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 for all city project $550 million.

Denver is one of the core metro cities in this country that has excelled 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.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Colorado Politics – State’s Premiere Political Website

I have been asked to join Colorado Politics, the state’s top political website, to provide regular analyses of state and national politics. My first article criticizes Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened.” I suggest Democrats would be better served for 2018 and 2020 examining why voters were so desperate for change that millions of them voted for someone they considered unfit for office.

The website, a creation of the Colorado Springs Gazette, incorporated the old respected Colorado Statesman into its platform. Top political writes, such as Joey Bunch and Dan Njegomir, guide the publication.

“What Happened”? Clinton’s book asks the wrong question 

Hillary Clinton will bring her book tour to Denver on December 11th. Tickets have already sold out. Unfortunately for her fans, Clinton’s long explanation of the 2016 election loss is focused on the wrong moment and wrong place to either identify the fundamental reasons she lost or to do much good for the Democratic Party’s need to re-position for 2020.

The question is not what happened in the last few days with Mr. Comey’s inexplicable poor judgement or the final 77,000 votes she lost by in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Rather, the question is how did Donald Trump collect 63 million votes after a majority of the public said he was unfit for office? How was she crushed in Ohio and Iowa, and how did she lose North Carolina and Florida – all states that Barack Obama and Democrats had won? “Change” has been judged the main force driving the Trump vote. The key to understanding the election, especially for Democrats, is to understand “change from what?”

Hillary Clinton | Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Korea: A Dangerous Moment

A politically weak president with no foreign policy or military experience confronts a 33-year-old, insecure, ruthless dictator. Both men control nuclear weapons. America’s generals have been cautious and restrained. North Korea’s generals follow the young man around with notebooks. A dangerous moment where language and misread intentions could lead to a violent escalation difficult to pull back.

The West, of course, can’t know North Korea’s public opinion, but American polls describe a wary public preferring negotiations and sanctions, but skeptical of their effectiveness. Still wanting to avoid war, but more willing to use military force than in the past. Importantly, they trust the military more than President Trump.
  • North Korea is an immediate threat – 50% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Can it be resolve only with economic and diplomatic efforts – Yes 43%, No 45% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Would you favor military action if diplomatic and economic efforts fail – Yes 58% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Other countries must participate – Yes 63% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Americans are against a preemptive attack (66%) and nearly all favor tougher sanctions (74%) (ABC/Washington Post, 2017)
  • Do you think the way Donald Trump talks about North Korea is helpful 23%, not helpful 70% (Fox News, Sept. 26, 2017)
  • Approval of Trump’s handling of North Korea – 36% (NBC/Wall Street Journal, Sept. 19, 2017)
  • The public trusts the military more than Trump

Wells Fargo – Behavior Affects Reputation

In the last two years, the reputation of Wells Fargo Bank has dropped six points of favorability in the Denver metro area, with an increase of 17 points in negative views from the residents of the region’s seven counties. Its unfavorable rating now nearly equals its favorable (41% favorable and 40% unfavorable).

In a survey conducted in June 2017 and compared to a similar regional survey in 2015, Wells Fargo has dropped from top position in the region’s banking community to behind Chase Bank and First Bank in favorability.

Although Wells Fargo has taken corrective action, continued stories about abuses probably require even more sweeping change.

Both surveys, 2017 and 2015, were conducted by Ciruli Associates by telephone – cell or landline – with 500 adult residents randomly selected in the seven-county Denver metro area. The margin of error is ±4.4 percent points.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Trump Takes on Professional Sports for Lack of Patriotism

In what most observers believe was a head fake to shore up his core supporters and to distract from another bad week in D.C., President Trump attacked NFL players and owners for a lack of patriotism for not forcing players to stand for the playing of the national anthem. Others felt it was simply Trump doing his tweet and troll routine about something that irritates him. He obviously knew it would rile up both his base and his opponents.

Trump may win short-term (early polls show more of public support anthem 49% than protest 43%, CNN 2017), but he has dramatically reinforced the Charlottesville problem. Although Trump and his advocates deny it, his language, audience, tone and targets give the presumption of playing to his base’s racial sentiments more credibility.

His action also adds weight to the primary weakness he has in finding support beyond his base – his character. The vast majority of voters now see him as a divisive figure, bent on dividing the country to serve his political interests and his personality.

Finally, he’s found another group of powerful, wealthy supporters, or at least supporting some of his policies, walking away from him. Like the corporate executives after his August 15 Charlottesville press conference, club owners see Trump as bad for business in a diverse, complex and interconnected economy. In this case, Trump took a marginalized movement of a few players and turned it into a cause célèbre uniting owners and players, but still potentially damaging the sport’s bottom line.

Of course, Steven Bannon, Trump’s Svengali, believes racial polarization is more valuable for his purposes than partisan polarization. And since much of the reaction to Trump is framed in racial terms, Bannon’s populist, anti-establishment movement may be helped. We shall see in November 2018 and 2020. But until then, there’s going to be a lot of power hitting.


The Dallas Cowboys | CNN