Crime eclipsed a sluggish economy and lack of jobs as the top issue identified by nearly seven in 10 likely Albuquerque voters surveyed in a new Journal Poll.
Those results flip recession-driven perceptions that put the economy and jobs at the top of voters’ concerns as recently as two years ago, said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
“For many years, the top issue facing Albuquerque has been jobs and the sluggish economy,” he said. “Now we’re seeing a complete turnaround.”
Rising crime rates are driving the public focus on crime, Sanderoff said. But another factor may be the popularity of social media, which has made people more aware of local crime, he said.
In the poll, 69 percent of likely Albuquerque voters listed Albuquerque’s crime rate as the city’s No. 1 concern.
Lack of jobs and a poor economy ranked a distant second, with 11 percent of voters listing the economy as the top problem.
A poor educational system was identified by 7 percent of voters, and Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction by 5 percent.
Republicans were more apt to cite crime as the top issue than Democrats. Four in five Republican voters, or 79 percent, listed crime as the city’s biggest problem, compared with 60 percent of Democrats.
A perhaps surprising aspect was that the poll showed respondents in the far Northeast Heights, where crime rates are lower, were more likely to list crime as the top issue compared with residents of other regions of the city, where crime rates are higher and businesses have made the news because they are threatening to leave.
Among voters in the far Northeast Heights, 78 percent of those surveyed listed crime as the top issue, compared with 65 percent in the rest of the city.
“It’s interesting to note that people in the far Northeast Heights and seniors are least likely to be victims of crime but are more likely to be concerned about it,” Sanderoff said.
“Age is a somewhat important factor in predicting concern regarding crime,” Sanderoff added.
Among voters 65 and older, 75 percent said crime was the city’s biggest problem, compared with 48 percent of voters ages 18 to 34.
The poll asked 516 likely voters the open-ended question: “What is the top issue or concern facing the people of Albuquerque?” Voters could respond any way they chose.
Sanderoff cited the city’s rising crime rate as a key reason for the public focus on crime.
In seven years, armed robberies more than doubled in Albuquerque, from 940 in 2010 to more than 1,957 in 2016, the largest number since 1996. Albuquerque also ranked No. 1 among U.S. metro areas in vehicle thefts per capita in 2016, with more than 10,000 vehicle thefts reported.
Sanderoff also cited a drumbeat of media coverage about crime and growing use of social media sites that alert people to local crimes.
“There is a heightened consciousness about crime being created by social media and various apps, such as Nextdoor, which is making people more aware of what might be happening in their neck of the woods,” he said.
In addition to crime, issues that touch on crime and crime fighting were also mentioned by some as the top issues facing the city. For example, police department concerns, public safety and police officer shortages were also named.
Among other issues cited were government leadership, drug addiction and economic development.
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.