Thursday, July 05, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: THE RED, PURPLE & BLUE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 5, 2007


Ever so often in the national press, you run across a reference to New Mexico as a “red” state. Usually these days, it’s a mention of Gov. Bill Richardson as a “Democratic governor of a red state.”

It’s true New Mexico’s electoral votes went to George W. Bush in 2004. But his margin over John Kerry was less than 1 percentage point, not much bigger than Al Gore’s margin over Bush in 2000.

That would make us more of a “purple” state. Our congressional delegation is Republican by a 3-2 margin, but our state government basically is run by Democrats — for more than 70 years, the state GOP has always reminded us every time a prominent Democrat is indicted.

However Media Matters — a Washington D.C.-based “progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media” — says New Mexico actually is bluer than most people realize.
(For the record, the watchdogs at Media Matters were about the only ones to stand up for Richardson last January when the New York Post ran a headline saying, “N.M. Gov Throws Sombrero Into Ring.”)

The organization last month published a report called “The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth,” which uses polling data from the past 20 years to come to the conclusion that many political scientists have said for years — Americans like to say they are conservative, though on certain issues they’re actually liberal.

This week, Media Matters broke down the statistics from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey by state.

Among the findings for New Mexico:

* 69 percent said the federal government should spend more money on providing health insurance for people who don’t have it.

* 81 percent said the federal government should help pay for health insurance for all children.

* 55 percent said the federal government should try to reduce the income differences between rich and poor Americans.

* 64 percent opposed the federal government’s banning all abortions.

* 55 percent opposed “an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that no state can allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other.” (37 percent favored such an amendment.)

*52 percent said the federal government should do more to restrict the kind of guns people can buy.

The number of New Mexico residents interviewed varied greatly in each question, as did the margins of error, which ranged from 8 to 9 percent on the health care questions to 4.5 percent on the abortion question.

Questions: The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania is highly regarded and nonpartisan. Still, some of these numbers might deserve a second look.

The gun question is the one area that initially raised the most skepticism in me. I’m not a gun-owner myself and honestly don’t have strong feelings either way on the issue. But living in New Mexico for nearly 40 years, I always assumed most other people around here think of guns as ice cream and cake. There is a 6.2 percent margin of error on that particular question though, meaning, the number could be below 50 percent.

The gay-marriage numbers don’t quite jibe with a poll done for The New Mexican and KOB-TV in 2004 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That statewide poll found a slight plurality of voters — 49 percent to 43 percent — favored an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to recognize only the union between a man and a woman as a valid marriage. Mason-Dixon’s poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The Annenberg margin of error was 4.6 percent, according to a Media Matters spokesman.

But the 2004 Mason-Dixon numbers on abortion might be even stronger than those of the Annenberg survey. In our poll, only 10 percent of New Mexicans favored banning abortions completely. But a plurality (46 percent) said they favored adding tighter restrictions on abortions while 43 percent said abortion should be legal, without any government interference.

Is that any way to talk to a colonel? Last week in this column, I mentioned that I wasn’t one of the 500-plus people made a Colonel Aide-de-Camp by Secretary of State Mary Herrera on the days she’s served as acting governor, but I had been given that honor in the past. Former Gov. David Cargo and former Lt. Gov. Walter Bradley each gave me the certificate.

I received this e-mail reply from a former Bradley staffer:

“Colonel,

“If you read the fine print on your Colonel Aide-de-camp it said something like you have to fatefully (sic) fulfill the duties of this office. Did you not realize that we made you a colonel so that if the Texans ever invaded us again that you’d be thrown out there to fight them off? We figured that members of the fourth estate were the most expendable.”

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