From August 31 through to September 3, the Albquerquerqu Journal published a series of front-page articles of a poll conducted primarily for the 2022 midterm election. The reports covered the following:
- Voter’s opinions on issues facing the state
- What voters felt were the causes of crime and pretrial detention
- Gun Control measures
- The Permanent Fund Constitution Amendment
“The Journal Poll was 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. 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. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.”
The link to the quoted poll results and news article is here:
JOURNAL POLL REPORT ON ISSUES FACING STATE
On August 31 the Journal reported the results of it poll on the various issues voters felt were serious in the state. In the poll, respondents were read a list of five issues facing New Mexico and asked to state if they felt each one was a “very serious problem, somewhat serious problem, minor problem, or no problem at all.” The specific issues asked about in the poll were Crime, Homelessness, Quality of Education, the Strength of the State’s Economy, and Covid 19.
The poll question and the results reported are as follows:
How serious are these issues facing New Mexico?
Very Serious: 82% Somewhat Serious: 14% Minor: 3% No Problem: 0 Don’t Know/Would Not Say: 1%
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Crime was listed as “Very Serious” problem with a whopping 82%. Concern about crime cut across party lines, geographic regions and age. Albuquerque and the State has seen a major spike in violent crime and the rates are some of the highest in the country. In the last 3 years, Albuquerque has had a breaking number of homicides each year. In 2021 the city had 117 homicides. As of August 30, APD reports that there have been 88 homicides, with the city well on it way to breaking the 2021 all time record.
Very Serious: 77% Somewhat Serious: 16% Minor: 4% No Problem: 1% Don’t Know/Would Not Say: 2%
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
When it comes to the issue of Homelessness, it should come as no surprise that 77% feel that it is a very serious problem, once again with Albuquerque being the driving force behind the increase for concern. Likely voters in the Albuquerque metropolitan area were far more likely than people in eastern or southwestern New Mexico to call homelessness a very serious problem. According to the Journal report, the 77% is a sharp increase from four years ago when 54% of likely voters described homelessness as a very serious problem. Simply put, the homeless numbers have increased as has their visibility with the government struggling to come to a solution on how to deal with the crisis. Mayor Tim Keller’s recent closure of Coronado Park as well as his failure to manage the homeless crisis has become a major source of controversy.
QUALITY OF EDUCATION
Very Serious: 61% Somewhat Serious: 24% Minor: 9% No Problem: 4% Don’t Know/Would Not Say: 3
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The 61% “very concern” for education is based in sobering reality and understanding of the state’s education system, but there is major reason for optimism for improvement.
On January 19, 2022, the New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book. New Mexico’s rankings in the nation for education was 50th. The state ranked 29th in the number of young children not enrolled in school, 49th in the nation for 8th grade math proficiency and 50th in the nation for 4th grade reading proficiency and 25% of New Mexican high schoolers do not graduate on time. The links to the Kids Count Data Book is here:
On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled in the case of Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Governor Suzanna Martinez that the state of New Mexico was violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. In response to the court ruling, the New Mexico legislature increased public education funding to the highest levels in state history. During the last 3 years, the New Mexico legislature dramatically increased public education funding, created the Early Childhood Department (CYFD), issued mandates to Children, Youth and Families and Public Education departments, and gave raises to educators.
The 2022 New Mexico Legislature approved an $8.48 billion state budget, the largest budget in state history. The budget bill boosts state spending by $1 billion, nearly 14%, over current budget levels. The enacted budget includes significant increases in spending in areas that should have a direct impact on major areas identified by the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book. Annual spending on K-12 grade public education was increased by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% boost.
A trio of bills to fund programs to help Native American students succeed in school past was enacted by the 2022 legislature. The house bills provided more than $70 million to tribal entities to help offer culturally relevant lesson plans and access to virtual and after-school programs for those students. The budget contains salary increases of 7% for school districts and state government staff across the state. A minimum hourly wage of $15 for public employees and higher base salaries for teachers is provided. The enacted budget extends free college tuition to most New Mexico residents pursuing two- and four-year degrees. $75 million is allocated to the “opportunity scholarship” program, providing free tuition and fees for New Mexico residents.
On the November 8 general election ballot is also a Constitutional Amendment that if passed will increase funding by the millions from the state’s permanent school fund with more funding to go towards extra funding in the millions for K-12 education. Outlined below is a report on a separate poll question on the Constitutional Amendment.
STRENGTH OF THE STATE’S ECONOMY
Very Serious: 52% Somewhat Serious: 30% Minor: 9% No Problem: 3%
Don’t Know/Would Not Say: 5%
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The 52% “Very Serious” and 30% “Somewhat Concern” poll numbers for the state’s economy must be tempered with reality. Things are not at all as bad as the poll suggests.
On August 16, during a meeting of the influential New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee held in Chama, New Mexico, legislators were told the state will have a staggering projected $2.5 billion in “new” money during the 2023 budget year that starts on July 1, 2023. The total revenue is forecast is to rise from $9.2 billion in the fiscal year that just ended to nearly $10.9 billion for 2023. The projections were reported by the LFC executive economists. The LFC economists reported that the $2.5 money, which represents the difference between current spending levels and projected new revenue, is in addition to a projected budget surplus of nearly $3.8 billion for the current fiscal year and with upwards of $2.6 billion to go into the state’s early childhood trust fund. According to the economic projections reported, the revenue flow is showing no signs of slowing down. It is inflation related consumer spending, strong wage growth and increased oil production that is spiking the state’s revenue flows to historic heights.
On August 19, 2022, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) released an Economic Update on the state’s unemployment rates. The Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) reported that New Mexico’s unemployment dropped to the lowest it has been since September 2008. The DWS reported that the unemployment rate for the state in July stood at 4.5%, a drop from 4.9% in June of this year and a year-over-year decrease from 7% from July 2021. This is the second month in a row the unemployment rate has come in below 5% this year. Despite the reduction in unemployment rates, the state is struggling with a low workforce participation rate which is the measurement of working-aged adults that are participating in the labor force and who are looking for a job. According to the Department of Workforce solutions (DWS), there is a need for more workers across all industries. The DWS says it has been focusing on the issue by setting up programs funded largely by federal dollars and creating a template for outreach to non-working New Mexicans.
Very Serious: 25% Somewhat Serious: 35% Minor: 25% No Problem: 14% Don’t Know/Would Not Say: 1%
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The 25% “Very Serious” % “Somewhat Serious” concern over Covid 19 is a clear indication that the state, much like the rest of the country, is now pulling out of the effects of the pandemic and is in an indicator that things are indeed getting back to normal and proof of the effectiveness of the vaccines. The 25% “very serious” concern is in sharp contrast to two years ago when the pandemic resulted in closure of businesses, schools and public functions and mask mandates when there were no vaccines.
Notwithstanding the decline of Covid 19 as being a “very serious” concern to voters, the poll broke along party lines on COVID-19. According to the Journal report:
“Supporters of Governor Lujan Grisham, who issued public health care orders and 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 at 29% or somewhat serious problem at 42%. … Lujan Grisham’s supporters appeared to give her credit for being tough on COVID and addressing it. Just 21% of Ronchetti supporters described COVID-19 as a very serious problem, and 27% described it as a somewhat serious concern.”
JOURNAL POLL REPORT ON CAUSES OF CRIME
On September 1 the Albuquerque Journal reported the results of its poll on voters’ opinions on what they believe are the leading causes of crime and pretrial detention. Those polled on the “causes of crime” were allowed up to 3 responses and the poll compiled the top 9 answers.
CAUSES OF CRIME
The Journal poll questioned voters on their beliefs as to the causes of high crime rates. The poll question and the results reported are as follows:
“What do you believe is the leading cause of New Mexico’s high crime rate?”
RELEASING DEFENDANTS AHEAD OF TRIAL: 15%
LIGHT SENTENCES OF JUDGES: 14%
WEAK/BROKEN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM:12%
POOR ECONOMY: 8%
NOT ENOUGH POLICE OFFICERS: 8%
Brian Sanderoff, the president of Research & Polling Inc., whose company did the poll, had this to say to the Journal about the poll results:
“Seven out of the 10 most frequently mentioned issues among likely voters deal with societal issues, challenges that we face regarding drug abuse, poverty, economy, homelessness, mental illness. … And three of the 10 are dealing more with criminal justice issues.”
Sanderoff said that the causes for crime by those polls broke along party lines. Republican voters were more likely to mention problems in the criminal justice system while Democrats were more likely to mention societal issues. Sanderoff said this:
“When you look at the same thing by candidate … Michelle Lujan Grisham supporters are nearly twice as likely to mention poverty than Ronchetti supporters.”
On November 8, 2016, the “New Mexico Denial of Bail Measure” was approved by New Mexico voters by a landslide vote. The Constitutional Amendment amended the New Mexico Constitution to change the conditions under which a defendant can be denied bail and not released from custody pending trial. The Constitutional Amendment was designed to retain the right to pretrial release for “non-dangerous” defendants. The adopted amendment changed bond requirements allowing bail to be denied to a defendant who has been charged with a felony only if the prosecutor can prove to a judge that the defendant poses “a threat to the public.” The adopted amendment also provides that a defendant who is not a danger to the community or a flight risk cannot be denied bail solely because of the defendant’s financial inability to post a money or property bond. The final vote was 87.23%, with 616,887 voting YES and 12.77%, with 90,293 voting No.
Over the last 6 years, violent crime rates have increased significantly, and high-profile violent crimes have been reported where criminal defendants have been released pending trial and the public attitudes and perceptions on pretrial detention have changed, albeit no thanks to elected officials placing the blame on the courts for high violent crime rates. The
Journal poll questioned voters on changing “pretrial detention” and changing the law to make it easier for judges to hold individuals who have been charged with certain violent crimes in jail until trial. The Journal poll asked the question:
“Do you support or oppose changing New Mexico law to make it easier for judges to hold individuals who have who have been charged with certain violent crimes in jail until trial?”
The Journal Poll results were as follows:
85% support the change
4% oppose the change
8% said it depends
3% said they did not know or would not answer
According to the Journal article, while there are slight variations across political parties, regions of the state and education levels, in nearly every demographic more than 80% of respondents said they supported a change. Brian Sanderoff, the president of Research & Polling Inc. told the Journal:
“Rarely do you see numbers where 85% of the people supports something and only 4% oppose on questions that we typically ask in a Journal Poll. And so we’re seeing just very significant, very large support levels for this change in the law, regardless of gender, ethnicity, party, etc. … Likely voters are clearly expressing some frustration regarding the high crime rate. … It would still be up to the governor and the Legislature to address the public’s concern in an effective and constitutional manner.”
Sanderoff reported that among those who, if the gubernatorial election were held today, would vote for incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, 81% supported changing the law. That compares to 90% who would vote for Republican Mark Ronchetti, and 97% of those who would vote for Libertarian. Sanderoff also reported that political leanings plays a major role in “pretrial detention” attitudes. Sanderoff reported 93% of those who identified as conservative said they would support changing the law compared to 76% of those who identified as liberal and 87% who identified as moderate.
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Changing the law to make it easier for judges to hold persons who have committed certain violent crimes is easier said than done. Further, studies have suggested that even with the change, it likely have little impact on crime and crime may not go down.
The fact that the law was changed by constitutional means that it would then again require a constitutional amendment or a repeal of what was passed in 2016. Further proposed legislative changes have failed. During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Lujan Grisham proposed major changes to reshape the pretrial detention system and they failed. Simply put, legislators said they were not convinced the proposed changes would address crime and questioned their constitutionality.
Complicating legislative changes were the fact that several studies and reports, including one by the bipartisan Legislative Finance Committee, found that the proposals put forward by the Governor and state prosecutors would have little or no impact on reducing violent crime.
It was on September 15, 2019, that the Administrative Office of the Courts issued the results of a report to take sharp issue with the proposals to change the bail bond system once again. The study was conducted by the University of New Mexico (UNM). The report supported the proposition that the existing system does not endanger the public. The UNM study reviewed 10,289 Bernalillo County felony cases from July 2017 to March 2020 in which defendants were released from jail while awaiting trial. The statistical findings were decisive and reported as follows:
Of the cases analyzed, only 13 were arrested for a first-degree felony while on pretrial release, or about 0.1% of the total. 19% of felony defendants released from jail pending trial, 1,951 of 10,289, were arrested for new criminal activity during the pretrial period. Most of those arrests were for fourth-degree felonies and misdemeanors, including property, drug and violent crimes. Fewer than 5% of defendants, or up to 480, released pretrial were arrested for new violent crimes. Of the cases analyzed, 95.3% were not arrested for violent crimes during the pretrial period.
Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, had this to say about the study:
“The evidence from research clearly shows that the great majority of people released pending trial are not committing new crimes. … Objective research validates the pretrial justice improvements under way in New Mexico. Blaming judges and courts for crimes highlighted in news accounts does nothing to make anyone safer.”
In July, 2022 a study by the Santa Fe Institute and the University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research released found that under House Bill 5, which was proposed during the 2022 legislative session and failed, would have resulted in an additional 2,403 people held in jail. The study found that those people were released and while awaiting trial, 96% were not charged with any violent crimes and 85% were not charged with any other new crimes.
Under the United States and the New Mexico Constitutions, all are guaranteed the right of due process of law no matter how heinous or violent the crime. In criminal trials, with no exceptions, any defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. A person is also entitled to post bond.
What is always forgotten whenever bond reform is discussed are some of the main reasons for the changes in the law: jail overcrowding and people held for crimes they did not commit or held on low level criminal charges, such as drugs, felony thefts and credit card fraud charges, for months and at times years only to be released. Those that could afford or had the resources to pay a bond, cash or surety, were released while those who were indigent sat in jail days, weeks or even months awaiting a trial, no matter the charges.
Prior to the bond reform, the Bernalillo County Detention Center was chronically overcrowded. Years ago, the downtown jail could house up to 800 and it often would house up to 1,200 forcing the doubling up on individual cell space. The overcrowding resulted in a Federal Lawsuit that was finally settled after almost 30 years of litigation. The West side facility after it was built can house up to 2,000, and sure enough overcrowding occurred again within a matter of months.
The New Mexico Supreme Court needs to revisit the bond rules, change them and find a permanent solution that will give the lower court’s far more latitude and discretionary authority when it comes to the bond hearings and holding violent criminals in jail until trial. Common sense guidelines, not hard-set mathematical formulas allowing no discretion, need to be given the Judges to allow them to make decisions that they believe are in the best interest to protect the public as well as the defendant’s rights to due process of law. Otherwise, the New Mexico legislature may act on its own and seek repeal of the constitutional amendment.
On Sunday, September 4, the Journal published poll results on two-gun control proposals. Both proposals received overwhelming bi partisan support from those polled. The poll questions and results were as follows:
Do you support or oppose legislation in New Mexico to raise the age from 18 to 21 to purchase an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle?
It depends: 4%
Don’t know/won’t say: 2%
Female support: 75%
Female opposition: 19%
Male support: 69%
Male Opposition: 24%
POLITICAL PARTY BREAKDOWN
Democrat Support: 85%
Democrat Opposition: 11%
Republican Support: 53%
Republican Opposition: 35%
Other Party Support: 77%
Other Party Opposition: 19%
Do you support or oppose making it a crime if a person fails to safely secure a firearm from children?
It depends: 10%
Don’t know/won’t say: 3%
Female support: 76%
Female opposition: 11%
Male support: 70%
Male Opposition: 17%
POLITICAL PARTY BREAKDOWN
Democrat Support: 81%
Democrat Opposition: 9%
Republican Support: 61%
Republican Opposition: 22%
Other Party Support: 74%
Other Party Opposition: 10%
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
New Mexico lawmakers in recent years have passed laws expanding background check requirements for firearm purchases and allowing guns to be seized from individuals deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others. But with the state’s firearm violence rate still high, many voters want lawmakers to enact additional gun control measures.
While Democratic voters were significantly more likely to support the gun control measures, a majority of Republican voters surveyed also expressed support for both proposals. A total of 61% of GOP voters surveyed support making it a crime to fail to store guns safely around children, while 53% of Republicans said they support raising the minimum age to purchase AR-15-style rifles.
Brian Sanderoff, the president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc., had this to say:
“We’re seeing that even conservative voters, at least a small majority of them support raising the minimum age to purchase certain firearms.”
It is difficult to gage what effect, if any, the passage of “gun safety” measures as the poll questions suggest, will have on reducing gun violence and mass shootings. More realistic proposals that will likely reduce gun violence would be proposals such as banning the manufacturing, sale or distribution of AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles and, in the state, gun registration, banning large capacity gun magazines and types of ammunition and mandatory background checks and perhaps repealing the state’s open carry provision in its constitution.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMEMT FOR K-12 FUNDING
On September 3, the Albuquerque Journal published the poll results on the constitutional amendment that will to tap more heavily into New Mexico’s permanent school fund is drawing broad voter support ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
The poll question asked was:
Do you support or oppose the proposed constitutional amendment that would distribute more money from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent School Fund to be used for early childhood education, teacher compensation, and K-12 education programs?
The poll results were as follows:
It depends: 8%
Don’t know/won’t say: 8%
Although the constitutional amendment has strong bi-partisan support, Democrats support the measure by 23% more than Republicans, while Republican opposition is upwards of 4 times of Democrats. Following are the percentages:
SUPPORT FOR AMENDMENT
Other parties: 70%
OPPOSITION TO THE AMENDMENT
Other parties: 14%
Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling, in reaction to the results said this:
“We know New Mexicans recognize that early childhood education is critical in a state like New Mexico, where we have generational challenges bringing New Mexico’s children up to speed. … Democrats just tend to be more supportive of additional government monies going toward social programs than Republicans but even a majority of Republicans support the proposed amendment.”
Sanderoff said support for the measure is not likely to narrow unless well-funded opposition emerges before Election Day.
The link to the full, unedited Journal article is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
New Mexico’s permanent fund for education funding is one of the largest of such funds in the United States. The fund grows with a combination of investment income and royalty revenue from oil and gas production on state lands. The proposed amendment if it passes will boost the annual distribution for the permanent school fund to 6.25%.
According to Legislative Finance Committee economists, the state receives 5% out of the permeant fund each year to spend on public schools and other beneficiaries. The fund will be providing $1.3 billion the current 2022-2023 fiscal year. Bottom of Form
State economists say the proposed amendment will generate upwards of $230 million a year in new revenue with 60% of the funds to be dedicated to early childhood education and 40% for K-12 education.
Even if the amendment does not pass the annual funding for early childhood programs has been increase dramatically by the legislature going from $179 million to $579 million over a 10-year period.
Supporters say the investment would be worth it, making more money available for programs that can interrupt the cycle of poverty, and improve the education and well-being of New Mexico’s children.
Opponents of the increased withdrawals say it would eventually leave the state with smaller annual distributions because pulling more out of the fund now will slow its growth.
Links to related blog articles are here:
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