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Post 2010: West Even More Important to Democrats

Ten years ago, Karl Rove and George W. Bush put together a blueprint for a winning path for
the Republican Party for years to come. Their plan was to reach out to “compassionate
conservatives,” Hispanics, and Independents and bring them in under their “big tent.” But, the
conservative, dominant wing of the Republican Party alienated many of these voters in the
West over the past decade as evidenced by looking at the electoral gains Democrats have made
in the Intermountain West.

In 2000, Democrats controlled zero Governorships, 3 Senate seats and 6 Congressional seats.
After the 2008 election, Democrats held 5 Governor’s seats, 7 Senate seats, and 17 House
seats. And, President Obama had won by large margins in Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico
after John Kerry failed to take a single state out of eight in the “New West” four years earlier.

This year, we won’t see the gains that Democrats have made in the past two cycles, but what’s
interesting is that our long term goals are still very much on track. Not that long ago, it would
have been almost unthinkable that the West would be the frontline for crucial races up and
down the ticket that both parties are battling over today. That the West is now a battleground
is a demonstration of the influential role this region plays and will continue to play in American
politics.

To fully understand the electoral changes that have taken place in the West, it is critical to
understand the western mindset and our issue priorities, the changing demographics of the
region, the electoral impact of early vote and ballot measures, and the rising influence of
Independent voters.

One election cycle does not make a trend. In other words, while the 2010 election is very
volatile and it is next to impossible to predict outcomes in a host of races throughout the
region, it is crucial to understand long-term trends and opportunities for this region. Party
registration shifts, Hispanic turnout compared to previous off-year elections, early voting
patterns, ballot measure results, and the ticket splitting that is a western tradition will
determine how the West is really won.

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
About Project New West

Since Project New West’s inception in 2007, PNW has emerged as the leading authority on the
values, issues, and demographics that define America’s Intermountain West. PNW was
founded on the belief that the West offers Democrats and progressives the best opportunity for
growth in the nation.

PNW’s mission is to provide subscribers and clients with a roadmap to understand the political,
demographic, and issue landscape of the West. Our subscribers receive a comprehensive set of
tools and strategies which include quantitative and qualitative research, issue analysis,
demographic research, and other strategic services to most effectively communicate to those
who live and play in the West.

Snapshot: A Window into Western Trends

Project New West is conducting extensive research and analysis to help decipher the results of
November’s election. Outlined below are some factors that we believe are critical to look at as
news organizations and analysts begin to understand the 2010 election as it relates to the
West.

1. Westerners’ Expectations of Government and Their Leaders (Page 4): Poll after poll shows
that western voters want a government that is accountable and transparent, focused on
providing nuts and bolts infrastructure and services like transportation and a quality
education. They don’t want to “drown their government in a bathtub.”
2. Independent Voters Remain Key to the West (Page 4): Unaffiliated voters in the West
remain resolutely independent from both political parties, although they have been crucial
to Democrats winning in the West over the past decade. In a recent poll, 69% of these
Unaffiliated voters said that Democrats in Congress were doing only a fair or poor job.
Similarly, 68% said Republicans in Congress were doing only a fair or poor job.
3. The Influence of Hispanic Voters in the West Will Continue to Grow (Page 5): Although
Latino voters in the West have favored Democrats in the past, it is critical to remember that
Latino voters are not a monolithic voting bloc in terms of language preferences, ideology, or
issue priorities. Without consistent messaging and outreach from campaigns, Hispanic
voter participation is more affected by the decreased turnout in off-year elections.

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
4. Long Term Trends Favor Democrats (Page 6):
a. College Educated Voters are Moving Suburban Swing Counties (Page 6)
b. Hispanic Voters are Growing in Power Across the Country (Appendix A)
c. Party Registration Numbers are Shifting away from Republicans (Appendix D)
5. Education is a Compelling Electoral Issue (Page 7): Voters fundamentally believe that the
way to make America strong economically is by ensuring our children are equipped with
the skills necessary to be competitive in the global economy. In Colorado, Idaho, Nevada,
and New Mexico, PNW polling shows voters favor approaches to balancing state budget
deficits that avoid cuts to education spending.
6. Social Issues Continue to Divide Republicans and Turn off Independents (Page 8):
Conservatives have sought to use issues such as abortion as a wedge, and it seems to be
backfiring. The extreme position some candidates have taken on the abortion issue –
outlawing it even in cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the woman – puts
these candidates and their supporters far out of the mainstream of westerners.
7. Voters Strongly Support the New Energy Economy (Page 9): PNW polling shows that voters
across the West say that investments in solar & wind energy are a better choice than
drilling for oil & natural gas on several key dimensions like ‘in America’s best interest,’
‘reducing dependence on foreign oil,’ and ‘creating jobs in your state.’
8. Immigration is Not a Top Issue for Hispanic or Anglo Voters (Page 10): Despite the GOP’s
attempts to use immigration as a wedge issue, voters’ top priorities are jobs, the economy,
and education. However, a clear majority of western voters want to see the federal
government address the issue of immigration. Even in Arizona, where a majority of
surveyed voters supported Arizona’s new controversial state immigration law (SB1070),
even more voters supported comprehensive federal immigration reform.

Appendix
Page
A. The West is the Fastest Growing Region Driven By Metro-Areas 11
B. Hispanic Population Growth In the West & Beyond 12
C. Electoral Trends Show Movement Toward Democrats 13
D. Voter Registration Trends Show Movement Away from Republicans 15

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
Westerners’ Expectations of Government and Their Leaders

Voters move to this region and stay here because of the unique quality of life they believe the
West offers. Our research repeatedly has shown that this is something that westerners take
great pride in and want to protect. The attraction to the West has made this the fastest
growing region in the nation over the past decade. Because of this rapid population growth,
there has been a great need for infrastructure to meet the demands of the West’s new and
growing communities (see Appendix A, Page 11). Growing suburban and ex-urban populations
expect their state and local government to make investments in schools, roads, clean water,
sewage systems, and front-line public safety employees. Voters understand the important role
state governments play in providing these services to protect the unique quality of life the West
offers. Poll after poll shows that while western voters don’t want to “drown their government
in a bathtub,” they want a government that is accountable and transparent, focused on
providing nuts and bolts infrastructure and services like transportation and quality education.
• In Arizona, voters approved a three-year sales tax increase by a vote of 64 to 36% in
May 2010. 1 The measure, which divided the Republican Party, was supported by a
diverse coalition including the Republican Governor, business interests, and labor
unions.
• 65% of likely Colorado voters say that they are “very or somewhat satisfied with the
quality of services provided by government in Colorado.” Only 10% of likely voters in
Colorado said they were “not satisfied at all.” 2
• In Colorado, three conservative anti-government measures on the 2010 ballot
(Amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101) have been opposed by a large left-right
coalition including the Chamber of Commerce and labor unions. All three measures are
trailing badly in recent polls. 3

Independent Voters Remain Key to the West


Many western voters pride themselves as being more independent from political parties than
voters in other regions of the country. In states such as Arizona and Colorado, a full third of the
electorate are not registered with a political party but are registered as Unaffiliated or
Independent.
• Since 2000, the swing states of Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada have all seen a significant
increase in the percentage of registered Independent voters and a decrease in the
percent of registered Republicans. In New Mexico, the numbers are constant, with a

1
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/19/nation/la-na-arizona-tax-20100520
2
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Colorado; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; Mar 17-22, 2010
3
http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_16249464

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
large Democratic registration edge (see Appendix D, pages 15-16 for voter registration
trends).
In 2004, 2006, and 2008, these voters often made the critical difference in close elections up
and down the ballot throughout the West. The elections of then-Governor Janet Napolitano
(AZ-2002), then-Senator Ken Salazar (CO-2004), Governor Brian Schweitzer (MT-2004), Senator
John Tester (MT-2006), Congressman Walt Minnick (ID1-2008), Senator Mark Udall (CO-2008),
and Senator Tom Udall (NM-2008) are examples of successful Democrats that captured
Independent voters. Independent voters chose pragmatic, non-ideological candidates who
address the issues most directly related to quality of life: jobs, schools, conservation, and
infrastructure like roads, water, and essential public safety services. To win Independent
voters, the most successful candidates are seen as being above partisan politics and able to
work together to accomplish their goals.

In this election, Independent voters are very much up for grabs. In a recent qualitative and
quantitative research project conducted by PNW of these registered Unaffiliated voters in
Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, we found that they remain resolutely independent from party
labels and are feeling extremely sour towards both political parties.

• 69% of these Unaffiliated voters said that Democrats in Congress were doing only a fair
or poor job. Similarly, 68% said Republicans in Congress were doing only a fair or poor
job. 4
• However, these Independent voters gave Democrats in Congress an edge on being the
party that “focused on creating new jobs” and “stands with regular people.” 5
• Many Independent voters tend to be younger (18-49) and are not affiliated with a
political party because they are newer to the process.

The Influence of Hispanic Voters in the West Will Continue to Grow

Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the country and their long-term
influence in American politics will continue to grow over the next decade. As with all other
demographic groups in the West, we expect their overall turnout to be lower than during the
2008 Presidential election. However, it is important to note that the population is young and
their percentage of the voting population will continue to expand. Although Latino voters in
the West have favored Democrats in the past, it is critical to remember that Latino voters are
not a monolithic voting bloc in terms of language preferences, ideology, or issue priorities.
Education continues to be a key motivator for this community as it connects a host of values
that they rank highly: living the American dream, opportunity, and family.

4
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in AZ, CO, NV; 900 Unaffiliated Voters; June 24-30, 2010
5
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in AZ, CO, NV; 900 Unaffiliated Voters; June 24-30, 2010

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
• In Nevada, 50% of Hispanic voters reported jobs and the economy as the most
important issue in determining who to vote for.6
• In Texas, 95% of Hispanic voters thought creating jobs and improving the economy was
an important factor in deciding to vote in this year’s election. 96% of TX Hispanic voters
felt that ensuring children receive the education they need in order to succeed in the
future was important in determining to vote. 7
• In a large-scale study of Hispanic voters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico,
PNW found that:
o 92% say that they are proud to be an American;
o 84% say that they take care of elders in their families;
o 59% display the American flag on their home, car, or workplace.8

Long Term Trends Favor Democrats

A report from the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University (see Appendix A,
Page 11) shows that the rapid population growth in the West is driven by people in metropolitan
areas. In key suburban swing counties, two demographic groups are fueling Democratic success:
college educated voters and Hispanics. These key suburban counties that flipped from Bush to
Obama in 2008 have both.

2004 Kerry 2008 Obama Net Shift


• Arapahoe County, CO 47.5% 55.3% +7.8
• Larimer County, CO 46.6% 54.1% +7.5
• Jefferson County, CO 46.6% 53.6% +7
• Valencia County, NM 55.6% 43.3% +9.7
• Sandoval, NM 48.1% 55.6% +7.5
• Washoe, NV 47.0% 55.2% +8.2
In addition, these key suburban/urban counties all showed movement toward Obama:
2004 Kerry 2008 Obama Net Shift
• Maricopa County, AZ 42.3% 44% +1.7
• Ada County, ID 37.7% 45.9% +8.2
• Clark County, NV 51.7% 58.4% +6.7
• Salt Lake County, UT 37.5% 48.7% +11.2
Although these areas may swing in 2010, the long-term future is favorable for Democrats.

6
Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Likely Voters
Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010
7
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Texas; 500 Hispanic Likely Voters in Harris, Hidalgo, and Cameron
Counties; Aug 24-31, 2010
8
PNW 2008 Hispanic Voter Research Project; 2000 Likely Voter Interviews

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
Education is a Compelling Electoral Issue
Despite the recession, we have seen poll after poll show strong opposition to education budget
cuts, especially those that result in job losses for educators and increased class sizes. Voters
fundamentally believe that the way to make America strong economically is by ensuring our
children are equipped with the skills necessary to be competitive in the global economy. In the
West, candidates are using education in their paid communications efforts as a defining
electoral issue.

In Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico, PNW polling shows voters favor approaches to
balancing state budgets that avoid cuts to education spending.
o In Colorado, only 25% of likely voters favored cuts to state government spending
if that meant cutting K-12 education. Only 16% of Colorado Hispanic voters
favored the cuts. 9
o In New Mexico, only 19% of likely voters favored cuts to state spending including
education. Only 17% of New Mexico Hispanic voters favored the cuts. 10
o In Nevada, 82% of likely voters oppose a proposal to cut $300 million from K-12
education.11 70% of Hispanic voters in Nevada believe that state funding for
public should be increased. 12
o Even in deeply conservative Idaho, 81% of likely voters opposed a plan to cut
nearly $130 million from K-12 education. 13
• In the campaign battles, candidates like Sharron Angle (NV) and Ken Buck (CO) have
avoided repeating their primary-season calls to eliminate the U.S. Department of
Education. In both states, their opponents have attacked them directly for this
position. 14
• Education cuts are especially toxic among the crucial and growing bloc of Hispanic
voters. In Nevada, PNW polling among likely Hispanic voters shows 80% opposed to
Angle’s position on education funding and eliminating the U.S. Department of
Education.15

9
Myers Research & Grove Insight Poll in Colorado; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; Mar 17-22, 2010
10
Grove Insight Poll in New Mexico; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; Jan 7-22 2010
11
Grove Insight Poll in Nevada; 500 Likely Voters Statewide; Jan 24-30, 2010
12
Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Likely Voters
Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010
13
Grove Insight Poll in Idaho; 500 Likely Voters Statewide, Mar 10-14, 2010
14
Harry Reid Campaign, Department of Education video: http://www.mynews4.com/story.php?id=27445&n=122
Michael Bennet Campaign, Department of Education video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUKGym_iVYI.
15
Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Interviews
Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
• Education issues are extremely important to younger voters, both 18-29 year olds and
voters under 50 with children.
• Ken Buck’s comment about eliminating federal college student loans has been used as a
line of attack on television advertisements by the Bennet campaign and DSCC. 16

Social Issues Continue to Divide Republicans, and Turn off Independents

Conservatives may have overplayed their hand when it comes to social issues. They have
sought to use issues such as abortion as a wedge, and it seems to be backfiring. The extreme
position some candidates have taken on the abortion issue – outlawing it even in cases of rape,
incest, and to protect the health of the woman – puts these candidates and their supporters far
out of the mainstream of westerners. It also flies in the face of the anti-government rhetoric of
the Tea Party.

• 83% of likely Colorado voters, including 78% of Hispanic voters, do not believe abortion
should be outlawed. Only 13% of Colorado voters say that abortion should not be
legal. 17
• In Colorado, a measure has been placed on the 2010 ballot that would not only outlaw
abortion, but would also ban many forms of birth control and some fertilization
treatments. A similar amendment was defeated in 2008 by over 70% of Colorado
voters. A recent Denver Post/Survey USA poll showed only 15% of voters supporting
this measure, Amendment 62. 18 Every major Colorado Republican candidate has taken
the extreme position on access to abortion services and endorsed the personhood
amendment, in order to court support during the GOP primary.19
• Ken Buck’s extreme position in support of the personhood amendment and against
abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, has been used by both the Bennet campaign
and DSCC against him in paid communications. 20

16
Michael Bennet Campaign, Student Loans video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnA1Y4NxCvY
DSCC Plan Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0d1ZNOWdkI&feature=player_embedded
17
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Colorado; 600 Statewide Interviews with an oversample of 200 additional
Hispanic voters; Sep 8-15, 2010
18
http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_16249464
19
Amendment 62 Supporters:
Ken Buck (Senate): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/us/politics/07abortion.html?_r=3
Dan Maes (Governor): http://www.danmaes.com/the-issues/ [Accessed Oct 12, 2010]
Cory Gardner (CD4): video located at http://coloradopols.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=11576
20
DSCC, Reproductive Health video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC45R8y7gh8&feature=player_embedded
Michael Bennet Campaign, Reproductive Health video:
http://www.youtube.com/user/BennetForColorado#p/u/15/8jgTySETM2U

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• PNW polling shows that this amendment increases interest in voting among key
Democratic constituencies like single women, 2008 surge voters, and Hispanic voters.21
• In a recent poll in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, GOP Candidate David Schweikert’s
position on abortion was troubling to 66% of likely voters in the district.22

Voters Strongly Support the New Energy Economy

The West has been on the front-line of both the emerging “new energy economy” and the
debate over where to drill for oil and natural gas. Not only is the West rich in alternative
energy resources but westerners understand how critical it is to become independent from
foreign oil and to create jobs that can’t be easily outsourced overseas.

• PNW polling shows that voters across the West say that investments in solar & wind
energy are a better choice than drilling for oil & natural gas on several key dimensions
like “in America’s best interest,” “reducing dependence on foreign oil,” and “creating
jobs in your state.” 23
• Especially after the BP Gulf-oil spill, PNW data confirms that candidates lose support if
they take money from oil companies. 79% of likely Colorado voters said they would be
less likely to vote for candidate who took tens of thousands of dollars in campaign
contributions from big oil companies. 77% said that they would be less likely to vote for
someone who supported tax breaks for big oil companies.24

Immigration is Not a Top Issue for Hispanic or Anglo Voters


While conservatives are trying to use immigration as a wedge issue, western voters of all ethnic
backgrounds and ideologies continue to rank jobs, the economy, and education as their top
priorities. That said, PNW has found that western voters want Washington to take action and
address immigration reform and border security. Nowhere is the evidence for this stronger
than in Arizona. While a majority of voters supported Arizona’s controversial new state
immigration law (SB1070), even more voters supported a comprehensive federal immigration
solution. Voters supported SB1070, not because of the specifics of the law passed, but because
they want to see federal government action on this issue.

21
Myers Research Poll in Colorado; 850 Registered Voters; Dec 1-19, 2009
22
Harstad Research Poll in AZ5; 500 Likely Voters; Sep 13-16,2010
23
Harstad Research & Westen Strategies Poll in CO, NV, MT; 900 Likely Voters – 300 in each state; Oct 8-13, 2009
24
Benenson Strategy Group Poll in Colorado; 600 Likely Voters Statewide; July 21-24, 2010

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
• Just after the passage of SB1070, PNW polling in Arizona showed that 73% of likely
voters supported comprehensive immigration reform including 76% of those that were
identified as Republicans, 74% of Anglo voters, and 73% of Hispanic voters. Only 60% of
all voters in the poll supported Arizona’s SB1070. 25
• PNW polling among Hispanic voters in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas shows
that jobs and education top their concerns, above immigration. There is great intensity
among Hispanic voters on these issues.
o In Nevada, 50% of Hispanic voters said jobs and the economy is their top
concern, while only 18% cited immigration.26
o In Texas, immigration was the 5th highest concern among Hispanic voters behind
education, jobs and the economy, reducing household costs, and reducing the
national debt.27

25
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll; 500 Statewide Interviews with an oversample of 100 additional Hispanic
voters; May 6-12, 2010
26
Chambers Lopez & Gaitán, LLC, Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Nevada; 600 Hispanic Likely Voters
Statewide; Aug 14-19, 2010
27
Grove Insight & Myers Research Poll in Texas; 500 Hispanic Likely Voters in Harris, Hidalgo, and Cameron
Counties; Aug 24-31, 2010

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
Appendix A: The West is the Fastest Growing Region Driven By Metro Areas

28

29

28
US Census Bureau, State Rankings of Population Change
29
Western Rural Development Center, http://wrdc.usu.edu/files/uploads/Population/ChangingWest_WEB.pdf

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Appendix B: Hispanic Population Growth in the West & Beyond
(Sources: Pew Hispanic Center; US Census)

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Appendix C: Electoral Trends Show Movement Toward Democrats

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
Appendix D: Voter Registration Trends Show Movement Away From Republicans
(Source: Secretaries of State Voter Registration)

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Copyright 2010 by Project New West
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Copyright 2010 by Project New West