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An aerial view of downtown Denver. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Denverites are split on whether the Mile High City is headed in the right direction or is on the wrong track, according to a recent poll commissioned by a new civic group. 

Forty-four percent of those polled said Denver is — “generally speaking” — headed in the right direction while the same share said the city is on the wrong track. About 13% said they weren’t sure. 

The Colorado Polling Institute, a nonprofit civic group, paid for the poll. The survey was conducted by Cygnal, a Republican political firm, and Aspect Strategies, a Democratic pollster, on Aug. 17 and 18 among 414 likely 2024 general election voters in Denver. It had a margin of error of 4.72 percentage points. 

The institute wouldn’t disclose its donor list but says it’s funded by civic, philanthropic and business leaders in Denver.

The group’s founder is investor David Carlson and its advisers include TeRay Esquibel, who leads a nonprofit mobilizing public school alumni; former Denver City Councilwoman Kendra Black; Republican political consultant Tyler Sandberg; and Democratic political consultant Curtis Hubbard.

Carlson founded “A Denver For Us All,” a similar nonprofit that polled during the city’s mayoral race. 

The poll asked participants which issues are most important for the city’s government to address, and 51% said homelessness. Housing affordability was second, at 41%, while crime and public safety were third, at 34%.

Forty percent of those polled said the cost of housing in Denver is a significant financial strain, while only 16% said housing posed them no financial strain at all. 


Other big takeaways from the poll:

  • Sixty-eight percent of those polled said they feel very safe in Denver, while 32% said they don’t feel safe. About 1% said they weren’t sure how they felt about their safety in the city.
  • Participants were asked if they support or oppose Denver “continuing to perform “cleanups” or “sweeps” of large-scale homeless encampments that pose health and safety risks after providing at least 72-hour notice.” Sixty-five percent said they are in support while 22% said they are in opposition.
  • Thirty percent said they are optimistic about the progress being made toward downtown Denver’s recovery, while 45% said they were pessimistic and 19% said they were neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

The poll also found that 46% have a favorable view of Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, who was sworn in last month, while 22% have an unfavorable view of him and 28% had no opinion. About 34% said they approve of Johnston’s plans for addressing homelessness, while 20% said they disapprove of his plans and 41% said they hadn’t heard enough about his plans to form an opinion.

When asked about Denver City Council, 38% said they have a favorable view of the council, while 34% said they have an unfavorable view. Both the Denver Police Department and Regional Transportation District had favorability ratings above 50%.

Finally, 48% of those polled said they support a plan to replace Denver’s “existing municipal election system with one where voters rank candidates in order of preference and the lowest-ranked candidates are eliminated until one candidate receives a majority of votes.” Another 24% said they oppose the plan while 14% said they neither support nor oppose the plan and 15% said they were undecided.

The survey didn’t specifically call the proposed system ranked-choice voting

Under ranked choice, or “instant runoff” voting, voters are asked to rank every candidate in order of their preference. Votes are tallied based on each voter’s first choice, and if a candidate gets a majority, they win outright. But if no candidate gets a majority, contenders with the fewest votes are eliminated in rounds, with their votes redistributed to the next highest-ranked candidate on voters’ ballots. That continues until one candidate receives a majority. 

City leaders are evaluating whether to pursue ranked-choice voting in Denver given the complexity of the city’s runoff election system. Boulder will use ranked-choice voting to elect its mayor in November.

The Colorado Polling Institute plans to conduct more polling in the Denver area, as well as statewide, in the coming weeks.

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul