Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
A large majority of Albuquerque voters support changes to state law that would make it easier for people accused of certain crimes to be held in jail until trial, according to a new Journal Poll.
More than three quarters – 77% – of likely city voters favor the change. Support is strongest among voters who identify themselves as conservative and Republican, but support cuts across all groups.
Among Republican voters, 86% support holding defendants charged with certain crimes. But even 71% of Democrats support the change.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, said the poll found widespread support rarely seen for public policy questions.
“One striking thing that we see is that only 11% oppose it,” Sanderoff said. Among all voters polled, supporters of tougher pretrial detention laws outnumbered opponents seven to one, he said.
The issue of pretrial detention is likely to come before lawmakers next year.
The state’s system of releasing felony defendants awaiting trial has come under fire from police, politicians and prosecutors who argue that pretrial release has created a “revolving door” for violent offenders.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in August that she will support legislation that would make it easier for judges to hold defendants who are facing trial for certain violent crimes.
Others counter that the change is unnecessary because only a small minority of defendants commit crimes while freed from jail pending trial.
A sizable majority of voters, regardless of age, ethnicity and political leanings, said they support bolstering pretrial detention laws.
The poll results reflect public concern about crime, which two-thirds of city voters – 66% – identified as the biggest issue facing Albuquerque residents, Sanderoff said.
“It’s not unusual to read in the newspaper, or see on the television, local news stories of individuals who are released from jail after being accused of heinous crimes,” he said.
Even voters who don’t follow the debate about pretrial detention may have a vis7ceral reaction to those news accounts, Sanderoff said.
Support was weakest among self-identified liberal voters, and young voters. But even among these groups, sizable majorities said they supported tougher pretrial detention laws.
Among liberal voters, 60% said they support the move, and 18% oppose.
Among those 18 to 34, 62% expressed support and 25% oppose. Support strengthened with each successive age group, with 81% of voters 65 and older expressing support, and just 5% opposed.
Support was particularly strong among voters who said they plan to cast ballots for Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales in his bid for mayor. Among Gonzales voters, 89% supported stronger pretrial detention laws, and only 6% opposed.
Gonzales will face off Nov. 2 against Mayor Tim Keller and radio talk show host Eddy Aragon in the city’s mayoral contest.
Among Keller voters, 70% voiced support for stronger pretrial detention laws, and 13% opposed. Support was 85% among Aragon voters.
No significant differences were observed based on distinctions of gender and ethnicity. But education levels influenced voter sentiment on the issue.
Among voters with a high-school diploma or less, 88% supported stronger pretrial detention laws, and only 4% opposed.
Among voters with a graduate degree, 67% favored stronger laws, and 14% opposed.
The poll, which took place Oct. 15 through Oct. 21, was based on a scientific, citywide sample of 536 likely regular local election voters. 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.