Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Supreme Court Tells Title Board to Step Up

After years of regularly approving deceptive and complex ballot titles, the Colorado Supreme Court finally told the Title Board to do its job and stop approving ballot titles with multiple subjects, often in deliberately deceptive language.

Kudos to the agricultural community for leading the fight on this initiative and to Mark Grueskin for his legal work. He’s Colorado’s best attorney on ballot titling and just performed a public service in this case. Grueskin also argued, although not adopted by the court, that the language was deceptive for the purposes of misdirecting voters’ attention to human sex with animals and pets instead of primary impact of commercial animal husbandry and recreational practices, such as rodeos. But at least the case was made and the deception exposed.

The court also struck a blow against the rural-urban divide that some Colorado political advocates like to exploit in ballot campaigns.

Colorado Politics: Justices block animal cruelty measure from ballot

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Welcome Back America, But Can It Last?

European publics and its leaders welcomed America back into alliance diplomacy without the disruption and overt hostility of the last four years. Recent polls from alliance countries show a dramatic increase in confidence in U.S. leadership (75% alliance-wide) and favorability of the country (62%) (see America is Back), up at least 28 points in each case after the end of the Trump administration (Pew, May 2021).

But at the same time, there is considerable skepticism that American democracy is functioning well. More than half of the alliance publics now believe the U.S. is not a good example to follow. More than half (57%) say it used to be, but not in recent years, and only 11 percent of U.S. allies describe it as a “very reliable ally.” 

Of course, America’s adversaries are fully aware of its weaknesses and exploit them at every opportunity. President Vladimir Putin in pre and post interviews at the latest summit with President Joe Biden, while denying suppressing internal Russian dissent, immediately points to Black Lives Matter and America’s racial turmoil as examples of worse behavior. Also, he references January 6 as an example of the U.S. government repressing dissent.

As U.S. intelligence documented, Russia, at least since 2016, has been using social media tools to emphasize American divisions, to denigrate American politicians and institutions, and to encourage chaos during U.S. elections. Hence, Russia both encourages U.S. division and chaos and then points to them to justify their behavior.

Monday, June 21, 2021

America is Back

“America is back” became a mantra of President Biden’s on his first overseas trip to allies at the G7 in Cornwall, England, and a NATO meeting in Brussels. Most allies welcomed America being back, supporting the alliance, the NATO commitment and multilateralism in general. 

Biden is right, at least America’s reputation is back from the collapse during the Trump presidency. The U.S. favorability as measured by Pew Research among 16 world democracies surged from 34 percent favorability at the end of Trump’s term to 62 percent in May 2021. Confidence in Biden personally is at 75 percent whereas former President Trump left office with a 17 percent confidence level.

Biden joins Western world leaders with a high level of confidence (77%) – much higher than Vladimir Putin (20%) or Xi Jinping (18%), the Russian and Chinese presidents, respectively. He joins at the highest level of public confidence with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (78%) and French President Emmanuel Macron (67%).

G7 leaders in at summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain,
 June 11, 2021 | Leon Neal/PA Media

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Putin Has Swagger, But Few Friends and Little Support

In the run-up to the Putin-Biden summit in Geneva, Vladimir Putin demonstrated his swagger with glib answers in an exclusive NBC interview, offered Iran intelligence technology to undermine the defense of U.S. troops in the region and launched war games off Hawaii. But, President Putin has few friends in the nations of Europe, which Russia is a part of, and little public support. When 16 democratic countries were asked their level of confidence in world leaders, Putin (20%) was near the bottom, with President Xi Jinping (18%) of China.

President Biden shared space with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (78%) and French President Emmanuel Macron (67%).

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet
at the U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021 | Reuters

One Billion Shots Worldwide

President Joe Biden began his first trip abroad announcing the goal of one billion vaccinations provided to WHO, which is responsible for worldwide inoculations. America will provide half the total and G7 allies the other half.

It was a spectacular start for the trip – a strong sign that the U.S. was reemerging into its traditional leadership role and a significant humanitarian gesture. Fortunately for Biden, his four-month focus on COVID-19 vaccinations has helped reassure the American public that the U.S. has the pandemic under control. They are supportive of the worldwide commitment for surplus doses.

And it’s desperately needed. As the U.S. ends its restrictions and nears 70 percent inoculated, the worldwide total of deaths and infections continues to grow with more than 3.8 million fatalities. It’s believed that 10 billion or more shots will be needed to contain the pandemic around the world.

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, Mario Draghi, Ursula von der Leyen,
 Charles Michel, Yoshihide Suga, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, at the top
of the G7 meeting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, June 11, 2021 | Reuters pool

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

AMLO in Office Three More Years as Mexico Descends into Criminality

Mexico is in danger of becoming the Afghanistan of the Americas with criminal gangs increasingly controlling large territories, including municipalities, by dominating or neutralizing their elected officials and law enforcement. They do this with massive wealth from drug trade and extortion of legitimate businesses, and horrific, relentless violence. They have mostly had impunity due to the passivity of federal government.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), in his third year of a six-year term, has formally adopted the approach of not using the power of federal law enforcement against Mexico’s criminal gangs, called as “hugs not bullets” – the view that cash subsidies and state-induced jobs would best address the problem.

In a new Gallup poll, six in ten Mexican citizens (56%) said they were afraid to walk alone at night (Gallup, 6-8-21). In addition to concerns about the level of crime, Mexicans are also threatened by the government’s inadequate response to COVID-19. The country has the fourth highest number of deaths in the world – U.S. (600,000), Brazil (448,000), India (370,000) and Mexico (230,000).

But AMLO and his party remain popular. In the recent legislative elections, his party, MORENA, lost seats, but maintained their majority (more than 250 seats, but declined by approximately 30) in the lower House due to grassroots support for his populist, anti-elite appeal. However, his loss showed dissatisfaction from many better educated urbanites in Mexico City and other municipalities.

Will AMLO adjust his strategy to the decline in support or become more authoritarian, a tendency many critics believe has accompanied his career?

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Vice
President Kamala Harris meet at Palacio Nacional in Mexico
City, June 8, 2021 | Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Read blogs:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

SCFD Supports Culture Through Shutdown

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) has been a significant economic generator contributing billions during its 30-year existence and employing thousands through its more than 300 member cultural organizations. And, of course, it faced the same crisis that local governments faced in early 2020, the beginning of the pandemic.

Although the seven-county sales tax collection for the SCFD was down by about 3 percent (2.8%) last year, it still managed to collect $64.3 million in 2020 compared to $66.1 million in 2019, which was a record. That was considerably more revenue than expected. A loss of 10 to 20 percent was projected early in the shutdown. The better tax performance indicated that the shutdown reduced activity after March 2020, but did not stop much of the spending that collects sales tax. The funding was desperately needed by metro Denver cultural organizations that had lost visitor revenue as they were mostly forced to turn away audiences, curtail programs and furlough employees. Many were able to provide virtual programming, but still suffered major losses of incomes.

Since this year’s reopening, regional sales tax collections have accelerated with a record-breaking pace. March tax receipts were up 36.6 percent compared to March 2020 and year-to-date revenue was up 13.4 percent. The April year-to-date is up a spectacular 17.2 percent. Revenue increases will likely begin to level off later in the year, but for there is a significant economic recovery underway. Most Denver metro cultural organizations have restarted their programs and are planning numerous summer events that were delayed last year. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Videos Now Available on Japanese Diplomatic Program

Watch Japanese and U.S. foreign policy experts discuss the new era in U.S.-Japan relations under the Biden and Suga administrations as they address the challenge of China and the goal to maintain a free and open Indo Pacific.

  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific and China session was held on March 24, 2021

  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific and the Quad session was held on March 29, 2021

Friday, June 11, 2021

Tokyo Olympics

Some media have speculated in the last few days that the Tokyo Olympics could be cancelled due to political opposition. Don’t bet on it. In spite of considerable controversy, the Japanese government and Prime Minister Suga are pushing ahead. And if you read news of athletes and the competition, excitement is building for the once postponed start.

Although the public in Japan are hostile to the event, mostly on COVID-19 grounds (60% of public in recent poll want the games cancelled), a recent poll in America shows that a significant U.S. audience is interested in the event and will watch. So, the Olympic Committee, the athletes and the Japanese Olympics will have an audience regardless of the delay and the protocols.

Americans are used to watching sporting events without fans and half the “population (49%) said they planned to watch part of the games,” that is about equal to the number of viewers of the Rio games in 2016 (51%). Sixty-two percent said the lack of fans will not deter them from watching it on TV. And sports fans are even more interested (65%).

The poll was conducted by Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University as part of their annual sports survey for their sports management program (May 2021).

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Immigration and Discrimination are Passion Issues, Crime May Be 2022 Sleeper

Five months into the Biden administration, the two political parties are far apart in what they believe are the key issues for Americans. Although both parties rate the economy and jobs as their top issues, they then diverge with Republicans citing immigration whereas Democrats rating inequality and discrimination as their next priorities. Note the differences shown in the table between the parties on those issues.

The challenge for Democrats in the 2022 election is that as the pandemic recedes and the economy revives, social issues tend to take up a strong position in the electorate’s issue space. The Republicans have been adept in recent years using social issues to animate their rank and file. Today, immigration and crime may be their most potent issues – both for their base, but also to rattle Democrats in swing districts. Democrats are most concerned about inequality, discrimination and the health system (public and private). Both issues that were important for their success in 2018, the last midterm elections.

Managing social issues between now and November 2022 will be essential to both parties’ strategies.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Biden Maintains Approval, Country in Better Mood

Like Donald Trump’s approval rating, Joe Biden’s has been steady, but unlike Trump’s, it’s positive. In fact, it’s nearly an inverse. In early June, former President Trump had a 39 percent approval and a 55 percent disapproval, or 16 point negative. President Biden has a 53 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval, or a 12 point positive rating. (Trump needed another year to get to 41% approval, his more common rating – Gallup.) (Data from RealClearPolitics, 2021)

Also, Americans are in a better mood. The 42 percent of Americans rating the country moving in a positive direction is a high since 2013, the Dow Jones Industrial average is up 13 percent since January and unemployment just dropped below 6 percent, the lowest since the pandemic shutdown started in March 2020.

Not surprising, Biden’s approval rating is polarized, with Democrats offering 88 percent approval, independents 55 percent and Republicans 16 percent. The 72 percent difference between the parties shows the strong polarization, but the 16 percent approval from Republicans is relatively high for recent times (Ipsos, June 2021).

Netanyahu and Conservative Majority Out

As I blogged on May 28, Bibi Netanyahu’s international political capital was running out. His American partners – the Trump administration and the Republican Congress – were, as of January 20, out of power. The Biden administration is much more interested in human rights and allies’ opinions. They put the Iran deal back in play. And while the Hamas war was decided mostly in Israel’s favor on the ground, it was largely lost in U.S. and international political opinion. It significantly contributed to the growing split in the Democratic Party and among younger, more educated voters away from the Israeli position vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Although Netanyahu’s loss of power is mostly related to internal Israeli politics, such as the desire to avoid a fifth election (4 previous in last 2 years) and simply removing Netanyahu from office (under serious corruption charges), he, in fact, was no longer an asset for Israel’s foreign policy.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Jack Graduates. First Class in the Post Pandemic.

KK & Floyd Ciruli with grandson, Jack Harris
Jack Harris, in a class of more than 700 in San Clemente, California, got to graduate with his classmates outside, and with some distancing, but no masks.

It was a great pleasure for KK and Floyd – the grandparents. Jack is going to San Diego State in a year that is off Zoom and on-campus. He’s ready.

As Virus Spread Slows, California is the State With the Most Fatalities

As the U.S. national death toll from COVID-19 passes 610,000, it has fortunately begun to decelerate as more than half the population is vaccinated. California just became the nation’s deadliest state with a death toll of 63,000, passing New York at 53,000, leaving Texas third with 52,000 fatalities.

This chart was last prepared on January 30 when there were 440,000 fatalities, an increase of 170,000 or 39 percent. So even with the start of an aggressive vaccination program, COVID-19 was a killer. 

Because the pandemic became a part of the 2020 election environment, every aspect – from masks, to shutting down, to the vaccination, now to passports – became part of polarized politics, leading a significant population resistant to pandemic appeals and mandates. Even today with the demonstrated success of the vaccination program polls regularly report about a quarter of the U.S. adult population refuse to get vaccinate (37% of self-identified Republicans).

One Million Deaths Between Mexico, India and Brazil; COVID Surges Worldwide

COVID-19 infections and death totals have accelerated outside of the most developed countries. And several non-western European and Asian countries that had appeared to master the virus have had recent surges. But, the main loss of life is concentrated in large third and second world countries with high poverty rates, inadequate health care infrastructures, and weak or conflicted leadership. The frontrunner nations with deaths outside of the U.S. are Brazil, India and Mexico – the epitome of weak health care systems, massive poverty and inconsistent leadership. These three countries represent nearly 30 percent of the world total.

While the world fatalities raced ahead by 1.5 million during the last four months (75%), Brazil and India death totals double. Many doubt some of the published numbers’ failure to capture thousands of deaths in homes outside of hospitals and other medical facilities.

The origin of the virus continues to be a controversy. A WHO investigation leaned toward an animal to human origin, but without certainty and lacking full Chinese cooperation. Doubts continue to be raised as to a possible lab origin. And President Biden just ordered an investigation using U.S. and willing partners’ sources of intelligence as to the likely origin. Not good news for China’s aggressive public relations foreign policy apparatus. When more than 3 million people die, knowing the true origin of the virus is a humanitarian and national security priority.

Roe v. Wade at Risk

The United States Supreme Court will take up Mississippi’s prohibitive abortion law next term. It could trigger a major reconsideration of Roe v. Wade to end it as a legal precedent or significantly limit its legal boundaries. And by 2022, many states have or would move to ban or limit it as much as allowed.

Abortion rights are a very polarizing issue, but a majority of the public does not favor overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • A 2020 Gallup poll shows the public describe themselves as either pro-choice (48%) or pro-life (46%), and that closeness has extended during most of the 20th century.
  • The latest Quinnipiac poll asks if Americans agree or disagree with the Roe v. Wade decision and 63 percent agreed and 61 percent did not believe it would be overturned.
  • A May 2021 Pew Research poll affirms what most polls show that a majority of the public accepts some restrictions, but leans toward abortion being legal in all or most cases (59%) as opposed to illegal in all or most cases (39%) – a 20 percent difference, 9 points above a majority.
  • Although political parties have become very polarized on the abortion issue, both parties have members who are willing to tolerate restrictions and not absolute rights or bans (Quinnipiac 2021).

As the table shows, 22 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats disagree with their respective majorities. Also, each party has about 40 percent of its members in the middle – accepting some restrictions, but not the extreme position.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

McConnell and Republicans Say “No” to Commission, Placate Trump and Hope Riot Goes Away

Mitch McConnell, in his most manifest partisan maneuver in this Congress, defeated the independent riot commission legislation that had passed the House. He didn’t win by much. He lost 30 percent of his caucus, including respected members, but he believes the media criticism he’s getting will pass and the strategy was worth it for his critical goal of winning back the Senate and his position as majority leader in 2022.

McConnell, as he strategized with his allies, saw the following:

  • Republicans must have Donald Trump on board and this commission was toxic to him and his already damaged reputation.
  • The riot is fading from view and the commission would provide a forum that would make it a continuing story with possibly a climax in mid-2022. Any “select committee’ can be more easily labeled partisan and obstructed when possible.
  • Most members of his caucus and the Republican base voters believe Trump was cheated and the Capitol riot is not that big of an issue and should be back-burnered. Seventy-four percent of Republicans say “too much is being made of it and that it is time to move on” (Quinnipiac, May 27, 2021).

Of course, it’s clear McConnell is gambling that Trump will be more an asset in November 2022 than a liability, the sense that democracy is endangered will fade as an issue and that the polls showing most voters don’t agree the riot should be forgotten are a snapshot in time that will not be a focus of attention next year. But 55 percent of Americans say events of January 6 were an attack on democracy and should never be forgotten. Democrats, with or without a commission, will do what they can to maintain the issue.

Trump supporters beset a police barrier at the Capitol
in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021 |John Minchillo/AP)

Geographer Wins 7th Fulbright

Congratulations to Professor Karen Barton of the University of Northern Colorado for winning her seventh Fulbright Scholarship award for research and field trips with her students. Exceptional use of geographic knowledge as a base for applying social science and the humanities to improving people’s lives.

Barton pictured with her son and the UNC student team at Chitwan
National Park in Nepal | Curtesy of Karen Barton via Greeley Tribune

Read: Professor wins seventh Fulbright award

Colorado Leadership Over Four Decades

The state’s five governors who have served since 1974 gathered in 2017 for a Denver Post forum. Roy Romer, the oldest at 92, and Dick Lamm (85) are retired, but still express their views. The only Republican in the 47-year span is Bill Owens (70). Bill Ritter (64) is the youngest member of the group and is the only one born in Colorado (Aurora). Owens and Ritter recently wrote an opinion column in the Denver Post. Finally featured is the most recent ex-governor and current U.S. Senator, John Hickenlooper (69).

The picture captures a sense of the five personalities with Hickenlooper talking, Ritter and Owens looking reflective, Romer ready to jump in, and Lamm known as gloomy is still looking unhappy.

Former Colorado governors (L to R) Richard “Dick” Lamm,
Roy Romer, Bill Owens, Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper at a
Denver Post forum, May 25, 2017 | Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post

Friday, May 28, 2021

Trump Can Run for President. Not Good News for Republicans in 2024.

Donald Trump leaves White House for last time
as president, Jan. 20, 2021 | David J. Phillip/AP
The Republican Party’s preferences concerning Donald Trump are a reverse of the American people’s.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University confirms what many polls have shown with a couple of nuances. Former President Donald Trump has overwhelming support among Republican Party identifiers. Trump is the dominant figure in the party, even if not on a visible or official platform today. His endorsements will be especially powerful in the 2022 elections. This poll suggests the Republican Party is Trump subsidiary.

  • 66% of Republicans say Trump should run for president. Only 30% say he shouldn’t run.
  • 85% say candidates running for elected offices should agree with him. Only 10% say candidates should mostly disagree.
  • 66% say President Biden’s win was not legitimate. Only 28% say it was legitimate.

But, there is a problem. The American people – a majority of whom were never sold on Trump (he never got over 50% approval) – say they do not want him to run again, do not prefer candidates who mostly agree with him and believe Biden was legitimately elected.

  • 66% of Americans do not want Trump to run again. Only 30% say he should run.
  • 39% want candidates who mostly agree with him, 53% don’t
  • 64% believe Biden’s win was legitimate, 29% say not legitimate

Americans Still Support Israel, But It’s Becoming Partisan

Prime Minister Netanyahu has accomplished much since the last Gaza war between Israel and Palestine in 2014. But circumstances are moving away from him. One of his primary advantages the last four years was the Trump administration, and it’s now gone. The new American government is attempting to restore negotiations with Iran and is much more interested in leading world opinion on democracy and human rights issues, which are at the core of the dispute. In addition, it is sensitive to the pro-Palestinian faction in the Democratic Party.

Although Israel still has considerable support among Americans, Netanyahu’s alignment with anti-Iranian Republicans and former President Trump has made that support vulnerable to the partisan shifts in American politics. In addition, the rise of the racial/ethnic justice movement, especially since the George Floyd demonstrations, has shifted sympathy to Palestinians as an oppressed population of color among the activists left. Progressive spokesperson and New York Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been highly vocal defending Palestinians and criticizing the Biden administration for not calling for an immediate cease fire.

Overall, 58 percent of the public favor Israel in the dispute, but only 43 percent of Democrats versus 80 percent of Republicans. Democratic support is vulnerable to shifting away from Israel. (Gallup, March 2021).

Although the current crisis has receded, the underlining correlation of forces is not moving toward the Israelis.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting
a barrage of Gaza rockets | Photo: The National 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Has Support

President Biden’s foreign policy started with considerable energy, from meeting with Asian allies, a tense dialogue with China, renewed negotiations on Iran, a well-attended climate summit, and a host of reappraisals of polices, including North Korea. But the action with the most immediate impact was deciding to withdraw all Afghanistan combat forces by September 11, 2021. Although this was accompanied by hopes that negotiations with the Taliban and Afghanistan government made progress, these were not conditions.

The U.S. military hand over Camp Antonik in the southern
 Helmand province to Afghan forces | Photo: AFP

The U.S. entered Afghanistan directly after 9/11 with the goal to end it as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda operations. That was accomplished quickly, but Osama bin Laden escaped. The U.S. mostly ignored the conflict during the Iraq War (2003 to 2011). President Obama was pressured to add troops in 2009, which he did reluctantly and with a timeline. President Trump tried to withdraw, but ended up adding personnel again against his preferences in 2017, but the end was in sight and later, an agreement specified the U.S. leave by May 2021.

This war has been over for American public opinion for years. There has been a low level of awareness or support for it after the start of the Iraq War. In an April 2021 poll by The Economist (YouGov), 58 percent of U.S. adults approved withdrawing troops this year. No doubt, reflecting a Democratic president made the decision 74 percent of Democrats approved.

Beyond the terror threat, there is little interest in taking responsibility for democracy. In 2019, Brookings Poll (University of Maryland Critical Issue Poll), only 26 percent of the public agree ensuring liberal democracy should be a goal. The fact a stable government never emerged, the violence continues and hardship will increase is a tragedy, but the American people do not believe it can be their responsibility.

Russia’s Propaganda Floods Belarus and Helps Subvert Democracy

At the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) recent virtual national conference, I moderated a panel on “Politics, Information and Disinformation.” One of the papers presented by Professor Natalie Rice of the University of Tennessee (with colleagues) tracked Russian and Belarusian propaganda and disinformation surrounding last year’s disputed election. It included a discussion relevant today as Belarus falls more deeply into authoritarianism. She identified the power of propaganda and disinformation directed by governments of Presidents Lukashenko and Putin to influence public opinion to accept the disputed election results. One of her observations was that local online supporters of the Belarus president and Russia’s interest were more extreme and intense in their support than the official media. 

Four additional papers were presented on the public information, especially disinformation, and the challenges in trying to correct misperceptions.

Session 4: Politics, Information, and Misinformation

Moderator: Floyd Ciruli, Ciruli Associates

Rural-Urban Divides, Partisanship, and Misinformation in Science: How Rural Resentment Moderates the Effect of Partisanship on Misinformation in Scientific Issues, Tomoko Okada, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Misinformed or Uninformed? The Prevalence and Consequences of Certainty in Political Misperceptions, Brian Guay, Duke University

The “Echo Chamber” and Its Impact on Political Knowledge, John Huffman, Growth Focused Insights and Research

Effectiveness of Russian Propaganda/Disinformation in the Near Abroad: The Case of Belarusian Presidential Election – 2020, Natalie Rice, University of Tennessee (others)

Public Attention to Information in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Campaign, Josh Pasek, University of Michigan (others)

Thousands of people have gathered outside the state television
station in Belarus demanding full coverage of protests against
the disputed presidential election | Reuters

Gun Policy is Stalled Because Americans are Closely Divided on Enforcement

On a number of critical attitudes that lend support to stricter gun legislation, the public is either ambivalent as to the law’s efficacy or divided often on partisan and race or ethnic factors. For example, although half (49%) of the public believe gun violence is a “big problem,” only 39 percent of Whites believe that it is compared to 82 percent of Black adults and 58 percent of Hispanics. Importantly, only 53 percent of Americans say gun laws should be “more strict than they are now.” And the issue is polarized on partisan line with 81 percent of Democrats in favor of stricter laws, but only 20 percent of Republicans. In fact, there were more Republicans (27%) in favor of “less strict” laws than more (Pew Research, April 2021).

Possibly the most serious restraint on legislative action is the public’s ambivalence as to the efficacy of the laws. The public is closely divided as to whether or not gun laws work either to deter mass shootings or to reduce crime in general. It is very hard to build majority support for legislative action when the public is closely divided and polarized on the proposed solutions and doubtful as to their effectiveness.

Police work on the scene outside of a King Soopers grocery store where a
shooting took place in Boulder, Colo., March 22, 2021 |David Zalubowski/AP

Thursday, May 20, 2021

AAPOR Dissects the 2020 Polls

A Wall Street Journal headline shouts out: “Trump-Biden Was Worst Presidential Poll Miss in 40 Years,” which was the opening statement from a presentation at the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) report at their 2021 national conference.

The opening bullet point of principle researcher, Professor Joshua Clinton of Vanderbilt University, was a little out of context in what appears to be a thorough investigation of the performance of national and state polls in the 2020 election. Fortunately, AAPOR president, Dan Merkel, put the task force work in a broader context from his perspective as head of ABC News Elections. In his presidential address, he pointed out that well-identified under-polling of Republican and Trump-preferring voters led to an overall error rate that was still modest given the challenges in 2020 and was diminished after the final votes were counted.

The 2020 pandemic election, with record early voting and voter turnout and the ceaseless attacks on the media and polling by former President Trump, created circumstances that made polling more difficult, but also showed the industry’s  resilience and adaption. In fact, polls were very accurate in the 2018 election and the January 2021 Georgia senate runoff.

The final AAPOR report is due later this summer and will, no doubt, lead to adjustments in polls as the 2022 and next presidential races begin.

Polling’s future will be discussed at the June 9 OLLI Zoom presentation.

See: Polling in 2020 and Its Future

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

President Biden’s First 100 Days – Key Points

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, as Vice
President Kamala Harris (L) and House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi look on, April 28, 2021 | Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

The first 100 days of a new presidency is an historical standard established during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s rush to meet the crisis of the Great Depression in 1933. The number of days is arbitrary and the standard subjective, but it has been used by presidents, politicians, the media and historians as an early indicator of leadership style and policy ever since.

University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, with the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Center on American Politics, hosted a presentation by political scientists and experts who reviewed President Joe Biden’s First 100 Days in office and the implications for America’s future domestic and foreign policy.

Tom Cronin - Former President of Whitman College, McHugh Professor of American Institutions at Colorado College

  • The Democratic Party has unified, while the opponents are as fractured as they’ve ever been. The Republican Party has no message and no messenger. That won’t last. Their strategy will be to pounce on failures.
  • One of Biden’s chief challenges will be keeping the Democratic Party together. Biden has so far been a left-of-center moderate liberal, rather than ultra-liberal. He needs to stay the course in order to keep the center alive.
  • Work on police reform, infrastructure and immigration could possibly bring lawmakers across the aisle together for compromises.
  • A lot of people are worried about climate change and COVID, but many are deeply worried about the health of our democracy.
  • Biden deserves credit for getting Xi and Putin to join him on climate change discussions.

Andrea Benjamin - Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma

  • A veteran delegate at the Democratic Convention stated that if Blacks, especially Black women, don’t show up, Democrats won’t win.
  • The word for people of color is accountability. On Day One, Biden signed a racial justice executive order. We are watching closely to see if he comes through.
  • U.S. cities have had a majority of people of color for a long time, but they have few black mayors. Republicans totally dominate in many states with large black and brown populations. Yes, the country is growing more diverse, but it’s not translating to political power.
  • [Actions Biden could take for Black and Brown voters:] African Americans have high student loan debt, and he could follow through with loan forgiveness and moving funding to historically Black Colleges and Universities. He could work on voting rights and access. Wealth disparities and health disparities also need to be addressed.

Seth Masket - Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver

  • Biden learned from the experiences of the Obama administration. The work that Obama did reaching out to Republicans was probably not a wise move. Many of the concessions he made probably hurt the economic recovery and bought Obama no Republican votes. Biden learned not to wait around for compromise.
  • He has the smallest margin possible in the Senate and a very narrow margin in the House. Ted Kennedy died 9 months into the Obama administration and ended the majority in the Senate. It’s possible that some Senators also may not be there though the end of 2022. He is trying to get as much done as possible as soon as possible.
  • On highly salient issues, the parties are as polarized as we’ve ever seen. They don’t speak the same language. Democrats are doing things they’ve said have been needed for years. Republicans are worried about Dr. Seuss and hamburgers.
  • Immigration was a misstep from Biden. He was trying to rapidly ratchet down the amount of immigrants, and saw pushback from Democrats.

Floyd Ciruli - Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

  • Biden focused on the pandemic and the economy. They were the public’s top priorities.
  • It was a winning strategy. He now has a positive approval rating and strong approval on handling vaccinations and relief checks. He is 10 points higher than Trump after his first 100 days in 2017.
  • To maintain Democratic Party unity, Biden issued a record number of executive orders, reversing many of Trump’s orders. His appointments rewarded many constituencies. The relief legislation was massive, which also helped assuage the left wing of the party.
  • Style and tone matter and Biden’s low-key style and moderate language were welcomed by Washington and the country. Not dominating the daily news cycle with daily commentary and insults was judged positively.
  • The administration mastered Zoom and has voided gaffs. The White House staff is functioning well and the chaos and leaks of the previous four years have mostly receded.

Jeremy Haefner – Chancellor of the University of Denver

The Chancellor asked what grade would the presenters give Biden: he received four A-’s with caveats related to immigration, social justice issues and the looming 2022 election.

Read more on the Biden Gets an A- for First 100 Days blog.

View the discussion from the May 4 panel.

Watch Video

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Video Now Available on “President Biden’s First 100 Days”

Did Biden make the grade in the first 100 days? Hear nationally known professors rate President Joe Biden in a discussion led by University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner with professors Tom Cronin, Andrea Benjamin, Seth Masket and Floyd Ciruli.

The May 4 program was sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Center on American Politics.

Watch Video

Biden Gets an A- for First 100 Days

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, as
Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
look on, April 28, 2021 | Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

The University of Denver panel of political scientists and experts asked to grade President Joe Biden’s first 100 days settled for an A-, with a few caveats.

The group, made up of professors Tom Cronin, Andrea Benjamin, Seth Masket and Floyd Ciruli, saw Biden overcoming a disastrous transition and benefitting from low expectations. His success with managing the vaccination program and passing the massive relief legislation were high points that earned him the first positive public approval after President Trump’s four years. Having avoided gaffs and given several successful presentations, including press interactions and a speech before Congress that helped drive his agenda.

In the discussion, which was moderated by Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, I pointed out that, while focused on the pandemic and economic relief, he also signed a record number of executive orders (42) to reverse what Democrats considered Trump’s most egregious actions and help handle the myriad of constituencies and issues needed to maintain Democratic Party unity. Also, he used appointments to address constituent and party agendas. In addition, the massive relief expenditure ($1.9 trillion), which was more than twice President Obama’s economic stimulus of 2009, helped assuage liberals that their concerns about economic support and inequity were getting attention.

The group suggested Biden’s lowering the rhetorical volume and heat contributed to his success. Style and tone matter – Trump was the un-Obama, very loud, hostile, anti-establishment (including for Republicans McCain. Flake, Bush and Romney) and especially in opposition to the media. Whereas Biden is the un-Trump – very low-key, focused on a moderate tone, a sharp contrast in behavior and language. He’s deliberately not dominating the news cycle everyday with personal commentary and opinion.

The generally upbeat assessment had several caveats. Immigration management appeared repeatedly in for criticism. The understandable tension between humanitarian improvements and the surge of new arrivals was not anticipated, accompanied by mixed messages and not well- managed as it developed. The administration argued the lack of information and cooperation during the transition contributed to the chaos, but the political damage with both supporters and immigration opponents was done. From the left, there was criticism that there are many expectations that have not been met and political realists pointed out that there is a significant chance Biden could lose his majority in both houses of Congress next year.

So, a good 100 days, but many challenges in the next 600.

Trump Really Didn’t Like Merkel and It Mattered

Former President Trump made clear in actions and statements that he did not like Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic. His public criticism began early in the 2015-16 campaign over his views of her poor handling of immigration. And, it continued into the administration with numerous references to his long-term belief Germany was a NATO defense freeloader and taking advantage of the U.S.’s friendship on trade. He believed European unity was more an economic threat than security benefit. His penchant for hyperbole and opposition to the German-Russian gas pipeline led him to argue that Germany was controlled by Russia. Interactions with Merkel tended to range from perfunctory to rude from White House visits to G-7 summits. It finally led the normally diplomatic and cautious Merkel to announce that Germany and Europe need to begin to think beyond depending on the U.S.

Not surprising, the hostility affected public opinion. In a series of European-wide polls, Germany consistently scored the least favorable toward the U.S. For example, more than half of Germans believed “Americans can’t be trusted” (53%) and 73 percent believed the U.S. needs major reform.

Although President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are dedicated to restoring trust and rebuilding the partnership, and there is residual good will in Germany, a great deal of damage was done.

View a more detailed political account on the discussion of what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

KK Ciruli and Real Estate

KK Ciruli owns Distinctive Coast Properties in San Clemente, California.

European Governments Dealing With Pandemic, Recession and Two Key Elections

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel are leading their parties into elections with considerable uncertainty. Along with dealing with surging pandemics and lagging economies, Russia has been staging a military build-up near Ukraine, adding even more tension.

In describing the political environment of a country or region (EU), knowing the approval rating of the leader and their governing coalition and the date of the next election is important. Macron’s popularity (41%) has been highly vulnerable due to various unhappy constituents, and now crime and violence is a major issue. The right, especially far right nationalists, are a threat in next year’s election. In Germany, Merkel remains popular (72%), but her coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union have been losing local elections and haven’t settled on a candidate to replace Merkel as she steps down. The left, especially the Greens, have been gaining strength in an election scheduled later this year.

See video of political scientists discussing what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Read blog: Biden’s Task – Restoring Trust

Monday, May 10, 2021

Biden’s Task – Restoring Trust

In a recent poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations, Europeans in 11 democracies expressed major reservations concerning America’s political stability and dependability as an ally. A majority (61%) of the population believe the U.S.’s political system is broken and a third of Europeans don’t think they can depend on the U.S. for defense (53% of Germans). Very importantly for the Biden administration, Europe believes China is on the rise and they should be neutral between the rising U.S. and China competition.

When media, academic and political opinion leaders are asked why the huge distrust in the American system, they cite the circumstances around the 2020 election, the system’s general gridlock and the chance in 2022 conditions could get even more fractured. The question one hears most often is: How could Donald Trump, after his track record, get 74 million votes?

See video of political scientists discussing what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Donna Cirullo Moreschini of Pueblo – Rest in Peace

Donna was a kind and beautiful person whose nickname was “Honey.” My sister was a lifelong Pueblo resident and married one of the nicest people known, Leo Moreschini. Donna and Leo owned and lived on what is a Ciruli corner in the St. Charles Mesa, the home of members of the family since it arrived from Schiavi di Abruzzo, Italy in the 1890s. The rich farming area was the original home of Ciruli Oil and Ciruli Brothers Produce (now in Rio Rico, AZ).

Donna was born in 1928 and was one of the last of an early generation of Ciruli children that remained in Pueblo and the Mesa and she and Leo fostered family gatherings and maintained homemade food traditions. Coming together to make ravioli for Christmas was a family and Mesa favorite event. We miss Donna and Leo, and their passing has made all they did for the family and the Mesa even more appreciated.

See obituary here

Friday, May 7, 2021

Video Now Available on “How Our European Allies View America”

What do our European allies think of America today – and did the 2020 election change their views? For better or for worse? 

Hear international public opinion experts discuss the impact of the 2020 election and the implications for American foreign policy in the future. It is part of Crossley Center’s series of public opinion research and commentary on major issues of American domestic and foreign policy for the University of Denver community and public. 

The April 21 program was supported by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver's Political Science Department.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Heidi Ganahl a Frontrunner to Take on Governor Polis

University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl |
Photo via Colorado Times Recorder
Gabrielle Bye in an April 29 post in the Colorado Times Recorder collects political impressions about Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl’s possible run for statewide office in 2022. My bottom line assessment was she could be a frontrunner contender, but Colorado is still a major challenge for Republicans. My quotations follow.

Ganahl a Top Contender

Pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli believes that Ganahl is a top contender to run for another statewide position in 2022.

“She would be a front-runner for almost any position in the state, and one of the few people that would have some statewide credibility,” Ciruli told the Colorado Times Recorder. “…With both Republicans, and I would say–I don’t think the public knows her that well–but what I would say would be the ‘attentive public.'”

Additionally, Ganahl, as a female entrepreneur in an education role, also gives her an advantage, says Ciruli.

“I think being a woman would also help; being involved in education, I think, is very positive for her,” said Ciruli. “I know Republican leaders are often putting together panels or speaking groups, and they almost always like to have her and recommend her. So I think my opening statement that she would start in a very good position is true.”

An Uphill Battle in Colorado

“The real question is,” said Ciruli, “…can a Republican take this on, given the recent track record at least since 2018, which brought, as you know, the Democrats to every constitutional office in the state, and was reinforced by Cory Gardner, and the president doing so poorly in 2020? So, that’s the difficult road.”

That being said, Ganahl still has a fighting chance, Ciruli believes.

“Being the governor is not an easy job these days,” Ciruli said with a chuckle, pointing to yearly polling during the onset of the pandemic, when Governors Cuomo and Newsom were popular. “…Now, [governors] are just struggling, and Mr. Biden is at maybe 54% popularity. Mainly because they had to make so many difficult decisions, and this pandemic has not gone away. It keeps resurging and disappearing, and of course, we’re so polarized over whether you want to wear masks and whether we should close things down. So I do think the governor has some vulnerabilities, because he’s been the governor in a very difficult time.”

Ciruli also suggested that some pandemic points of contention, like whether or not to open the schools, can give Ganahl a platform to run on.

Compared to other members of the GOP who are easily categorized as extremists, Ganahl carries a more moderate image, both analysts said.

“That may be the benefit of being a regent, which is seen as a little less partisan, even though we all know obviously that there are Democrats and Republicans [on the board],” Ciruli said.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Will Colorado’s New Congressperson Be a Democrat or Republican?

Colorado’s redistricting process over the next several months will be the major factor in deciding the partisan composition of the 2022 congressional delegation. In a KOA interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, I pointed out that all seven of the current congressional districts will be significantly changed because they are all over 720,000 in population – the new size of Colorado’s districts. The Denver district of Diana DeGette has 852,000 residents, and Ken Buck’s 4th district on the Eastern Plains, including Douglas County, is the largest with 868,000. Even the smallest district – Lauren Boebert’s Western Slope 3rd district – has 756,000, or about 36,000 over the new guideline.

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli and Marty Lenz
Colorado’s population increase over the last 10 years was twice the national average of 14.8 percent and added 744,000 new people, or about the size of a congressional district. The new district will be primarily located in the Front Range where the bulk of the new population settled. Because of the state’s current partisan disposition, it will likely lean Democratic, but it could be very competitive, For example, combining Republicans in Douglas, western Arapahoe, south Jefferson and possibly north El Paso counties create a seat that Republicans could win.

Of course, parties and other advocates will do everything they can to shape the partisanship of the final district maps, but there are always surprises. In the 2000 census, Colorado got its 7th district, which was placed in western and northern parts of the metro area. The first winner was Republican Bob Beauprez, but in 2006, Democrat Ed Perlmutter won the seat and has held it since.

Voters in 2018 created a new independent commission to review the census data, gather public input and weight the legal criteria, including equal population, compactness, keeping cities and communities together where possible, and new criteria of competiveness. The commission is assisted by State Legislative staff and must send their recommended map to the Colorado Supreme Court in time for it to reach a decision by December 15. Given the delays in the arrival of the census data, the commission will have a tight timeline, and Colorado politicians an anxious fall.