BOULDER, CO – APRIL 30, 2019: Donald Quirk, of Boulder County, reads a book at the Boulder Public Library on Tuesday in Boulder. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
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Affinity for the library is strong in Boulder and voters likely would support increased taxes for the library, a pollster told Boulder City Council this week.

Boulder enlisted the Center for Research and Public Policy to poll area residents about whether they would support increased taxes and the formation of a library district.

The center’s staff conducted a statistically valid phone survey of 500 people, as well as an online survey of another 1,031 people. Jerry Lindsley, president of the center, told council that 96.8% of phone respondents and 97.9% of online respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that the library is important to the vitality of Boulder.

Of the phone respondents, 88.3% strongly agreed and 9.6% somewhat agreed — when a bell curve would normally show a higher number of respondents who somewhat agreed, he said.

“This shows us, as researchers, intensity, and the perception of the library is very, very impressive,” he said. “When you see this kind of thing, it’s not only support, not only satisfaction, but there’s some intensity of feeling toward the library here.”

Staff member Andrea Goodheim stocks children’s books at the Boulder Public Library on April 30.

He also noted that the poll results show respondents have a strong relationship with the library.

“We don’t do satisfaction surveys; we do relationship surveys,” he said. “There’s a huge difference. Someone who is satisfied with an organization can easily depart, leave them and go on to someone else.”

More than a third, 34.9%, of phone respondents described themselves as advocates who talk positively about the library in the community.

Council members had questions about the results and the center’s interpretation of those results, as well as whether support for increased taxes would be high enough to succeed in the November election if an organized opposition campaign were to arise.

For example, respondents were asked whether they would support varying levels of tax increases for library funding, the highest level being $280 per household per year. Of the phone respondents, 45.2% said they would definitely or probably support that level of tax increase, while 38.2% said they would probably or definitely oppose and another 16.6% were unsure. Removing the unsure voters from the mix shows that, among those with an opinion, 54.2% support and 45.8% oppose.

Councilman Sam Weaver asked whether it is common to remove the unsure respondents from the mix.

“Is that a common tactic to look at both side by side?” he asked.

Lindsley said that, barring an opposition campaign, researchers expect the unsure voters to divide similarly to the decided voters when the election rolls around.

“Most of the time, the undecided, in a political election for example, will fall out very similarly to those that have already made a decision over time,” he said. “It doesn’t always happen that way. Messaging can throw things off.”

Councilman Bob Yates said local pollsters in the past have told council that for a tax increase to be successful, it should be polling in the low- to mid-60s of favorability because of the possibility that support will erode.

“Has that been your experience as well?” he asked.

Lindsley replied: “Not at all. Not at all. It’s all about the messaging.”

Weaver, too, expressed concern about the possibility for erosion of support.

“The erosion that can occur due to a negative campaign is, I think, why,” he said. “Your affinity numbers are very interesting in that context because it might be harder for a strong affinity community to get eroded back.”

Lindsley said that the strong affinity for the library in Boulder would likely counter a negative campaign.

“It’d be hard to get past those affinity numbers and the perceptions overall,” he said, later adding, “our task was to find out at what level would the community support. We’re saying to you that even at the highest (tax) level, there’s a good chance that it would pass.”

In its study session Tuesday, council is slated to discuss potential ballot measures, which will include a discussion about library funding and a petition by Boulder Library Champions, a registered campaign committee pushing for a library district. The group organized a petition to take the matter to voters in the November election.

Billy Chergo looks at a book at the Boulder Public Library on April 30.

As proposed in the petition, the district would encompass Boulder proper; parts of west Boulder County, including Eldorado Springs, Gross Reservoir, Sugarloaf, Gold Hill and Jamestown; and Gunbarrel and Niwot. It would be supported by a levy, pending voter approval, of up to four mills, which the petition states in 2020 would be approximately $28.80 per year for every $100,000 of value of a house.

In a memo to council ahead of next week’s study session, staff said they have decisions to make about how to respond to the petition, as well as options for increasing library funding through various methods within the city.

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