Friday, March 31, 2017

Will the U.S. Legalize Marijuana? Panel at National Polling Conference

The 2016 election was good for the legalization of marijuana. Four more states, including California, legalized recreational marijuana. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) May national conference will host a panel of leading national pollsters to examine the evolution of public opinion toward marijuana legalization. The change in opinion during the last few decades has been rapid, but there are still groups within the public highly resistant to the spread of legalization. I will chair a panel offering a series of papers describing the depth of that change nationally and within the key states of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Panel Description: Marijuana and Public Opinion Change

Recreational marijuana is on the move around the country. It was approved in four states in 2016 by mostly narrow votes and now is legal in states with more than 60 million people, or about 20 percent of the country. Pollsters will describe the shift in opinion favoring legalization, some of the future opportunities and road blocks it may face, and status of public opinion in states that approved it in 2012.

After Legalization, It’s Time to Change the Question
Floyd Ciruli, Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

A substantial majority of Colorado voters remain steadfast in their support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. But, there are numerous signs of stress and public resistance to its spread across communities and through the commercial process of manufacture to sale. Polling to capture the stress and in communities resisting its spread recommends different questions from those developed pre-legislation.

Other Panelists and Presentations:

Evolution of Opinion About Marijuana Legalization in the Northwest, Stuart Elway, Elway Research

Legalize it! Examining the Predictors of Support for Marijuana Legalization in California, Lunna Lopes, Public Policy Institute of California

Trends in U.S. Marijuana Attitudes and Use, 1969-2016, Zac Auter and Jeff Jones, Gallup

Which States are Next to Legalize Marijuana – 50 State Survey, Sarah Cho, SurveyMonkey

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Did the Polls Get It Right? National Polling Conference Review the 2016 Election.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) national conference will assemble some of the nation’s leading pollsters to review the accuracy and reporting of polls in the 2016 presidential elections.

President Trump now regularly attacks polls he does not like, along with the media outlets that report them as fake and rigged. His patented riffs to delegitimize polls is to claim “the election polls were a WAY OFF disaster,” as he tweeted most recently attacking CNN. In fact, the poll reported was a Gallup Research poll showing Trump’s approval rating had sank to 37% after starting at 45% shortly after the inauguration.

So, were the polls inaccurate November 8? Even if they were within the margin of acceptable error, were they misreported? Clearly, the nation’s political establishment and citizens were shocked by the result.

A four-day conference in New Orleans on May 18-21 will deconstruct the 2016 election polling and reporting and propose improvements.

The theme for AAPOR’s 2017 Annual Conference is: Embracing Change and Diversity in Public Opinion and Social Science Research.

Among the panels featured are:

  • A polling post-mortem and related papers spawned by the extraordinary 2016 election.
  • Latest research on survey methods, including non-response, question wording, questionnaire design, interviewers and interviewing, and sampling.
  • Diversity: Public opinion and research on racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation issues.
  • Public opinion in shaping policy and debate on pivotal topics, like healthcare, immigration, income equality, marijuana and gun control. The Crossley Center will chair a panel on marijuana and public opinion change.

Public opinion and survey researchers are working in a time of unprecedented change, challenge and opportunity. AAPOR’s annual conference is the premier event for researchers, practitioners and consumers of social data to present the latest materials and learn from one another.

Monday, March 27, 2017

European Populism Not Dead. It has Powerful Friends in America.

Although the European establishment and the EU bureaucracy feels more secure after the Netherlands vote, the attraction of populism and nationalism remains strong in many European countries. It will next be tested in France.

The EU establishment cites recent polls that show EU favoring candidates in France and Germany have been surging into tight leads. But, if one conclusion came out of the recent Donald Trump and Angela Merkel summit, it is that the Trump administration is pro-populist, pro-nationalist and anti-EU. Their meeting highlighted no consensus exists on trade or EU’s open borders.

U.S. populist and nationalist money and online campaigning was spotted in the Netherlands. Expect behind-the-scenes support in France. Because Trump and his policies are an easy target for the European left, low-key campaigning will be the tactic.

In terms of Germany, although Trump and his team would prefer a party of the right, Merkel is such an object of resistance that they would likely prefer any chancellor but Merkel, even a socialist.

The sense of confidence for the European establishment or Brussels bureaucracy should be tempered by the challenges they face and the forces arrayed against them. And then there is, of course, the disinformation and aggressive campaigning of Russia.

The Buzz: Populism dominates 2017 European politics
The Buzz: European nationalists cheer Trump
The Buzz: Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and political battleground
Crossley Center: Netherlands moves right on immigration, but rejects the chaos of fringe nationalism

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and Political Battleground

The Trump-Merkel Oval Office visit was frigid. No handshake and no consensus on the mission and scope of the Atlantic alliance. Donald Trump and his “America First” team are more interested in a Cold War with Germany and Western Europe’s establishments than with Russia.

President Donald Trump meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office on March 17, 2016 | Evan Vucci/AP
The difference in core issues and values were significant: immigration, NATO, trade and the EU.


Migration, immigration, integration has to be worked on, obviously. Traffickers have to be stopped. But this has to be done while looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives where they are; help countries who right now are not in an ability to do so -- sometimes because they have civil war.  I think that’s the right way of going about it.

We also recognize that immigration security is national security. We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders. Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.

Trade and EU

Well, I believe that the President has clearly set out his philosophy as to what trade agreements have to bring about for the American side as well. I personally don’t think that Germany needs to negotiate and not the European Union.

But the question is, will it be of benefit to both countries or not, and let me be very honest, very candid -- a free trade agreement with the United States of America has not always been all that popular in Germany either.

First of all, I don't believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that's going to stop.

On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well. Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States. But hopefully we can even it out. We don’t want victory, we want fairness.


...obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it. One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example. It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security. 

We continue to be in conversation. What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan.

I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe. 

But the problem Trump has with Merkel is more political than policy. Merkel represents everything Trump doesn’t like, and he often says so.

She is the senior European leader in power since 2005. She was close to Barack Obama; she leads Europe’s best economy with its most stable government. She is conservative, yet a globalist and the leading advocate of the EU’s conventions on open borders and a European position on trade.

For Trump, what’s to like?

But it’s even more personal. She got a Time Person of the Year recognition when he felt he should have received it. She was just labeled “leader of the free world,” not surprising since he only aspires to lead “America First.”

And, during the campaign, he specifically used her as a rally shout out. In fact, she and Hillary Clinton were interchangeable. And, of course, his raison d'être issue, immigration, should sink her. Trump asks, why is she in my office?


October 2015
“I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader,” he said…about her decision to allow more than a million refugees into the country. “What she’s done in Germany is insane,” he added and predicted: “They’re going to have riots in Germany.”

December 2015
After Time magazine made Merkel its Person of the Year, Trump took to Twitter to declare that the outlet picked the person “who is ruining Germany.”

March 2016
Referring to the Cologne New Year’s Eve assaults on hundreds of women, Trump, during a rally in Iowa, again predicted unrest in Germany and lashed out against Merkel. “The German people are going to riot. The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman [Angela Merkel]. I don’t know what the hell she is thinking.”

“Germany’s being destroyed. I have friends, I just left people from Germany and they don’t even want to go back. Germany’s being destroyed by Merkel’s naiveté or worse.”

October 2016
“Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel, and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought would they would ever see.” Trump said.

“We have enough problems in our country, we don’t need another one,” the candidate said.

Neither the Atlantic alliance nor the German-American relations were helped by this summit. But, Merkel’s reelection may receive a boost. Trump is not popular with much of the European public. In fact, Merkel’s main German opponent, Martin Schulz of the center-left Social Democratic Party, has received considerable attention for his criticism of Trump and “America First.”

However, neither Merkel nor the EU establishment should have any illusions. Trump represents a direct challenge to them and their vision.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Netherlands Moves Right on Immigration, But Rejects the Chaos of Fringe Nationalism

Geert Wilders and Dutch Prime Minister
Mark Rutte | Yves Herman/Reuters
Immigration remains a powerful force in European electoral politics as just demonstrated by the Dutch electorate. But, voters rejected the governing extreme of Brexit or the Trump/Bannon anti-EU, anti-Muslim policies that Geert Wilders espoused. Although his Freedom Party picked up a few seats in parliament, it was far less than expected. The current prime minister, Mark Rutte, of the center-right Peoples Party remains the largest and will assemble a coalition government.

Rutte thanked his supporters for opposing the “wrong kind of populism.” He clearly moved right on immigration, but it was more rhetoric than policy.

A record turnout with a surge of young voters was good for the green party, which increased its share of the vote to a record high. Populism, and its anti-establishment sentiment, can help both right and left.

Immigration and nationalism will remain potent electoral strategy effecting the French (April 23 1st round) and German elections (September). But, voters appear to be pausing before jumping to the Brexit and Trump extremes.

Europe’s centralists were as excited by this election as the rightwing was of Trump’s (see blog: European Nationalists Cheer Trump)

  • François Hollande: Clear victory against extremism
  • Angela Merkel: “Oh, the Netherlands – You are a champion. Congratulations on this great result, very pro-European result.”
  • Jean-Claude Juncker: Victory for “free and tolerant societies in prosperous Europe”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is Immigration Reform Possible?

President Trump referenced that some type of solution was possible for millions of undocumented residents if they do not have criminal records in an interview on the day of his Joint Session of Congress speech on February 28, 2017. That was a change in position for Trump and the administration. Of course, it may not have been a serious proposal.

President Trump's first address to Congress
The administration is currently conducting deportation raids against all undocumented because their status is prima facia illegal. “We are just upholding the immigration law.” And although Trump has stated that the focus is on apprehending criminals and drug and gang members, numerous stories made clear that many of those deported are guilty, at most, of minor offenses, such as failing to have a driver’s license or misuse of a Social Security Card to obtain work. In other words, prior to the statement by Trump, it was assumed that most undocumented residents were subject to deportation. The administration was slated to hire 15,000 additional immigration employees to implement the new sweeps.

Resistance to this approach is significant, both from elected officials and the public. If the President wanted to support an immigration reform bill, he’s greatly increased bargaining power of the anti-immigration position, i.e., in favor of more stringent conditions.

The American people would welcome a solution that avoids mass deportations, endless conflict among political jurisdictions and stories of family hardship.

Polling done by our firm and others show that the majority of the public believe that immigration proposals of recent years requiring long waiting periods, speaking English, paying taxes and having no criminal record were popular. Only about a quarter of the population believes in expulsion, but it tends to be concentrated in the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

A Promise Trump and Ryan Need to Deliver

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are in deep trouble. Health care repeal and replace is a promise that must be delivered. Much of their support is based on the belief they can deliver certain key promises. And critically for their power, the business community has ignored the distracting tweets and out of mainstream views in hopes tax reform, infrastructure spending and deregulation would be the upside for tolerance.

Health care reform was not the corporate and business crowds’ top priority. It was forced front and center by the Republican political leadership as long promised and doable given the repeated overwhelming votes to repeal in the House since 2011.

Trump changed the game. He insisted that the popular aspects of the program stay in place and that repeal and replace pass at once. He was operating as a politician, not an ideologue. But the Republican Party has a surfeit of health care ideologues: Tea Party, Freedom Caucus and Rand Paul Libertarians who do not believe in any health entitlements and resist subsidies for the poor. They want to replace Obamacare and then pass some market-oriented measures that are likely to leave many gaps and many sympathetic stories of citizens left bereft of support. Many of them will be Trump voters.

If the gridlock of the last six years now continues with Republicans in total control, the raison d’être of the Trump administration and Republican majority begins to crumble.

Public Opinion

As pointed out in recent blog, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, Obamacare has grown more popular as it appears threatened and President Obama is no longer the chief defender of it. Recent polling associated with Obamacare show that the Freedom Caucus and Tea Party viewpoint of no right to health care and no subsidy for the poor are narrowly held positions among the public.

The public supports Trump’s and Ryan’s view that a replacement plan must accompany the repeal. They also believe insurance must be affordable.

The public in general believe there is a “right” to health care.  The view that government is responsible for it has grown in recent years.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Putin’s Pyrrhic Victory

Russia and Vladimir Putin are now toxic in Washington, D.C. Even having a conversation with the Russian ambassador can get a person fired (Michael Flynn) or recused (Jeff Sessions). That was hardly the plan on Election Night when Putin and his entourage were reportedly toasting the result with champagne.

Putin’s aggressive propaganda campaign continues most of the old Cold War techniques, but adds cyber warfare against Western democracies and especially the U.S. election. The motivation appeared to help remove a political irritant, Hillary Clinton, and assist a friendly Donald Trump, who was disinterested in Russian ambitions in Eastern Europe, the future of the EU or NATO, the removal of Bashar al-Assad and human rights issues in general. A tertiary benefit was undermining confidence in American democracy.

But, unfortunately for Putin, he and Russia have become pariahs in Washington. Even normal diplomacy is now disrupted. Both Putin and Russia are at all-time lows in public opinion, which will help their opponents to continue and extend sanctions and spend prodigious amounts on defense, much of it aimed at Russia And, of course, there are new multiple investigations of Trump’s Russian connections, plus the cabinet and NSC appointments do not bode well for a thaw in U.S.-Russian relations.

Putin is giving a modern update to the definition of Pyrrhic victory.

Read: Politico: Russian investigations a “witch hunt”? Not according to polls

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Congratulations to Condi Rice, Recipient of DU Founders Day Award

On March 1, the University of Denver will celebrate 153 years of service to the citizens of Colorado, the world and generations of students.

The University will honor Korbel School graduate and former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, with the International Achievement Medal for global leadership and civic engagement.

Also being honored is long-time University Trustee (now honorary), Ralph Nagel, and his wife Trish, for their commitment and generous support to the University.

Bannon’s Foreign Policy Blowback

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s foreign policy strategist, has set his goal to help bring a conservative nationalist revolt throughout the developed world. He applauded, as did his boss, Brexit, and his rhetorical flourishes in the inaugural address were hailed by most of Europe’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU nationalist parties.

But, his strategy is also producing a left-wing counter-reaction. Mexico’s next government may be on the left (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) and a German socialist is taking on the center-right party of Angela Merkel by attacking Donald Trump’s and Bannon’s America First rhetoric (Martin Schutz). An anti-Trump, center-left independent in France also has surged in recent days (Emmanuel Macron), as attacking Trump has become a survival strategy of pro-EU liberal forces in Europe and the left generally. Trump and Bannon are stimulating movement of European and Mexican politics at least as much on the left as the right.

Trump Approval Weak, But Better on Economy Than Foreign Policy

RealClearPolitics keeps a running average of presidential approval and as well reported Donald Trump has a net negative rating and record-low approval (44% approve to 50% disapprove). The polling website also tracks presidential approval on economic and foreign policy performances.

Although Trump’s economic performance approval isn’t particularly high, his negative rating is a low 41 percent.

Not surprising, on foreign policy his approval is only 39 percent and disapproval is a high 53 percent. It is foreign policy with the roll-out of the refugee ban, the war of words with Mexico over the wall and paying for it, and sacking General Flynn that has produced the most negative headlines. Even with his well-regarded cabinet appointments at state and defense, there appears to be a divergence in policy with Trump on the EU, NATO, Russia and Iraq oil. Foreign policy was also the area that garnered the most resistance during the campaign from the establishment of both parties. And, it’s the area Trump is seen as the least experienced and most ill-suited in terms of temperament, with several highly opinioned unorthodox advisors (Bannon, Miller, Flynn, Gorka).

Trump has the jobs message down. It is foreign policy where his message sounds mostly confused and risky.

Flynn Out on Busy Day

Michael Flynn was enjoying the company of his White House colleagues on the day of his resignation.

President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participate in a joint
news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13 | AP photo
President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13 | AP photo

All appears well at the 2:00 pm press conference between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. Flynn sits in the front row with Vice President Pence, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

The picture changes rapidly when at approximately 4:00 pm Conway reports Flynn has the President’s “full confidence” after questions that the Justice Department had warned the White House on January 19 that Flynn’s December 29 Russian conversation was a problem and the FBI had an ongoing probe.

Shortly afterward, Sean Spicer contradicts Conway and announces Trump was “evaluating the situation.” By 11:00 pm, Flynn is out.

The 24-day White House career of General Flynn, soared from being a key participant on January 28 in the high-back chair in front of the Resolute Desk as President Trump talks to President Vladimir Putin to February 13 when he lost his desk.

Washington is a tough town.

The Buzz: Gathering around the Resolute Desk
New York Times: The timeline of Michael Flynn’s phone call with Russia: Who know what, and when

Two Elections: Trump Wins Battlegrounds, Clinton Wins the Rest

Out of more than 136 million votes cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College (304 to 227, or 77 votes), with a margin of 78,000 votes in three states: Pennsylvania (44,000) (20 electors), Wisconsin (23,000) (10) and Michigan (11,000) (16). But, he was the fifth president to win the electoral vote and not the popular vote.

Two elections took place November 8. Trump won 13 swing states as computed by Charlie Cook on his website by about 800,000 votes (Trump won 8 and Clinton won 5). But, he lost the popular vote in the remaining 37 states and D.C. by 3.7 million votes, leaving him behind by 2.9 million.

U.S. presidential politics is a blend of votes and geography. Much of Clinton’s advantage came from a handful of states and large cities. Greater Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, D.C., and Atlanta delivered overflow votes. But, Democrats’ urban strength did not make up for the Trump solidarity in the white working class and voters in small towns and rural areas. Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami did not deliver Pennsylvania, Georgia or Florida.

Democrats swept California by 61 percent, or more than 4 million votes. But their overflow voters in California was superfluous. The significant concentration of the Democrats in a handful of states led to the Electoral College failure and contributes to their weak position in the House of Representatives.

Senate Elections in 2018 – Major Challenge for Democrats

Democrats’ weaknesses in the interior of the country will be on full display in the 2018 election. They would like to pick up the three senate seats they missed in 2018 (would have needed 2 if Clinton/Keane had won) to control the Senate. But out of the 33 seats up, they must defend 25 (including their 2 independents) and many are in the heartland where Donald Trump did well.

Republicans have only one seat out of 8 in a state Hillary Clinton won – Nevada and Democrats will target it. Democrats will also challenge Jeff Flake, who only won with 49 percent in the 2012 race, but it will still be difficult for them to win Arizona (Trump carried it by 4 points). They will likely take on Ted Cruz in Texas, another difficult win, but they hope he’s vulnerable with his endless shifting position on Trump and changes in the state’s demographics.

But Republican opportunities are huge. Democrats will be defending highly vulnerable seats won in President Obama’s 2012 re-election. Five of those states were carried by Mitt Romney that year. Last year, Donald Trump won them and the Republicans will target them.

Also, a few states Trump won (but not Romney) will be put on the target list, including Florida (Nelson), Ohio (Brown), Pennsylvania (Casey), Wisconsin (Baldwin) and Michigan (Stabenow).

Obviously, Trump’s popularity will be a factor, but if he holds his base and most Republicans, Democrats will be playing more defense than offense in these senate seats. The Democratic Party’s Beltway leadership and messaging has not been appealing to a majority of voters in the states with vulnerable senators. Will the Democrats move off the coasts and out of the big cities to challenge Republicans with the working class voters in rural areas and smaller towns or have these senators?

U.S. Senate |

Colorado Moves Two Points to the Left

On a variety of scales, Colorado remains a competitive two-party state. For example, Gallup records Colorado as competitive in its 2016 fifty-state ranking of partisan affiliation. Nationally, partisanship is 47 percent Democrat and 42 percent Republican, or a five-point Democratic advantage. Colorado is cited as competitive with a less than one percent advantage for Republicans. Fourteen states are listed competitive, including Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Virginia.

In terms of liberal and conservative ideology, Colorado is considered centrist in a fifty-state list, with 35 percent stating they’re conservative, 36 percent moderate and 26 percent liberal. But, it is on the more liberal end of the scale and the scale has moved to the left in recent years. Colorado’s position is confirmed by the shift in attitudes during the last decade toward legalized marijuana, which was defeated as a ballot proposal in 2006 by 59 percent and approved in 2012 by 55 percent. Also, a civil union initiative was defeated in 2006 by 53 percent, but passed by the state legislature in 2013, and polls showed it had 71 percent of Coloradans’ support (Quinnipiac 2013).

Although Colorado remains competitive between the two parties, as shown by candidates representing the two parties winning statewide races and splitting control of the state legislature, in fact, the state has moved at least two points to the Democratic side of the scale since 2006. This is most clearly shown in terms of registration and voter behavior in presidential elections. Republicans have lost their registration advantage. Voters not affiliated with a party are now the largest political group in the state, and polling shows they skew younger and somewhat more liberal and Democratic.

Viewing the presidential races since 1996 shows Colorado shifted to the Democratic side with Barack Obama’s first election and remained in that camp through the 2016 Clinton election.

The next major political race in Colorado is for governor. The ebb and flow of Washington politics and the quality of local candidates will frame the race. And although Republicans could win it, at least the early numbers suggest Democrats have a slight advantage.

See Gallup: GOP maintains edge in state party affiliation in 2016