Colorado TABOR Amendment Voter Opinion Survey Summary
This is a summary of a telephone and online survey of 500 likely 2020 general election voters in Colorado. The interviews were conducted from August 5th to 7th, 2019. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.38% at the 95 percent confidence interval. The results were slightly weighted to reflect past voter turnout demographics for a Presidential election cycle in Colorado.
Survey Objective, Paid for By and the Smarter Politics Podcast
The purpose of this survey was to measure and understand voter opinion of Colorado’s TABOR Amendment, support and opposition levels for repealing of the Amendment, and opinion the 2019 Proposition CC ballot measure. This survey was not commissioned or paid for by any individual, political group or organization that may have an interest in Proposition CC or Colorado’s TABOR Amendment.
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- At this time, 54% of likely 2019 general election voters intend to vote yes and approve Proposition CC, 30% intend to vote no and reject it and 15% are undecided.
- A plurality of Colorado voters, 46%, have a favorable opinion of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, also known as the TABOR Amendment, 36% have an unfavorable opinion of the amendment and 18% have no opinion of the amendment.
- The primary reasons 46% of voters have a favorable opinion of the TABOR Amendment are: it is a check on government spending, holding elected officials accountable and requiring them to explain their spending decisions.
- The primary reasons 36% of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of TABOR is the belief that the amendment has had a negative impact on adequate funding for public education, roads, transportation and other government services. They also believe TABOR is unnecessary because elections provide an opportunity for voters to remove elected officials that are unhappy with their spending decisions.
- Forty-seven percent of respondents would support a ballot measure that would allow the state of Colorado to retain revenue that would otherwise be subject to a taxpayer refund for no specific purpose. Thirty-nine percent would oppose the ballot measure and 13% were undecided.
- The component of TABOR that requires voter approval for tax increases and bond measures has strong support. Among all respondents, 62% support voter approval for tax increases, 26% oppose, and 12% were undecided.
- At this time, the full repeal of the TABOR Amendment in the 2020 election cycle is unlikely. Among all respondents, only 36% would support the full repeal of TABOR, 48% would oppose it and 16% of respondents were undecided.
Colorado Proposition CC Ballot Test
This November, Colorado voters will be asked to approve or reject Proposition CC. Proposition CC asks voters to allow the state to retain revenue that would otherwise be subject to a taxpayer refund, permanently. The language of Proposition CC informs voters that the retained funds would be spent on public schools, higher education, roads, bridges and “transit”. The 2019 legislation that placed Proposition CC on the ballot states if CC is approved, the retained funds would be distributed by 1/3 going to public schools, 1/3 to higher education and 1/3 towards roads, bridges and transit.
The survey read to respondents the ballot language of Proposition CC at the start of the survey in order to get a clean, unbiased measurement of voter opinion. Among all respondents, 54% intend to vote yes and approve the measure, 30% intend to vote no and reject it and 15% were undecided. Democratic voters overwhelmingly support Proposition CC, with 72% intending to vote yes compared to only 32% of Republicans intending to vote yes.
It is important to note that this question was weighted based upon past odd-year election voter turnout demographics where Republican respondents make up 36% of the sample, Democrats 34% and unaffiliated voters 29%.
“As you may know, currently there will be a question on the ballot this November known as Proposition CC. I am now going to read to you the language of the ballot question. After hearing it, please tell me if you would vote yes and approve it or if you would vote no and reject it. The ballot question reads as….
WITHOUT RAISING TAXES AND TO BETTER FUND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, HIGHER EDUCATION, AND ROADS, BRIDGES, AND TRANSIT, WITHIN A BALANCED BUDGET, MAY THE STATE KEEP AND SPEND ALL THE REVENUE IT ANNUALLY COLLECTS AFTER JUNE 30, 2019, BUT IS NOT CURRENTLY ALLOWED TO KEEP AND SPEND UNDER COLROADO LAW, WITH AN ANNUAL INDPENDENDENT AUDIT TO SHOW HOW THE RETAINED REVENUES ARE SPENT?
Voter Familiarity of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights/TABOR Amendment
Among all respondents, (keeping in mind this sample is among 2020 likely voters), 20% say they are very familiar with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights/TABOR Amendment and 39% somewhat familiar. Among younger voters aged 18 to 44, 50% are either very or somewhat familiar with TABOR, compared to 66% of voters 45 or older.
There is also a notable difference in familiarity between suburban men and women, with 69% of men being very or somewhat familiar with TABOR compared to 48% of women. The voter subgroup that has the highest percentage of respondents who are not familiar at all with the TABOR Amendment are individuals 18 to 34 (25%) and unaffiliated women (21%).
TABOR Amendment Image Rating
The 404 respondents that were very, somewhat or not too familiar with the TABOR Amendment were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of it. Among all respondents, 46% had a favorable opinion of it, 36% and unfavorable opinion and 18% did not have an opinion. It is no surprise that 60% of Republicans had a favorable opinion of TABOR and only 19% had an unfavorable opinion of it.
Among Democratic voters, 53% had an unfavorable opinion of TABOR and 32% a favorable opinion. Unaffiliated voters balanced the difference, with a plurality of 47% having a favorable opinion of TABOR and 37% an unfavorable opinion.
Reasons Why 46% of Voters Have a Favorable Opinion of the TABOR Amendment
Respondents who had a favorable opinion of the TABOR amendment were asked a follow up question to explain why they felt that way. There were no big surprises in the responses. The major themes discussed were keeping government spending in check, holding politicians accountable and making elected officials explain their spending decisions.
“In your own words, being as descriptive as possible, please tell me why you have a favorable opinion of the TABOR Amendment.”
“It gives power to the people. I feel like it has worked for many years. I want to see it continued.” – Republican female, 65+, rural area
“Helps to keep a lid on rampant state government spending and returns excess money to the taxpayers.” – Unaffiliated female, 55-64, suburban area
“Politicians cannot be trusted. They spend every dime. It should be taken away from their hands.” – Republican male, 65+, small town area
“I like it because it keeps more money in the citizens pockets. It forces the government to have spending limits. It forces them to let the taxpayers vote on each tax increase. Basically, it gives citizens more control over the government on how they spend their money.” – Unaffiliated male, 45-54, suburban area
“It guarantees that the government can’t keep too much money from me, and the current Proposition CC would allow them to seriously infringe on the rights of the people.” – Democratic male, 18-34, suburban area
“I like the fact that people are in control of the tax money.” Republican female, 55-64, small town area
“The government already wastes too much money. They spend unwisely. They can’t live on a budget.” – Republican female, 45-54, suburban area
“It keeps politicians from spending without abandon. It makes us live within our means. And it gives residents and taxpayers a true voice in government.” – Unaffiliated male, 55-64, rural area
”It keeps the politicians and government to be accountable of their spending.” – Democratic male, 35-44, suburban area
Reasons Why 36% of Voters Have an Unfavorable Opinion of the TABOR Amendment
Respondents who had an unfavorable opinion of the TABOR amendment were also asked a follow up question to explain their viewpoints. Many respondents believe that the TABOR Amendment has had a negative impact on adequate funding for public education, transportation and roads. Many responses demonstrate strong, detailed opinions of the amendment and a preference for elected and government officials to make state and local tax and spending decisions.
“In your own words, being as descriptive as possible, please tell me why you have an unfavorable opinion of the TABOR Amendment.”
“The general public should not be allowed to vote on spending initiatives for which they have limited knowledge and understanding of the needs, purposes and benefits that the elected officials and budget career service people in the government understand.” – Unaffiliated male, 45-54, suburban area
“The TABOR Amendment doesn’t allow the state to spend the money that they should on education. Our state is far behind other states because of the TABOR Amendment.” – Democratic female, 65+, small town
“It was written by an individual who was a convicted felon. He wrote the bill and was a crook. He was Doug Bruce, he was in prison.” – Republican male, 65+, suburban area
“I believe that the people elect representatives to the Legislature and that the Legislature should have the right to raise or lower taxes. If people don’t like it, they can vote their representatives and senators out of office. TABOR removes the ability of the state to respond to changing needs, particularly in economic downturns, and should actually be unconstitutional because it establishes a direct democracy rather than a republican form of government as required by the US Constitution.” – Democratic male, 45-54, suburban area
“I think it is so difficult to operate. We elected our officials to make these discussions for us. They shouldn’t be back to the voters to ask them again.” – Democratic female, 65+, rural area
“There is only one good thing out of it, people having to declare and explain where they money is going. That’s it. The rest is crap.” – Unaffiliated female, 45-54, suburban area
“I think TABOR has made it nearly impossible for decent funding for our schools, roads, etc. Votes to increase taxes, even by a miniscule amount, cost the state a lot of money and rarely pass, resulting in poor schools, poor roads, poor infrastructure, and other public deficiencies here in Colorado.” – Democratic female, 35-44, suburban area
“While well-intended, it is too restrictive on state spending needed to keep up with population growth, modern technology and previous cuts to critical areas like education.” – Unaffiliated male, 45-54, suburbs
Voter Opinion of Allowing State to Keep TABOR Refund Revenue for No Specific Reason
Magellan Strategies has fielded more than 100 “TABOR” tax approval or “de-Brucing” surveys for local Colorado governments and special districts. From that experience, we have found voters are less likely to support these kinds of ballot questions when a reason, need or purpose is not clearly specified. For this survey, we were interested in measuring voter support and opposition for a statewide “de-Brucing” proposal without providing respondents a specific reason or purpose.
The survey finds a plurality of 47% would support a statewide “de-Brucing” ballot measure, 39% would oppose it and 13% of respondents were undecided. It is interesting to note that 19% of respondents who intend to vote for Proposition CC would oppose an unspecified “de-Brucing” statewide ballot measure.
Voter Opinion of TABOR Requiring Voter Approval for Tax Increases and Bond Measures
It is a popular belief among many Colorado political and policy observers that there is strong voter support for the component of TABOR that requires voter approval for tax increases and bond measures. This question attempted to measure voter opinion for this component of TABOR and verified that 62% of likely 2020 Colorado voters support this part of TABOR and only 26% oppose it.
Not surprisingly, 71% of Republican voters support this part of TABOR as well as 63% of unaffiliated voters. Even among Democratic voters, we find a slight majority of 52% support this component of TABOR.
Voter Support and Opposition for a Full Repeal of the TABOR Amendment
The final question in the survey asked respondents if they would support or oppose the full repeal of TABOR. Among all respondents, 36% would support the repeal, 48% would oppose it and 16% were undecided. Not surprisingly, 61% of Republican voters would oppose the full repeal of TABOR, and 53% of Democratic voters would support it. The most important observation from this question is the opinion of unaffiliated voters, as they are very likely to be the largest Colorado voter segment by party in the 2020 general election. Among unaffiliated voters, we find only 28% would support the ballot measure and 53% would oppose it.
The purpose of this survey was to measure and understand Colorado voter’s opinion of the TABOR Amendment. We believe the survey findings validated a popular belief that the full repeal of TABOR, even in a presidential election cycle with significant unaffiliated and younger voter turnout, is unlikely. However, it remains to be seen if a well-funded voter education campaign to weaken or repeal TABOR would be effective.
This survey was conducted by interviewing Colorado registered voters that are likely to vote in the 2020 general election by using live interviewers dialing landline and cell phone sample, as well as, online interviews. The phone sample used for this survey was randomly drawn from a current Colorado voter file. The online interviews were collected using an online panel of Colorado residents from Dynata.
The survey response data was weighted based upon past general election voter demographics in a presidential election cycle in Colorado. The Proposition CC ballot test question was weighted based upon past voter turnout demographics for an odd-year election in Colorado. The interviews were conducted from August 5th to 7th, 2019. Three attempts were made to interview each household in the sample. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.38% at the 95 percent confidence interval.