Thursday, July 14, 2005


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 14, 2005

Gov. Bill Richardson hit an ugly patch of negative publicity about a month ago. But according to a recent statewide poll by a national firm, if Richardson’s renown ego has taken some lumps with the spate of bad headlines dealing with fancy jets, speeding SUVs (also CLICK HERE) and Wen Ho Lee, it has barely affected his popularity here.

The latest New Mexico tracking poll by the New Jersey-based Survey U.S.A. found 53 percent of New Mexicans polled approved of the job Richardson is doing, while 41 percent disapproved.

This compares with 54 percent approving and 39 percent disapproving in a Survey U.S.A. poll in early May. That’s a net loss of 3 percentage points in the last two months.

And it’s been a pretty bumpy two months for the governor.

First there was the jet story — how Richardson’s administration had bought a $5.5 million airplane, a far superior ride than any of our neighboring governors have access to. State Republicans seized on the opportunity to portray Richardson in radio ads as a high-rolling jet-setter .

Then there was the speeding story — how Richardson, already notorious for commanding his state police drivers to drive at breakneck speeds, refused to stop for an Albuquerque police officer.

And more recently, there was the return of an old headache for Richardson — Wen Ho Lee, the fired Los Alamos scientist who initially was suspected of espionage but was convicted on only one count of mishandling classified information. A federal appeals court judge presiding over Lee’s violation-of-privacy lawsuit listed Richardson , who was energy secretary during the Lee debacle, as a likely leaker of information about Lee months before the scientist was charged.

Sanderoff the Sage: Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks noted Tuesday that the 3 points the governor dropped is within the poll’s 4.1 percent margin of error.

But New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling Inc. was right on the money last month when I interviewed him about Survey U.S.A.’s May poll.

Sanderoff noted the previous poll was taken before the jet and speeding controversies broke. “The jet story was really the first (Richardson controversy ) that has gotten to the point of water-cooler talk,” Sanderoff said in June. “Something like that probably would affect his rating by 3 points or so.”

Poll numbers: Survey U.S.A.’s New Mexico poll was conducted between Friday and Sunday. Six hundred New Mexico residents were randomly called to participate in an automated phone poll. Similar polls were conducted in all 50 states.

The poll breaks down the respondents in terms of gender , ethnicity, party affiliation and other categories.

Hispanics approved of Richardson’s performance by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. However , 50 percent of Anglos disapproved of Richardson’s performance, while only 45 percent approved.

The poll also revealed something of a gender gap.

Women tended to support the governor more than men. Seventeen percent more women approved of Richardson’s performance than disapproved (55-38 percent). The difference for men is 7 percent (52-45 percent).

Not surprisingly, Democrat Richardson scores highest with members of his own party (75 percent approving to 19 percent disapproving) and lowest with Republicans (34 percent approving, 61 percent disapproving).

As far as educational level goes, most of those who had been to graduate school were Richardson admirers. Sixtyfive percent of respondents in that category approved of his performance while only 29 percent disapproved. He also was popular with those who had no college experience — 52 percent to 41 percent. Those who graduated from college and those with some college experience were fairly evenly split on Richardson.

The Church of Richardson: The poll results also broke down Richardson’s numbers in terms of the respondents’ church attendance.

Regular churchgoers approved of Richardson by a shaky 48-46 percent margin. The support goes up to 57 percent among those who “sometimes” go to church (with 39 percent disapproving) and 56 percent for those who say they never go to church (38 percent disapproving.)

In an issue with some religious overtones, Richardson won approval from a big majority of those who described their view on abortion as “pro-choice” (63-33 percent). Fifty-three percent of “pro-life” voters disapproved of Richardson, while 41 percent of pro-lifers in New Mexico polled approved of his performance.

Richardson supports women’s right to have abortions. However, he has said he would sign a bill requiring doctors to notify parents of minor girls seeking abortions. This could have lost Richardson some pro-choice support, though it could have gained some support from pro-lifers.

Forty percent of those polled said they were pro-life, while 54 percent said they were pro-choice.

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