Thursday, November 4, 2010
Not that long ago, it would have been almost unthinkable that the West would be the firewall for Democratic control of the Senate this election. The influence of this region in American politics will continue to grow as we look forward to 2012 and beyond due to a variety of factors including population growth, the rising influence of Hispanic voters and the powerful role that Independent voters play in the West. Now that results are almost all in, Project New West is beginning to look under the hood at the trends that shaped 2010 and what this means for the future.
Western Independence: In the West, the truth is that you can’t paint the region with one broad brush stroke and neither party should take any state or demographic group for granted. President Obama’s path to victory in 2012 will likely run through Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico - states that should never be put in the category of red or blue, because that’s not how Westerners view ourselves or our candidates. That independent streak is one of the key reasons why Senator Harry Reid, Senator Michael Bennet and Governor-elect John Hickenlooper won their races. They understood that Westerners want problem solvers and not partisan ideologues.
Any candidate who does not have a deep understanding of our region’s profound culture of independence will have a blurred vision of how the West is won. The “Tea Party” candidates of the West faired so poorly because they did not reach out to independent voters and members of the other party. Sharron Angle even refused to talk to media outlets that she didn’t consider friendly. Westerners reject that kind of approach.
Based on exit polling, Senator Reid, Senator Bennet and Governor-elect Hickenlooper won a solid majority of voters in the West who identify themselves as moderates. Project New West has spent a lot of time trying to understand the electorate beyond party labels. One key metric is whether voters consider themselves to be liberal, moderate or conservative. PNW internal polling throughout the cycle showed that moderate voters were leaning Democratic and the public exit polls are confirming this stayed true through election night.
In Colorado, moderate voters made up 38% of the vote – and they went for Bennet 60-36%. In the Governor’s race, Hickenlooper polled 64% among moderates, Republican Dan Maes received 10% and former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo had 25% on the American Constitution Party ticket. These 2010 numbers are very close to Obama’s 2008 performance when he was supported by 63% of moderates in Colorado. Compare that to 2004 when John Kerry only won 54% of Colorado’s moderates and lost the state.
In Nevada, moderate voters supported Senator Reid 65%-31% and made up 41% of the vote. Senator Reid actually outperformed President Obama, who had 64% in 2008. In 2006 in Nevada, Democratic candidate Jack Carter only won 49% of Nevada moderates in a loss to Senator John Ensign.
Hispanics in the West: Another critical factor in the West is the role Hispanic voters will continue to play as their numbers grow in this region and across the country. For example, turnout in Nevada among Hispanic voters was at record levels for a non-presidential year. According to Catalist voter file analysis of the early and absentee voters, the number of Hispanics who early voted in Nevada nearly doubled since 2006, representing a 3.4 point or 44% increase. Hispanics in Nevada represented an equal share of the 2010 early/absentee vote as they did in 2008 early/absentee. In Colorado, Hispanic early and absentee voters represented 0.9% more of the electorate than in 2006 and only 1.6% less than 2008.
A key factor in understanding Hispanic turnout and candidate preference is to understand that this community is not monolithic in its issue priorities, socio-economic background or language usage. In this election cycle, we saw Hispanic voters were no different than the general electorate. Their priorities were jobs, the economy, education and health care. However, immigration became a factor when conservative candidates used it as a vehicle to conduct racially charged campaigns against their Democratic opponents. If Democrats continue to fight for issues important to Hispanics they will continue to garner their support.
In 2010, two Republican Hispanic candidates for Governor won – Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada. However, Hispanic voters overwhelming supported the Democratic candidate in those races based on PNW’s polling of Hispanic early voters. Rory Reid received 66% of the Hispanic early voter and Diane Denish had 21 point advantage over Susana Martinez among New Mexico Hispanic early voters. Why? Because Hispanic voters just like women, chose their candidate preference based on issues not identity.
Gender in the West: We are also seeing that gender played a significant role in western races. According to national congressional exit polls, men voted Republican 55% to 42% Democratic in Congressional exit polls. On the flip side, women were closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, 49 – 48%, compared to 57-43% in 2008. However, we have noticed something unique in Colorado and Nevada where westerners bucked national trends.
In Nevada, Harry Reid won women voters by 11 points, 53-42%, and only lost men by 2 points, 46-48%. In Colorado, the gap was ever greater, Michael Bennet won the female vote by 17 points, 56-39%, and lost men by 10%, 54-40. In the race for Governor, John Hickenlooper tied Tom Tancredo among men with 44% each, but Hickenlooper beat Tancredo by 30 points, 59-29% among women.
So why were Senators Reid and Bennet and Governor-elect HIckenlooper so much more successful at appealing to both women and men than Democratic candidates in other parts of the country? A big reason was that their opponents used social issues to motivate their conservative base in a region that takes a “live and let live” approach. Western voters want to see a government focused on jobs and the economy, supporting education, and providing community services to support our unique Western quality of life. They don’t want the government intruding into their personal lives.
Looking at the West as a whole, Democrats have made significant gains in the past decade. In 2000, Democrats had zero Governors, 3 Senate seats and only 6 of 25 congressional seats. After 2008, they held 5 Governorships, 17 of the 28 seats in Congress and 7 U.S. Senate seats. In 2010, Western Democrats felt the anti-incumbent anger, particularly towards Congress and they now hold 10 congressional seats, 2 Governorships and 7 U. S. Senate seats. The winners and losers of the West going forward will be determined by who digs deep to understand our region, our values and our voters.
Note that Project New West compiled this information from our internal polling and analysis, Catalist analysis and publicly available Edison Research exit poll data access from CNN on November 3, 2010. Exit poll results occasionally shift as the data is weighted to accurately reflect the electorate, particularly among sub-groups.
Find this article posted at the Huffington Post.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Senator Harry Reid is tied with Sharron Angle among those who voted early and by mail in Nevada. The automated poll conducted by Project New West and America Votes of 3,244 Nevadans showed both candidates receiving 47% of the vote from those who have already cast their ballot.
Not surprisingly, respondents to the poll said the major issue drivers in this election were jobs and the economy (43%), healthcare (19%) and education (8%).
The Project New West/America Votes poll was conducted October 29 – 30, 2010, among 3,244 respondents dialed from a list of Nevada residents that had already voted. The survey was conducted using integrated voice response (IVR) technology and has a margin of error of +/- 1.72 % at a 95% confidence interval.
Looking at State Legislature control, there are four key states to look at tonight. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Nevada all have the potential to change control in at least one of their chambers.
Contentious budget battles will be waged in each state as they aim to rectify revenue shortfalls. With Nevada and Arizona continuing to have high unemployment rates, 14.4% and 9.7%[i] respectively, along with some of the worst foreclosure rates in the country (Nevada ranks #1 with Arizona close behind at #3[ii]) both states will face considerable challenges as they approach this coming session.
The other major priority in the coming session will be redistricting. Both Arizona and Nevada are projected to gain a Congressional seat each in reapportionment, Colorado maintaining its seven seats and Montana remaining to have a single at large seat.
The redistricting process is different for each of these states. However, final approval must be voted on by the Legislature and approved by the Governor. For a listing of each state's process NSCL is a good resource.
In Colorado, Amendment 62 has been placed on the 2010 ballot that would define a fetus as a human being and therefore not only outlaw abortion, but it would also ban many forms of birth control and some fertilization treatments. A similar amendment was defeated in 2008 by over 70% of
In 2008 most Colorado Republicans opposed the Personhood measure. But, early in the primary election season this election cycle, most if not all of the major Colorado Republican candidates for office supported the “Personhood” measure in order to court support during the GOP primary. Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Coloradoans oppose this measure and we are seeing candidates in the general election back away from their earlier support of it. Project New West’s poll of early voters in Colorado shows that 60% of voters reject Amendment 62. Since his initial endorsement, U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck has attempted to distance himself on this initial endorsement of this measure.
Ballot measures were a signature mark of the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th century. The West continues to be the predominant region in the country where ballot measures occur. This year voters were asked to decide on a host of issues through the ballot measure process that tackle the size and scope of government and severely diminishing public services. Many of these measures, like those in
Economy & Taxes
The citizen-initiated measures are the most controversial and significant. Amendment 60 would cut in half the property taxes for school districts and require the state to make up the difference. It would impose property taxes on authorities and enterprises while repealing previous local voter-approved decisions on property taxes. It would charge property taxes for existing public entities such as airports, hospitals and water authorities through an amendment to the Colorado constitution. An estimated 8,000 teaching jobs will be cut and class sizes would increase proportionally.
Amendment 61 would forbid the state to borrow for long-term public construction projects (
Vehicle fees support local governments’ road and bridge maintenance, local school districts and other local funding. Telecommunications fees support
Montanans will vote on a controversial payday lending ballot measure that will cap interest rates on payday loans as 36% (Initiative I-164). Currently the limit on payday loan interest rates is 650%. Proponents argue that
Two states in the West have ballot measures that center around legalizing marijuana.
Arizonans are asked to vote to eliminate the state’s First Things First early child care program. This program would eliminate essential services such as quality child care, early literacy programs, oral health treatments for children, and programs that work to prevent childhood obesity. This proposition was made in order to help balance the state’s budget.
Colorado's Amendment 63 is designed to prohibit the state from imposing either a federal or state mandate requiring a person to purchase health care coverage. An individual mandate is one of the significant provisions in the federal health care reform legislation - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
A measure on the ballot in
Abortion/ Personhood Amendment plays key role in keeping vote close
The automated poll of 1,836 Coloradans indicated that Senator Michael Bennet had a slight edge over Ken Buck among people who already voted - 47% to 46%. This is significant in light of the fact that there have been a larger proportion of registered Republicans voting early than Democrats. According to the Colorado Secretary of State on Monday, Republicans had a 61,520 person advantage of ballots cast by their party via mail and in person. With more than a million ballots returned thus far, Colorado looks to be headed toward record turnout in a midterm election and the U.S. Senate contest could go down to the wire, as Bennet’s lead is within the margin of error (+/- 2.29).
Bennet leads unaffiliated voters with 51% and is garnering support from nearly two thirds (65%) of Hispanic voters. Women are also outpacing men in turnout among early voters 52-48% and Bennet leads women by four points.
“The four point gender gap highlights the major role abortion and social issues have taken in the Colorado Senate race,” said Project New West President Jill Hanauer. “No one expected these issues to be front and center and in
Among voters supporting Buck, the support for the so-called personhood amendment, on the ballot today, is split with 38% of Buck voters saying they voted against Amendment 62 and 47% saying they voted to pass the amendment. By contrast, only 6% of Bennet supporters registered their support for the amendment. It is clear that the issue caused a wedge among Buck’s traditional base and cost him votes, at least among this early voting sample. The so-called personhood amendment was put on the 2010 ballot in
For either candidate to win today, they needed to appeal to unaffiliated voters, who have been slower to return their ballots or vote early. Field efforts on both sides of the aisle have been geared to persuade independent voters and then to get their supporters to the polls.
The Project New West/America Votes poll was conducted
Monday, November 1, 2010
Counties to Watch:
- Maricopa, home to Phoenix, has well over half of Arizona voters.
- Pima, home to Tucson, and much of CD7 (represented by Raul Grijalva) will be crucial for Democrats.
- Pinal between Tucson and Phoenix is a potential swing area.
- Arizona is an outlier this election cycle, where the issue of immigration has been front and center up and down the ballot due to a controversial immigration law, SB1070 and anger at Washington for inaction on this issue.
- Arizona, once the second fastest growing state in the nation, suffered even more than most states economically during this recession.
- Jan Brewer was considered vulnerable in the spring and faced two credible Republican challengers.
- She was largely unpopular early in her tenure and was has been referred to as the "accidental Governor."
- In May of 2010, she promoted a statewide sales tax increase that was ultimately passed by 64%. She was largely criticized for this tax increase within her own party and faced two serious primary challengers.
- Shortly following the tax vote, Brewer signed SB1070. The controversy propelled Governor Brewer's approval ratings significantly and her primary challengers left the race.
- Although this law has been popular with Arizona voters, polling conducted by PNW, showed that even more favored comprehensive immigration reform. 73% of Arizona voters surveyed supported a federal solution while only 60% supported SB1070.
Counties to Watch:
- Larimer, Jefferson, & Arapahoe are suburban counties that swung from Bush to Obama.
- El Paso & Douglas are the GOP's strongest major counties. Will they support Dan Maes or Tom Tancredo, who used to represent Douglas in Congress?
- Denver turnout will be crucial for Bennet and other statewide Democrats. In 2006, Democrats lost down ballot races when Denver city voters had to wait in line for hours.
- John Hickenlooper chose not to run any negative campaign advertisements despite frequent attacks from the other side. Some have criticized that choice saying that it made him more vulnerable in a general election. Will this decision get him support from Independent voters and Republicans?
- Tom Tancredo's Next Move: In three months, he's gone from being a marginal failed Republican presidential candidate in 2008 to coming within single digits of winning the Governorship in recent public polling. PNW can't be the only people out there considering the impact of a Palin / Tancredo GOP Presidential ticket. In fact, on Election Eve, Palin endorsed Tancredo in the race.
- Will Republican Dan Maes get 10% of the vote? If not, the Republican Party could be relegated to "minor-party" status affecting their ballot access and fundraising in future elections.
- Gender Gap: Ken Buck's gaffes started in the primary against Jane Norton. Democrats have hammered him on social issues, especially his position in support of the controversial 'personhood' anti-abortion ballot measure that was overwhelmingly defeated in 2008 and is back in 2010. If Bennet gets the support of independent women, and even a small number of moderate Republicans, it may put him over the finish line. No one expected social issues to play the role that they did in Colorado.
- Over $40 million was spent on the Colorado Senate race and the race is a dead heat.
- We know roughly where Bennet will position himself in a full term on the issues. However if Buck wins, does he join the "Tea Party" caucus or will he be an independent western voice for Colorado?
Counties to Watch:
- Ada & Canyon are the home of Boise and the Treasure Valley. Both have experienced tremendous population and economic growth over the past decade, increasing demand for roads and schools.
- As a state where Republicans dominate every level of government, Idaho will be a good barometer of the strength of the anti-incumbent mood this year.
- Long-time Idaho politician Butch Otter is running for re-election as Governor. Democratic candidate Keith Allred has run an aggressive campaign, highlighting Otter's decision to cut school funding to balance the state budget.
- Election Day turnout may be a deciding factor. Idaho allows same-day voter registration, which previous PNW research shows heavily favors Republicans.
Counties to Watch:
- Bernallio, home to Albuquerque, is the population center with 30% of New Mexico voters.
- Sandoval & Valencia are two exurban counties that swung from Bush to Obama
- Lea is southwest the home of Harry Teague and Diane Denish but typically votes Republican.
- New Mexico Democrats control not only the Statehouse and Governor's mansion, but all five federal representatives and six of seven statewide offices. Despite successes in 2008, New Mexico is still a swing state.
- Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish appeared to be in good shape early in 2010 to win the Governor's race. However, the anti-incumbent mood was leveraged by Republicans to paint the election of her race as a third term for Bill Richardson.
- The Republican Governor's Association backed a Hispanic woman candidate in the GOP primary. Susana Martinez used her experience as a county prosecutor to position herself as a tough on crime, corruption and border security.
- Hispanics make up 41% of the voters and support Obama overwhelmingly. It will be interesting to see Hispanic turnout and performance in an off-year where Martinez has been actively courting them.
Counties to Watch:
- Clark, home of Las Vegas and surroundings, contains 70% of Nevada votes, including CD1 & CD3. Winning Democratic candidates usually get 52% of the vote in Clark. Most of the state legislative battleground are here (SD5, 8, & 9).
- Washoe on the northwest border with California flipped from Bush to Obama.
- The anger of Nevada's voters over the worst unemployment and housing numbers in the country was evidence early on when the GOP voted out their sitting incumbent Jim Gibbons.
- Rory Reid suffered from the anti-incumbent sentiment due to his position on the Clark County board and his last name.
- Brian Sandoval has run as a moderate and stayed away from Sharron Angle and the right wing of his party.
- It will be interesting to see what the gender gap is in this race between a Democratic man and a Republican woman.
- How will Hispanic voters turnout and perform after controversy over immigration and anti-Latino television ads?
- Partisan turnout will be crucial since only 20% of Nevada voters are unaffiliated or third party.
- Voters in Nevada have the unique choice of casting a ballot for "none of these candidates" in addition to several third party candidates like Scott Ashjian of the Tea Party.
- Early voting returns suggest that more Democrats have voted than Republicans although Independent voters could swing either way.
Counties to Watch:
- Salt Lake will need to go heavily Democratic for Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon to win. Salt Lake County has grown rapidly over the past decade, and its population has become increasingly culturally and racially diverse.
- Weber and Utah are key suburban counties outside Salt Lake
- When popular Governor John Huntsman joined the Obama administration as Ambassador to China, he was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert, who is considered significantly to the right of Huntsman.
- In this strongly Republican-leaning state, Democrat Corroon chose Republican State House Representative Sheryl Allen to be his running mate against Herbert.
- Herbert suffered some serious ethical issues during the campaign which tarnished his image in this devoutly LDS state
- Corroon has run a strong campaign but the state leans heavily Republican.
In many western states, early and mail-in voting has become the primary method of voting. In 2008, only 21% of Colorado voters went to the polls on Election Day. Typically, the voters who return their ballots fastest are hard partisans on both sides. Interestingly, men typically return their ballots or vote early at a faster rate than women. Since Democrats need women and unaffiliated votes to win, this means that the final get out the vote push will be crucial to their prospects.
Historically, Republicans have had an advantage in absentee voting by mail. This year seems to be no exception. However, Democrats should be encouraged that they are voting in larger numbers in Nevada and New Mexico. Of course, no one can tell how people are actually voting, so partisan defectors and independent voters will hold the key to the results on election night.
Project New West and America Votes will be releasing Colorado poll results early Tuesday morning. Check back here at 10 am MDT for this unique look at early voters and numbers in the crucial U.S. Senate election. Here is a swing state breakdown:
According to Catalist voter file data, CD1 & CD8 are divided roughly evenly by partisanship, so Independent voters will most likely swing those. CD3 is heavily Republican, while CD7 is heavily Democratic. In CD5, Congressman Harry Mitchell will need to get strong support from Independent voters to overtake a minor Republican turnout advantage.
According to America Votes data, Republicans have a 52,000 person advantage of ballots cast by their party.
Democrats will need a final push to win statewide. They may get support from the over 240,000 unaffiliated voters have already cast a ballot.
Democratic turnout efforts have been calibrated to go after late voters in the final few days. And of course, Colorado’s large unaffiliated vote may swing enough to decide the race.
Statewide, if Independent voters don’t break towards the Democrats by some margin, it could be a rough night. Women have been a major target of Democratic efforts. If Michael Bennet can get even a small percentage of Republican women to support him, he will be positioned to win.
In CD4 & CD3, more Republicans than Democrats have voted, but that is consistent with registration and previous years, when Democratic candidates won. In CD7, Democrats are outvoting Republicans by a small margin.
According to America Votes data in Nevada, Democrats are in good position in Nevada. Democrats comprise 43.5% of the early & absentee voters, Republicans 40.6%, unaffiliated voters are 11.3%, and minor party voters 4.3%. In overall numbers, over 11,000 more Democrats have voted than Republicans. Republicans have a slight edge in intensity, as 37.8% of their registered voters have cast a ballot compared to only 35.0% of Democrats.
CD3 numbers are extremely close to the statewide margins: Democrats have 43.3% share and Republicans 40.6%, which translates to a roughly 5,000 voter advantage.
In New Mexico, we are showing Democratic voters outpacing Republican voters statewide by about 8,500 votes with many more Democratic voters left to return their ballots. During the last two weeks, Democrats and Republicans were returning ballots at similar rates, however there has been a noticeable increase in Democratic voters over the past 5 days. In CD1 & CD3 Democrats are voting in much higher numbers than Republicans. In CD2, Republicans have a slight edge.
The key questions are which way are the 16% of New Mexico’s independent voters leaning and will there be a higher percentage of Democratic voters that support Republican candidates than in 2008?
2010 Campaign Spending
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2010 Campaign Spending
Partisan Voting Index by The Cook Report, http://www.cookpolitical.com/sites/default/files/pvistate.pdf