Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rise of Populism – Korbel School Students Blog

Populism was the primary topic in International Public Opinion and Foreign Policy graduate class during fall 2016. The American presidential election, the rise of nationalism in the EU, the failure of the Colombian peace treaty vote, and the crisis of the Renzi government in Italy were among the topics taken on.

A sampling of a 300-word blog assignment from three graduate students follows. The blogs focused on public opinion, polling, including its failures, and the populist theme. The blog format was chosen because their growing popularity for political news and commentary. Students read them for much of their politics, and student writing should include publishable work in a popular modern medium.

Conflicts of Interest: Nationalism and the EU
By Daniel Durbin

Recent elections in Europe have seen a rise in nationalist and right-wing parties that generally favor less EU integration and more independent states. However, it is important to note the differences and similarities between the rise of the far-right and growing Euroscepticism.

Polls have shown an increase in Euroscepticism throughout the EU, with a Pew Research Center Report in June finding only a small majority of 51% favoring the EU, and 42% wanting more national power across 10 countries (source: BBC News). The graphic above shows a detailed view of the favorable/unfavorable breakdown amongst the countries. 

Closely linked to the rise of the far-right is the rise of unfavorable opinions relating to refugee and immigration policies. As shown by the Pew Research Center, many European countries express concern over refugees entering their country, with many linking this fear to a concern of domestic terrorism (Source: Pew Research Center).

Poland is an interesting case, due to its highly favorable view of the EU and its views on refugees. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the right-wing Law and Justice Party, calls for reform within the EU and disputes policies including those related to immigration, but refrains from calling for a split, due to broad support from Poles likely linked to the EU’s aid for agriculture and infrastructure projects (Source: Reuters). 

On the other end, France should be a major concern, due to its unfavorable view of the EU and its mixed view on refugees. The upcoming presidential election could decide the future of the European Union, especially since National Front leader Marine Le Pen has unsurprisingly maintained a position of leaving the EU if elected (Source: Bloomberg). 

So while it is fair to connect dissatisfaction with the EU to immigration and the rise of nationalism, it isn’t always the case that the two are completely joined. Other factors, including economics and social issues, should be explored to determine other root causes.  

BBC. "Euroscepticism on Rise in Europe, Poll Suggests." BBC News. N.p., 8 June 2016. Web.
BBC. "Guide to Nationalist Parties Challenging Europe." BBC News. N.p., 23 May 2016. Web
Deen, Mark. "France's Chaotic Election Could Put the Future of Europe at Risk." Bloomberg, 13 Oct. 2016. Web.
Pawlak, Justyna. "Eurosceptic Poland Wants New EU Treaty after Brexit." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 June 2016. Web
Poushter, Jacob. "European Opinions of the Refugee Crisis in 5 Charts." Pew Research Center, 16 Sept. 2016. Web.

Peace Deferred?  Colombia Votes against Peace Deal
By Adam Ratzlaff

On September 26, 2016 the Colombian Government signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ending the 52 year civil war and earning President Juan Manuel Santos the Nobel Peace Prize. Then the unexpected occurred; although polls showed strong support for the Colombian peace referendum, with an average of 61% of Colombians in favor of the deal, when the results came in, 50.2% of the population had voted against the deal. How did pollsters get the results so wrong?

Polls were concluded shortly after the peace deal had been signed and nearly one week before the referendum vote. During this period, opposition candidates, led by former president Álvaro Uribe, stoked public fear of a FARC political party pushing Venezuelan-style socialism, demanded jail time for FARC “terrorists,” and drew upon high levels of resentment towards President Santos’s social policies to gain support for the “No” vote.

Additionally, voter turnout was particularly low, at only 37.4%. Low turnout was driven by several factors including Hurricane Matthew hitting Colombia’s Caribbean coast and concerns over electoral violence. It is important to note that voter turnout was lowest in areas with greatest support for the peace process and highest were strongly opposed. Furthermore, 1.97% of total votes cast were invalidated, leading some to question the validity of the results. Higher turnout or less invalidations could easily have shifted the outcome.

With the referendum failed and the ceasefire ending on October 31st, Government and FARC officials return to the deliberations in an attempt to find a settlement. Although FARC officials have said that they are unwilling to change their stance, they need to find a negotiated settlement with the Santos administration before the end of his term and a potential swing of Colombia’s political pendulum to parties less willing to negotiate for peace.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has extended the FARC ceasefire until December 31. But is it enough time to reconcile a divided country?
By Clay Howarth

What happened?
Polls predicted a comfortable victory for Santos and his peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group. Yet, much to the chagrin of the deal’s supporters, the major pollsters were utterly wrong. The deal was defeated 50.2% to 49.8%, a margin of 54,000 votes.

What went wrong?
Two explanations inject some reason into the post-referendum confusion. In the weeks leading up to the vote on October 2, those who expressed opposition to the deal were lambasted by mass and social media, which labeled them “enemies of peace.” The polling agency Ipsos, which relies heavily on face-to-face interviews for its data, believes the lack of anonymity greatly skewed its predictions1

Secondly, the government prohibited polling after September 27, meaning that polls missed critical late swings, including the public reaction to the ceremonial signing of the deal in Cartagena on the 26th. As Andrés Pérez of the polling firm EcoAnalítica conveys, “Opponents felt angry that their views were being slighted, and supporters felt they didn’t need to vote because the agreement had already been signed2.” 

Real divide?
As illustrated below, the country’s center tended to vote “no,” while the periphery, including Colombia’s indigenous populations whose communities have suffered disproportionately, sided with Santos3.  
With the extended ceasefire, former President Álvaro Uribe and his “no” faction want a deal that emphasizes retribution. However, indigenous leaders, suspicious of the role paramilitaries played in intimidating “yes” voters, are already planning to implement the deal regardless4.  With such a wedge driving Colombians apart, an agreement being reached by the end of the year seems optimistic at best. 

1Matt Moffett, “The “spiral of silence”: how pollsters got the Colombia-FARC peace deal vote so wrong,” Vox Media (October 2016), 
3Images from Orlando Crowcroft and Daniele Palumbo, “Colombia's Brexit: 2 maps that explain why voters said 'No' to peace deal with Farc,” International Business Times (October 2016), colombias-brexit-2-maps-that-explain-why-voters-said-no-peace-deal-farc-1584597?yptr=yahoo.
4Hanna Wallis, Colombian Indigenous Groups Say They’ll Implement Peace Accord, Despite ‘No’ Vote,” The Huffington Post (October 2016),

Monday, November 21, 2016

Colorado Voters Want Strong Alliances and Solutions to the Immigration Problem

In a pre-election statewide survey, Colorado voters were asked their priorities in terms of foreign policy. “Strengthen our alliances with other countries” (60% top priority) and “address the immigration system” (60%) were tied for their top priority in the University of Denver/Crossley Center survey conducted in late October.

Clustered in a secondary position among the five issues tested were climate change (47%), a military build-up (45%) and “action” related to rivals, such as Russia, China and Iran (44%).

There were some dramatic differences among Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters that will be relevant given the president-elect’s preferences and administration team now being assembled.

For example, Trump supporters strongly want to build up the military (75%), but it was a non-priority item for Clinton supporters (17%). The reverse was true on climate change. Clinton supporters made it their top priority (81%), but it was a non-priority for Trump voters (12%).

Both camps want to strengthen the alliance system, but Trump supporters are interested in being more active with rivals, including Russia, than Clinton supporters. In both of these areas, Trump is somewhat out of step with his base.

The question on immigration was worded in a neutral fashion. It asked the priority preference for “addressing” the system. It was the top priority for Trump supporters (85%), but of less interest for Clinton supporters (44%), which was possibly a reflection of the difference in preferred solutions; i.e., “wall and deportation” vs. “path to citizenship.” Trump supporters expect and want something done whereas Clinton supporters rate it a lesser priority and are concerned as to what that solution will be.

The University of Denver/Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research survey was conducted by live interview telephone calls with 550 likely Colorado voters. The survey was in field from October 29-31, 2016 by Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center. The sample was selected by random probability design from a list of registered voters from the Colorado Secretary of State and included 258 landlines and 286 cell phone respondents. The data was weighted based on likely voter statistics for age and ethnicity. Overall, the survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is larger.

Colorado Voters Say Yes to Five Ballot Initiatives, No to Two; DU/Crossley Center Poll Captured Voter Sentiment

Interest groups and activists put seven major initiatives on the ballot for voters to decide on in the November 2016 election. More than $50 million was spent on advertising and ground games achieving a 71 percent success rate (5 out of 7 passed).

At the end of October, a DU/Crossley Center poll was released that identified the five likely winners and two losers. At the top of the list of popular proposals was giving people a right to die under specific circumstances and shifting the Colorado presidential nominating process from a caucus/convention system to a primary in which unaffiliated voters can participate.

Members of both parties and unaffiliated voters supported both propositions.

The least popular proposal was the single-payer health care initiative placed on the ballot by fans of Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. It should serve as a warning concerning the popularity of many solutions that can be labeled expensive and big government. It was never ahead in the polls and could not command a majority of Democrats.

More of a surprise was the defeat of the $2.50 cigarette tax measure, which started with more support than opposition in early polls, but faded after a withering advertising campaign ($20 million) questioned where the money collected by the tax would go. Taxpayer frugality overcame the usual voter support for sin taxes, especially related to cigarettes.

Proponents of the minimum wage had resistance from Republicans and had to work hard to get 57 percent support. Typically, minimum wage increases get voter support, and Colorado passed a less expensive version in 2006. The initiative had union and out-of-state support.

Two initiatives related to unaffiliated voters and limiting constitutional amendments were less popular and required campaigns to bolster their support. Both were complicated in their intent and effect and had higher levels of undecided voters late in the campaign.

The University of Denver/Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research survey was conducted by live interview telephone calls with 550 likely Colorado voters. The survey was in field from October 29-31, 2016 by Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center. The sample was selected by random probability design from a list of registered voters from the Colorado Secretary of State and included 258 landlines and 286 cell phone respondents. The data was weighted based on likely voter statistics for age and ethnicity. Overall, the survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups is larger.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Korbel School Post-Election Event Attracts More than 250 Alumni, Professors and Students

More than 250 attended the post-election event co-sponsored by the Korbel School and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research.

Along with examining what happened on Election Night, including a review of the polling and forecasting, the national and international fallout of the election was discussed. Questions ranged from likely personnel in the new administration (Secretary of State, Defense, etc.), to the impact of a one-party controlled federal government and the future of Obamacare and immigration policy. Also, a host of foreign policy issues were reviewed, including Syria, Russia and Eastern Europe.

The latest edition of Foreign Affairs features populism as a reoccurring phenomenon now on the move in much of the developed world. Its rise in the U.S. was tied to the political events and personalities in a number of European countries.

Another Korbel/Crossley session on the new administration and its politics and personnel is planned after the Inaugural next year.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Students Call the Election

A group of graduate students in a public opinion and foreign policy class at the Korbel School at DU made their election selection.

All of them believe Hillary Clinton will win. The majority believe the vote will be close. Sixty-seven percent believe it will be less than what Romney won by in 2012 (he won by about 4 million votes). One student saw a landslide.

And they believe (83%) that major polling averages (i.e., leading aggregators) will get the correct winner and be within the margin of error. One student thought they would be wildly off and one said they would be spot on. In my view, a very reasonable assessment of the status of the polls. November 8 will confirm or correct.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout: National and International Ramifications

Dean Christopher Hill and professor and pollster, Floyd Ciruli, will analyze the election results and the effect of politics and policy of the U.S.
  • Were the polls and pundits right? Hits, misses and biggest surprise.
  • Will the new president and Congress beat the gridlock?
  • Will the Republican Party heal? Can the Democrats avoid a split? Is a third or fourth party on the horizon?
  • Is the post-Obama foreign policy more interventionist? Is confrontation likely? What challenge is addressed first?
    • Syria and Iraq
    • Russian and China expansions
    • North Korea
    • Iran
    • Pending trade agreements
    • Immigration
  • Was the conflict in the American campaign indicative of the future of center-right and center-left governments throughout the West?
    • Will protectionism, isolationism and nativism dominate 2017 politics?
    • Is western democracy in crises?
Join the discussion on November 9 at Maglione Hall in the new Sie wing of the Korbel School on the DU campus (2201 S. Gaylord St., Ste 4005) from 5-7 pm. Food provided. RSVP to

Monday, October 31, 2016

AAPOR Salutes Helen Crossley

Helen Crossley
The polling profession’s premier association – the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) – memorialized the passing of Helen Crossley in its October AAPOR News.

Helen founded the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School.

Read the AAPOR's In Memoriiam here

Floyd Ciruli on the BBC

The BBC broadcasted a U.S. election special last Tuesday, with Colorado as a key battleground state. Dan Damon, the journalist-host, interviewed me in an hour-long program that featured stories about Denver’s growing Millennial population, our cowboy history and the evangelical community in Colorado Springs.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Dan Damon
Photo: BBC

Monday, October 17, 2016

Colombian-FARC Agreement

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize, but lost a national referendum vote on his peace plan.

The disjointed headlines praising the prize but lamenting the loss highlight the difference between aspiration and reality. The desire to bring the 52-year conflict to an end is widespread. But the war left much pain that has not been forgotten.

Possibly the biggest loser was not President Santos or his worldwide supporters, such as the Obama administration, the EU or the Pope, but the Castro brothers. They, along with the late Hugo Chavez, had been major backers of the FARC. Chavez is gone and his successor appears only hanging on due to a military that will at some point decide its interest is without President Maduro.

The Castros, however, are attempting a very difficult transition that preserves the safety and privilege of their family and continuation of their party and system in the face of its basic failure to provide a decent quality of life. Most dangerous for Castros’ future is that Cuba is now in a slow integration with the commercialized and capitalist North.

The Colombian – FARC agreement, which gave up Cuban- and Venezuelan-like socialist goals (never accepted by the public and lost on the battlefield) for broad-based amnesty and the nucleus of a legitimate left-wing party, was negotiated over four years in Cuba and the final agreement signed in Cartagena. Raul Castro put himself front and center clapping at the ceremony.

The voters of Colombia didn’t accept it, at least partially because of the poor image of the Castros and their Cuban fiefdom. The Castros should be nervous that a day may arrive for an up or down vote on continuing their legacy.

President Juan Manuel Santos, front left, and Rodrigo Londono,
the top rebel commander, at a signing ceremony on Oct. 3 in
Cartagena, Colombia. Raul Castro clapping to the right.
Credit: Fernando Vergara/AP

Factors That Make the 2016 Election Hard to Call

Although the entire array of forecasters followed regularly and reported in the New York Times Upshot election website predicts a Hillary Clinton victory by upwards of 70 percent probability, this remains a volatile election with a variety of factors that produce a lot of caveats in predictions and nervous laughter in pundit conversations.

Some of the factors are normal in an open seat presidential election, but others are particular to this year.

Trump Lost the Debate and Now the Numbers are Moving Against Him

Donald Trump not only lost the first debate with Hillary Clinton, but he turned the post-debate commentary into a complete disaster.

First, he went into full throat denial that he lost using non-probability viewer response polls. Also, he picked up on one of the least salient debate points concerning a beauty contestant winner and turned it into an ethnic-identity talking point for Clinton. The diversion reinforced for the mainstream media commentariat that Trump simply does not have the discipline to run a national campaign nor temperament to occupy the Oval Office.

Trump entered the debate with momentum in both national and battleground polls, but ended up wounded, and a week later, desperately in need of something to change the subject.

Trump never ceases to mention polls, which have often showed him to be a “winner,” but his clinging onto media marketing surveys in the face of ridicule shows that his dependence on the data is more a personal need than based on strategy.

It’s still a close race one week after the debate, but Clinton is back in a narrow lead. At some point soon, Trump runs out of time and voter interest in his effort to show discipline, preparation and temperament.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

In Memory of Helen Crossley

The staff and students at the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research are sorry to hear of the passing of Helen Crossley last Sunday.
Helen Crossley

Helen’s gift to the University of Denver Korbel School started an academic center that has provided scholarships for graduate-level students, taught more than 90 students public opinion and foreign policy, and participated in WAPOR conferences in Nice, France and Buenos Aires, Argentina and AAPOR conferences in Anaheim, California and Austin, Texas.

The Crossley Center recognizes the contribution of Archibald Crossley to survey research and to its standards and is a tribute to the lifelong dedication of Helen to the profession. Helen actively followed the Crossley program and was briefed at her home in Princeton last spring on the progress and future plans.

The entire DU community, the Korbel School of International Studies and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research offer our condolences to the family and thank Helen for her generosity.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Policies on the March Across Europe

Angela Merkel just lost her home state in regional parliamentary election, a warm-up for next year’s general election. Her party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came in third in the voting after the rapidly rising far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) Party. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) led with 30 percent, but in general, parties of left also lost votes from the previous election.

One million refugees in 2015 have broken the center-right’s solidarity and very possibly ended Ms. Merkel’s ambition for a fourth term (in office since 2005). Her policies on the refugee crises was the salient topic reflected in her approval ratings, which is at a five-year low (45%).

Of course, Germany is hardly the only country seeing a surge of nationalism and anti-immigration politics. Great Britain has a new prime minister due to David Cameron’s loss of the Brexit vote and France’s Hollande is so weak in the polls that his re-election, or even running, is doubted. His nemesis, Marine Le Pen (The National Front), is one of the most nationalistic, anti-immigrant and anti-EU in Europe. And, although it’s not clear the French electoral system will let her get to the presidency in next year’s elections, the politicians running, especially Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, sound like her.

U.S. Senate Leaning Democratic

Senator Michael Bennet is a very lucky politician. In what was projected to be a competitive race, he now has a walk. Labeled a likely Democratic hold by all the rating organizations and commentators, he is ahead by 13 points over Darryl Glenn in the current polling average.

Bennet beat out considerable competition to be appointed to the seat by Governor Bill Ritter in 2009 and survived a difficult Democratic year to win a narrow election in 2010. He could be serving the next six years with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate (majority may need VP’s vote).

As of the end of August, Democrats have a good chance to pick up a seat in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. They are very competitive in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and recent polls show a close race in North Carolina. Democrats need to hold Reid’s open seat in Nevada, which appears close. They need 5 seats if Hillary Clinton wins and 6 if Donald Trump wins.

Working for them is presidential turnout (tends to be more Democratic), the possibility Trump underperforms in many states with Republican senators at risk, and the simple fact Republicans have 24 seats to defend and the Democrats only have 10. The race to control the Senate, as of today, appears more competitive than the presidential race.

Millennials are Avoiding the Parties and Their Candidates

Millennial voters (aged 18 to 34) are identifying with independent political status and are giving near majorities of their votes to independent presidential candidates.

In a statewide Ciruli Associates poll, 38 percent of Millennials identify themselves as independent more than any other age group and nearly equal to the number who claim to be “strong Democrat” (29%) and “not so strong Democrat” (11%).

The latest Quinnipiac Colorado survey shows 46 percent of Millennials support independent candidates Gary Johnson, the Libertarian, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton together attract 52 percent.

The Colorado results for minor party candidates among Millennials were larger than what was nationally reported as the Millennials’ preferences (46% in Colorado to 28% nationally) in the latest Pew Research poll where Clinton was ahead of Trump by 4 points. (Different cut-off point in age explains some of the difference, but not all.)

In general, Johnson voters are younger, White and more independents. He tends to attract more Republicans than Democrats.

Nate Silver’s analysis of a half dozen recent polls of Millennials show Johnson getting 17 percent or nearly double his current average of 9 percent from all voters.

Colorado Likes Independent Candidates

Colorado tends to be more supportive of independent candidates. This is confirmed in the latest Quinnipiac poll in Colorado, which shows Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, with 16 percent, nearly double his national average. If Colorado decided who got on the debate stage, Johnson would make it.

Johnson ties Donald Trump among self-declared independent voters (Johnson 24%, Trump 25%). He also does well with Millennial voters, only 5 points behind Hillary Clinton (Johnson 29%, Clinton 34%).

Gary Johnson

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ciruli Named to Denver Press Club Hall of Fame

The Denver Press Club Hall of Fame will induct Floyd Ciruli at a Press Club even September 9, 2016. Below is a reprint of a DU Newsroom news release.

DENVER—August 15, 2016—Political pollster and analyst Floyd Ciruli will be inducted into the Denver Press Club's Hall of Fame at a September 9th banquet. Mr. Ciruli heads a Denver-based research and consulting firm, Ciruli Associates, and has provided political commentary, analysis and polling for the past 35 years for both local and national media outlets. He hosts Colorado's leading blog for politics and trends with more than 4,500 followers at

Mr. Ciruli has served as a regular commentator for a number of media outlets, including on-air election night coverage for 9KUSA beginning with the 1988 Denver International Airport election. He also conducted election polling for several media outlets, and was cited as one of the country's most accurate pollsters on Nate Silver's 538 website. In addition, he regularly writes guest editorials on political topics.

In 2014, he helped create the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where he serves as director and teaches graduate courses in public opinion and foreign policy. He is past-president of the Pacific Chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and an active AAPOR member. Mr. Ciruli also is past-president of the Georgetown Law Alumni Board.

He has led several local and statewide ballot initiative campaigns, including the Denver metro Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) from its inception in 1988, and each SCFD renewal – including on the upcoming 2016 ballot. He also led the Great Outdoors Colorado campaign, two successful bond issue campaigns for the Denver Public Library, and others.

A native of Pueblo, Colorado, Mr. Ciruli received a Bachelor's degree from the University of California Los Angeles, and a law degree from Georgetown University.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world's leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and public policy and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel. Follow the Korbel School on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is the Race Over?

One of the best questions at the Arvada Chamber of Commerce Leadership Breakfast was could the debates change this race? Clinton leads by 5 points in national polls and 11 points in Colorado.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at first 
debate in Denver in 2012
Photo: US News

Possibly, but the general rule is that debates don’t change a race. However, this year doesn’t follow the rules very well. Recall that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama four years ago in the early October debate here in Denver. But Obama went on to win the race by 5 points, largely because his strength in battlegrounds states was unshaken even while his national polling numbers slipped for a time due to the debate.

There are several reasons to be extra cautious about calling the race this year. People remain very unhappy about the direction of the country, they desire some amount of change, they’re worried about the future for their children and neither candidate is well thought of. In addition, as much of July demonstrated, this is an election highly effected by outside events, such as the Dallas shooting, the Nice terror, the Russian hacking, and unforced errors like the Comey testimony and the attack on the Khans.

The summer polls are still in pre-season. The first polls after Labor Day will be most important. If Clinton is ahead beyond the margin of error at that point after all the pollsters tighten their screen techniques to capture most likely voters, Trump is in trouble.

The first debate in late September is likely to have record viewership. Trump may need it to change the direction of the race. If Clinton is still in the lead, she will just need to demonstrate competence and confidence. She wins if it’s a draw.

Arvada Chamber of Commerce Leadership Breakfast, Aug. 19
Photo: Arvada Chamber

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Trump Back in the Weeds: Three Reasons This Distraction May Hurt Long-Term

Donald Trump simply can’t stay focused on the real job, which seems surprising for someone who has made millions in big real estate deals.
Donald Trump and Khizr Khan
Photo of Khan:

Once again, he is bogged down in a multi-day fight with someone peripheral to the Democratic campaign, the parents of a war hero. No one commenting on this election is confident in suggesting that his behavior may cause long-term damage, but the timing and the nature of the last six days of interviews and tweets appear more serious than attacks on Judge Curiel last June and his previous altercations.
  1. The public and media are more attentive, with the conclusion of the back-to-back conventions. They are looking for the bounce. And it appears Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are winning the early post-convention polls with significant margins (6 points CBS, 9 points CNN).
  2. One of the main goals of the Republican Convention was to provide a show of unity. Given Senator Cruz’s unwillingness to endorse and the absence of so many party leaders, the effort was a mixed success. Nonetheless, it put the party’s dysfunction in the rearview mirror and shifted the attention to Trump and his vice presidential nominee, Governor Pence. His newest fight with the Khan family has led numerous party leaders to distance themselves from him again. A fifth or more of the Republican Party is still not committed to vote for the ticket. His behavior is hurting, not helping the effort. 
  3. Party leadership desperately wanted Trump to “pivot” to a focused, disciplined campaign aimed at the Democrats and Clinton’s vulnerabilities. Instead, they got a repeat of his behavior that reinforces the Democrats’ claim that he simply does not have the temperament for national leadership. He appears thin-skinned, petty and obsessive about criticism. And, of course, he is being accused of frequently attacking minority populations. His family and friends claim he’s not prejudiced, but in these altercations, he often appears to be. 
Has the sheer number of fights damaged his reputation with wary Republicans and undecided voters? It’s early, but the target, length and timing of this fight make it a major distraction, and possibly the accumulation has hit a tipping point.
Professor Floyd Ciruli is blogging on the 2016 election. The Crossley Center and its classes in public opinion use the blog posts as a teaching tool. They also provide an online dialogue and material for speeches, presentations and media interviews.

The following are the latest election blogs with a Colorado perspective.

ISIS and Putin Drive Election Topics

Much of the conversation at both national party conventions was driven by foreign actors – ISIS and Vladimir Putin.

Part of the so-called “dark” aspect of the Republican Convention was the anti-terrorism rhetoric and speeches that were reinforced by near daily headlines of some terrorist atrocity: the Nice Bastille Day attacks, multiple Germany attacks, which along with the Normandy Church, overlapped with the Democratic convention. This list doesn’t include the Middle East and South Asia attacks during the two convention weeks.

Democrats uncomfortably tried to ignore the issue. But, they were also beset by a foreign intrusion in the form of a WikiLeaks release of DNC emails that boosted the anti-establishment hostility of the thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters. It took ending the DNC chair’s career and numerous symbolic actions to tamp down a mini insurrection. Bizarrely, it appears Russian hackers were the source of the purloined emails.

In the short-term, Republicans appeared to have been the beneficiaries. Although, Donald Trump with his pro-Russian remarks began to look like the “Siberian Candidate.”

The Forecasts Begin

National media outlets are beginning to publish daily forecasts, which combine national (and sometimes state) polling with other data (economic, historical, political trends) to offer a statistical prediction as to the winner of the presidential election. Also, several political websites provide an aggregate of the latest surveys, sometimes simply averaging the means and other times using a variety of factors to weight the polls before averaging the data.


On the Wednesday after the Democratic convention, aggregators of polling data published the head-to-head positions:

All three aggregators have Hillary Clinton up based on new post-convention polls favoring her. She is getting what looks like a bounce.


The major forecasters include not only statistical models, but also political experts (such as Charlie Cook and Larry J. Sabato) who combine data with judgement as to the strength of the candidates and campaigns,

As of August 3rd, Clinton is seen as having an advantage to win the election, and Colorado is consistently rated lean Democrat. The spread has widened since the end of the Democratic Convention due to a bounce and Donald Trump’s missteps.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hickenlooper and Duran – Colorado Democratic Headliners

John Hickenlooper
Governor John Hickenlooper and House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran have speaking positions at the Philadelphia Convention and as such are being recognized as Colorado’s top Democrats.

Hickenlooper’s clearly ready to move on. Reports out of D.C. make clear he lobbied for consideration as VP and more realistically to be recognized as a national player in what could be a new Democratic administration. He has a prime speaking slot on Thursday night.

Crisanta Duran
Duran is on the way up in Colorado if Democrats hold the State House (very likely). She will become the Speaker, a powerful role with significant visibility. She could jump into a statewide primary in three years or run for Denver Congresswoman DeGette’s seat should DeGette decide a couple of decades of service is enough.

Speaking in Philadelphia should contribute to both Hickenlooper’s and Duran’s next career moves.

Hillary Clinton’s old friend and long-time DNC member, Wellington Webb, also got a little early facetime Monday. Webb backed Clinton in 2008 against President Obama based on his relationship with the Clintons since the 1980s and throughout President Bill Clinton’s presidency.

See DNC speaker’s list here

Colorado is No Longer a Battleground State

In 2016, Colorado will not be a battleground state. Nominee Donald Trump has shifted his attention to the Midwest, the Rust Belt and Northeast (early targets: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin) appealing to working and middle class White voters.

Colorado moved out of battleground status for several reasons.
  • Due to the last two presidential races, Colorado became a presumed “lean Democratic” state. The latest polls confirm the presumption with Hillary Clinton up 8 points and Senator Michael Bennet ahead 18 (see NBC/WSJ Claims Clinton Up 8 Points in Colorado and Darryl Glenn Wins Convention Spot, But Losing in Race With Michael Bennet ).
  • Colorado is not a blue collar, depressed manufacturing state. Its growing Hispanic and Millennial population makes it a much more diverse and likely to vote Democratic.
  • The Colorado Republican Party is not Trump friendly. Ted Cruz dominated the Republican base in the state (he won the nomination ballot, got his Senate candidates nominated with a third of vote). At the just completed Republican Convention, it was the Colorado delegation that was the most obstreperous.
The implication of this shift are not good for Colorado Republicans, local TV stations and people who would like to see Donald Trump between now and the election.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Final British Polls Wrong on Result

One final poll shows the “leave” camp winning close, but it was an exception after a weekend of polls and betting markets that appeared to favor the “stay” camp. But voters said “leave” clearly by four percentage points (52% to 48%).

British polling has suffered another embarrassment after its failure to predict the Conservative Party majority vote in 2015.

The major impacts for the British people and world at large include:
  1. Cameron out. Immediate impact on the British and world economy from the withdrawal. Dow drops 600 points.
    • The British government falls. Cameron is out and a new prime minister in October.
  2. EU crisis. Europe loses its most powerful nation. Nationalist, anti-immigrant parties gather strength.
  3. Not “Great Britain.” Scotland, other parts of Britain may seek seceding votes.
  4. Good for the bear. The Atlantic and NATO alliances weakened. Russia wins from European disunion.
  5. Elites in trouble. British voters highlighted the divide in western developed societies. Immigration, national identity and sovereignty are top issues with British electorate (52% at least). The conflict brought down the government and similar divisions are rolling Western center-right and left politics throughout the Continent and U.S.
  6. Good for Donald, not for Hillary. Good news for Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant, nationalist campaign. He endorsed the “leave” side. Hillary Clinton represents the elite D.C./NY position. She is “stay” all the way.
See blogs:
Brexit: Leave the EU Closed the Gap
Will Britain Leave the EU?

Friday, June 17, 2016

WAPOR Paper Comparing Impact of Refugee and Immigration on European and U.S. Policy

Nationalism and nativism are sweeping European and U.S. politics in 2015 and 2016 and the result is likely to be significant. In a World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) panel on refugee politics, my paper compared key elements of the refugee and immigration events in 2015 and 2016 and their impact on the politics of the Continent and U.S.

Center-right and center-left ruling parties and politics are in disrepute on both continents. Immigration was the major factor in political upheaval in late 2015. In Europe, the crisis was caused by the volume of refugees and the sense the EU had no plan to resolve it. In the U.S., the lingering effect of no resolution of 11 million undocumented immigrants due to a gridlocked Congress was the biggest catalyst of voter anger. The circumstances on each continent offered a fertile environment for a highly impassioned debate on immigration, with nativist (policy of favoring native-born or established inhabitants over immigrants) arguments having the advantage.

The politics of 2016 and 2017 in the broadest sense are being altered due to immigration. Donald Trump’s nomination is a product of his immigration position more than any other factor. His anti-Mexican campaign rhetoric at his June announcement and his anti-Muslim position in November led to his dominance of the Republican field.

The E.U.’s open-border policy and Brussels’s general credibility have been undermined due to immigration issues. Nationalist and nativist parties and candidates are now the story. In Austria, a far-right candidate nearly won the presidency. In 2017, a host of center-right and center-left leaders and coalitions are on the defensive. Anti-immigrant politics is a deciding factor in the Brexit vote about to take place in Britain.

Brexit: Leave the EU Closed the Gap

In ten days, Britain may vote to leave the EU. The latest polls show the “leave” side with a 10 point lead. And the forecast polls averaging multiple polls are following, albeit more slowly.
Immigration and return of sovereignty appear to be the main reasons voters give to quit the EU.

Financial Times: How accurate are the Brexit polls?
Ah! Les sondages blog: To Brexit or not to Brexit…

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

AAPOR Panel Probes Foreign Policy Impact on 2016 Election

Foreign policy is going to be a key topic in the 2016 election was the consensus view of a panel of public opinion experts at the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) national conference in Austin, Texas. The view was that the presumptive nominees, the influence of the foreign policy establishment, and the contrasting positions of their core constituents and their respective campaign strategies made foreign policy a prime topic for the conventions, the fall debates and voters’ November decisions.

My lead-off presentation made the following points:
  • Hillary Clinton believes her experience, temperament and positions will win an exchange on the issues. She is using foreign policy to highlight the contrast (see San Diego speech 6-2-16). Donald Trump, recognizing vulnerability but also seeing some advantage in voter preference, will hope to highlight his leadership style and populist views. 
  • Trump has added a host of foreign policy topics to the debate. Many of the subjects, such as alliance and trade policy, haven’t been debate topics in recent elections. Trade and globalization issues are now a part of the debate, with an unknown outcome, but major changes in January 2017 can be expected. 
  • Trump and Clinton have introduced several unexpected positions and interesting left-right shifts, especially on the level of interventionism and support for globalization. 
  • Trump’s challenge is that he is off-the-grid of Republican foreign policy thinking. It’s also an advantage – his constituents like it. They believe they have been harmed by globalization. It allows him to be politically incorrect and attack the Republican establishment. 
  • Republican grassroots opinion corresponds to many Trump views, especially concerning nationalistic and nativist viewpoints. But in general, public opinion has been reacting to, not leading, the debate. One exception was the spike in concern over terrorism after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks in November and December 2015, respectively. 
  • This election will be difficult to predict due to volatility and highly negative aspects of the campaigns and the candidates’ images. Foreign policy will be part of the mix. The issues and positions fought over may not have the same configuration in January 2017 as June 2016. Events and the campaigns may create new positions and divisions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hiroshima. Would We Drop the Bomb Today?

President Obama made a historic visit to the Peace Tower in Hiroshima, Japan, and spoke of the dangers of nuclear war in our era.
“Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.” (President Obama, 5-27-16)
Is there still a moral taboo against using nuclear weapons? Current signs are not good. Memories are fading and tensions are rising. Aggressive nationalism in Russia led President Putin to say he was willing to use nuclear weapons in his seizure of the Crimea. His military commanders discuss and prepare for their use on the European battlefield. North Korea is building as many weapons and delivery systems as it can afford, while China increases its supply and the U.S. upgrades its.

U.S. public opinion has also evolved from the view that opposed use of a nuclear bomb to their use now as an option acceptable to a large number of Americans under certain conditions.

In 1945, 53 percent of Americans believed President Truman made the right choice. By 2015, only 28 percent believed dropping the bomb was the right choice. But when public views of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing are framed by more recent war scenarios, Americans show themselves much more willing to consider use of nuclear weapons. One scenario proffered was that Iran kills thousands of American servicemen by sinking a carrier, and defeating Iran would cost an additional 20,000 American troops. In that scenario, 59 percent of Americans would be willing to drop a nuclear weapon on a city of 100,000 civilians to achieve surrender. (81% Republicans, 47% Democrats).

Reduction of nuclear stockpiles and non-proliferation were among Obama’s top goals. Outside of his agreement with Iran, it has been one of his biggest disappointments.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Austrian Election Highlights Nationalism Driving European Politics

Like the U.S. presidential election, European politics is being driven by a strong trend of national sovereignty and anti-immigrant sentiment. The May Austrian presidential election made clear the weakness of the center parties noticeable throughout Europe and the rise of anti-immigrant, anti-EU/Brussels political parties. The Austrian left, with a Green presidential candidate, beat the far-right candidate by less than one percent of the vote.

The election was characterized by many of the elements of the U.S. presidential election:

  • The tone was less civil
  • Many comments and positions would have been highly incorrect just a few years ago

A quick scan of the 2016-2017 election cycle in Europe makes clear momentum, if not majorities, is running with the right. The EU and open borders are on the defensive.

  • In France, President Hollande has barely 30 percent approval and the National Front appears competitive in the 2017 national elections. 
  • Germany’s Chancellor Merkel still holds her right, and the left parties, as of yet, do not appear to have a strategy to win a national election – but she and her party are clearly on the defensive. Merkel’s future is in question.
  • Nationalistic forces in a host of countries (Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Great Britain) are threatening center- right and left governments. In Poland and Hungary, they now control the government. 

Will Britain Leave the EU?

On June 23, British voters will decide to leave or stay in the EU. Polling forecasts have the stay forces slightly ahead, but it is expected to be close and final campaigning is intense.

Prime Minister David Cameron had to schedule a referendum as his parliamentary majority is narrow and his own party is strongly divided by the issue. If Britain votes to separate from the EU, not only will the decision begin a costly and undefined process, but the implications are significant well beyond the immediate effect.

  • The vote will confirm and reinforce the nationalist and nativist trends sweeping the developed world today from Poland to France, Great Britain and the U.S. 
  • If the UK votes to leave the EU, Scotland, which prefers the continental relationship, may schedule another vote to leave the UK. Scottish nationalists now control the region’s politics and governance and many are simply waiting for an excuse for another vote of separation. 
  • The 70-year European and U.S. strategy of alliance will be weakened and NATO further endangered. It is already suffering from the neglect and forces supporting disunion. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Seminars of OLLI

Professor Floyd Ciruli will present “The Outsiders: The Year Voter Anger Upended the Establishment” at DU’s OLLI Summer Seminar series on June 2.

The presentation will handicap the U.S. presidential nomination and its effect on American foreign policy. It will discuss voter anger in America, citizen dissatisfaction with the global economy, and how politics in Europe and America have numerous similarities and, of course, some differences.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Summer Seminar for University of Denver OLLI

Professor Floyd Ciruli will offer the lead-off summer seminar for the University of Denver’s OLLI program. The seminar is titled “The Outsiders: The Year Voter Anger Upended the Establishment.”

The OLLI summer seminar flyer states:
Floyd Ciruli will handicap the U.S. presidential nomination and its effect on American foreign policy. He will discuss voter anger in America, citizen dissatisfaction with the global economy, and how politics in Europe affect the U.S. Ciruli believes the 2016 election will bring significant change to America and its foreign policy. 
Presenter: Floyd Ciruli, Colorado’s leading pollster and director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver. Floyd is a well-known political commentator, lecturer and blogger. 
The Ciruli seminar is one of eight that take on interesting and current topics from DU and other local experts. See flyer here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Josef Korbel School Receives $1M Gift for New Public Opinion Research Center

By Joanne Napper

A new survey research center has been created at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies with a $1 million gift from public opinion research pioneer and DU alumna Helen Crossley. The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research will be Colorado’s leading academic center for survey research. It will train students in American public opinion as well as international public opinion related to international policy issues.

Helen Crossley earned a master’s degree from DU in 1947 with an emphasis in survey research, and enjoyed a long career in public opinion research, mostly in the area of international affairs. The new center is dedicated to her and her father, Archibald Crossley, one of the founders of survey research.

The Crossley Center will be led by Floyd Ciruli, a well-known Colorado public opinion pollster. Ciruli is the center’s director and an adjunct professor of public opinion and international policy. Ciruli noted that the new center is part of the Josef Korbel School’s public policy initiatives that prepare students for management and leadership roles in international affairs professions.

“We are gratified with Helen Crossley’s generous gift and excited to launch the Crossley Center,” said Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, dean of the Josef Korbel School. “As the center grows, it will become instrumental in helping students and the greater community understand American public opinion related to international affairs, as well as international public opinion. Both are key in developing international policy and working effectively with individuals in other countries.”

DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp says the Crossley Center and the gift from Helen come at the perfect time in DU’s history, as it unfolds its strategic plan: DU Impact 2025. “The University is continuously amazed at the generosity of its alumni,” Chopp said. “The Crossley Center will be able to apply this donation towards the incredibly important research needed for aiding in policy development and enhancing the student learning experience.”

Both Archibald Crossley and Helen Crossley were instrumental in establishing the field’s professional organizations and its ethical and scientific standards. They were founding members of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) and the National Council on Public Polls (NCPP).

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Immigration in the 2016 Election

Austin Klemmer, a graduate student at the Korbel School, wrote the following blog on immigration in the 2016 election for his American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy winter class taught by Professor Floyd Ciruli.

Trump Continues to Set the Tone for Immigration in the GOP Race

A day out from the New Hampshire primary, and frontrunner Donald Trump is still surging in the polls.  Real Clear Politics puts Trump 17 points ahead in New Hampshire, which likely has to do with his tough stance on illegal immigration. Republicans in the state take a hard line on illegal immigrants: according to a CBS poll from November, 86% of New Hampshire’s likely GOP primary voters feel illegal immigrants should be penalized or deported.

But New Hampshire is one state, and Donald Trump’s boldness could come back to haunt him. Nationally, few agree with Trump’s strict stance on deporting the 11 million immigrants currently in the country. On the contrary, a CBS and NY Times news poll found that 58% of Americans support a path to citizenship for those immigrants.

Regardless, others in the field have had to walk a fine line, trying to win over support from Trump’s right-wing base without undermining their appeal in the general election. In Saturday’s debate, for instance, Marco Rubio scaled back his support for the path to citizenship, focusing instead on the need to secure the border. Trump’s shifting of the narrative towards extreme platforms, especially on immigration, could jeopardize the Republicans come November.

But immigration for Syrian refugees is an altogether different story, and polls suggest that Republicans will have the edge on this in the general election. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 51% of independent voters oppose providing asylum to Syrian refugees—support for Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims, though, was far less favorable. If, over the coming months, the world sees more events like New Year’s in Cologne or the attack in San Bernardino, Republicans across the board can count on continued support for their closed-door policies.

For the current contenders to win the nomination while preserving their chances in the general, they should continue to measure Trump’s boldness with moderate stances on illegal immigrants and strong but level-headed opposition to asylum for Syrians in the U.S.