Poll: Economy No. 1 Colo. issue | VailDaily.com

Poll: Economy No. 1 Colo. issue

David Milstead and James Paton
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoColoradans who answered a survey say they are driving less because of high gas prices.

COLORADO ” Voters, worried about the cost of gas and groceries, a possible recession and a weakening job market, are dwelling on the economy more than they have in years.

In a Rocky Mountain News/CBS 4 News survey, 45 percent of respondents said the economy is the most significant problem facing Colorado. By contrast, 13 percent identified the environment and 7 percent cited illegal immigration.

Many of the poll participants said they are driving less, relying on public transportation more and making fewer trips to restaurants and movie theaters.

“We’re in a situation where we are constantly stressing money,” said Verity Matthews, a 28-year-old Metro State student.

Matthews, who has a 16-month-old child, said her husband earns $12.50 an hour as a machinist, but his hours have been reduced.

“Now it’s like we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said.

Ron Olson, 51, said his family canceled plans to drive to Disneyland this summer. Once-a-week dinners at places like Golden Corral, Applebee’s and Chili’s first were cut back to every other week. But with the increases in gas prices, “we’ve stopped altogether. We’re homebodies now,” the Pueblo resident said.

Other respondents expressed broader concerns about the direction the economy is heading.

“We’re feeling like we’re on the precipice of something serious here,” said Susan Troen, a retired human resources director who moved to Colorado five years ago and lives with her husband outside Durango.

Troen, 67, said she worries about a decline in the manufacturing sector, jobs being shipped overseas and the huge cost of the war in Iraq, among other issues.

“I look at my own kids and grandkids, and I’m not sure they will even attain middle-class status, and that scares me,” she said.

Pollster Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, said Coloradans are less troubled by the economy than voters in some others states, such as Ohio. But she noted the data show Coloradans, like voters across the nation, have grown more anxious.

When asked about the most important issue, 45 percent cited the economy, jobs, gas prices or other “pocketbook” issues.

“It sure is a switch from what Coloradans used to be concerned about,” said Weigel, whose firm bills itself as the largest Republican polling firm in the nation.

A decade ago, in very different times, only 1 percent of voters identified the economy as the most significant problem for Colorado, while 34 percent cited “growth and traffic.” In the most recent survey, 5 percent of the people cited growth and traffic.

The poll, conducted Aug. 11-13 by Public Opinion Strategies, included 500 registered voters. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.38 percentage points.

Pollster Craig Hughes, director of research of RBI Strategies and Research, a firm that generally works with Democratic candidates, said the survey reveals that Coloradans have a wide range of economic fears.

“Clearly a critical issue will be which candidate can convince Colorado voters that they have a plan to get the economy moving in the right direction,” said Hughes, who consulted on the survey.

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