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Preview of Presidential Election

by Floyd Ciruli
August 2000

Denver Metro Area Provides Good Presidential Test

The Denver metro area is an excellent vantage point from which to watch a national presidential election. The metro area's vote represents 55 percent of the state total. In addition, it is nearly balanced in partisan identification. Although the state tends to vote Republican overall, the metro area tends to reflect the national vote. For example President Clinton lost the state in 1996 but won and carried the metro area by 6 percent, similar to his national margin.

Metro and State Voter Registration
Metro State
Republican 33% 35%
Democrat 32% 30%
Unaffiliated 35% 35%
Source: Ciruli Associates, 2000

Historically a competitive statewide Democrat candidate must carry the metro area by four to eight percentage points to make-up for the strong out-state advantage of Republicans. As mentioned, President Clinton won the metro area in 1996 by 6 percent but lost statewide to Bob Dole by 2 percent. In the close Wayne Allard versus Tom Strickland Senate race in 1996, Strickland won the metro area 51 to 47 percent but lost the state to Allard by nearly the reverse amount (46 to 51%). Allard made up the difference in the non-metro areas with a decisive win of 56 to 41 percent.

Bush wins Denver Metro Area
A July metro Denver survey shows George W. Bush leads Al Gore by 2 percentage points (41% to 39%).

The survey provides a view into the major trends effecting the presidential race and shows why Bush has been winning trial heats since early spring.

Observations from Metro Denver Presidential Election Poll

  • George W. Bush is 2 percentage points ahead of Al Gore in the Denver metro area (41% to 39%). Bush would win Colorado against Gore by 6 to 10 percentage points. While Democrats have only won two presidential races in the last 40 years, the last three races have been close; Democrats won in 1992.

  • Third party candidates, Nader and Buchanan, are receiving 10 percent of the vote. More marginal third party candidates traditionally get 2 or 3 percent of the Colorado vote. As in the last two presidential elections, the winner will most likely not receive a majority (50 percent) of the total vote.

  • Al Gore's candidacy is being hurt by Democrats who do not respect President Clinton. Both Clinton and Gore have higher negative favorability ratings than positive.

  • In a reversal of recent Republican fortunes, Bush is winning more support from women in the Denver metro area than Gore (41% to 40%). Bush is also winning 31 percent of Hispanic voters, a marked improvement over recent Republican performances in the 1996 presidential race and in the 1998 California statewide elections.

  • Bush has support from 79 percent of self-identified Republicans whereas Gore's support is 75 percent of Democrats.

Third Party Candidate

When third party candidates Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan are added to the mix, Bush's lead over Gore remains the same. Nader currently receives 8 percent of the vote and Buchanan only 2 percent. The third party candidates both nationally and in Colorado have about 10 percent of the vote. If the race remains close between the two front runners, the next president will likely win with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Nader attracts more votes from Gore than Bush. He draws 23 percent of his support from Bush and 31 percent from Gore. Committed independents are Nader's largest source of support. While Buchanan only receives 2 percent of the total vote he draws 63 percent of it from Bush and only 11 percent from Gore.

Statewide Results

The latest metro survey confirms the trend of a potential Bush win in Colorado first seen in polls in late 1999. As of this most recent metro survey, Bush would win Colorado by 6 to 10 percentage points.

In October 1999, Bush lead 55 percent to 26 percent. In the March 2000 presidential primary Bush lead by 8 percent.

Clinton High Negative Rating

As recorded in numerous earlier surveys, Clinton and Gore continue to have higher negative ratings than positive. Clinton captures respect from 44 percent of voters but receives an unfavorable rating from 49 percent of voters. Gore is behind 45 percent to 44 percent negative to positive.

Governor Bill Owens is the most popular political leader tested with a 57 percent favorable rating.

Clinton Fatigue

When a comparison of Clinton's favorability rating is made with support for Gore among Democrats, it is clear that Clinton fatigue part of Gore's problem. Support for Gore drops dramatically as disapproval of Clinton increases among Democrats.Gore and Bush Support Among Democrats and Clinton's Favorable Rating

Gore and Bush Support Among Democrats
and Clinton's Favorite Rating
Clinton Rating
Among Democrats
Gore Support Bush Support
Very Favorable 92% 2%
Somewhat Favorable 79% 7%
Somewhat Unfavorable 33% 33%
Very Unfavorable 42% 17%
Ciruli Associates, N502, Metro,2000

Bush Wins a Third of Hispanic Voters and Majority of Women

Bush's goal of increasing his share of Hispanic voters appears to be succeeding. He is now supported by 31 percent of Hispanic voters. Studies of Republican support among Hispanics in the 1998 California Governor's race and the 1996 Presidential race indicate that 20 percent or less voted Republican.

As of today the gender gap has disappeared and Bush is winning the support of women in the Denver Metro area. He also holds a 3-point advantage among men.

Bush Unites His Party

Bush has a 5 percent advantage in uniting self-identified Republicans (79% Republican support), compared to Gore who has only 74 percent of Democrats.

While the advantages listed above are not large when combined with the Republican strength in the non-metro areas of the state, Bush wins Colorado by a substantial margin. However, the Denver metro area is a bellwether for the more closely balanced national electorate. As of this survey Bush has a slight advantage.

Presidential Election History

In the past 40 years only two Democrats, Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Bill Clinton in 1992, have won Colorado's presidential electoral votes. However, that record hides the closeness of recent races. Mike Dukakis only lost by 8 points in 1988. Clinton won by 4 points in 1992 and only lost by 2 percent in 1996. Colorado also shows a fondness for independent candidates (voters gave double digit support to John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992).

Presidential Election Results
Year Candidates Party Pct.
1964 Johnson
1968 Nixon
1972 Nixon
1976 Ford
1980 Reagan
1984 Reagan
1988 Bush
1992 Clinton
1996 Dole
Source: Ciruli Associates, 2000

Unaffiliated Voters

Another factor making Colorado politics interesting to compare with national trends is the rapid growth among less predicable unaffiliated voters.

While Republicans continue their registration lead over Democrats (by 156,000 votes) unaffiliated registration is nearly equal to Republicans (only 18,000 voters separate unaffiliated and Republican registration). Out of more than a quarter million new registrants the last two years, 47 percent, or 112,000, declared unaffiliated.

Voter Registration
1998 - 2000
1998 2000 Difference
Republican 914 990 76
Democrat 783 834 51
Unaffiliated 860 972 112
Source: Ciruli Associates, 2000

  • Telephone survey of 502 six-county metro area registered voters conducted by random digit dialing.

  • Interviews conducted June 30 to July 7, 2000

  • Statistical range of accuracy plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

  • Conducted for publication on Ciruli Associates web site - www.ciruli.com

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