The only things we don’t know about this Democratic primary poll are who was polled, the methodology, the timeframe and the results

People are citing a recent “poll” on Colorado’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but nobody seems to have pretty critical information about it.
5 min. read
Anna Crawford holds a ballot box during a vote at a 2018 Democratic Congressional District 1 assembly at South High School, April 13, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy speaks at the Colorado Health Institute's Hot Issues in Health conference, Dec. 8, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Well, this is awkward. People are citing a recent “poll” on the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but nobody seems to have pretty critical information about it.

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Cary Kennedy and Mike Johnston sent out fundraising emails referencing a poll showing Kennedy leading the Democratic field and Johnston making progress. The email includes numbers showing Kennedy in first, with U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in second, Johnston in third and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne in last place.

The results are exactly the same as those from a brief blog post dated June 6, which under the headline "New Poll Puts Kennedy Ahead in Democratic Race" were published by independent pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

Kennedy’s email blast, sent June 9, doesn’t include a link, only showing the results. Johnston's email, sent June 7, does include a link citing Ciruli's post.

"A brand new poll has Cary in the lead in the June 26 primary! This race is incredibly competitive and will come down to which campaign can produce the strongest voter turnout," the message, sent by Kennedy campaign manager Aaron Bly reads.

But this “poll” isn't actually a “poll.”

For one thing, Ciruli starts his post with a disclaimer in his post by saying that this “new poll” is rumored but not released -- that is, not only do we not know the methodology or who was asked, but Ciruli may not either (and he hasn't returned our calls about it). The numbers are all also multiples of five, and he notes they're "likely rounded" -- in other words, he apparently doesn't know what the actual numbers are.

Ciruli says in the blog post that it’s the poll “referenced by Governor John Hickenlooper.” What Ciruli is referring to here is what Hickenlooper said to the media on May 30, when he said he was disappointed in Kennedy for running a negative ad since “most polls” he’d seen seemed to show she was going to win.

Ian Silverii, executive director of the progressive advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, said he has no idea where this poll came from. Silverii formerly worked for the Democratic Party and used to work with party candidates.

Mike Johnston at a town hall at North High School, March 15, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Adding to the confusion, Ciruli’s blog post was published a day before right-leaning Magellan Strategies released a new poll on the Democratic gubernatorial field. This poll showed Polis in the lead with 31 percent of support, with Kennedy following with 18 percent, which is starkly different than the results on Ciruli’s post.

The results in Ciruli’s blog do not have any additional information beyond the alleged results. Silverii also pointed out it doesn’t provide the sample size, the methodology, how the poll was conducted, and perhaps most importantly, who commissioned it — all of which, by comparison, are found in the Magellan Strategies poll.

“Floyd Ciruli is a well-known pollster, he’s respected,” Silverii said. “For him to be putting out a poll like this ... it’s political consulting malpractice.”

Silverii said it’s not really Kennedy’s campaign's job to “worry about pollster credibility,” but their argument is, “built on a very, very, very suspect foundation.”

It’s possible special interest groups could conduct their own polling, Silverii said. And while many campaigns conduct internal polling, those numbers aren’t usually made public.

“If campaigns do have internal polling that’s showing their person ahead right now, there’s certain wisdom in holding on to that ... there’s also some wisdom in releasing it and saying, ‘Hey, we’re winning!’” Silverii said.

For example, if internal polling is showing a close race, a candidate might be inclined to release it to motivate their voter base, Silverii said.

Neither Johnston's or Kennedy's campaign clarified why they're using a poll without much information.

In response to questions over the numbers' legitimacy, Johnston's campaign spokesperson Grace Hanover said in an emailed statement Tuesday that, "There are a lot of numbers floating around right now between Ciruli, Magellan, and others.

"In the past weeks, our volunteers have knocked on tens of thousands of doors and shared Mike's positive message with voters across the state. We know our momentum is real."

Kennedy's campaign spokesperson, Serena Woods sent an email statement: "We are seeing and hearing about a lot of polls right now. This race is going to come down to the wire, but we know that when Coloradans get to know Cary, they like her. Our team is focused on knocking on doors, making phone calls and spreading Cary's vision for Coloradans."

Michelle Ames, Lynne's campaign spokesperson, said her campaign feels this year's election is too unpredictable, in part because of the participation of unaffiliated voters. Lynne has struggled in most polls, usually finding herself in last place.

"I don't think there is a pollster in this race who has any idea what's really going to happen," Ames said Tuesday.

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