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Voters Give Mayor Berry High Marks

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Three years at City Hall haven’t diminished Mayor Richard Berry’s popularity.

In fact, it appears to be improving with time, based on a comparison with a 2010 poll.

A new Journal Poll shows 68 percent of likely voters in Albuquerque say they generally approve of Berry’s job performance and only 15 percent disapprove. The remainder are undecided, don’t know or wouldn’t say.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the survey, said Berry’s public persona as a mayor who governs with a business-like approach and non-confrontational style appears to contribute to the strong rating.

“It’s really unusual to garner such high rates of approval for any politician or elected official these days,” Sanderoff said in an interview Wednesday.

The new approval rating is even higher than what Berry scored in 2010, less than a year into his first term. A survey from August of that year – also conducted by Sanderoff, among likely voters in Bernalillo County – showed the mayor had a 63 percent approval rating, with 12 percent disapproving.

The past two years haven’t always been smooth for Berry.

Last year, voters soundly rejected a $50 million bond issue to pay for two projects outlined in Berry’s “ABQ: The Plan” initiative, a sports complex and the Paseo del Norte interchange.

Critics had questioned the pairing of the projects into one question, and the city is trying again Nov. 6 – this time with the funding entirely for Paseo.

The mayor also has faced criticism over the number of people shot and killed by Albuquerque police. Since January 2010, police have shot 25 men, 17 of them fatally. Activists and some city councilors have called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of civil-rights violations by APD.

But the controversy “appears not to have impacted his popularity,” Sanderoff said.

He noted that Berry has pushed for frugality in Albuquerque’s operating budget by reducing spending while the recession dampens revenue at City Hall. But the mayor also has pushed to use some of the budget savings on “big quality-of-life projects,” Sanderoff said.

In an interview, Berry said much of the credit should go to his leadership team and rank-and-file city employees.

“Gosh, it’s nice to hear,” Berry said of the numbers. “… We’re working hard.”

The survey shows Berry’s performance is popular with Democrats and Republicans. Berry is a Republican, though Albuquerque city government is technically nonpartisan and party labels don’t appear on the ballot.

“It seems natural that we put differences aside when at all possible and work together towards solutions,” Berry said. “It think the poll reflects the majority of folks feel the same way. That makes me feel good as a mayor.”

The mayor’s approval rating among Republicans is 85 percent, with disapproval at 4 percent, according to the poll. He has 55 percent approval among Democrats and 25 percent disapproval.

“Most politicians would be pleased with a 55-to-25 approval rate,” Sanderoff said. He called the Republican rating “impressively high.”

Sanderoff noted that Berry’s predecessor, Martin Chávez, also enjoyed popularity across party lines. Chávez, a Democrat, won election three times before he was defeated by Berry in 2009, his only loss in a mayoral election. Chávez served from 1993-97 and 2001-09.

Berry, though, has had plenty of disagreements with Democrats at City Hall. But he and the City Council’s 5-4 Republican majority have stuck together on budget matters, on a new policy in which federal agents check the immigration status of anyone arrested by city police and on a less expensive energy code, among other issues.

A former two-term legislator who had a reputation for working across the aisle, Berry was a general contractor before winning election as mayor. His first term ends in November next year. He hasn’t said whether he will seek re-election.

It will be a “family decision,” he said.

“I enjoy the job a great deal – no question about that,” Berry said.

Sanderoff said approval ratings can decline quickly “if you’re pounded by bad publicity or scandal.”

But “anyone who has a 68 percent approval rating starts out with a great advantage when it comes to seeking re-election,” Sanderoff said.

The telephone survey involved 319 likely voters in Albuquerque. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points. Interviews were conducted Oct. 9-11.

Here’s how the question was asked: “Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job performance of Mayor Richard Berry?”

A Journal Poll earlier this fall found President Barack Obama with a 45 percent approval rating and N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez with a 69 percent approval rating.
Voters Give Mayor Berry High MarksApproval Rating Higher Than 2010See HIGH on PAGE A3

election 2012 journal poll
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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