Copyright © 2022
Albuquerque residents are increasingly dissatisfied with the city’s response to homelessness, with a new study showing that seven times more people rate the city poorly on the issue than offer a positive assessment.
And that’s not the only bleak news in Albuquerque’s 2022 “Citizen Perception Survey.”
The results also show less satisfaction with current quality of life and growing concern about Albuquerque’s future. In addition, more people report feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods and fewer gave the Albuquerque Police Department good marks for its job performance than any survey going back to at least 2011.
Though a plurality — 50% — believe Albuquerque is doing “about the same” as other cities dealing with problems and carrying out its responsibilities, the survey generally shows worsening perceptions of life in New Mexico’s largest city.
A notable exception is the city’s pandemic response. A majority (60%) still gives the city high ratings for how it handled COVID-19. In addition, most in Albuquerque (59%) say relations between people of different cultures and racial backgrounds are “excellent” or “good,” though the numbers have waned a bit.
But some of the most remarkable shifts in public opinion center on homelessness.
This year, 70% of survey respondents rate the city poorly for its performance in that area. That includes 41% who gave the municipal government the lowest possible rating. Meanwhile, only 9% gave the city’s homelessness response a favorable review.
That marks a dramatic change from 2020.
At that time, only 36% gave the city poor marks for how it was tackling homelessness, including just 22% who offered the worst rating, while 29% provided a positive assessment.
“This may be attributed to the fact that the 2020 survey was conducted after voters had strongly approved a GO bond to build a new homeless center to address the issue and may have had more optimism about how this would impact the homelessness issue,” researchers wrote in the final survey report.
That shelter — the Gateway Center — has yet to open, though officials say they hope to finally start taking clients this winter.
Homelessness has dominated discussion and debate in city government in recent months. Officials are currently in a monthslong battle over whether to allow safe outdoor spaces — managed campsites where people who are homeless can sleep in tents or cars, and access toilets and showers. The City Council voted in June to make them possible, but is now trying to block them, while Mayor Tim Keller tries to keep them legal.
And, in another high-profile development, Keller recently closed Coronado Park, which had housed Albuquerque’s most prominent unsanctioned encampment. The move earned mixed reviews, with some celebrating the closure and others complaining that he made the decision without consulting stakeholders or having a clear plan forward.
The new survey, conducted on the city’s behalf by Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., reflects interviews with a random sample of 400 Albuquerque adults taken June 12-26, 2022. In that window, a man was fatally shot at Coronado Park — the fifth homicide at or immediately near the park in about four years.
Keller said that might have affected survey responses, but that the results only reinforce his intent to take an “all-of-the-above” approach to the crisis, including the Gateway Center, safe outdoor spaces and the new Community Safety department, launched in part to provide an alternative response to 911 calls related to homelessness.
The survey “validates and gives a mandate to what we’re doing,” the mayor said in a recent meeting with Journal editors and reporters. “I hope that other policymakers hear that and support us, whether it’s the state Legislature or City Council.
“This is how people feel and we’re coming at it with a lot of things. And what we need is for people to help make those real, so that those (survey) numbers will change.”
Other results from the survey:
• Fewer than half the respondents (48%) rate the city’s quality of life as “excellent” or “good,” down from 59% in 2020. Though “good” remains the most common rating (42%), 17% rated it as “poor” or “very poor.
• Over half those surveyed (52%) now say they are concerned about the city’s direction. That’s compared to 43% who say they are hopeful. In the Dec. 2020 survey, 50% said they were hopeful
• More respondents (32%) agree that the city is responsive to community needs than disagree (28%), but the most common response was somewhere in the middle (38%)
• Over half (57%) of survey respondents say they feel “very” or “somewhat” safe alone outside in their neighborhoods at night, compared to 32% who feel “very” or “somewhat” unsafe. However, the gap has narrowed — in 2020, 68% reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods at night and only 24% said they felt unsafe
• Most respondents (53%) say the Albuquerque Police Department treats citizens respectfully, up from 48% two years ago. However, only 38% agree that APD is doing well addressing public safety issues and responding quickly to emergencies. That is down from 49% in 2019 and the lowest number for any survey going back to at least 2011
• A plurality (41%) said the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice-mandated reform effort within APD has had no impact, while 24% say it has been positive and 14% say it has been negative.