Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – An overwhelming majority of likely voters in New Mexico describe crime and homelessness as “very serious” problems facing the state – an opinion shared by Democrats and Republicans alike, according to a Journal Poll.
Smaller majorities also say the quality of public education and strength of the state’s economy are very serious problems.
By contrast, only a quarter of likely voters described COVID-19 that way.
The findings of the Journal Poll, conducted by Research & Polling Inc., come as New Mexico’s airwaves are filled with hard-hitting ads in the race for governor – with public safety a consistent theme.
“Everyone thinks crime is a problem,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. “It’s not surprising that we’re seeing advertisements that tackle crime, the economy and education.”
In the poll, 82% of likely voters described crime as a very serious problem – a higher percentage than any other issue the survey asked about. Other questions sought opinions on the economy, education, homelessness and COVID-19.
Concern about crime cut across party lines, geographic regions and age.
A broad, growing group of voters also expressed concern about homelessness, with 77% characterizing it as a very serious problem.
It’s a sharp increase from four years ago, when 54% of likely voters in the Journal Poll described homelessness as a very serious problem.
“Homelessness is an incredibly complex issue that so far no one has crafted a solution to,” Sanderoff said of the findings.
The poll showed some regional differences. Likely voters in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, for example, were more likely than people in eastern or southwestern New Mexico to call homelessness a very serious problem.
And supporters of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (83%) were more likely than supporters of Republican Mark Ronchetti or Libertarian Karen Bedonie (69% for both) to describe it as a very serious problem.
Homelessness has not yet emerged as a focus of campaign ads, perhaps a reflection, Sanderoff said, of voters and candidates viewing homelessness as more of an issue for cities to handle.
In the poll, sharp political differences emerged on COVID-19.
Supporters of Lujan Grisham – whose administration restricted in-person activity at businesses and schools during early parts of the pandemic – were much more likely than supporters of other candidates to describe COVID-19 as a very serious problem (29%) or somewhat serious problem (42%).
Just 21% of Ronchetti supporters described COVID-19 as a very serious problem, and 27% described it as a somewhat serious concern.
The percentages, Sanderoff said, may reflect broader philosophical disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over when government intervention is appropriate.
Lujan Grisham’s supporters, he said, appear to be giving her “credit for being tough on COVID and addressing it.”
Republicans, in turn, were more likely than Democrats to describe the quality of public education and the strength of the economy as very serious problems.
Overall, 61% of likely voters called education a very serious problem. But 69% of Republicans called it a very serious problem, compared with 54% of Democrats.
A similar split showed up in a question about the economy. In the poll, 52% of likely voters cited the economy as a very serious problem.
The percentage jumps to 66% among Republicans and falls to 41% among Democrats.
Likely voters on New Mexico’s east side, a conservative stronghold, were also more likely to describe economic strength as a very serious problem (64%) compared to the Albuquerque area (45%).
The difference may reflect that rural areas “are often challenged to rebound from economic woes,” Sanderoff said.
New Mexico’s unemployment dropped to 4.5% in July – its lowest level since 2008 – but remains higher than any other state but Alaska.
Altogether, he said, the findings of the Journal Poll show strong voter concern over crime, homelessness, education and the economy – all prominent issues in recent races.
“It’s no coincidence that the campaigns are focusing on the same issues voters feel are very serious problems,” Sanderoff said.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 518 voters who cast ballots in the 2018 and/or 2020 general election and who said they are likely to vote in the upcoming election.
The poll was conducted from Aug. 19 through Aug. 25. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
In the poll, respondents were read a list of five issues facing New Mexico and asked to say whether they thought each one was a “very serious problem, somewhat serious problem, minor problem, or no problem at all.”
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (79%) and landlines (21%) of proven general election voters were used.