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Colorado’s middle class generally favors international trade and the presence of the defense industry in the state, according to a multi-part survey of Midwestern states.

The University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business worked with the Carnegie Endowment to interview more than 125 people in 10 Colorado counties earlier this year. Their report, released on Tuesday, is intended to give foreign policy experts insight into how international affairs affect the rest of the country.

“Colorado has suffered relatively few trade-related job losses, especially compared to the industrial Midwest,” the report stated, adding that many sectors had increased their economic activity with China. Researchers concluded that this insulation from the downsides of trade policy may explain why Coloradans generally supported global commerce.

The study, when completed, will also cover Ohio and Nebraska. The Colorado report drew a comparison to Ohio, saying that both states have some of the most liberal and most conservative counties in the country.

However, unlike Ohio, Colorado has rising per capita income and a high percentage of residents with college degrees, and depends on professional services more so than manufacturing. 

The report also noted that the defense industry accounts for 2.4% of Colorado’s GDP — double that of Ohio. In Colorado, the prevalence of defense-related jobs (247,000) may be why interviewees associated the industry with the middle class.

“One thing that sets Colorado apart from other states is a clear perception that the defense industry is integral to a middle-class life,” said Rich Wobbekind, executive director of the Leeds Business Research Division. “A large portion of the people we talked to mentioned the importance of Colorado’s defense industry in achieving middle-class status.”

However, the report also cautioned that Coloradans do support reductions to defense spending, and even residents of military-heavy El Paso County favored diversifying their local economy in the event of federal spending cuts.

The study defined “middle class” in Colorado as three-person households with incomes between approximately $46,000 and $139,000. Most of those interviewed held leadership positions, therefore under-representing millennials and people from the lower end of the income spectrum.

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