Journal Poll: Most NM voters approve of gov’s virus response

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – By a rate of nearly two-to-one, New Mexico’s likely voters approve of the way Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is handling the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Journal Poll.

Sixty percent of those who responded said they approve of her response while just 32% disapproved – a spread fueled by broad support from voters who identify as liberal or moderate. The remainder had mixed feelings or wouldn’t state an opinion.

President Donald Trump, by contrast, was graded less favorably by New Mexico’s likely voters. The Journal Poll found 36% of those who responded approve of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and 55% disapproved.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has aggressively confronted the pandemic this year with business restrictions, a mask mandate and a travel quarantine, triggering court fights and opposition by Republican leaders.

A former state health secretary, Lujan Grisham has pleaded repeatedly with New Mexicans to stay home as much as possible to limit the spread of the deadly disease, and in weekly news conferences, she has sometimes scolded people for failing to wear masks in public.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the survey, said the results suggest voters take the public-health threat seriously.

“These restrictions have had tremendous consequences in New Mexico, especially on our small businesses and restaurants,” he said in an interview. “Despite all this, a majority of voters approve of her handling of the pandemic, which demonstrates that people are really concerned about their health and the safety of their families.”

Democratic and Republican voters had much different views of the governor’s response to the pandemic. The Journal Poll shows 84% of Democrats approved of her handling of the disease while 10% disapproved – a 74-point spread.

Republicans were more split, but they overwhelmingly disapproved of her response – with just 28% in support and 63% opposed, a spread of 35 points.

The opinions of independent voters more closely matched the electorate as whole, as 58% reported approval of the governor’s handling of the pandemic and 31% disapproved.

Sanderoff said the broad overall approval may not reflect the intensity of people’s feelings.

“Only one-third of New Mexico likely voters disapprove of the governor’s handling of the pandemic,” he said, “but many of these people have very intense feelings about the governor’s restrictions.”

The survey shows significant differences by region. Most voters in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, Las Cruces and southwestern New Mexico, and the north-central part of the state approved of Lujan Grisham’s handling of the pandemic.

But voters were split in northwestern New Mexico, with disapproval ahead by 1 percentage point.

In eastern New Mexico, a majority of likely voters disapproved of the governor’s response.

Conservatives back Trump’s job

Trump’s handling of the pandemic sparked a much different response.

The president – a Republican who has sometimes downplayed the threat of the virus and highlighted optimism about the possibility of new treatments and vaccines – wins strong approval among Republican, conservative and east side voters.

And in the northwestern part of the state, more voters approve than disapprove of Trump’s pandemic response.

Conversely, his performance was rejected by liberals, moderates, Democrats and independents. Voters in the Albuquerque area and north-central New Mexico were mostly likely to disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“The governor and the president have different overall philosophies on this matter,” Sanderoff said, “and they’ve approached the handling of the pandemic in very different ways.”

Polling method

The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 457 likely general election voters who also voted in either the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or both.

The poll was conducted from Aug. 26 through Sept. 2. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.

All interviews were conducted live by professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.

Both cellphone numbers (74%) and landlines (26%) of likely general election voters were used.

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