Colorado governor race polling: Polis widens lead over Kennedy with help of clean campaign pledge

The poll sheds light on how candidates for governor are faring as Colorado voters have started receiving ballots.
5 min. read
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (center) looks on w (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Congressman Jared Polis speaks at a forum on homelessness and housing for gubernatoral candidates at the Shorter Community AME Church, May 31, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In the short-term, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is getting help from a clean campaign pledge that -- until recently -- kept the Democratic primary race for governor of Colorado squeaky clean.

A new poll released Thursday by right-leaning Magellan Strategies includes analysis that says, long-term, it'll help whoever becomes the Democratic nominee:

"One observation of the candidate image ratings that stands out to us is the remarkable fact that not a single Democratic candidate for governor has an unfavorable rating above 5 percent. We attribute this finding to the four candidates committing and adhering to the Colorado Democratic Party’s 'Clean Campaign Pledge Program.'

"This pledge without question will make it more difficult for Cary Kennedy or Mike Johnston to gain ground on Jared Polis. However, based on our post-election research of Colorado swing voters over the years, this policy will very likely improve the Democratic nominee’s position to win this November."

The survey of Democratic and unaffiliated likely voters -- conducted May 30 and 31, when few people likely would have seen the few negative ads in the race -- has Polis leading the Democratic field with support from 31 percent of respondents. Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy is next with 18, then former State Sen. Mike Johnston with 9 and current Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne with 3. Thirty-nine percent of likely voters said they were still undecided.

The survey has a margin of error of about 4.5 percent, according to Magellan.

That represents a widening of Polis's lead, but maintains the candidates' rankings in Magellan polling -- in March, the firm found Polis leading Kennedy 27 to 23, and Johnston and Lynne trailing with 8 and 5 percent.

Democratic analyst and consultant Steve Welchert said perhaps the most surprising thing about the poll's results is it shows Kennedy has no lead among women. The poll shows Polis with a 13-point lead among women over Kennedy, which is greater than his lead among men (12 points).

Kennedy is among several women across the country running in high-profile seats. Welchert said she has the benefit of this surge in support for women candidates and strong support from teachers, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the poll.

“It’s alarming that there’s no gender gap on here at all,” Welchert said. “I think it’s shocking. If you’re Kennedy, you’re scratching your head about that, about how do we get women in our camp.”

Welchert doesn’t think the negative ad had any impact on the poll results. He said the “brouhaha” that followed probably didn’t affect respondents' decision either.

“The race looks to be hardening,” Welchert said. “(It) shouldn’t be a great surprise, given Polis’ overwhelming advantage on TV.”

Nobody has a bigger advantage on this front than Polis, who has spent close $10 million of his own money in his campaign.

“Right now, it looks to me that it’s fairly skewed to a name ID game, because of the TV ads,” Welchert said.

The results aren't doing much to change the strategy for the candidates.

No one did worse than Lynne, who remains the lowest-polling and least-known candidate (the new poll showed 53 percent of respondents have never heard of her). Her numbers shrunk by two points from March's poll, but that’s well within the margin of error.

Still, Lynne campaign spokesperson Michele Ames said the campaign found a lot of hope in the poll. Ames said the polls shows there’s 39 percent of voters still up for grabs.

"In my way of thinking, that’s 39 percent of the voters that Donna Lynne can still talk to," Ames said. The campaign has no plans to end its run, with Ames adding that they will continue taking their message to residents. "We’re excited to keep working until the very end, until people cast their ballot."

Kennedy's spokesperson, Serena Woods, pointed out to another poll mentioned by independent pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli, portions of which he published on his blog Wednesday.

"We are seeing a lot of polls right now, including the one Governor Hickenlooper and Floyd Ciruli mentioned that showed Cary up by 5," Woods said in an email. "We think this will come down to the wire so we are focused on knocking on doors, making phone calls and getting out the vote."

Johnston's campaign spokesperson Grace Hanover in an email also referenced the Magellan poll and the one mentioned on Ciruli's blog.

"Based on various recent polls, it's clear the numbers are bouncing around. We're confident that our campaign is peaking at the right time and that Mike's message is truly connecting with voters across the state," Hanover said.

Polis remains the most-well known candidate. His campaign spokesperson, Mara Sheldon, released a statement Thursday on the results, which his campaign is already using to recruit more volunteers.

"Jared's bold, progressive vision for increasing investment in our public schools, making Colorado 100 percent renewable, and brining universal health care to our state is clearly resonating with Coloradans," Sheldon said in the statement.

Denverite reporter Esteban L. Hernandez contributed to this report. 

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