Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Only 37% of Albuquerque voters say they support the city’s proposed $50 million bond to help build a multiuse soccer stadium, according to a new Journal Poll.
That compares with 55% who oppose the plan – most of whom describe their disapproval as strong.
Only a fraction (3%) say that it depends or that they are undecided (4%).
And voters say the city should look somewhere other than Downtown if it goes through with the project.
The poll of likely city voters found little variation in stadium bond support based on gender and only some distinctions based on age and ethnicity. Those ages 35-49 expressed more support than those both younger and older, but even among that age group, fewer than half (48%) favor the bond. More Hispanic voters (42%) than Anglo voters (35%) like the stadium bond.
The clearest distinctions are tied to political affiliation, the poll shows.
Democrats are fairly evenly split on the bond measure, with 46% in support and 45% opposed.
There is much less parity among Republicans, as only 22% support it, compared with 71% who oppose it.
Thirty-six percent of independents voiced support in the poll, compared with 55% who are against the bond.
Even voters who say they are casting ballots to reelect Mayor Tim Keller – who first announced the bond proposal during a pep rally-style speech at a New Mexico United soccer tailgate – do not show strong support for the bond. Only 49% of Keller’s voters say they support it, compared with 42% who say they are against it.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., said conservative opposition to the bond is expected. But the proposal’s lukewarm reception among people on the left is more unusual in what he called a “blue-leaning city” where such issues normally pass.
“Anecdotally, as I travel the city and speak to people … I’m surprised how many liberals and progressives were also saying,’We have other priorities (than a stadium),’ ” said Sanderoff, whose firm conducted the Journal Poll.
The question on the Nov. 2 ballot asks city voters if they support using up to $50 million in bonds to buy property and build a new stadium. The city would pledge some of its gross receipts tax – a tax on the sale of most goods and services – to pay off the related debt, estimated at $3 million annually for 25 years. Officials say the bond would not raise taxes.
The New Mexico United professional soccer team would lease the stadium from the city and be its primary tenant. It has pledged to pay $10 million upfront to help build the stadium and $900,000 annually to use it.
The club has spent big money trying to get the bond passed.
Sanderoff noted that the Journal Poll reflects “likely” voters and not the city’s general population; for the measure to succeed, Sanderoff said, the stadium proponents likely need to increase turnout among younger soccer fans who might ordinarily sit out local elections.
“Will they come out? … That’s a big question. That would narrow the margins we’re seeing, and that would increase support levels,” he said, adding that it’s an uphill battle. “It’s sure not looking good (for stadium supporters).”
Keller introduced the stadium bond proposal in late July – one day after the city released a feasibility study identifying two Downtown-area locations as “preferred sites” (Second Street/Iron and Coal/Broadway) and estimating the stadium would cost at least $65 million, excluding land acquisition and parking development costs.
Unlike general obligation bonds, GRT-backed bonds do not technically require voter approval. A supermajority of the City Council, or seven of the nine members, could approve the bonds without going to voters, but the council decided in August to put the bond question on the ballot.
The city said it would not settle on a location unless voters approved bond funding.
Although supporters have said the project could boost Downtown Albuquerque and create jobs, opposition quickly mounted. Critics have argued that the city has much greater concerns than a stadium and that the United should pay for its own facility. Some also have complained the project could gentrify historic Downtown neighborhoods.
The Journal Poll also asked voters if a new stadium were to be built, whether they preferred it Downtown or elsewhere.
Only 27% said Downtown, compared with 50% who said “elsewhere.”
Similar to the bond poll question, voters ages 35-49 were more likely than younger and older voters to say Downtown, but their support still registered at only 40%.
Men (32%) were also more likely than women (24%) to support a Downtown location, the poll showed.
More than half the voters (54%) who strongly support the $50 million stadium bond said they wanted it Downtown. But among those who said they strongly oppose the stadium bond, 12% prefer Downtown, compared with 56% who would rather it go elsewhere.
“We can’t draw the conclusion that people oppose the bond measure because of its (potential Downtown) location, but there is a correlation going on,” Sanderoff said.
Although alternative sites were not defined in the Journal Poll, a 2019 city survey asked residents who supported the idea of a new soccer stadium/multipurpose arena what location they preferred. A plurality (48%) said the area near the University of New Mexico sports venues and Isotopes Park; Downtown and the West Side were tied for a distant second, at 12%.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, citywide sample of 536 likely regular local election voters, including those who voted in the 2017 and/or 2019 local elections and a small sample of newly registered voters likely to vote in 2021.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 15 through Oct. 21. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 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 (82%) and landlines (18%) were used.
On Tuesday: Albuquerque voters describe their financial health before COVID and now.