Voters choose most important issues in mayoral race poll

In a poll by The Denver Gazette, 9 News and Metro State University conducted by SurveyUSA, 820 Denver adult respondents chose the issues they believe are, "one of the most important for Denver to address in next few years."

Denver voters worry about crime, homelessness and affordable housing the most as the city prepares to elect a new mayor, according to a new poll released Thursday.

These subjects, in fact, have dominated the public policy discussions in the 17-way mayoral race to succeed Michael Hancock, who is term-limited.

The poll — commissioned by The Denver Gazette, Colorado Politics, 9News and Metropolitan State University and conducted by SurveyUSA — shows crime sits atop a list of 11 issues the respondents ranked as most important for Denver to address in the near future.

Among likely voters, 57% said crime preoccupies their mind the most.

The result mirrors another survey that also found crime to be the No. 1 subject for Denverites. That’s not surprising. A recent Common Sense Institute report shows Denver’s crime rates remain worse than before the COVID-19 pandemic, making Colorado’s biggest city among the most crime-ridden metro areas in America, particularly when it comes to car theft.

Indeed, Denver’s average monthly crime rate in 2022 — with 77,976 crime incidents reported — stood 43% higher than in 2019, with 57,229 incidents reported. The 2022 rate also came in 75% higher compared to 2008, with District 9, which includes the Central Business District, Union Station and Five Points, holding by far the worst crime rate in the city, according to the report.

The worry over crime in Denver cuts across demographics, although it is a bigger issue for women, older residents and Asians.

Notably, Republicans (75%) and independents (61%) rank it higher than Democrats (51%), a breakdown mirrored in the ideological leanings of respondents, with those who consider themselves conservative saying it is a big issue.

Next on the respondents’ list is homelessness.

The issue is more important for those who are above 50, as well as among Blacks and Hispanics, according to the poll.

Like public safety, the homelessness crisis has permeated the debate among mayoral candidates.

Colorado’s biggest cities — metro Denver, in particular — have struggled to address homelessness, even as state and local governments have poured significant resources into tackling the crisis. A free-market think-thank said local governments and nonprofits are on track to spend nearly $2 billion over a three-year period to tackle homelessness in some counties in the Denver metro area alone.

Denver has allocated $254 million on homelessness this year alone.

The city’s mayoral aspirants all vow to tackle the issue, though some have offered sharply divergent views on how to approach Denver’s homeless population, particularly individuals who sleep in cars, parks, abandoned building or camps.

The poll also said half of the respondents view affordable housing as a major issue, registering as a bigger problem for women and voters above 50.

More recently, Denver’s average house price has dropped slightly compared to last year, with a median close price of $536,000. Additionally, single family homes are staying on the market longer for an average of 46 days, a 130% increase over last year according to the Denver Metro Area Realtors Association monthly report.

Over time, Denver homes have gotten more unaffordable, with prices rocketing out of reach of many would-be homeowners. Wage earners, for example, need to work 36 more hours per month than last year just to cover their existing mortgage. The city has added 162,000 new residents since 2005, while the average-priced home in Denver has increased 138%, from $260,600 to $619,500.

The study also said Denver is short between 13,000 and 31,000 housing units today and will need to build between 31,000 and 49,000 units to accommodate expected population growth by 2028.

Remaining issues — notably education and concerns about police violence and misconduct — rounded out the top five most pressing issues for voters.

The final six issues important to Denverites, pollsters found, are clean energy, infrastructure, fiscal responsibility, economic development, land use and public transportation.