Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of two articles about results from KRQE News 13’s poll.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — The November election is almost here and a few key issues are driving voters. And the latest poll from KRQE News 13 and Emerson College Polling shows that voter opinions haven’t changed much since September, so why are candidates still spending so much money to attack opponents on key topics?
KRQE News 13 and Emerson College Polling asked 1,000 New Mexicans what issues they’re considering in the lead-up to November. The results show that economic issues are the key topic with the election just around the corner.
“When we look at the most important issues driving voter turnout, and how voters in New Mexico are intending to vote, the economy, inflation, jobs — all those economic measures have been at the top of voters’ minds,” said KRQE News 13 Political Analyst Gabe Sanchez.
Economy is still the key issue for voters
Of a sample of 1,000 New Mexicans who are very likely to vote, more than 36% said topics like jobs, inflation, and taxes are the most important issues driving their vote. And the economy is a key topic for Republicans, Democrats, and other voters, the data collected from October 25 to October 28 shows.
About a quarter of Democrats rank economic issues as top priority. That suggests there’s more of a focus on economics than on issues like abortion access, healthcare, or housing among Democratic voters.
Meanwhile, nearly half (47%) of Republicans polled are focused on the economy. That means there are more Republicans who think the economy is the most important factor this November than there are Republicans who think crime or immigration is the most important.
In September, KRQE News 13 polled likely voters and discovered that even back then, similar percentages of voters were focused on the economy. The percentages by party are nearly unchanged since then, which may mean voters made up their minds early on and aren’t changing.
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The latest poll shows that despite ads focusing on healthcare, crime, and education, voters are still primarily concerned about the economy. Data from KRQE-Emerson College Polling.
If the economy is the top issue for many voters, why do candidates keep putting out ads on other topics? Sanchez says it may come down to some candidates trying to deflect.
Because some voters tend to see the Republican platform as more economics-focused, “Democrats look at it and say, ‘Yikes, we have to change the narrative,'” Sanchez says. “So, they have to have voters think about some other issue other than the economy.” And, that topic, Sanchez says, is abortion.
Abortion and Healthcare Access
The latest KRQE-Emerson College poll shows that about 14% of those New Mexicans very likely to vote rank abortion access as their most important issue. Again, that’s nearly unchanged since KRQE News 13’s earlier poll.
The number of voters who rank healthcare (apart from abortion access) as their key issue is also similar to the earlier poll. The latest shows that about 8.5% of voters rank healthcare as their key issue.
That suggests that the tens and tens of thousands of dollars spent on ads related to abortion and healthcare might not have influenced voters — at least not in a way that changed their minds on the issues. Instead, what the candidates and political action committees are likely doing with healthcare and abortion ads, is to play to the emotions and opinions of the set-in-their-way voters.
Increased abortion access and increased access to healthcare are generally staples of the Democratic platform. So, running ads on these topics seems like “Democrats are trying to change the conversation into anything other than the economy,” said Sanchez.
For many New Mexicans, crime is a hot topic. Over the last year, Albuquerque has seen a rising homicide rate, Santa Fe has seen an increased violent crime, and Roswell has seen a number of shootings, just to highlight a few communities.
But the latest KRQE-Emerson College poll shows that only about 11% of voters rank crime as their top issue for this November. And again, this is essentially unchanged, despite new ads highlighting violent crime in New Mexico.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti has released a handful of ads highlighting the issue of crime in New Mexico. In one instance, his wife even tells a personal story about when she felt her home was being invaded. And Lujan Grisham has pointed to funding for public safety as a key issue in some ads.
Crime seems to be a particular focus of Republican ads, Sanchez notes. “If you look closely at the campaign ads, Republicans are trying to frame everything around the economy with the secondary issue being crime.”
Threats to democracy and other topics
The latest poll shows that a good number of voters are likely being driven by general concerns regarding threats to democracy. And this isn’t just a local concern: Across the nation, people have been hearing news about the January 6 hearings, a recent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, and other events Democrats are pointing to as examples of threats on democracy.
Of the 1,000 very likely New Mexico voters polled, about 13% said that concerns about threats to democracy is their most important issue. But there’s a huge divide along party lines.
Around 5% of Republicans polled say threats to democracy are the key issue determining their vote. But about 20% of Democratic voters say it’s their key issue. Gabe Sanchez says that might be due to the influence of campaign ads.
“Campaign ads tend to change, potentially, what voters are thinking about,” Sanchez says. “In this context, increasing the saliency of threats to democracy, potential violence at the polls, etc.”
When voters see these campaign ads, he explains, it might increase the likelihood that they vote based on these issues. But what the ads don’t do, he says, is change voters’ minds on these key issues.
And of course, some voters are focused on entirely different issues. For example, the latest poll shows that immigration is a key issue for about 11% of Republican voters and about 5% of Democratic voters. Education is the key topic for about 6% of Democrats and about 6% of Republicans, the poll shows.
Details behind the numbers
While no poll is perfect, the New Mexico poll of likely voters by Emerson College Polling is intended to provide an accurate picture of what’s happening across New Mexico. Nexstar Media Group commissioned the poll for KRQE News 13, which covers 1,000 people who are very likely to vote in New Mexico this fall.
In addition, each of the likely voters who took the poll stated that they were registered to vote. Poll takers who said they were not registered to vote were eliminated from the results.
Emerson College Polling conducted the poll October 25 – 28, 2022. The data comes from people across the state. Emerson The results are intended to represent voter turnout, so input from voters in Albuquerque is proportional to the share of New Mexico voters who are very likely to turn out in Albuquerque.
Results were collected through several methods. Emerson College Polling used phone calls, emails, text messaging, and an online panel. The overall poll has a plus-or-minus ratio of three percentage points, and demographic comparisons have a higher ratio due to the sample size.