Monday, November 1, 2010

Western Voter Issue Drivers

Education is a Compelling Electoral Issue

Despite the recession, we have seen poll after poll show strong opposition to education budget cuts, especially those that result in job losses for educators and increased class sizes. Voters fundamentally believe that the way to make America strong economically is by ensuring our children are equipped with the skills necessary to be competitive in the global economy. In the West, candidates are using education in their paid communications efforts as a defining electoral issue.

In Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico, PNW polling shows voters favor approaches to balancing state budgets that avoid cuts to education spending.

o In Colorado, only 25% of likely voters favored cuts to state government spending if that meant cutting K-12 education. Only 16% of Colorado Hispanic voters favored the cuts. [1]

o In New Mexico, only 19% of likely voters favored cuts to state spending including education. Only 17% of New Mexico Hispanic voters favored the cuts. [2]

o In Nevada, 82% of likely voters oppose a proposal to cut $300 million from K-12 education.[3] 70% of Hispanic voters in Nevada believe that state funding for public should be increased.[4]

o Even in deeply conservative Idaho, 81% of likely voters opposed a plan to cut nearly $130 million from K-12 education.[5]

  • In the campaign battles, candidates like Sharron Angle (NV) and Ken Buck (CO) have avoided repeating their primary-season calls to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. In both states, their opponents have attacked them directly for this position.[6]
  • Education cuts are especially toxic among the crucial and growing bloc of Hispanic voters. In Nevada, PNW polling among likely Hispanic voters shows 80% opposed to Angle’s position on education funding and eliminating the U.S. Department of Education.[7]
  • Education issues are extremely important to younger voters, both 18-29 year olds and voters under 50 with children.
  • Ken Buck’s comment about eliminating federal college student loans has been used as a line of attack on television advertisements by the Bennet campaign and DSCC. [8]

Social Issues Continue to Divide Republicans, and Turn off Independents

Conservatives may have overplayed their hand when it comes to social issues. They have sought to use issues such as abortion as a wedge, and it seems to be backfiring. The extreme position some candidates have taken on the abortion issue – outlawing it even in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the health of the woman – puts these candidates and their supporters far out of the mainstream of westerners. It also flies in the face of the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party.

  • 83% of likely Colorado voters, including 78% of Hispanic voters, do not believe abortion should be outlawed. Only 13% of Colorado voters say that abortion should not be legal.[9]
  • In Colorado, a measure has been placed on the 2010 ballot that would not only outlaw abortion, but would also ban many forms of birth control and some fertilization treatments. A similar amendment was defeated in 2008 by over 70% of Colorado voters. A recent Denver Post/Survey USA poll showed only 15% of voters supporting this measure, Amendment 62.[10] Every major Colorado Republican candidate has taken the extreme position on access to abortion services and endorsed the personhood amendment, in order to court support during the GOP primary.[11]
  • Ken Buck’s extreme position in support of the personhood amendment and against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, has been used by both the Bennet campaign and DSCC against him in paid communications.[12]
  • PNW polling shows that this amendment increases interest in voting among key Democratic constituencies like single women, 2008 surge voters, and Hispanic voters.[13]
  • In a recent poll in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, GOP Candidate David Schweikert’s position on abortion was troubling to 66% of likely voters in the district.[14]

Voters Strongly Support the New Energy Economy

The West has been on the front-line of both the emerging “new energy economy” and the debate over where to drill for oil and natural gas. Not only is the West rich in alternative energy resources but westerners understand how critical it is to become independent from foreign oil and to create jobs that can’t be easily outsourced overseas.

  • PNW polling shows that voters across the West say that investments in solar & wind energy are a better choice than drilling for oil & natural gas on several key dimensions like “in America’s best interest,” “reducing dependence on foreign oil,” and “creating jobs in your state.”[15]
  • Especially after the BP Gulf-oil spill, PNW data confirms that candidates lose support if they take money from oil companies. 79% of likely Colorado voters said they would be less likely to vote for candidate who took tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from big oil companies. 77% said that they would be less likely to vote for someone who supported tax breaks for big oil companies.[16]

Immigration is Not a Top Issue for Hispanic or Anglo Voters

While conservatives are trying to use immigration as a wedge issue, western voters of all ethnic backgrounds and ideologies continue to rank jobs, the economy, and education as their top priorities. That said, PNW has found that western voters want Washington to take action and address immigration reform and border security. Nowhere is the evidence for this stronger than in Arizona. While a majority of voters supported Arizona’s controversial new state immigration law (SB1070), even more voters supported a comprehensive federal immigration solution. Voters supported SB1070, not because of the specifics of the law passed, but because they want to see federal government action on this issue.

  • Just after the passage of SB1070, PNW polling in Arizona showed that 73% of likely voters supported comprehensive immigration reform including 76% of those that were identified as Republicans, 74% of Anglo voters, and 73% of Hispanic voters. Only 60% of all voters in the poll supported Arizona’s SB1070.[17]
  • PNW polling among Hispanic voters in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas shows that jobs and education top their concerns, above immigration. There is great intensity among Hispanic voters on these issues.

o In Nevada, 50% of Hispanic voters said jobs and the economy is their top concern, while only 18% cited immigration.[18]

o In Texas, immigration was the 5th highest concern among Hispanic voters behind education, jobs and the economy, reducing household costs, and reducing the national debt.[19]

[1] Myers Research & Grove Insight Poll in Colorado; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; Mar 17-22, 2010

[2] Grove Insight Poll in New Mexico; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; Jan 7-22 2010

[3] Grove Insight Poll in Nevada; 500 Likely Voters Statewide; Jan 24-30, 2010

[4] Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Likely Voters Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010

[5] Grove Insight Poll in Idaho; 500 Likely Voters Statewide, Mar 10-14, 2010

[6] Harry Reid Campaign, Department of Education video:

Michael Bennet Campaign, Department of Education video:

[7] Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Interviews Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010

[9] Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Colorado; 600 Statewide Interviews with an oversample of 200 additional Hispanic voters; Sep 8-15, 2010

[11] Amendment 62 Supporters:

Ken Buck (Senate):

Dan Maes (Governor): [Accessed Oct 12, 2010]

Cory Gardner (CD4): video located at

[13] Myers Research Poll in Colorado; 850 Registered Voters; Dec 1-19, 2009

[14] Harstad Research Poll in AZ5; 500 Likely Voters; Sep 13-16,2010

[15] Harstad Research & Westen Strategies Poll in CO, NV, MT; 900 Likely Voters – 300 in each state; Oct 8-13, 2009

[16] Benenson Strategy Group Poll in Colorado; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; July 21-24, 2010

[17] Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll; 500 Statewide Interviews with an oversample of 100 additional Hispanic voters; May 6-12, 2010

[18] Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Likely Voters Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010

[19] Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Texas; 500 Hispanic Likely Voters in Harris, Hidalgo, and Cameron Counties; Aug 24-31, 2010