Skip to contents
Politics and Government

Coloradans undecided about national popular vote law, new poll shows, as idea becomes 2020 talking point

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t fully on board with the idea, telling The Colorado Sun: “In the end, our Founding Fathers got things pretty right.”

Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
  • Credibility:

Coloradans are more likely to oppose than support the national popular vote bill that Gov. Jared Polis signed into law, according to a new poll, but more than a quarter say they’re not familiar at all with the policy that’s become a hot-button issue and an attack line against Democrats.

The survey, by the Louisville-based Republican pollster Magellan Strategies, showed that 34 percent have a favorable opinion of the law adding Colorado onto a compact to bypass the Electoral College system, while 39 percent have an unfavorable view. Another 27 percent have no opinion.

“Right now, there’s no hard opinions for or against it, necessarily,” said David Flaherty, who leads Magellan. “It’s not that they don’t understand it. It’s just that a significant number of people haven’t heard about it.”

Magellan polled likely 2020 general election voters between March 11-13 and weighted the numbers based on past election turnout in Colorado. The survey has a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Polis signed Senate Bill 42 into law Friday without a public ceremony. The measure — part of growing questions about the Electoral College system thanks to Democrats making 2020 presidential bids — drew immense Republican pushback as it passed through the Capitol without a single GOP vote.

Now it’s being used to rally conservatives to recall Democrats, including Polis, and there’s an effort to put a question before voters on the November ballot to block the law.

Magellan said it found that those who support the national popular vote law skew younger and Democratic, while opponents tend to be older and more Republican.

“I assume once everyone knows the facts of this thing they are going to harden their positions,” Flaherty said. “It’s really the unaffiliated voters who are going to decide this thing.”

MORE: Don’t like what state lawmakers do? Here’s how to recall a law in Colorado

Democrats say it’s time to update a system for electing presidents that’s been around for hundreds of years. Republicans say the effort would give Colorado’s electoral power away to more populous states, like California and New York, and prompt presidential candidates to stop visiting.

The national popular vote compact won’t go into effect until enough states join to equal 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. Colorado’s addition of nine electoral votes to the tally means the compact has 181 votes. Delaware and New Mexico are weighing whether to join, potentially adding another eight electoral votes.

The Electoral College has been a topic of growing national focus with Democratic 2020 presidential contenders, like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, calling for its dismantling.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez voiced his support for the national popular vote concept in an interview with The Colorado Sun last month. “When you have a national popular vote, it’s actually going to help everyone because it encourages candidates to go everywhere,” he said.

There’s at least one Democrat running for president who is not fully on board with the national popular vote idea: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“There’s a lot to be said for it, but I’m not quite there yet to say I support it,” Hickenlooper told The Sun, as first reported in The Unaffiliated politics newsletter. “In the end, our Founding Fathers got things pretty right. It might be best to just stay right where we are.”

THE UNAFFILIATED: Want exclusive political news and insights first? Subscribe to The Unaffiliated, the political newsletter from The Colorado Sun. Join now or upgrade your membership.

A national Pew Research Center poll released in April 2018 showed that 55 percent of Americans say the U.S. Constitution should be amended so that the candidate who wins the most votes in the presidential election would win the presidency.

Democrat Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote in 2016, but Republican Donald Trump won the presidency by obtaining more Electoral College votes. In the nation’s history, there have been five presidents who have won the White House that way.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “There’s a lot to be said for it, but I’m not quite there yet to say I support it,” the Democrat said of the national popular vote compact. (Pool photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

The new Magellan poll showed Coloradans are more familiar with the Electoral College in general than the national popular vote law, with 49 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of the Electoral College and 47 percent with an unfavorable one.

Magellan also polled how Coloradans feel about a potential effort to undo the national popular vote law being brought by two Republican officials in the state. The split was 47 percent with a favorable opinion toward the effort and 47 percent with an unfavorable opinion. Another six percent said they were undecided.

Flaherty said that’s notable because historically it’s been difficult for ballot measures in Colorado to pass without initial support of at least 55 percent.

“If you want this thing to pass, its not strong enough on the ‘yes’ side,” Flaherty said. “They really need to make a big case. Of course, that very well could happen.”

MORE: Colorado lawmakers are sparring over a plan to bypass the Electoral College. Here’s what’s at stake.

Magellan also polled Coloradans on their feelings toward the 2020 presidential race, showing more bad news for Trump in the state.

Thirty-three percent said they would back Trump, while 40 percent said they would vote for an unspecified Democratic Party candidate. Another 10 percent said they would support “some other candidate,” while 10 percent said they were undecided.

Staff writer John Frank contributed to this report.


We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable. This reporting depends on support from readers like you.