Thursday, August 3, 2017

Higher Education Facing Partisan Challenge

The public’s view on the positive contributions of higher education to the “way things are going in the country” has declined in the last seven years. Republicans in particular have turned negative on colleges’ and universities’ contributions to the country.

Decline of the Public’s Views
The public’s opinion of colleges’ and universities’ positive contributions has declined from 61 percent in 2010 to 55 percent this year. Much of the decline began in 2015. The public’s negative views increased 8 points during the last 2 years. The data was reported from a Pew Research poll released July 10, 2017. The poll was conducted with 2,504 adults from June 8-18, 2017.

Partisan Voices on Colleges and Universities
Partisanship is a major factor in the decrease in support for colleges and universities. There is a 36 percentage point difference between Democrat and Republican viewpoints on the positive contribution of colleges and universities to the country. Only 36 percent of Republicans have a positive view of colleges and universities, compared to a 72 percent positive view by Democrats. Few Democrats (19%) take a negative view, but a majority of Republicans (58%) do.

Republican Negative Trend
Partisan differences increased since 2015. Republicans’ positive viewpoints went into a steep decline starting in 2015, with support dropping 18 points in the last two years from 54 percent to 36 percent today.

News organizations have reported numerous stories with a negative slant toward higher education in recent years. The high cost of college, student debt loads and low graduation rates have been well covered. Recently, and of more interest to Republicans, have been stories frequently reported in conservative news sites of campus disruptions, takeovers of administrator’s offices, student protests of conservative speakers and an assertion of weak faculty and administrative responses. And, of course, conservative commentators often point out college communities’ consistent voting majorities for Democratic politicians.

Comparison of Colleges and Universities to Other Institutions
Although there has been a recent decline in the positive ratings of colleges’ and universities’ contributions to the country, Pew reports that at 55 percent positive ratings, colleges and universities are still above a host of other institutions tested.

Churches are slightly ahead at 59 percent, but labor unions (47%), banks (39%) and the news media (28%) are behind colleges and universities.

The reputation of colleges and universities is still high, but they face a host of challenging issues. The perception of higher education’s contribution to the country is important to its reputation and effectiveness, and although the recent decline is understandable, the key underlying issues need to be addressed.

Monday, July 31, 2017

DU and CU Are Highly Favored in Denver Metro Area

The metropolitan Denver public has a positive view of the University of Denver (DU) and the University of Colorado (CU) and they are closely matched in public opinion in the Denver area.

Overall Favorability
In a voter survey conducted by Ciruli Associates in 2016, DU received a 41 percent “very favorable” rating, followed closely by CU with a 37 percent “very favorable” rating. The total favorability ratings (combining “very” and “somewhat” favorable) were 74 percent and 73 percent, respectively. A few more people were unable to rate DU (22%) CU than (18%), and CU had a slightly higher negative rating (9%) than DU (5%).

County Ratings
One difference in perception of the two universities was their rating within individual counties in the seven-county metro area. Some of the variation is explained by differences in public awareness of the institutions and different negative ratings. DU had a 9-point negative rating in Adams and Denver counties. It was not well-known in Boulder (38%) and Douglas (32%) counties. CU had a high negative in Douglas County (19%) and was not well-known in Jefferson County (26%).

Partisan Ratings
Although there was a partisan difference, with Democrats more favorably disposed than Republicans, both institutions received high favorable ratings from each party.

Comparison with Other Organizations and Leaders
In comparison to other organizations and leaders in the metro area, the schools were in the high middle range of favorability. They were not as high as major cultural facilities, but higher than some sport teams and the Governor.

Both schools are well thought of during a time in which the public has generally low trust and confidence in most institutions.

The telephone survey was conducted by landline and cell phones with 600 voters in the seven-county Denver metro area in May 2016 by Ciruli Associates.

North Korea has Potential for War

North Korea may be the most likely place for the next war to break out. The American people are very concerned, and the Chinese military are ramping up activities along the 800-mile border to prepare for any crisis that might develop.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 81 percent of Americans consider North Korea as a threat and nearly three-fourths (74%) believe there could be a full-scale war. (July 10-13, 2017)

Fox News reports that more than half (55%) of the public believes military force may be necessary to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (July 16-18, 2017)

But actually going to war over North Korean weapons has only 51 percent public support and it is mostly through a partisan lens, with Republicans (73%) twice as likely to support war than Democrats (39%).

Partisanship also affected the public’s judgement as to President Trump’s ability to handle the crisis. Only 22 percent of the public said they had a “great deal” of trust in Trump handling the crisis, but 40 percent said they had “none at all.” Not surprising, there was major partisan differences, with only 4 percent of Democrats having a “great deal” of confidence in Trump handling a crisis, but 52 percent of Republicans were confident.

However, worry about a war was non-partisan.

Western States are Trump’s Strongest

A new Gallup poll of Donald Trump’s state-by-state job approval offers a few surprises. In spite of the wild ride of the first six months and the general decline in Trump’s approval rating to 40 percent and lower, a host of states have residents that give him approvals above 50 percent. Many of the 17 states that offer more than 50 percent approval are in the High Plains and Mountain West. In fact, more are in the west than the south.

Also, Trump gets better than his average (40%) grades in the states key to his victory: Michigan (42%), Pennsylvania (43%), Wisconsin (43%), plus Florida (42%), Iowa (43%) and Ohio (47%). Hence, Democrats still have a “Blue Wall” problem in spite of Trump’s controversies.

New England and the coasts dominate the states providing Trump’s lowest approval rating. Vermont is the home of Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts is the only state to vote for George McGovern.

Colorado with a 38 percent is one of the 17 states offering the lowest level of approval.

Can Coffman Be Beat?

Democrats clearly are planning on another major campaign against Mike Coffman in 2018. Four of them (now three) have already indicated they are running.

Why? Coffman’s track record in crushing well-thought-of and well-funded Democrats is beyond debate. In the 2014 off-year election, he defeated Andrew Romanoff by 25,000 votes and last November, as Hillary Clinton was winning his district, Coffman slammed local legislator Morgan Carroll by 30,000 votes.

But Jason Crow, the designated establishment candidate, is leading the field and appears to have the national party’s backing. He is dealing with carpetbagger issues, but likely will be able to manage it with a move into the district.

In an interview with the Aurora Sentinel’s Ramsey Scott:

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli said it’s hard to determine if a lack of residency in a district produces a drag on a candidate’s chances of winning an election given all the factors that go into an election. In cases like Ossoff and Andrew Romanoff, who moved into the 6th Congressional District to unsuccessfully challenge Coffman in 2014, the main result is it puts Coffman’s credibility as an Aurora resident front and center.

“(The issue) highlights Coffman’s strengths. Coffman is the district,” Ciruli said. “He has really established his bonafides as an Auroran in that district, and so consequently if you do live outside the district, it is a tremendous contrast between the two candidates.”

Trump Makes the Difference for Democrats

But Democrats are motivated by what appears to be the unprecedented low approval ratings of President Trump. The general rule is that approval ratings at or below 40 percent produce very significant swings in congressional races.

Gallup reports that Trump has 50 percent or higher ratings in 17 states and he is below 40 percent in an equal number of states.

Several states with the highest Trump ratings surround Colorado: Utah (50%), Wyoming (56%), Idaho (53%), Montana (56%), Nebraska (52%) and Kansas (53%). But Colorado at 38 percent is a part of Trump’s worst 17 states, with western states Oregon (38%), Washington (36%) and New Mexico (37%).

National Democrats believe if there is at least a 24-seat wave in their favor (they need 24 to win the majority) that Mike Coffman’s seat is likely to be one of them. Their calculation demonstrates the power of national thinking on congressional strategy because by Coffman’s local performance, he looks nearly impossible to beat.

Monday, July 17, 2017

WorldDenver Welcomes Young Leaders From Europe

Floyd Ciruli led a discussion with fifteen young leaders from Europe sponsored by the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. WorldDenver hosted the event and approximately 40 of its members joined the discussion.

After two weeks of visits with U.S. officials and issue experts, the leaders’ questions still focused on President Trump, his foreign policy moves, and the future of the Democratic and Republican parties. The general assumption was that America will be in a hiatus of international leadership for the near future. The group offered the following observations:
  • Merkel was in a very strong position for re-election
  • Merkel and Macron are likely to take lead on host of EU issues
  • Macron was a phenomenon, much like Trump, in his sudden rise and dominance of the French system
  • May now has a fragile majority, but is in charge of the start-up of Brexit negotiations
  • Greens are a larger political group in many countries than far right
  • The Ukraine is still a major challenge for Europe and U.S. leaders
  • The EU has had a respite from overt attack, but faces major challenges and turmoil. Nationalist and populist sentiments remain strong.

British Leave Hong Kong in 1997 – Independence on Way Out 20 Years Later

One of the reigning theories of Western foreign policy since the Nixon era opening to China (1971) was that commerce and contacts would foster a Chinese evolution from authoritarianism to a more pluralistic society. Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 was wrapped in a “One Country, Two Systems” rhetoric that made it the model of what the evolution could produce – namely, independent courts, an efficient civil service and a free, competitive press.

But China’s evolution under Xi Jinping is toward more centralization and authoritarianism with liberalization seen as a threat. Unfortunately, democracy in Hong Kong in recent years has not performed well in providing for critical municipal improvements for transportation, housing and land development, and education. Rather, political energy has been focused on procedural voting issues for the city’s chief executive. But China has made clear that neither the process nor the city’s policy will become more democratic or independent. Hong Kong’s local political gridlock has allowed Beijing to argue that democracy is a flawed and failing system.

During Xi’s first Hong Kong visit to the swearing-in of the new Beijing-favored chief executive, he made clear that the future of Hong Kong was an internal matter related to China’s sovereignty and security.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects Hong Kong garrison of the
People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong, June 30, 2017 | Kim Cheung/AP

The future of Hong Kong’s democratic features and favored status will be greatly influenced by the test local democracy is facing. Can it reconcile its resistance elements to the more Beijing-leaning governing class and address basic problems or is decline of effective governance and quality of life its future?