Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton was the strong overall favorite among New Mexico Democrats likely to vote in the June 7 presidential primary election, according to a Journal Poll, rolling up strong margins among middle-aged women and Hispanics, while Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont bested her among men and young people.
The survey, conducted Feb. 23-25 by Research & Polling, found that 47 percent of Democratic respondents preferred Clinton, compared with 33 percent who favored Sanders. Twenty percent said they were undecided or didn’t know whom they would vote for.
The poll surveyed 401 New Mexico Democrats who are likely to vote in the state’s June 7 primary election. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. Fifty-one percent of those responding to the poll were reached by cellphone.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., said that although Clinton’s overall lead among New Mexico Democrats was predictable, there were some intriguing findings among subgroups of those responding.
“There are some significant differences of opinion based on voters’ gender, ethnicity, age and political outlook,” Sanderoff said.
Among the New Mexico Democrats polled, Clinton was heavily favored by women: 57 percent preferred the former secretary of state, compared with 22 percent of New Mexico women who said they would vote for Sanders, a self-described socialist.
But 45 percent of men surveyed said they would vote for Sanders, while 35 percent said they would cast a ballot for Clinton.“Clinton’s a woman who has always focused on issues important to women, so it’s no surprise she’s doing well among them,” Sanderoff said. “Sanders is a gruff, plain-spoken kind of guy, and he’s more popular among men.”
Lonna Atkeson, a University of New Mexico political science professor who is director of the school’s Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy, said she recognized similar trends when she was in Iowa for that state’s first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest in January.
“Hillary drew middle-aged white women, but when (former President) Bill Clinton showed up the audience got more diverse,” Atkeson said. “That’s a gender enthusiasm gap that’s a problem for her and a concern for her in the general election.”
Atkeson also noted that the poll showed that a large chunk of Democratic voters who described themselves as conservative didn’t seem enthused about either Clinton or Sanders.
“One-third of conservative Democrats are undecided and do not find Sanders or Clinton appealing, which could be a problem for Democratic enthusiasm in the general election,” Atkeson said.
Sanderoff said the poll’s results also revealed “a tremendous age gap” between Clinton and Sanders. Sanders, who has consistently outperformed Clinton among young voters in the early presidential primary and caucus states, appears to stack up well with those voters in New Mexico, too.
Sanders scored his highest numbers in the survey among New Mexico Democrats 18 to 34 years old. Forty-seven percent of those so-called millennials surveyed said they would vote for him, compared with 34 percent for Clinton.
Sanders was also the slight favorite among Democratic voters ages 35 to 49, with 42 percent of these voters stating a preference for him, compared with 36 percent who supported Clinton.
“The younger they (New Mexico poll respondents) get, the more supportive of Bernie Sanders they are,” Sanderoff said.
But once the poll cracked the age threshold of 50 years, Clinton surged far ahead. Among voters 50 to 64 years old, Clinton had 49 percent of support, compared with 29 percent for Sanders.
Clinton was also the preferred candidate of Democratic New Mexico Hispanics. Fifty-one percent of these voters said they would vote for Clinton, compared with 25 percent for Sanders. Twenty-four percent of New Mexico Hispanics were undecided in the poll.
“There are many Hispanic voters who haven’t made up their minds and may be flirting with Sanders,” Sanderoff said.
Debra Haaland, chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, said the fact that Clinton led the poll overall was not surprising. But Haaland said she was slightly surprised that so many of the state’s Democrats are still undecided.
“I think 20 percent is a fairly large number of undecided voters, because we’ve seen so much of the candidates. But they are taking their time, and that’s OK,” Haaland said. “Unfortunately, our primary is late and most of the country will have voted, but I’m sure New Mexicans will be decided by June.”
Clinton was also a strong favorite among the least educated Democratic poll respondents, with 53 percent of them saying they would vote for her, compared with 18 percent for Sanders. Twenty-nine percent of these respondents were undecided or didn’t know whom they would vote for in the Democratic primary.
Clinton’s lead shrank among poll respondents who were more educated. Forty-four percent of college graduates polled said they preferred Clinton, compared with 37 percent who would vote for Sanders. Among those with graduate degrees, 43 percent stated a preference for Clinton, compared with 40 percent for Sanders.
Sanderoff noted that Hillary Clinton has visited the state many times over the years as first lady of the United States when her husband was president, and as a candidate in the 2008 and 2016 election cycles. That familiarity helps explain her strong performance in the Journal Poll.
“The Clintons have a long history in New Mexico,” Sanderoff said. “Bill Clinton won the state in 1992 and 1996. Bernie Sanders is newer to the scene. People in New Mexico are just getting to know Bernie Sanders.”