John Hickenlooper is an officeholder and a politician and yet he is well liked among the public. According to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling last weekend, Colorado’s Democratic governor garners a 54 percent approval rating and only a 24 percent disapproval rating, a remarkable 30 point spread. Democrats love him, independents love him and Republicans think he’s OK. In other words, Hickenlooper is an odd fish, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout of 2011 U.S. politics, a compellingly strange-looking and endangered species.
“That +30 net approval spread makes him the third-most-popular sitting governor out of 42 PPP has polled on, putting him behind only Nebraska’s Dave Heineman and Arkansas’ Mike Beebe,” wrote PPP Director Tom Jensen in a release accompanying the survey results. “If– and it’s a big if just 7 months into office– Hickenlooper can keep up these sorts of numbers, he seems bound to be in the 2016 discussion either as a presidential or vice presidential candidate. Not a lot of purple state Governors with this kind of popularity.”
Hickenlooper’s popularity may come as more of a surprise to Jensen than to Colorado politics watchers. A charismatic, self-effacing, former oil and gas geologist turned self-made millionaire brew-pub owner, Lucky John has thread the needle for years as Mayor of Denver. Depending on whom you ask, he’s either too cute and too eager to please or one of the most naturally savvy figures in contemporary U.S. public life.
PPP, which has often been criticized, fairly or unfairly, for leaning Democrat, also found Coloradans are moving fast away from Tea Party extremism.
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s approval numbers have nearly flipped since he was elected last November. PPP found 44 percent approve of Bennet and 36 percent do not. Just before he was elected last year only 39 percent approved of him and 47 percent did not.
Approval ratings of Bennet’s Tea Party opponent, meanwhile, have moved in the other direction. Ken Buck now rates a 46 percent disapproval and only 25 percent approval ratings.
Indeed, the Tea Party has apparently topped out in the state. Nearly 50 percent of voters here disapprove of the movement, including a majority of independent voters.
On likely controversial 2012 ballot issues:
Coloradans are almost evenly split on raising taxes for education: 45 percent are inclined to support the hike and 47 percent are opposed. Independent voters support the proposal by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin.
Coloradans for now support legalizing marijuana: 51 percent would vote yes and 38 percent would vote no.
Coloradans are also now about evenly split on gay marriage: 45 percent support the idea and 45 percent oppose it.
As poll after poll in the state has demonstrated, however– at least those polls not commissioned by Christian politics groups— Coloradans are more than ready to grant gay couples equal relationship rights under the law in the form of civil unions. PPP found support for civil unions in the same range as a series of polls conducted over the last two years: 71 percent of Colorado voters support “some legal recognition for gay couples” and only 27 percent remain opposed. That support comes from across the political spectrum, including from 76 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans.
PPP surveyed 510 Colorado voters between August 4th and August 7th and reports a margin of error for the survey at +/- 4.3 percent.