polled with majority support. It was defeated by a massive campaign by the business and political establishments. The topic shifted to the state legislature until the dot-com bust of 2001 cooled the economy and Colorado’s high influx of new residents.

But the state has been on a growth tear for the last decade, with a population surge that is affecting traffic, roads and quality of life. The latest population projections show a state with more than 8 million people, up from 5 million by 2050. A significant amount of that growth is on the Front Range, from El Paso County and Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border. Colorado Springs will become the state’s largest city and opens lands in Adams, Larimer and Weld will fill in.

Numerous Front Range local governments are trying to deal with the issue. Using zoning to slow down development are frequent and volatile topics in many metro cities, including Denver, Littleton and Lakewood. Denver’s billion dollar bond initiative and Colorado Springs water fee increase reflect the stress on urban taxpayers to maintain quality of life and public safety. The anti-fracking movement is a symptom of the rapid Northern Front Range suburban and small town growth colliding with the oil and gas extraction industry.

Addressing a near doubling of Colorado’s population during the next 30 years will be a topic in 2018 and well beyond. The issue will be highly visible in the governor’s race and especially in the Democratic Party primary.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Colorado Politics – The Year of the Independent

Colorado’s million plus unaffiliated voters can become a major factor in the June party primaries for the first time in history. Candidates in both parties have motivation to take advantage of the new law that gets every unaffiliated a primary ballot.

The just completed elections, especially in Virginia, rewarded the candidates who ran a campaign against the strident tone and political gridlock of Washington D.C. Colorado’s independent voters have anti-establishment elements and in general believe both parties are bankrupt. Beside the primaries, they may become the force for independent-type candidates in next November’s general election. The following column was published in the state’s leading political website, Colorado Politics:

The year of the independent

America’s two major political parties are under assault. The 2016 election was a shock for both party’s establishments, and they haven’t recovered. The divisions highlighted in the 2016 primaries are now becoming exacerbated by insurgent groups wanting to take complete control.

As the parties spend time and resources on their internal wars, this may be the year for independent voters and candidates to make a difference. Colorado’s gubernatorial race will be a good test case. The largest partisan bloc in the state is independents and it’s growing. But historically, participation by independents has been low. As unaffiliated voters, they’ve been mostly thought of as an add-on after the parties’ respective partisan bases have been motivated. But several factors suggest 2018 could be different. Read more…


Monday, November 13, 2017

Colorado’s Off-Year Election

Slightly more than a third of the electorate took the time to return their ballots, with half the votes coming in the last weekend and Election Day (3.2 million mailed, 1.2 million returned 11-9-17, 38%). Most of the major decisions were old battles or proposals that voters have seen before.

Denver. Denver voters continue to support investing in the city’s infrastructure. They approved a billion dollars in bonds for transportation, public safety and anchor institutions, such as libraries, hospitals and cultural facilities. The passage helps secure Mayor Michael Hancock’s political control over the city and his run-up for a third term. Growth, density and traffic are residents’ major complaints, and Hancock hopes the bond initiative’s transportation funding will address the issue sufficiently. Liberal voters did defy considerable civic opposition and approved the Green Roof initiative with a narrow win. A four-to-one Democratic over Republican ballot return was too much ideology over pragmatism.

Schools. Organized labor’s biannual effort to control school districts had more success in 2018. The pro-labor, anti-choice slate swept the Douglas County School District, retained their incumbents in Jefferson County and picked up two seats on Denver’s seven-person board. Tuesday night may signal the rise of the Colorado teachers union with their national affiliates targeting the state Democratic primary next June and the general election. The union would like a friendly governor and state legislature.

Fracking. The anti-fracking forces continue to win local battles, but lose to the courts and state regulators. The hydrocarbon industry has spent plentifully to fight what they consider misinformation from the anti-fracking advocates. Their audience is voters and especially opinion leaders. But Broomfield voters passed an anti-fracking measure in spite of the industry spending more than $300,000 against it. Expect the issue to morph into the 2018 Democratic primary for governor and Northern Colorado legislative and local elected officials.

Winners and Losers

Colorado’s election results portent much for the 2018 midterms and especially the governor’s race:
  • Voters signaling yes on infrastructure
  • Teachers union wins (Does it help Kennedy? Problem for Polis, Johnston?)
  • Brakes on school choice, performance pay, testing
  • Anti-fracking activists win (Bother Polis?)
  • Oil and gas on defensive, but in the battle
  • End of Hickenlooper era (school unions, anti-frackers?)
  • Democrats recharged from national and local wins (Could they win governor and both houses?)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Coffman Shakes Up the Governor’s Race – KOA, Taylor Summers

Three years ago, Cynthia Coffman won more votes statewide than any other candidate, including Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Cory Gardner. Coffman’s entrance into the fragmented Republican gubernatorial primary highlights that there is no one candidate who has a clear path to the nomination and who would be a credible candidate for the general election.

Early frontrunner Tom Tancredo has a substantial base, but a low ceiling. His entrance into the race damages District Attorney George Brauchler, who hoped to be a conservative frontrunner (Brauchler may drop out and run for attorney general). State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has some name identity and considerable access to money. But it’s hard to believe a Bush family member can win a Republican primary in 2018. While President Trump may not be an asset in a general election, his impact on the party in primaries remains potent. Coffman and Stapleton will directly compete.

By early next year, if Coffman is ready for the race, both in terms of her personal presence and a well-formed campaign, especially with potential financing, she could quickly become the person to beat.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Feb. 24, 2017 |
Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Natalie Meyer – An Exceptional Secretary of State

Wayne Williams just honored Natalie Meyer an exceptional Secretary of State. She always maintained a professional and fair-minded approach, serving throughout the Reagan years while Democrats Dick Lamm and Roy Romer were governors.

Her test for professionalism was having to deal with Douglas Bruce as he began his multi-year effort to pass the TABOR Amendment (finally made it in 1992). Bruce was a template for the abrasive protagonist, but Meyer maintained her decorum.

Congratulations on the NASS Medallion Award.

Three Colorado secretaries of state: Wayne Williams (C)
and Donetta Davidson (R) honor Natalie Meyer (L)
with NASS Medallion Award, Nov. 6, 2017 | Colorado SOS
Read SOS news release here

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 7 Election: Low Turnout, Usual Patterns

Out of 3.4 million Colorado voters, as of Friday before the November 7 off-year election, only one in five Coloradans, or 612,000, have returned ballots. But the usual patterns are holding.
  • More women are voting than men – 321,000 (52%) to 288,000 (48%) {data rounded to nearest thousand)
  • Republicans are out polling Democrats and both are beating the lagging unaffiliated voters, even though that’s the opposite pattern of current registration percentages. (There are 10,000 more Democrats registered than Republicans.) 
  • As expected, voters 40 years old and younger – mostly Millennials, are the smallest voting bloc (14%) and older voters (61 and above) are the largest group (55%).
  • Denver, with the most registered voters in the state (403,000), lags behind (54,000 votes cast) a host of smaller, but better performing counties, including Douglas (55,000), El Paso (84,000) and Jefferson (68,000).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tom Tancredo Runs for Governor – KOA Interview

Tom Tancredo announced a run for governor to “shake up the race.” As we blogged on October 13, Tom Tancredo will start as the Republican frontrunner. He’s mainly running because about a fifth of the Republican Party is extremely anti-immigration, illegal or otherwise, and he is the most anti-immigrant candidate. Also, Tom is well-known since his third race for governor. In the 2010 governor’s race, his first effort, he stated that the Republican nominee was a sure loser. He was right. The stakes are higher this year with an open seat, and several Republican candidates appearing to have the qualifications for governor and capable of winning a general election.

Tom Tancredo, Sept. 21, 2017 | Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics
Tom may have a floor of about 20 percent, reflecting the party’s far right, but he also has a ceiling among Republicans for whom his losing record will be a bar, as is his history of comments that will make powerful negative ads.

Although primaries are sometimes destructive of a party’s chances in the general election, the Republican who can fight for the party’s base and unite a sufficient number of the pragmatists could be a stronger candidate in the fall. Tancredo claims he lost the 2014 primary for governor due to late expenditures by opponents. A lack of funding may well be a problem this year. Tancredo is trying to use some of Steve Bannon’s celebrity status to increase his credibility and raise some funds.

A recent poll shows, not surprising, Tancredo starts with 22 percent of the Republican vote. Although the poll’s credibility is unknown and the initial positions are mostly name identity, it has been a boon to Democrats ready to use it for fundraising. Tancredo is good to unite the left.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trump had a Better Week, But Approval is Still Low

Last week (pre indictment) was good for President Trump and House and Senate Republicans. They moved a budget, helping put in place the possibility of tax reform before the end of the year. Trump managed to not confuse or disrupt the presentation of the opioid initiative. The Russian investigation appeared to be stalling and the Democrats have become embroiled in their own Russian-related controversy. And, of course, the market keeps going up. Although Trump’s Republican critics (Flake, Corker) got a stage, they had no followers and are leaving the party to Trump.

But, in the midst of all the good news, Fox News came out with a poll that placed Trump’s approval rating at 38 percent, an all-time low for their poll. Although he still maintains Republican support (83%), they are only 35 percent of the electorate. Democrats’ 47 percent of voters only offered Trump 7 percent support. And, 30 percent of unaffiliated supported Trump.

 The Fox News results are near the RealClearPolitics average of 39.4 percent.

Although the 83 percent approval among Republicans is high, it represents decline from Republican support in most polls earlier in the year. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this week also has the President’s approval at 38 percent and Republicans at 81 percent.

But the most stunning number from the Fox News poll is the generic ballot test, which claims Republicans are now 15 points behind Democrats – 35 percent to 50 percent. Although the number is likely a bit of an outlier, the RealClearPolitics generic test has Democrats ahead by 10 points, reflecting a slow, but steady increase for Democrats this year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Colorado Politics: Higher Education in Crisis

Political polarization is affecting higher education. Higher education institutions have lost respect with the public in recent years, especially among Republicans. Many institutions are also facing a crisis in revenue, including public funds, enrollment and student debt, which has affected the value people ascribe to a four-year degree. Even Colorado’s respected anchor institutions are dealing with a rapidly changing business model and educational marketplace.

In a Colorado Politics article, I examine the politics of the crisis.

Higher education is in political trouble

Higher education is facing turbulent times. It must navigate tight budgets, high prices, enrollment shortfalls and sky-rocketing student debt.

Since the Great Recession, state budgets for public higher education institutions have declined by 16 percent per student, and during the past decade, tuition at four-year colleges and universities nationally is up 35 percent by almost $2,500. In Colorado, the triumvirate of the recession, TABOR limits and competing state budget interests has caused tuition increases of 63 percent since 2008. And, without other recourse, students have made up the difference by going into debt, which has increased by 59 percent since 2000.

Private schools face their own budget demands, leading to dramatic tuition increases and piles of student debt. A single year in a private college can easily cost $40,000, relieved by some grants and student aid, but still requiring loans in most cases.

The financial surge has translated into an enrollment crises. Large percentages of the population are beginning to question the value of a four-year degree. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows only half of the public believes “a four-year degree is worth the cost because people have a better chance to get a good job and earn more money over their lifetime.” And 47 percent said it wasn’t worth it “because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off.” Among Millennials, 57 percent said it wasn’t worth it. That reflects an increase of 19 points from Millennials who said a degree wasn’t worth the cost just four years ago.

Addressing higher education budget and enrollment problems is compounded by political divisions. Read more...

Monday, October 30, 2017

Korbel School Sponsors Third Session on Trump Presidency – One Year After the Trump Election: Is America Great Again?

Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli deconstruct the impact on American democracy and foreign policy one year after the election of Donald J. Trump. Join us in Maglione Hall on November 1 for the two-hour session. The presentation is the third in a series that began the day after the election (Nov. 9) and continued on May 1 at the administration’s 100 days mark. The event will be held at the Korbel School as Dean and former Ambassador Hill begins his new campus-wide duties as special advisor to the Chancellor for international engagement and a professor of diplomacy.



For more information and to register for the event, click here

The New Chinese Politburo

Xi Jinping will be China’s principal leader for another five years, even though China still maintains a veneer of collective leadership represented by the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. At 64 years old, Xi is like most members, a Baby Boomer born in 1953. Xi has strengthened the grip of the party, purged or sidelined rivals, and could break recent precedent and remain president for a third five-year block, or until 2027. He would be over 70 years old, the nominal retirement age for Politburo Standing Committee members. But by not selecting any member less than 60 years old, Xi signaled no replacement was being groomed for a transition.

The 2017 Chinese National Congress marks the beginning of the Xi era. His leadership team is in place. In a three and one-half hour speech, Xi presented a vision for not five, but 30 years in which he sees China as a “great modern socialist country” at the center stage of the world and a new authoritarian model for other developing countries to follow. He believes the West is dispirited, divided and distracted while China is a confident, growing power. In a final act before adjournment, the party faithful amended the party constitution to add Xi’s thoughts as a guiding principal: “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”

Although the entire production looks solid, it has a fragile base. Xi is attempting to instill ideological discipline with dated Marxism and strict Leninism to justify the party and its exclusive hold on power. But legitimacy is mostly based on satisfaction with the direction of the economy and improved quality of life. In fact, Xi and his team must work every day to ensure growth and the distribution of its benefits like every other great state. It is not clear Xi’s latest modification of the model can do it.

It is also unlikely that the world’s largest, most opaque and most repressive political party will become a model welcomed by most countries, regardless of Xi’s personal charisma or China’s public relations tools.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Is America Great Again?

Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli deconstruct the impact on American democracy and foreign policy one year after the election of Donald J. Trump. The presentation is the third in a series that began the day after the election (Nov. 9) and continued on May 1 at the administration’s 100 days mark. The event will be held at the Korbel School as Dean and former Ambassador Hill begins his new campus-wide duties as special advisor to the Chancellor for international engagement and a professor of diplomacy.

For more information and to register for the event, click here

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Taxes, Gridlock and the Market

The stars are aligned for tax cuts to pass before the holidays. The converging forces are the 2018 midterm elections without a legislative accomplishment, the latest Gallup poll recording Congress at a recent low in approval (13%), Washington dysfunction rated the country’s top problem (health care is second), and several polls showing Democrats with double-digit leads in the generic ballot test.

Of course, the dissatisfaction is being framed by the spectacular failure of health care repeal and replace and specifically a revolt against the Republican establishment fanned by Steve Bannon, the Breitbart populist-nationalist.

The only metric that has been working for Republicans has been the stock market with its dramatic 26 percent rise from a year ago to 23000. Tax cuts are seen as critical to investor optimism and the market’s buoyancy.

It’s hard to imagine a better or more urgent moment for Republican action.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Colorado Politics: Millennials Move Colorado Left

The Millennial generation, 75 million strong, are finally fully within voting age. They are shifting politics to the left, especially on many cultural issues, and helped give Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton their Colorado wins and make the state one of the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

In a Colorado Politics column (4), the impact of Colorado’s Millennials on the 2012 election is described:

Millennials Moving Colorado to the Left

Although Colorado remains competitive between the two main political parties, with candidates representing both parties winning statewide races and splitting control of the state legislature, the state has, in fact, moved at least two points to the Democratic side of the scale since 2006. This is most clearly shown in terms of registration and voter behavior in presidential elections. Republicans have lost their registration advantage. Voters not affiliated with a party are now the largest political group in the state, and polling shows that they skew younger and somewhat more liberal and Democratic. The presidential races since 1996 offer evidence that Colorado has shifted to the Democratic side with Barack Obama’s elections, and has remained in that camp through Hillary Clinton’s win in the state during the 2016 presidential election.


One reason for the shift is that voters under 35 years old are flooding the voter rolls nationally and, when motivated to vote, are changing the politics of the country and Colorado. 


Millennials have now overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest population cohort, and as they register and turn out to vote, they will become the dominant voting bloc by the 2020 presidential election. In 2016 presidential election polls conducted by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver’s Korbel School, Colorado’s Millennials distinguished themselves with a number of characteristics. More


Monday, October 23, 2017

Dow Ignores the Chaos

President Trump and his wild 271 days in office haven’t slowed one of the most impressive market climbs in history. The market is up 26 percent since Trump’s November 8 election in 2016 (market was 18333) and up 17 percent year-to-date. And although nervousness abounds, there are still reasons to believe the ascent may continue.

In spite of Trump’s low approval ratings, lack of legislative accomplishments and near daily controversies, the investor class is still confident that the business climate will continue to improve due to regulatory relief and a tax cut by the end of the year. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has told Congress the market is linked to their fast action.

Highlighting some of the anxiety about the direction of the boom, a spate of stories pointed out it was 30 years ago, October 19, 1987, that a fast climbing Dow dropped 22.6 percent, or 508 points (Black Monday, Dow started 2246). The market is up 4800 points since the November election.

The Dow is benefitting from a world that appears in a synchronized recovery with Europe, China and Pacific Rim countries all experiencing steady growth after the lingering Great Recession. Federal Reserve is holding calm, oil has stayed in a tight range and earnings are still good. No doubt, a correction is coming, but as of today, the market looks slated for more growth.

Also see The Buzz blogs:
Soaring market and plunging polls
Trump surge builds on Obama’s recovery
Trump gives the rally a boost
Trump rally breaks 20000 in near record speed

Friday, October 20, 2017

Guns are a Tough Issue for Americans

Dealing with gun issues in America is complicated. The public has strong feelings about guns and many are contradictory. Cultural anthropologists and sociologists cite the American experience as shaping the nation’s views on guns. It begins as European immigrants in a wilderness, and continues with the nation’s aggressive expansion across the continent. Add to the national experience, a media culture crowded with depictions of gun violence and the high rate of gun ownership (42% report being in a household with a gun, Pew, June 2017). Finally, the Second Amendment being included in the Constitution at the founding has made the gun issue a right.

Polling concerning guns must also deal with the cross currents and passion. The public’s viewpoints are affected if the questions treat the issue as gun control, gun rights or gun safety. Questions concerning a general restriction produce different results than questions focused on specifics, such as registration. And, the timing of the inquiry is critical, with the horror of a shooting causing spikes in opinions that decay quickly. And today, of course, partisanship has a major effect on Americans’ positions.

Within these challenges, it’s possible to view patterns of agreement on public policy. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, the public showed its division on a general question about stricter gun laws – 54 percent yes and 42 percent no. But on a question asking about a specific restriction, the public offered overwhelming support – 94 percent yes. A comparison of the two questions showed 39 percent of the public that opposed stricter laws, in fact, support background checks.

The American people would welcome reasonable gun restrictions. The gridlock of the congressional system is contributing to the decline in confidence in Congress.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bannon: Keeper of the Promises

Before he was removed by General Kelly, Steve Bannon’s cluttered West Wing office had a wall of sticky notes with the promises that he used to track President Trump’s program from January 20, 2017, starting with rejecting the TPP trade pact to approving the XL Pipeline. Although nearly all of the promises kept are executive orders and not supported by legislation, there are many changes in regulations related to business, the environment and education that are having a major effect.

Bannon, now the political freelancer, has transferred that mission to a war on the Republican congressional establishment for their failure to follow up with legislation on core issues, such as health care and immigration, including the border wall.

The power of the Bannon strategy is that Trump voters are overwhelmingly in alignment with Trump’s performance and his agenda. Bannon can indeed probably use them as a wrecking ball.

The Trump voter is with him on Russia, terrorism, his temperament and taking a knee.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Colorado Politics – DACA Deal Dead?

It seemed too good to be true. Briefly, it appeared Washington could settle an immigration issue that has lingered for years harming young people, while more than 80 percent of the American people supported a resolution. But quickly, the bipartisan agreement was dashed by White House demands for immigration security proposals well known to be unacceptable to Democrats.

In a weekly article in Colorado Politics, the latest polling is reviewed, highlighting the benefits to both parties to find a majority for compromise.
  • President gets a bipartisan deal and solves a problem to his credit
  • Democrats serve a constituency, compromise on some but limited border security proposals
  • Republicans want a solution that attracts sufficient votes in the House and Senate to get border and immigration funding (no wall) 
  • Both parties relieve some gridlock. Of course, the extremes in both parties are unhappy.
Is the DACA deal dead?

On September 13, President Trump met with the minority leaders of their respective houses, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, over a meal of Chinese food. Reportedly, they agreed to a deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which included more border security without building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Though there were immediate disputes as to what was agreed to, the session offered some hope for a resolution to an immigration problem that has dogged the federal government for at least half a decade. More than 800,000 individuals are affected by a program started in the Obama administration in 2013 to protect mostly young illegal immigrants. DACA took form as it became clear that broader immigration reform was not possible.

Unfortunately for the September 13 deal, the White House has returned with a proposal that includes limits to legal immigration, sanctuary city punishment and border wall funding – all non-starters for Democrats.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Denver Voters Have Historically Valued Their Cultural Institutions

The major metro area cultural institutions are asking Denver voters for $117 million in bond financing as part of the nearly one billion dollar bond package ($937 million) on the Denver election ballot November 7, 2017. Denver voters have historically been willing to maintain their cultural institutions’ operations with sales tax from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) and the facilities, buildings and exhibit space through City and County of Denver property tax bond initiatives. The last major bond package, which included cultural facilities, was approved by voters in 2007. It totaled $550 million for all city projects.

Denver is one of the core metro cities in this country that has flourished since the 2008 Great Recession, at least partially because the city’s business, civic and community leadership and voters have been willing to invest in its infrastructure and quality of life. The Millennials and empty nesters that have moved here in the last decade cite the vibrant cultural life as one of the city’s great attractions.

The bond improvements, which tax dollars are supporting, are often matched by prodigious private fundraising efforts. The Denver Art Museum’s expansion and reconditioning of its historic Ponti building will triple the impact of the public funds with more than $100 million of private gifts.

Because the institutions are regional and, in fact, top state cultural attractions, these improvements go to the benefit of the entire region and state. It’s one way Denver thanks the region’s voters for their support of the SCFD. In November 2016, Denver voters supported the Cultural District by 73 percent and voters in the seven-county region gave the District a 63 percent affirmation.

Prediction: Denver voters will, in a fashion similar to the 2005 bonds, strongly support Denver cultural facilities.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Polis and Tancredo Frontrunners for Governor

A nightmare scenario for Colorado’s political establishment is the possibility Congressman Jared Polis and former Congressman Tom Tancredo are the frontrunners for their respective party nominations.

If the crowded fields don’t reduce, the primaries could be won by 30 percent. In 2014, Bob Beauprez won with only 30 percent. Tom Tancredo, close on his heels, received 26 percent. If Tancredo runs, he potentially starts with a quarter of the party as the Trump/Bannon candidate. In the 2016 Senate primary, Darryl Glenn won the late June primary with 38 percent. The five-person field had Jack Graham in second at 24 percent and Ryan Frazier bringing up the end with 9 percent.

Democrats haven’t had a statewide primary since the 2010 U.S. Senate race, which only had two candidates, Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff. But the Democratic field looks strong with Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy, Donna Lynne, Noel Ginsburg and Jared Polis.

Each can raise some funds, have civic history, if not political experience, and knows the issues. If no one drops out, 35 percent is likely to be enough to win. Polis, with his name identity, congressional base and money, is in front, with the rest of the field all Denver-based not yet distinguishing itself and likely dividing the anti-Polis vote.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Iran Deal. In Trouble?

The Iranian nuclear agreement has little current American public support. Barely a third of the public (35%) favor it in a recent Fox News poll. In 2015 when the agreement had sufficient votes in the U.S. Senate to sustain a veto (42 senators committed, enough to sustain veto or filibuster a Senate resolution, September 8, 2015), most opinion polling showed a majority of the public opposed the agreement.

That reflected a fall-off in support from when the agreement was signed in July 2015 by the five members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany and the European Union. Several polls showed a barely informed public was supportive (when offered details of agreement, support went up 9 to 10 points) (see below).

President Obama, Susan Rice, Benjamin Rhodes, Joe Biden, Jack Lew
and Denis McDonough. Onscreen: John Kerry and Ernest Moniz,
 March 15, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 
Public opinion was in contrast to much of the foreign policy establishment and more liberal media, which considered it a victory for “smart, patient and disciplined diplomacy” as President Obama described it (some supporters felt it was simply the best deal under the negotiating conditions).

In general, as the debate proceeded in 2015, partisanship, pro and anti-Obama sentiment, and criticism of the agreement took a toll on its support. The bottom line is that Iran is not a popular country in the U.S.; its general behavior in the Middle East is controversial; and the agreement, for its benefits, still is a negotiated document with many unpopular compromises.

So not surprising, today the public is divided, with a quarter holding no opinion. There is a 28 percent difference in support between Democrats and Republicans, although even half of Democrats either oppose the agreement (21%) or don’t know (29%).

The future of the agreement, which is still supported by the other signatories, is in the hands of the Trump administration, Congress and the foreign policy establishment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Colorado Politics – Fake Polls

As we near the one year anniversary of the most tumultuous presidential election in the modern era, it’s time to reflect on the polls and reporting of November 8, 2016.

Most people believe the polls failed. And President Trump and his media team often criticize current unfavorable polls as fake and refer to that night. In the second article in Colorado Politics, the state’s top political website, I take on the Election Night reporting and analyses and the charge of fake polls.

Fake polls – just a Trump put-down or a real problem?

At a recent press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders brushed back a question from a CNN reporter about a Fox News poll that showed 56 percent of the American people saw President Trump as “tearing the county apart.” She used Trump’s favorite put-downs: 

“A lot of those same polls told you Donald Trump would never be president, and he’s sitting in the Oval Office as I stand here, so I don’t have a lot of faith in those polls.”

She then quoted a poll she liked about support for tax reform. Some polls are fake, others useful.

Listening to Sanders or Trump, you would believe all polling in the 2016 election was a disaster and entirely baseless. Clearly, the narrative going into Election Day created an expectation that turned out to be wrong. But the polling itself was mixed, with most state and national polls accurately capturing the final results. It is important to establish what happened in 2016 and correct any mistakes, as polling has become an essential element in protecting democracy in the Trump era.

Wolf Blitzer, Election Night 2016 | CNN

Friday, October 6, 2017

Crossley, Roper and Gallup Establish Presidential Polling and Remedy Early Errors

Political polling as we know it began more than 80 years ago. Soon after its introduction, the polling industry gathered in Central City, Colorado, in 1947 to establish itself as a professional association and define its set of rules. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) will return to Colorado for the first time since 1947 with its national convention in Denver next May.

The 1936 presidential election became the first election to include a statistically based presidential poll. The polling began as a curiosity, but today it dominates much of the national media coverage and political conversation.

In 1936, for the first time in a presidential election, polling pioneers Archibald Crossley, Elmo Roper and George Gallup put polls in the field for dozens of media clients, including the Hearst Publication and Henry Luce’s Fortune Magazine. The risk was high. A miss could doom their credibility and stifle a nascent industry – or at least delay it for several years. They predicted a Franklin D. Roosevelt win over Alf Landon, which refuted a projected Landon win by the heralded presidential poll of the era (non-random) sponsored by a national magazine, the Literary Digest.

After their winning result, the three pollsters became known as the “Trio of ‘36” and went on to conduct accurate polls in Roosevelt’s next two elections, 1940 and 1944. They gained personal renown and established the legitimacy of polling as an accurate gage of public opinion in high stake elections.
“Trio of ‘36”: Archibald Crossley,
George Gallup and Elmo Roper
Life Magazine, 1944

All three men, and especially Gallup, became proselytizers for frequent polling, arguing that it helped counter special and well-off interests from dominating government. They saw polling as a way of bringing the public to the table when policy decisions were made, especially during the periods between elections when specific issues arose that might not have dominated the most recent election.

Gallup posed: “Shall the common people be free to express their basic needs and purposes, or shall they be dominated by a small ruling clique? In other words, how does one make those holding high public office responsive to the needs and wishes of the public?”

But the 1948 election shook the new industry to its core. All three pollsters predicted Thomas Dewey, the Republican, would win the election over incumbent Harry Truman. And, as Truman famously quipped, “That ain’t how I heard it.”

The leaders of the profession realized that mistakes were made and that changes were in order. They acknowledged that they had prematurely quit fieldwork weeks ahead of the election in 1948, believing it was over. Most importantly, they recognized flaws in their sampling procedures and shifted to improve their random selection methods.

AAPOR was created after the first organizing meeting in Central City. It became the professional association that established the rules and ethics of the polling industry. The rules required that published polls provide basic information to readers, such as the date of the poll, sponsor, population polled, sample selected, questions asked and margin of error.

Gallup Inc. became an international company with polls conducted in many countries. Crossley’s specialty was surveys of radio audiences, but he continued to poll for political parties, leaders and public policy. His family, including daughter Helen Crossley, also a renowned public opinion researcher, established the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Roper operated a national market research firm and created a polling archive that became the Roper Center, first at Williams College, then the University of Connecticut and now Cornell University. Each made a lasting mark on a fledgling field that is now universally used to understand public preferences toward both domestic and international policies and leaders.