West Slope, Denver differ in many views

Denver metro area residents like what they see when they look at cranes piercing the sky for new buildings, and Western Slope residents tend to be somewhat disappointed by the amount of economic activity they see, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The Centennial State Survey by Colorado Mesa University and the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College found that the Mile High City and its environs see a much different economy than do residents on the other side of the Continental Divide.

More than half of the survey respondents living in the Denver metro region rate the local economy as excellent or very good.

A fifth of Western Slope residents saw their local economy as excellent or very good. Similarly, 57 percent of metro-area respondents said they were pleased with job opportunities available to them, while just 37 percent of Western Slope residents said the same.

Statewide, “There’s a sense of optimism, but that optimism isn’t equally shared,” said Justin Gollob, professor of political science at CMU, who headed the survey.

The survey is the inaugural study of the state overall with a “hyperfocus on the Western Slope,” Gollub said. “We wanted to see how the Western Slope stacked up against the rest of Colorado on these issues.”

The difference in the economies of “the two Colorados” is as stark as the Continental Divide, said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

In many respects, however, the differences between urban and rural areas of the state are minimal, especially when taking into account the 6.3 percent margin of error in the survey, Schwenke said.

In the survey 543 adults were interviewed by telephone or online between March 22 and March 28. Respondents were first notified by letter or postcard about the project.

One of those areas of similarity was in respondents’ perceptions of their roads.

Statewide, 75 percent of respondents rated road conditions as fair or better, the survey said. Western Slope respondents were slightly happier, with 77 percent rating their roads as fair or better. The figure was 78 percent in the metro area while the least satisfied group, 71 percent, was in the south, central and eastern plains areas.

Policy makers now considering placing a transportation sales tax on the November ballot would do well to take note of the results, Schwenke said, noting that it’s a testament to the growth of CMU that the university is able to conduct such polling.

“They need to line up with what the people are thinking,” Schwenke said.

The perception of state government tended to be better on the Western Slope than elsewhere, the survey found.

Among Western Slope respondents, 54 percent said they were somewhat or very satisfied with state government while 44 percent of Denver metro respondents said the same. Statewide, the satisfaction rating was 49 percent.

County governments on the Western Slope also fared well relative to their counterparts, with 61 percent of respondents saying they were somewhat or very satisfied with their county officials.

In the metro area, 53 percent of respondents said the same of theirs and statewide, the figure was 56 percent.


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