Sunday, October 7, 2012

Colorado's Changing Politics

One of the most interesting questions I am asked is why Colorado changed from a state that used to be reliably Republican to one that is now competitive for both parties.  After World War II, Colorado voted for a Democratic candidate for president only three times until Barack Obama won the state by nine points in 2008.

Early signs that Colorado was moving in a more Democratic direction were visible in 2004 when the Colorado legislature was captured by Democrats even as George W. Bush carried the state (see Schrager and Witwer's excellent history of the takeover in The Blueprint).  Four years later Democrats chose Denver as the city to host the Democratic National Convention, correctly sensing an opportunity to win the state.

Why have Colorado's politics changed?  Migration to the state is a major reason.  According to the census, Colorado grew almost 17 percent between 2000 and 2010.  Over half of that growth is coming from people moving here from other states -- nearly 20,000 of them a year from California according to statistics from the IRS.  Being born in Colorado is a big enough deal that natives often stick bumper stickers on their car marked "NATIVE" to advertise the fact.

With that context in mind, we asked respondents in our poll whether they had lived in Colorado all their lives or had moved here from other states.  About 29% had lived in Colorado all of their lives.  Next, we compared the attitudes of respondents who had lived here all of their lives to respondents who had moved to Colorado from other states.  Forty-eight percent of Colorado lifers were Romney supporters, while 43 percent supported Obama.  The percentages were reversed for those who had moved to the state.  Forty-two percent of respondents who had moved to Colorado supported Romney, versus 48 percent supporting Obama.

I'll be working more with this data in the future, since a more rigorous analysis is needed to draw firm conclusions.  I'm basically just sorting through the crosstabs now.  But, this was an interesting initial finding that people moving to Colorado are changing its politics and moving it in a more Democratic direction.


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