Just more than a week before the election, polls show Democrat Jared Polis with a lead over Republican Walker Stapleton in the race to be Colorado’s next governor.
In the state’s other high-profile race, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman appears to be trailing Democratic challenger Jason Crow in the suburban Denver 6th Congressional District.
Polis has held comfortable leads over Stapleton — outside the margin of error — in every publicly released poll conducted since the candidates emerged from crowded primaries in late June.
Crow, meanwhile, has led Coffman in six of the last seven polls conducted in the battleground district, and they were tied in the odd one out.
In addition, polling conducted this month by Colorado-based Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling firm, found Democratic voters significantly more interested and enthused than Republicans — a near-complete reversal from the situation four years ago, before the last midterm election.
In two polls of likely voters released this month, Polis, a five-term congressman from Boulder, led Stapleton, the two-term state treasurer, by 7 percentage points. Magellan Strategies conducted both polls, with Democratic firm Keating Research partnering on one of them.
The results mirrored a survey taken this summer by Public Policy Polling for the Colorado Democratic Party, which also found Polis ahead by 7 percentage points.
Two other statewide public opinion surveys released this month showed Polis leading Stapleton by even wider margins — 11 and 12 percentage points — but neither attempted to model voter turnout, a measure pollsters consider crucial when it comes to predicting election results.
The battle between Coffman and Crow for the 6th CD seat — which could determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives — has drawn unprecedented attention and spending this year, topping lists of the most expensive congressional races in the country for most of the last month.
Polling in the congressional race has been less consistent than in the governor’s race, but Crow has led by between 5 and 11 percentage points in surveys conducted since Labor Day, except for an internal poll released by the Coffman campaign that showed Crow leading by just 1 percentage point.
Perhaps as remarkable as the leads the Democrats have held in polls of Colorado voters has been the scarcity of publicly released polling this election compared with 2014, when voters last picked a governor and other state officials.
Between the primary election and this point four years ago before ballots were due, at least 32 polls of likely voters had been released in the governor’s race, while only three have been released this year. Colorado’s last gubernatorial contest was a real horse race that went down to the wire, polls showed. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was seeking a second term, and Republican Bob Beauprez traded the lead in polling all summer and into the fall — with 10 polls finding the race dead even, including one conducted just days before ballots were counted. (Hickenlooper won by just over 3 percentage points.)
The contrast is even more stark in other races. Four years ago over the same period, at least six public polls had been released in the races for attorney general and secretary of state, but none have been released this year for those races. Denver-based pollster Floyd Ciruli said there are several explanations for the paucity of polling in the state this year, including changes in the polling and media industries and a shifting national spotlight.
The predominant difference between this year’s midterm election and the last one in Colorado, Ciruli noted, is that there isn’t a U.S. Senate race on the ballot this year.
He also pointed out that newspapers and TV stations used to commission election polls — Ciruli regularly conducted surveys for the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post — but don’t anymore. Another difference this year: prominent national pollsters such as Quinnipiac University, which selected Colorado as one of its key swing states in recent cycles, have turned their attention elsewhere.
“We are perceived as somewhat less than a battleground race, with Colorado leaning Democratic since before the primary,” Ciruli said. “There’s no media outlet or a school just taking it on. It’s been so much fun to be considered a competitive state, but we’ve fallen off that slope a bit.”
Magellan Strategies founder David Flaherty said he misses the company.
“It looks like there isn’t enough action for some of these big outfits in Colorado this year,” he said.
“I would love nothing more to have a couple (polls) out there other than our own. I don’t want to be the only pollster trying to measure voter opinion here — a group of polls is always more accurate.”