FORMER STATE SENATOR PUTS PUBLIC OPINION TO THE TEST
Denver – Does public opinion make a difference? Former State Senator Ron Tupa wants to know.In 2006, Tupa had an epiphany. That year, the General Assembly was controlled by Democrats in both chambers. Bill Owens was the governor.Yet that year, Democrats agreed to a special session on immigration reform. They passed a handful of laws during that session, including House Bill 06S-1023, the key bill that required those who apply for public benefits in Colorado to show proof of lawful presence in the United States. The bill passed 22-13, with four Democrats voting against it in the Senate. Tupa, an outspoken opponent of the bill, was one of the four.
Today, he says that vote didn’t make him any friends among the Democratic leadership in the House or Senate, and that there was a lot of pressure for him to vote with the majority. However, he also knew his constituents in Boulder were opposed to the law, and that was the deciding factor in his vote.
That’s where the epiphany comes in. Just how much does constituent opinion count in a legislator’s vote? Tupa ended his legislative career at the end of 2008, after spending eight years in the Senate and six in the House. Two years ago, with that question still nagging at him, he decided to explore it further. It has taken him to Regis University, where he is pursuing a Master’s Degree in political communication, and an opportunity to test the relevance of constituent opinion in his Master’s Thesis “Citizen Survey Project.”
This past weekend, to satisfy requirements for the thesis, Public Policy Polling surveyed voters in various state Senate districts on five bills currently awaiting action in the House and Senate. PPP used questions devised by Tupa following academic standards and methodology used in similar legislative studies. The districts are represented by an equal number of Democratic and Republican state senators. Results of the polling will be released on or around April 4, and will include the announcement of the five bills and the Senate districts surveyed, to assess whether voting behavior aligns with public opinion.