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Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexicans are near-unanimous in their concern about crime, with 96 percent of voters in a new statewide Journal poll classifying it as a “very” or “somewhat” serious problem.
But education is not far behind in their minds, with almost as many residents characterizing it as a pressing issue.
Nearly seven in 10 New Mexicans polled – 68 percent – consider the quality of public school education a “very serious” problem. Another 24 percent defined it as “somewhat serious.”
And while perceptions about crime vary across political affiliations and geography, voters throughout the state and in both major parties have similar sentiments about education.
Seventy percent of Albuquerque metro voters deemed education quality a “very serious” problem, as did 68 percent of those in northwestern New Mexico and 71 percent on the state’s eastside.
Democrats and Republicans rated it equally problematic.
“It’s across the board, across the demographic groups. … We basically have a broad consensus of very different types of people saying that education is a very serious problem,” said Brian Sanderoff, whose Albuquerque firm Research & Polling administered the Journal Poll.
New Mexico typically sits at or near the bottom of most national education rankings.
Though graduation rates have improved, only 71 percent of the state’s high school students reach the finish line in four years. New Mexico had the country’s second-worst graduation rate in 2016, according to U.S. Department of Education data.
New Mexicans’ assessment of public education quality has only worsened since 2016, when 63 percent of Journal Poll respondents deemed it a very serious problem.
More New Mexicans also rate crime as a very serious problem – 78 percent today, compared with 62 percent two years ago.
Sanderoff said the results are not surprising.
“We’ve had rising crime rates in the state, not just in Albuquerque, and it’s something that people talk about and are concerned about,” he said.
New Mexico’s violent crime rate is 82 percent higher than the national average, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data for 2016, the last complete year for which figures are available. New Mexico had 702.5 incidents per 100,000 people, up 7 percent from the year before – an increase driven primarily by crime in Albuquerque.
The state also had the nation’s highest rate of property crime in 2016, FBI data show.
But opinions about the severity of the crime problem differ by gender, education level, region and political party. More women than men consider it a very serious problem – 84 percent, compared with 72 percent – and more Republicans (84 percent) than Democrats (74 percent) do.
Geography is also a factor: 85 percent from the Albuquerque area and 82 percent in northwestern New Mexico rate it very serious, compared with 57 percent in Las Cruces and the southwestern quadrant.
While voters show increasing concern about crime and education, the latest poll reflects improving views of New Mexico’s economic health. Just over one-third – 35 percent – consider the strength of the state’s economy a very serious problem, compared with 56 percent of those surveyed in 2016.
While it remains among the nation’s worst, New Mexico’s unemployment rate has dropped to 4.6 percent from 6 percent a year ago.
This year’s poll introduced a question about homelessness, which more than half of voters statewide (54 percent) called a very serious problem. But far more Albuquerque voters (65 percent) rated it that way than those living in the Las Cruces/southwestern region (41 percent) and eastern New Mexico (29 percent).
About the poll
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific sample of 423 registered voters who cast ballots in the 2014 and 2016 general elections and said they were very likely to vote in this year’s election.
The poll was conducted Sept. 7-13. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers (64 percent) and landlines (36 percent) of proven general election voters were used.