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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The survey found that each of the top five issues mentioned most often by likely voters was linked to COVID-19, including health, economic uncertainty, unemployment and back-to-school challenges.
Crime – often at or near the top in previous polls – was the sixth-most common concern cited by likely voters.
The poll comes as New Mexico prepares for a general election shaped by the contest for president. The ballot also includes candidates for the U.S. Senate and House, every seat in the Legislature and local races.
“These are the issues voters are facing right now – all of the negative consequences brought about by COVID,” Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling Inc. said in an interview. “The voters are not thinking about the finer points of some public policy pronouncement. They’re thinking of the health, safety and welfare of their families.”
The next most—common answers were economic uncertainty – cited by 23% of voters – and loss of jobs and unemployment, by 13%.
Education and back-to-school challenges came in next at 12%. The survey found that 7% of voters identified a return to usual activities – such as eating at restaurants, shopping or going to the gym – as their family’s biggest concern.
Just 4% of voters mentioned crime, and 3% listed travel restrictions.
The question was open-ended, and voters could mention anything they wanted. If someone cited more than one concern, the multiple concerns were included.
Here’s how the question was asked: “What is the biggest concern facing your family right now?”
Party, age differences
Democrats were more likely than Republicans to identify COVID-19 health and safety concerns as their family’s biggest issue. In the survey, 49% of Democrats listed it as the top concern, while just 30% of Republicans and 31% of independents did.
“It’s consistent with the other polling questions,” Sanderoff said. “Republicans are just more likely to be ready to open up society than Democrats.”
Age differences emerged, too.
Concern about education and back-to-school challenges spiked among adults 35 to 49 years old. The survey found that 24% of respondents in that age range cited school as the biggest concern, or twice as many as voters on the whole.
“If you’re a parent,” Sanderoff said, “you’re thinking of your child. You’re thinking about what to do about the hassles of remote education vs. sending students back to school.”
By contrast, older voters were more likely to cite health and safety concerns. Of those 65 and older, 48% mentioned health and safety, compared with 35% among voters 18 to 34.
Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are most at risk for COVID-19 complications. More than 800 state residents have died since the pandemic reached New Mexico in March.
Under New Mexico’s public health order, most businesses still face restrictions but are permitted to operate at partial capacity. The state has also begun authorizing some public schools to allow elementary school students back on campus for some in-person classes.
All told, voters’ responses fell into about 50 categories. After travel concerns, the concerns most listed were the direction of the country and future of America, leadership of the country and the election. Each were listed by 2% of voters.
Less-common answers included inability to access health care, taxes and food insecurity. Four people – fewer than 1% – mentioned the governor and Democrats in office as their family’s biggest concern. One person each mentioned Republicans, “having an idiot president” and the media.
The percentages add up to more than 100 because some respondents identified more than one issue. About 9% said “nothing in particular.”
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.