Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A majority of Albuquerque voters support mandates requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing, but they are largely split along party affiliation, a new Journal Poll found.
The political divide is also apparent in voters’ views on how safe it is to go to large outdoor events, indoor entertainment venues and indoor restaurants during the pandemic.
“The lines are drawn by party when it comes to COVID-19,” longtime Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said.
Overall, 63% of voters surveyed said they support COVID-19 vaccine mandates, while 32% expressed opposition. The remaining respondents were unsure or had mixed feelings.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order in July requiring state employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or do weekly testing. A separate order issued in August mandates all hospital workers and school employees to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
Several prominent New Mexico employers have adopted similar vaccination requirements, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which runs nine hospitals in the state.
The vaccine mandates have prompted protests, lawsuits and some health care workers to leave their jobs.
But roughly 90% of hospital workers in New Mexico were fully vaccinated as of this week, according to state Department of Health data, and initial court rulings have upheld the legality of the mandates.
The Journal Poll found Albuquerque voters ages 65 and older had the highest level of support for mandates of any age group. When participants were broken down by education levels, support for the mandates was highest among college graduates and voters with graduate degrees.
By party affiliation, 85% of registered Democrats said they supported requiring employees to be vaccinated, while just 10% said they were opposed.
In contrast, 29% of registered Republican voters said they supported the vaccine requirements and 69% expressed opposition.
Sanderoff said that’s not surprising, since prominent New Mexico Republicans like U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell have opposed mandates.
“Republicans are less concerned about COVID-19 in general and more concerned about government mandates,” said Sanderoff, who is the president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll.
He said Democrats are generally more likely to support such mandates and are more worried about the health risks posed by the virus.
Sanderoff also said the poll results would likely be different if residents of more conservative parts of New Mexico, such as the state’s southeast and Four Corners regions, had been included in the survey.
Indoor entertainment makes voters uneasy
Despite a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico, the Journal Poll also found most Albuquerque voters feel safe going to large outdoor events and dining indoors at restaurants.
However, voters had more reservations about going to indoor entertainment venues, with 30% of those surveyed saying they felt very safe going to such facilities and 20% saying they did not feel safe at all. Almost all of the rest of voters surveyed were somewhere in the middle.
New Mexico lifted its pandemic-related business capacity limits July 1, but Lujan Grisham reinstated a mask mandate for indoor public settings in August amid a spike in cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
While the number of cases and hospitalizations has remained stubbornly high since then, Sanderoff said many residents may be getting used to living — and recreating — during the pandemic.
“I think concern is dropping compared to what it would have been a year ago,” he said.
Overall, registered Republicans in Albuquerque were three times more likely than Democrats to say they felt very safe going to indoor entertainment venues, and about twice as likely to say they felt very safe going to indoor restaurants and attending large outdoor events, the Journal Poll found.
In addition, male voters were more likely than female voters to say they felt safe doing all three activities.
While women make up a larger share of New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases than men, more men have died due to the virus than have women, according to state Department of Health data.
Poll sampled over 500 local election voters
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 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.