HOME   |    BLOG   |    ARCHIVES   |    CONTACT US  

THE V A R I A B L E | February 1998

General Election Close

Ciruli Associates
326 metro voters - 104 Dem. 115 Rep.
January 1998




Governor Republican
Don't know


Governor Democrat
Don't know


Senator Democrat
Don't know



Don't know


Don't know

A new poll of 326 metro voters shows that front-runners already have emerged in both gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primary races. But the vast majority of partisan voters still cite no early preference--leaving wide open the races for the state's top political seats.

In the Republican race for Governor, State Treasurer Bill Owens leads his challengers, but a new Ciruli Associates metro poll shows 83 percent of Republican voters are undecided. Owens' lead may be greater initially due to his popularity among voters more likely to turn out in a primary. But the race starts with most voters uncommitted.

Similarly, Democrat Lt. Governor Gail Schoettler leads opponent State Senator Mike Feeley 19 percent to 4 percent, but 74 percent of voters have yet to indicate a preference.

Only Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Dottie Lamm has a substantial lead in the first trial heat of 1998 over her opponent, State Senator Gil Romero. Due to her name identity, or at least the familiarity of her last name, she begins with 44 percent compared to Romero's 10 percent.

When metro voters were asked their choice between front-runners for Governor, Bill Owens and Gail Schoettler were essentially tied with 23 and 22 percent respectively (margin of error ±5%). Owens still holds an early advantage because Republicans dominate non-metro voter registration. (There is an approximate 100,000 Republican, non-metro voter advantage in registration and voting in recent U.S. Senate and Presidential elections.)

Dottie Lamm leads incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Campbell by one-percent (38% to 37%). Campbell maintains a statewide edge because of strong voter support from his old 3rd Congressional District constituents and the Republican partisan plurality in the out-state precincts. But Campbell should be concerned that his metro favorability rating is a modest 39 percent, and 22 percent have no opinion regarding Campbell.

Outside influences may change Colorado's political climate. A continued presidential crisis could create extraordinary opportunities for Colorado Republicans. It was Nixon's resignation and subsequent pardon in 1974 that paved the way for Dick Lamm, Gary Hart and Tim Wirth; the reverse could befall Democrats if Clinton's crisis worsens. Gov. Roy Romer's admission of a 16-year relationship with a former state employee could cast a cloud over state Democrats. But as of today, tough primaries and a closely fought general election are likely.

Bronco Glow Will Fade as Money Takes Center Stage

While metro Denverites love their Broncos, they still haven't fallen head over heels for a tax subsidy to build a new stadium. Polls immediately before and after the Super Bowl show a tremendous spike in support of building a new stadium, but several harsh realities will surface as the bowl glow fades:

Even with increased support (53% support in pre-bowl survey, up from 41% in 1997), there is still a strong core of people opposed to a stadium tax. And the level who "definitely support" (32%) is matched by the level who "definitely oppose" (29%).

Recent stadium elections around the nation have lost or been very close, as in San Francisco and Seattle, even when teams are popular. The pre-Super Bowl support level in the low to mid-50s probably a more accurate measure of support provides little cushion as anti-tax sentiment surfaces near election time.

As debate over the stadium tax progresses, focus will shift from Bronco players to team ownership and the tax "deal" offered to voters. As that happens, Pat Bowlen's negative ratings a phenomenon he shares with many of his NFL counterparts will become an obstacle to convincing the public that a subsidy is needed. Likewise, the public will have difficulty accepting multi-million subsidies at the same time television broadcast revenue becomes available, high player salaries are negotiated, season ticket prices rise and the value of the team continues to soar. Finally, there will be conflicting information from national experts on the economic value to the city of a tax subsidized stadium.

Metro Voters Following California's Lead

Like California voters who approved a ban on race and gender preferences in 1996 and who support strict limits on bilingual education in 1998, voters in the Denver metro area would approve limits on bilingual education and ban preferences in state employment and college admissions. A narrow plurality (46% to 38%) of Hispanics support a bilingual shift to immersion. Both Hispanic and Black respondents give majority support to a ban on preferences. While initiatives on these issues are still in discussion stages, proponents begin with support levels at or above 60 percent of metro voters.

In 1992, Coloradans defeated a school voucher proposal by 54 percent, which came as no surprise given that media polls leading up to the initiative showed it losing. But this year, the voucher concept gained 51 percent of metro voter approval. The proposal's increased level of support mirrors national surveys that show voucher approval rising in the face of bad news about local public school performance. Two of the groups offering the strongest support are Republican partisans, with 61 percent support, and Blacks, with 64 percent. A Colorado voucher proposal filed in late 1997 is currently in the legal process to be placed on the ballot. This proposal is different than previous initiatives and leaves much of the details to the Legislature. Whether the final details, as they are made clear, will alter public opinion is undetermined.

One of the most important issues being debated in the state Legislature concerns use of state surplus. When asked, 59 percent of metro voters preferred investing an expected 1998 surplus in K-12 construction and state transportation needs. The 59 percent is a somewhat lower level of support than similar polls conducted last summer and fall, which may be because the poll question references a substantially higher amount ($100) than 1997's refund.




©1998 Ciruli Associates. All rights reserved