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Publish Date: 10/21/2006

Voters say immigration the top issue

DENVER — Immigration is the top issue Colorado voters want the Legislature and their next governor to address, according to one pollster’s recent statewide survey.

In Floyd Ciruli’s more than eight years of polling on voters’ priorities, immigration had never cropped up before, he said.

But Ciruli Associates’ survey of 500 likely Colorado voters showed that immigration “clearly dominates the public agenda,” ranking ahead of such issues as education, the economy, health care and transportation.

Last spring, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature adopted and Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed a package of illegal-immigration laws, including measures making it a felony to smuggle or traffic in illegal immigrants and creating a special Colorado State Patrol unit to enforce those new laws.

Owens called the Legislature back into special session in July to consider further illegal-immigration crackdowns, resulting in such laws as a measure requiring that applicants for many state and local government services prove their U.S. citizenship.

Even so, when Ciruli’s Denver-based public policy research firm asked Colorado voters in a Sept. 26-Oct. 2 survey to name the top issue they want the governor and Legislature to address, 28 percent cited immigration.

Immigration — or, more specifically, what more the state should do to crack down on illegal immigration — has been an issue in this year’s gubernatorial election contest and many of the races for Colorado Senate and House seats.

Ciruli said in an interview that if Republican Bob Beauprez is elected governor, Ciruli would be surprised if Beauprez did not lead off his first “state of the state” speech with a discussion of illegal immigration.

If Democrat Bill Ritter turns out to be the one delivering that address to the Legislature, immigration would still likely be “one of the top two or three” issues the new governor would mention, Ciruli predicted.

Ciruli added, however, that when the Legislature convenes in January, “the heavy lifting in the session will be the usuals”: such perennial policy issues as school funding, economic development, the cost and availability of health care and state transportation needs.

Voters’ identification of immigration as a top-priority issue crossed party lines, although Ciruli said concerns about that issue was “a little more intense” among registered Republicans.

Twenty-six percent of registered Democrats in the survey identified immigration as the top issue needing attention, compared with 32 percent of the Republicans polled and 26 percent of unaffiliated voters.

The questions about top-priority issues in Ciruli’s poll were part of a survey sponsored by the Economic Developers Council of Colorado.

Ranking issues

In a recent poll, the most frequently cited issues that Colorado voters said they want their governor and the Legislature to address were:

• Immigration: 28 percent.

• Education (including more school funding, better pay for educators, more teachers and smaller class sizes): 20 percent.

• The economy: 11 percent.

• Health-care price and accessibility: 8 percent.

• Transportation: 6 percent.

• Tax burdens: 5 percent.

• The environment: 4 percent.

• Water shortages and supplies: 4 percent.

• Growth: 3 percent.

• Crime, gangs or violence: 2 percent.

• War and terrorism: 2 percent.

• Same-sex marriage: 2 percent.

• Senior issues: 2 percent.

Source: Ciruli Associates

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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