About half of likely Albuquerque voters support a proposed sick leave ordinance on the Oct. 3 ballot while nearly a third oppose it, according to a new Journal Poll.
And voter awareness of the controversial measure – which has the city’s business community squaring off with social justice groups in heated publicity campaigns – is high. Support is strongest among Democrats, younger voters and Hispanics, the poll found.
Party affiliation is the most significant factor predicting a voter’s support or opposition to the Healthy Workforce Ordinance, said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
“Democrats are much more likely to be supportive; Republicans are much more likely to be opposed,” he said.
When simply asked whether they would support or oppose the paid sick leave ordinance, 53 percent said they support it, and 31 percent were opposed. Sixteen percent said they were undecided.
A simple majority is required to approve the measure.
The ordinance itself is nearly 2,000 words, and it takes up the entire back of the city ballot. Critics argue that it will have numerous negative consequences, while supporters say it is vital for Albuquerque’s working families. When a more detailed explanation of what supporters and opponents say about the ordinance was provided, support declined slightly, but not significantly. It dropped from 53 percent to 50 percent.
“Clearly, there are a lot more people that support than oppose the ordinance, but we still have a sizable group of people who are undecided,” Sanderoff said. Opponents would have to “run a very competent and effective campaign against this ordinance in the closing weeks in order to defeat it.”
If approved by voters, the Healthy Workforce Ordinance would require employers to allow workers to earn paid sick time off. It would apply to full-time, part-time and temporary workers at any business with a physical presence in Albuquerque.
The measure has spawned robust advertising campaigns on both sides.
Healthy Workforce ABQ and the affiliated entities pushing for the ordinance have amassed $175,000 in their war chest. Opponents have raised a little more than $124,000 to date and had $24,000 left in the bank as of Sept. 7.
The survey results illustrate a classic difference between Democratic and Republican voters, Sanderoff said.
The sick leave ordinance received 69 percent support from Democrats. Among Republicans, only 32 percent support the measure. Support among independents falls in the middle at 53 percent.
“Republicans in general are more opposed to government regulations,” he said. Democrats are inclined to favor a government role in supporting employee rights and benefits, he said.
“As age increases, support levels decline,” Sanderoff said. “People under 50 are significantly more supportive than people 50 and older.”
Among Hispanic voters, 61 percent said they support the measure, while 51 percent of Anglos expressed support.
Support for the measure also varied by region of the city.
The measure had support from 67 percent of voters in the North Valley and Downtown. Among voters in the Far Northeast Heights, only 41 percent expressed support.
The Journal Poll asked three questions about the proposed sick leave ordinance.
The first simply asked voters if they are aware of the proposal, to which 85 percent said they are aware, and only 15 percent said they are not.
The second question listed the first sentence of the proposed ordinance as it appears on the ballot, which reads: “This proposed ordinance allows employees to accrue and use sick leave; as well as to establish procedures for notice, recordkeeping, and enforcement.” The survey asked: “Do you support or oppose this ordinance?”
To this question, 53 percent said they support the proposal and 31 percent said they oppose it.
The third question listed some pros and cons of the measure. The question said: “This ordinance would require every business in Albuquerque, to offer paid sick leave to all employees including temporary and full-time workers.
“Supporters say the ordinance would ensure that workers would not have to choose between receiving a paycheck and coming to work sick, and protects them from harmful actions by their employer for using sick leave.
“Opponents say the ordinance will hurt businesses and cut jobs. Opponents also say that other sections of this ordinance would make it difficult for employers to discipline employees for valid reasons within a 90 day period after the employee takes sick leave.
“After hearing this, do you support or oppose the ordinance?”
In response to this question, 50 percent of voters said they support the measure and 32 percent said they oppose. Another 17 percent said they were undecided, and 1 percent wouldn’t say.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, citywide sample of 516 voters who said they planned to vote this year, and voted in the 2013 regular municipal election, the late-term abortion measure special election, or the 2015 regular municipal election.
The poll was conducted Sept. 11-14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (44 percent) and landlines (56 percent) of proven municipal election voters were used.
The Journal polls
The Journal on Sunday kicked off a six-day series on the results of the latest Journal Poll on citywide issues.
Sunday: The Race for Mayor
Today: Healthy Workforce Ordinance
Tuesday: The Economy
Wednesday: Rating Our Criminal Justice Leaders
Thursday: Top Issue Facing Albuquerque Residents
Friday: Mayor Richard Berry’s Job Approval Rating