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Poll: Colorado’s unaffiliated voters favor Democrats, strongly dislike Trump

Author: Ernest Luning - June 19, 2018 - Updated: June 21, 2018


Unaffiliated voters in Colorado plan to vote in the Democratic primary in sharply higher numbers than in the Republican primary, a poll released Tuesday shows.

What’s more, the unaffiliated voters who say they plan to vote in the November election hold significantly more favorable views of the leading Democratic candidates for governor than the leading Republicans.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted by Alabama-based Republican firm Cygnal Research for Let Colorado Vote, the organization behind Initiative 108, the ballot measure approved by voters in 2016 that lets the state’s 1.2 million active unaffiliated voters cast ballots in the major parties’ primaries.

It’s the first public polling released this year to gauge the overall leanings of unaffiliated voters, who make up 38 percent of Colorado’s electorate. (Democrats and Republicans each account for 30 percent of voters — Democrats hold a slight edge — with the remainder belonging to minor parties.)

Mail ballots went out in early June to the nearly 3.3 million active registered Colorado voters. Through Tuesday morning, more than 425,000 ballots had been returned, the secretary of state’s office said, including almost 100,000 cast by unaffiliated voters. Voters have until 7 p.m. June 26 to make sure county clerks receive their ballots.

In addition to sponsoring the poll, Let Colorado Vote chairman Kent Thiry, the CEO of Denver-based kidney dialysis giant DaVita, said the group plans to kick off a TV ad campaign to let unaffiliated voters know they can cast ballots in the primary.

“We are early in our journey, as independents become aware of their new right and discover candidates they find exciting. In addition the parties and individual candidates are also early in their journey, to learn how to engage these voters,” Thiry said in a statement. “This infusion of new and engaged voters is great for Colorado.”

The poll found  46 percent of unaffiliated respondents said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, while 27 percent said they would participate in the Republican primary. Just 19 percent said they didn’t intend to vote until the fall election.

Almost 7 in 10 unaffiliated voters — 69 percent — hold an unfavorable view of President Donald Trump, including 57 percent who say they view the Republican very unfavorably.

Asked how they feel about the two major parties, 53 percent of unaffiliated respondents said they hold a favorable view of the Democratic Party, compared to just 34 percent who feel that way about the GOP.

The telephone survey also found the three leading Democratic candidates for governor are better known and generally held in higher esteem by unaffiliated voters than the two leading Republicans.

Democrat Jared Polis, a five-term congressman and the front-runner in recent polling, has the highest name recognition and favorability score, with 67 percent of unaffiliated voters saying they’ve heard of him, and 42 percent saying they view him favorably.

Polis was followed by Cary Kennedy, a former state treasurer, at 56 percent name recognition and 36 percent favorability among unaffiliated voters, and Mike Johnston, a former state senator, with 43 percent who’ve heard of him and 28 percent reacting favorably.

Republican front-runner Walker Stapleton, the state treasurer, is slightly better known among all unaffiliated respondents than Johnston — 46 percent say they’ve heard of him — but his favorability rating is upside down, with only 19 percent holding a positive view of him and 27 percent viewing him negatively.

Thirty-six percent of unaffiliated respondents say they’ve heard of Republican businessman Victor Mitchell, and 19 percent view him favorably.

Half of respondents said they hadn’t received any personal contact encouraging them to vote in the primary, though 66 percent said they’d seen, heard or read about the primary candidates.

Asked to name the three most important issues to decide which candidate to support, the unaffiliated voters ranked education on top, followed by health care and then jobs and the economy.

Those voters who said they’ll vote in the Democratic primary, however, ranked the environment as their top issue, followed by education, health care and transportation issues.

The unaffiliateds who plan to vote in the GOP primary pegged immigration as their most influential issue, followed by crime and safety, jobs and the economy, and taxes and spending.

The polling firm conducted live telephone interviews June 5-7 with 600 likely Colorado voters who are registered unaffiliated. Forty-two percent of calls were placed to landlines, and 58 percent went to cell phones. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 4 percent, pollsters said. The sample was weighted to reflect a likely statewide general election turnout of unaffiliated voters.

Here’s the TV ad Thiry’s group is airing:

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.