Coloradans say cost of living, housing are top concerns in annual poll

Cost of living issues remained Coloradans’ top concern as of this spring, though slightly fewer people identified them as the most important issue facing the state than in the previous year.

The Colorado Health Foundation’s annual Pulse poll, conducted in April and May, surveyed more than 2,600 adults in the state about their top concerns, as well as how worried they were about specific issues.

About 31% of those polled said either housing affordability or the general cost of living was their biggest concern, down from 37% in 2022.

The pollsters didn’t collect data on why those who responded gave specific answers, so it’s not clear how much of the decrease was due to Colorado-specific factors, versus that the inflation rate nationwide leveled off this year.

Fewer people than in 2022 chose environmental issues or government and political dysfunction as their top concern, while more picked homelessness or public safety.

The margin of error is 2.2%, however, meaning that some of the changes may not be meaningful.

The top concerns were:

  • Climate change, wildfires, water issues and other environmental concerns: 16% in 2023, down from 21% in 2022
  • General cost of living: 16%, down from 20%
  • Cost of housing: 15%, down from 17%
  • Government and politics: 13%, down from 15%
  • Public safety, crime and drugs: 12%, up from 10%
  • Homelessness: 10%, up from 7%
  • Traffic, overpopulation and infrastructure: 10%, down from 13%

Lori Weigel, a pollster with New Bridge Strategy, which works on behalf of Republican candidates, said the somewhat larger drop in concern about environmental issues may have been because Colorado had a wet spring, making fires a less immediate concern. The foundation always hires a Republican and a Democratic firm to conduct the poll together.

When asked how large a problem certain issues were in Colorado, people also listed cost of living as their top worry, with 85% saying it was an “extremely serious” or “very serious” problem. Other issues that the majority of those surveyed considered extremely or very serious were:

  • Cost of housing: 82%
  • Homelessness: 79%
  • Cost of health care: 69%
  • Mental health: 69%
  • Drug overdoses: 66%
  • General crime: 61%
  • Gun violence: 59%
  • Drug and alcohol use: 57%
  • Wildfires and natural disasters: 57%
  • Climate change: 53%

While respondents’ opinions about most issues were relatively consistent over time, concern about homelessness has increased rapidly since 2020, when 67% thought it was an extremely or very serious problem, Weigel said.

People with lower incomes were more likely to report serious concerns about housing and cost of living, but more than 70% of those earning at least $150,000 a year also deemed those extremely or very serious problems, Weigel said.

“This is not just a tale of haves and have-nots,” she said in a webinar.

About 35% of people said they were concerned about being able to afford enough food in the next year, and 14% of people reported they had skipped meals in the last year because of costs. Native Americans were considerably more likely to report current food insecurity or that they were worried about not being able to afford food.

A similar percentage of people were worried they or someone in their household would become uninsured in the next year. Interestingly, there was no change from 2022 to 2023, with 37% of those surveyed worried about losing insurance, even though states were beginning to remove residents from Medicaid this spring for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

Somewhat fewer people were worried about losing their homes than their health insurance. About 28% said they feared they wouldn’t be able to afford their mortgage or rent in the next year. That’s similar to the rate last year and an increase over 2020 and 2021, said Dave Metz, a pollster with FM3 Research, which works on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Black, Hispanic and Native American respondents were about twice as likely as white Coloradans to report worries about paying for housing. About half of renters said they were worried they might lose their housing, while only about one in five homeowners were.

While people with lower incomes reported more worries about affording food and health care than those who are more affluent, the gap was particularly pronounced for housing, Metz said. About 61% of those earning less than $30,000 a year said they were worried about losing their housing, while only about 7% of those earning more than $150,000 a year were, he said.

“It is a yawning gap when it comes to housing,” he said.

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