The Center for Civic Action commissioned a statewide poll at the beginning of this year to get a reading on the current issue environment in New Mexico.
The results offer a snapshot of what New Mexicans were thinking in the immediate lead-up to the legislative session. Here are key takeaways:
As a preliminary matter, it is important to note the results on voters’ perceptions of their incomes and the job climate in New Mexico. A majority (55%) say their incomes are falling behind the cost of living. Few (5%) believe their incomes are rising above the cost of living while a third (34%) say they are staying even. Of those who perceive their incomes falling, a majority (53%) feel state policy decisions play a major role.
On jobs, 70% say that New Mexico lags behind other states in job creation. The economy, jobs, and education top the list of voter concerns with no other issue even close.
Most Important Issues
Voters overwhelmingly care about two issues to the exclusion of all others – the economy and jobs (44% top two issue) along with schools and education (38% top two issue). These are the top issues of Hispanics and Anglos, voters of all age groups. Illegal immigration (15%), health care (9%), crime (8%), and taxes (4%) lag far behind.
A significant majority (76%) of voters believe that in three years, in 2017, New Mexico should have a higher minimum wage than it does today. Only a fringe 19% believe it should stay where it is. An even smaller share (1%) believe the state should cut the wage in the future. This represents a strong consensus, but not a surprising one, given the success of minimum wage ballot initiatives in place like Arkansas in November 2014.
When probed further about the exact higher wage they support, a majority (59%) favor a wage $10.00 per hour or higher. The remaining 41% support a wage lower than $10.00 per hour (20% between $9.00 and $9.99 and 17% lower than $9.00).
Investments versus Tax Cuts
Legislating comes down to choices, and voters overwhelmingly prefer “investing in key priorities like education, healthcare, and job creation” (62%) over “reducing taxes on businesses and individuals” (19%) when forced to pick. Just 15% volunteer both. Voters get that New Mexico needs investments in its people. When it comes to taxes, voters slightly prefer “targeting tax incentives to just small business in New Mexico” (41%) over “reducing taxes on all businesses in New Mexico” (32%). Voters simply do not have any appetite for broad based tax breaks this year, especially those that would go to the wealthy and big business.