Most in N.M. Give Gov. Good Marks

JOURNAL POLL: Opposition Still Strong to License Law

Recent Journal Polls

SANTA FE – Fresh off her prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention, Gov. Susana Martinez is riding high among New Mexico voters.

Sixty-nine percent said they approve of the Republican governor’s performance 20 months into her first term, a new Journal Poll found.

Just 17 percent of voters polled Sept. 3-6 said they disapprove of her job performance, while 14 percent were undecided.

Martinez, elected in 2010 with 53 percent of the vote, has pursued an apparently popular agenda, campaigning against driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, pushing for tougher school standards, opposing new taxes and trimming the size of state government without mass layoffs, Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said.

“She’s focused on issues that are popular among the voters,” said Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. “As a Republican governor, she has not followed the curve of other Republican governors who have tried to balance the budget by cutting Medicaid or school funding.”

Martinez’s prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 29 in Tampa probably boosted her approval rating back home, Sanderoff said. She spoke between former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, though several major television networks skipped most of her address.

She was the subject of vice presidential speculation early on but ruled it out to stay home.

By the numbers

Approval ratings for the nation’s first elected Hispanic female governor were strong in all parts of New Mexico and among both Hispanic and Anglo voters, the Journal Poll found.

Even Democratic voters were more likely to approve than disapprove of Martinez’s job performance, with 56 percent of likely Democratic voters saying they approve of Martinez’s performance as governor and 24 percent saying they disapprove. About 20 percent of Democratic voters were undecided.

Eighty-nine percent of the voters in her own party approved, while 6 percent disapproved and 5 percent were undecided. Rounding error prevents some totals from equaling 100 percent.

Independent voters – or those who decline to state a party affiliation – were more likely to be undecided than Republicans about the governor, but most approved. Sixty-six percent said they approved, while 15 percent disapproved and 18 percent were undecided or wouldn’t say.

Men and women saw the governor’s job performance identically: 69 percent in each category approved.

Voters from southern and southwestern New Mexico, where Martinez lived and worked for years, disapproved of Martinez’s job performance at slightly higher rates than voters from most other parts of the state, but her ratings in the southern part of the state were still strong.

According to the poll, approval of her job performance was well above 50 percent in every region of the state: Albuquerque metro area (70 percent), the northwest (81 percent), north-central (59 percent), south/southwest (60 percent) and eastside (81 percent) areas.

Controversies and debate

Recent controversies over the Martinez administration’s past use of private email addresses to conduct state government business and her administration’s handling of a new 25-year lease at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque do not appear to have affected the governor’s approval ratings, Sanderoff said.

“Those controversies have not necessarily jumped to the highest level of awareness among average voters at this time,” he said.

Before taking office, Martinez vowed to eliminate corruption in state government and improve the state’s economy by scrapping regulations, among other things.

Although she has succeeded in pushing through an annual limit on state film rebate spending and a new grading system for public schools, Martinez has been unable to secure approval of several other high-profile agenda items in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Those items include a measure that would require third-graders who are not proficient at reading to repeat the grade and a proposed repeal of the 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.

The Journal Poll on Martinez’s job performance rating was conducted Sept. 3-6. A total of 402 likely voters were interviewed via land lines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples such as party affiliation, region, ethnicity and gender.

Ratings for predecessor

Martinez’s approval rating nearly halfway through her four-year term is six points higher than approval at the same point for her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

Richardson, who served as New Mexico’s chief executive from 2003 through 2010, received the approval of 63 percent of voters surveyed in a Journal Poll in 2004, 20 months into his first term.

In the 2004 poll, 25 percent of voters disapproved of Richardson’s job performance and 12 percent were undecided.

Richardson’s job approval rating dropped sharply during his second term as governor, after a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and amid investigations into “pay-to-play” politics and a severe economic downturn.

He ended up at 33 percent approval at the end of his second term in 2010.

Martinez has worked to reverse much of Richardson’s agenda and contrast herself with his image.

Sanderoff mentioned such actions as Martinez selling the luxury state jet purchased by the Richardson administration and dismissing two chefs who previously worked at the Governor’s Mansion in Santa Fe.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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