ABQ Journal Poll Finds Pandemic #1 Concern of Voters, Crime #6 Concern; Handling of Pandemic Gives Governor And Mayor High Marks For Now

On Sunday, September 13, the Albuquerque Journal published the results of a statewide poll asking voters their top concerns that are facing New Mexico families. The poll also asked about voter’s approval or disapproval of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s job performance with a subsample for voter’s approval or disapproval Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s job. This blog article is an in-depth analysis of the 3 poll results and the effects the pandemic has had the on the approval ratings of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

As usual, the Albuquerque Journal poll was conducted by Research & Polling Inc., New Mexico’s largest full-service market research and public opinion research company. Founded in 1986, the company today serves a wide variety of prominent national and New Mexico clients. A link to the web page is here: https://www.rpinc.com/ When it comes to polling in New Mexico political races, Research and Polling has a decades history of accurate predictions and is considered the “gold standard” of polling in New Mexico politics.

The Albuquerque Journal poll was conducted from August 26 through September 2. It was based on a statewide sample of 457 likely general election voters who voted in either the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or both. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. A subsample poll was conducted for the approval rating of Mayor Tim Keller with a margin of error of 5.3%.


During the last two years, New Mexico has posted the nation’s first or second-highest violent crime rates in the country and some of the highest property crime rates in the country driven by high violent and property crime rates in Albuquerque. FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average. Albuquerque is one of the 7 cities involved with Operation Legend, a federal program targeting violent criminals for arrest and prosecution. All 7 cities have violent crime rates significantly higher and above the national average. A link to a related blog articles is here:



For the past 8 years, crime has dominated as the number one issue voters have been identified as being problematic. The Journal poll reflects there has been a dramatic change ostensibly since February when the pandemic hit the nation and state hard. Voters now list health and safety related to COVID-19 as their number one concern with 40% of all those polled state wide. Concerns about crime has dropping like a rock to 6th place in voters mind to an anemic 4%. Below are the results of the poll:

40% percent of voters listed health and safety related to COVID-19 as the biggest concern
23% of voters cited economic uncertainty as their biggest concern
13% of voters cited loss of jobs and unemployment as their biggest concern
12% of cited education and back-to-school challenges as their biggest concern
7% of voters cited return to “usual activities” before COVID-19
4% of voters mentioned crime as their biggest concern
3% of listed travel restrictions as their biggest concern
2% of voters listed the direction of the country and future of America, leadership of the country and the election .

According to the Journal poll report:

“Democrats were more likely than Republicans to identify COVID-19 health and safety concerns as their family’s biggest issue. In the survey, 49% of Democrats listed it as the top concern, while just 30% of Republicans and 31% of independents did. …
All told, voters’ responses fell into about 50 categories. After travel concerns, the concerns most listed were the direction of the country and future of America, leadership of the country and the election. Each were listed by 2% of voters. Less-common answers included inability to access health care, taxes and food insecurity. Four people – fewer than 1% – mentioned the governor and Democrats in office as their family’s biggest concern. …
The percentages add up to more than 100 because some respondents identified more than one issue. About 9% said “nothing in particular.”

The link to the full Albuquerque Journal story with graphs reflecting the poll results and methodology is here:



According to the Albuquerque Journal poll, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham has a 59% approval rating, a 33% disapproval rating with 8% of those polled expressed mixed feelings about the Governor or saying they did not know. The link to the Albuquerque Journal full report with pie charts and graphs is here:


According to the Journal report:

“[Governor Lujan Grishams] aggressive response to the COVID-19 outbreak – including a face covering mandate and broad travel quarantine order – has been met with approval by most New Mexico voters, though it’s also generated criticism [and resistance] …

Among Democrats, 86% said they approved of the governor’s job performance. In contrast, only 23% of Republicans surveyed said they approved of the job the governor is doing.”

Among voters who cited the coronavirus pandemic and related health concerns as the biggest issue facing their families [a separate question was asked and in] the Journal Poll, 74% said they approved of Lujan Grisham’s job performance as governor while just 20% said they disapproved [her handling of the pandemic] .”


The Journal Poll asked one question when it came to Mayor Tim Keller:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Tim Keller is handling his job as the mayor of Albuquerque.”

The poll was conducted from August 26 through September 2. The poll was based on a scientific sample of 342 likely general election voters in Albuquerque who also voted in either the 2016 or 2018 general elections or both. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points, though it is higher for subsamples.

The Albuquerque Journal poll was also taken prior to Mayor Keller announcing the retirement of APD Chief Michael Geier on September 10, and with Keller citing the City’s rising crime, implementation of the Department of Justice reforms stalling out, and various internal affairs investigations involving APD.

The link to the Albuquerque Journal report on the poll is here:



In 2017, Democrat Tim Keller was elected Mayor in a runoff with a 62.2% vote against Republican Dan Lewis at 37.8%. Mayor Keller made it known election night in November that he intends to run for a second 4-year term in 2021. On Sunday, September 13, the Albuquerque Journal reported that its poll revealed that Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has a 60% approval rating close to 3 years into his term. Such an approval makes Keller the automatic front runner as he seeks a second term.

However, cautionary statements were made by the pollster. In the Journal report on the poll taken, Pollster Brian Sanderoff, the President of Research and Polling, said it “is unknown whether Keller’s approval dropped at any point in the past two years and then climbed back up.” According to Sanderoff, it appears that the public perception of Keller improved during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that may be partly because the virus has temporarily supplanted crime as voters’ top concern. The poll was clear that the public’s focus has clearly shifted from crime to COVID-19 for now, but Sanderoff said Keller’s legacy is still tied to the city’s response to crime and he put it this way:

“Crime is still lurking as the biggest issue facing the city, and whether people ultimately will continue to approve of the mayor’s performance will ultimately be determined by how he’s perceived as handling crime.”


It is truly amazing that voters concern over the corona virus has now eclipsed crime as the number one concern given the City and States crime statistics. It is fascinating to reflect on what the effects the pandemic is having on New Mexico’s most visible elected officials, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.


Governor Lujan Grisham has been in office less than two years of her 4 year term. It has been a remarkable roller coaster for her and the people of New Mexico. On January 1, 2019 when she was sworn into office, the state was on the rebound from the 10-year great recession. The Governor had one of the most productive 60 day legislative sessions in recent memory with the enactment of the largest budget in state history. As the year progressed, the New Mexico’s economy continued to improve with record revenues and surplus achieved as a result of an oil and gas production boom.

2020 also began with real promise of increased revenues. In 2020, the state was hit with two gut punches: the CORONA Virus and the oil industry went bust with revenues plummeting. State revenues were slashed with a vengeance to the point that the Governor was forced to call a special session to adjust and cut the 2020-2021 budget enacted.

Notwithstanding the impact the corona virus has had on the state, the voters it turns out elected the right person at the right time to be Governor with her background and experience during a pandemic. Her handling of the pandemic crisis and the states response under her leadership has likely saved many lives.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been appointed to be on Joe Biden’s transition team, and if he is elected President it is likely she may not be here come January 1, 2021. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham could be offered a cabinet position. Lujan Grisham has said her main focus is New Mexico. However, according to the New York Times, should Biden win the election, Lujan Grisham has expressed interest in becoming Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She served as the Secretary of the State Health Department under former Governor Bill Richardson.



Ever since Mayor Tim Keller assumed office on December 1, 2017, he has taken political showmanship to all new levels. Keller is known for his photo ops and press conferences, attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying reliving his high school glory days, and posting pictures, press conferences and “fluff” videos on his FACEBOOK page all to the delight of his hard core supporters who heap praises on him.

Keller increased his public relations activities once the corona virus hit hard in February. Keller held daily news conferences as if competing with the Governor’s daily press conferences. He also took his public relations to another level and holds telephone “town halls meetings”. The “town hall” meetings are especially effective and consist of calling upwards of 13,000 people at one time on city compiled call lists likely prepared by the city’s 911 call center.

Keller’s 60% approval rating close to 3 years into his term makes him the automatic front runner as he seeks a second term. However, the cautionary statements made by the pollster that crime is still lurking as the biggest issue facing the city is compelling. In other words, Keller’s public relations actions have paid off for him for now, but that may be short lived.

At this point, the pandemic crisis has become a clear distraction from the city’s high crime rates. It is only a matter of time that crime will once again pushes aside all other concerns, especially if a vaccine is found for the Corona Virus. Today what is on people’s minds is the health threat from the pandemic, tomorrow it will be their concern for their safety living in a very violent city.


A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times.” 2021 will be an interesting year. It may be a year that there are seismic changes in our leaders from the highest office in the land of President, to the State with the departure of our Governor to the possible election of a new Mayor of Albuquerque. The are indeed interesting times in the political world of New Mexico politics.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.