Journal Poll: Martinez approval rating dips to 35 percent

Gov. Susana Martinez at a meeting in the Governor’s Office in September 2017.(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez will leave office at the end of this year with much of her support among New Mexico voters having evaporated, a new Journal Poll found.

Just 35 percent of proven general election voters surveyed earlier this month said they approved of the job Martinez is doing as governor, while 46 percent said they disapproved of her job performance.

Martinez, a Republican who took office in 2010 and was easily re-elected in 2014, has seen her approval rating steadily plummet during her second term, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll.

That could be partly due to voter fatigue, as previous two-term New Mexico Govs. Gary Johnson, a Republican, and Bill Richardson, a Democrat, also saw their approval ratings decline during their final years in office.

“It’s hard to maintain popularity for eight years,” Sanderoff said. “Gary Johnson definitely did not, and Bill Richardson didn’t either.”

Martinez enjoyed broad support in September 2012, when 69 percent of voters surveyed expressed support for the job she was doing and just 17 percent said they disapproved. The governor’s approval rating dropped to 55 percent in a January 2014 poll, and was then at 42 percent in October 2016.

Meanwhile, Martinez’s most recent approval rating is even lower in New Mexico than that of President Donald Trump, who recently invited the governor to take part in a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the White House. Thirty-eight percent of voters surveyed in the Journal Poll approved of Trump’s job performance.

Some of Martinez’s unpopularity could also be due to a state economy that for several years lagged behind many other Western states in terms of job creation and unemployment rates until showing recent signs of growth, Sanderoff said.

“I think a lot of New Mexicans became frustrated by the state’s economic stagnation, especially while our neighbors were thriving,” he said.

The contentious relationship between the governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, especially on issues relating to education, the economy and crime, took its toll over time, Sanderoff said.

As governor, Martinez pushed successfully for tax cuts and increased funding for economic development programs in an attempt to improve New Mexico’s business climate, but she was unable to win approval of other initiatives, such as reinstating the death penalty in New Mexico.

The Martinez administration has also faced criticism for high vacancy and employee turnover rates in many state agencies, including the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Demographics

The Journal Poll found younger voters were more likely than older voters to disapprove of Martinez’s performance as governor, while Anglo voters were more likely than Hispanics to express support for Martinez’s handling of the job.

Martinez is the nation’s first elected Latina governor and was elected, at least in part, due to notable support from Hispanic Democrats.

Meanwhile, the poll also found Martinez’s approval rating has deteriorated not just among Democrats, but among Republican voters, too.

Fifty-two percent of GOP voters surveyed said they approved of the governor’s job performance, while 26 percent said they disapproved. The remaining Republican voters had mixed feelings, didn’t know or would not say what they thought.

That support level among voters of her own political party was notably lower than that of Trump, who had an approval rating of 77 percent among Republican voters surveyed in the Journal Poll.

The mild support among Republican voters could be due partly to intraparty strife, Sanderoff said.

Some prominent New Mexico GOP officials, including Republican National Committeeman Harvey Yates Jr. of Albuquerque, have in the past criticized Martinez’s governing style.

In addition, Martinez faced criticism after being recorded in December 2015 telling police dispatchers to call off officers who had come to check out a late-night gubernatorial staff party at a downtown Santa Fe hotel that was the subject of complaints about noise and objects being thrown from the balcony.

Poll methods

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 again in this year’s election.

The poll was conducted September 7-13 by professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.

Cellphone numbers (64 percent) and landlines (36 percent) of proven general election voters were used.

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