Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t riding quite so high with New Mexico voters nearly halfway through her second four-year term in office.
Forty-two percent of likely voters surveyed said they approve of the Republican governor’s job performance, a new Journal Poll found, while 44 percent said they disapproved. The remaining voters were undecided.
Martinez had a 69 percent approval rating in a Journal Poll conducted in September 2012, nearly halfway through her first term.
“It’s difficult for governors to maintain popularity for two consecutive terms,” said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., who pointed out that New Mexico’s two previous governors, Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson, also saw their approval ratings dip during their second terms.
Richardson, a Democrat, had a 61 percent approval rating nearly halfway through his second term in office, but his popularity plummeted in his final two years in office. A poll done several months before he left office in 2010 had him at 33 percent.
As for Martinez’s current approval rating, New Mexico’s largely sluggish economy – the state has one of the highest jobless rates in the nation – is likely playing a role, Sanderoff said.
“New Mexico’s economy and population have been flat since the recession, compared to neighboring states, and at some point that takes a toll,” he said. “I suspect if New Mexico was booming and bustling economically, her numbers would be higher.”
Despite the drop from four years ago, Martinez still got higher marks for her job performance than the Legislature did.
Just 29 percent of likely voters said they approve of the Legislature’s job performance, while 46 percent of voters surveyed disapproved.
However, Sanderoff said most voters do not pay close attention to the inner workings of the Legislature and that institutions tend to have lower approval ratings than individuals.
The state currently has a divided Legislature – Republicans control the House while Democrats control the Senate – and Martinez has clashed with top-ranking Senate Democrats since she first took office in 2011, accusing them of bottling up some of her top legislative priorities and not being responsive to the public.
The contentiousness may have done damage to both sides’ approval ratings, Sanderoff said.
“The average voter would like to see everyone try to work together and get along,” he said.
The poll found, by cross-checking responses, that just 18 percent of New Mexico Republicans who said they plan to vote for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump disapproved of Martinez’s job performance.
In contrast, 35 percent of Republicans who said they would vote for ex-Gov. Gary Johnson, who is the Libertarian Party nominee, disapproved of the governor’s performance.
Martinez has thus far declined to endorse Trump and did not attend his May campaign rally in Albuquerque, which prompted Trump’s public criticism that the governor “has to do a better job.”
But Sanderoff said the Trump-Martinez rift does not seem to be a big factor in her approval rating.
“It’s not as if the Republicans who support Donald Trump are holding a grudge against her.”
Not surprisingly, Democratic voters were more than twice as likely to disapprove of the governor’s job performance than were Republicans. Fifty-six percent of Republican voters surveyed said they approved of Martinez’s job performance and 23 percent disapproved.
Independent voters, or those who decline to state a party affiliation, gave the governor a 45 percent approval rating compared with a 25 percent approval rating for the Legislature.
The poll also found differences along ethnic lines, as Hispanic voters, who in New Mexico typically tend to lean Democratic, were far more likely than Anglo voters to voice disapproval of the job performance of Martinez, who is the nation’s only Latina governor.
Sanderoff said he didn’t know whether a rowdy holiday party that drew national headlines in December 2015 might have done lasting damage to Martinez’s popularity. The governor apologized for her conduct in dealing with complaints that night, including a testy exchange with law enforcement dispatchers, but insisted she was not intoxicated.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 501 voters who said they planned to vote this year and either cast ballots in the 2012 or 2014 general elections or just registered to vote.
The poll was conducted Sept. 27 through Sept. 29. The full voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 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 (52 percent) and landlines (48 percent) of proven general election voters were used. Some totals may not equal 100 percent due to the rounding of numbers.