Journal Poll: A large majority think the law on pre-trial detention should change

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

According to a Journal poll, 85 percent of New Mexicans favor changing the law to make it easier for judges to hold people accused of certain violent crimes in jail until trial.

While there are slight variations between political parties, state regions, and education levels, across nearly every demographic group, more than 80 percent of respondents said they support change.

“You rarely see numbers where 85% of people support something and only 4% oppose the questions we typically ask in a newspaper poll, said Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll. “And so we’re seeing very, very significant levels of support for this law change, regardless of gender, ethnicity, party, etc.”

In recent years, the proposed amendments have failed to gain the necessary traction to become law.

During the last legislative session, high-profile proposals to overhaul the remand system failed. Critics said they were not convinced the proposed changes would solve crime and questioned their constitutionality.

Several studies and reports, including one by the bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Finance Committee, found that the proposals put forward would have little impact on reducing violent crime.

A study by the Santa Fe Institute and the University of New Mexico’s Institute for Social Research released this week found that under House Bill 5 – which was proposed in the 2022 legislative session – 2,403 additional people would have been detained in prison.

In fact, these people were released and – pending trial – 96% were not charged with any new violent crimes and 85% were not charged with any new crimes, according to the study.

Sanderoff said the poll shows voters want change, but it doesn’t specify how the change should be made.

“Probable voters are clearly expressing some frustration with the high crime rate,” he said. “It would always be up to the governor and the legislature to respond to public concerns in an effective and constitutional manner.”

While more than 75% of respondents from all demographic groups favored making it easier for judges to detain certain people, political trends affect people’s beliefs.

For example, 93% of those who identified as conservatives said they would support a change in the law, compared to 76% of those who identified as liberals and 87% who identified as moderates.

Of those who — if the gubernatorial election were held today — would vote for incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, 81% favored changing the law, compared to 90% who would vote for Mark Ronchetti, a Democrat. Republican, and 97% of those who would vote vote for Karen Bedonie, a Libertarian.

“Sometimes Democrats are more reluctant to pass tough-on-crime legislation,” Sanderoff said. “But in the last session, the governor was right behind legislation like this. This is not surprising given that even his supporters support certain changes in the law.

Causes of crime

Crime remains a top concern statewide — it’s the problem that 82% of voters rated “very serious” in response to polls.

What is less clear is what people believe is the cause of New Mexico’s high crime rate.

The Journal’s poll asked an open-ended question and received 57 responses ranging from “Trump” to “Biden” to “police hands tied” to “racial injustice.” Respondents were allowed to give up to three answers each.

Of those surveyed, 31% said drugs were the main cause of the high crime rate. In categories that garnered more than 10% of responses, 15% reported poverty, 15% reported releasing defendants before trial, 14% reported low sentences handed down by judges, 13% reported homelessness and 12% said a weak or failing criminal justice system.

“Seven of the 10 most frequently mentioned issues among likely voters relate to societal issues, challenges we face around addiction, poverty, the economy, homelessness, mental illness,” Sanderoff said. “And three of the 10 deal more with criminal justice issues.”

He said Republican voters were more likely to cite problems with the criminal justice system, while Democrats were more likely to cite societal issues.

“When you look at the same thing by candidate preference, note that Michelle Lujan Grisham supporters are almost twice as likely to mention poverty as Ronchetti supporters,” Sanderoff said.

Methodology

The Journal’s poll is based on a statewide scientific sample of 518 voters who voted in the 2018 and/or 2020 general election and who said they would likely vote in the next election.

The survey was conducted from August 19 to August 25. The sample of voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The margin of error increases for subsamples.

In the survey, respondents read a list of five issues facing New Mexico and were asked whether they thought each was a “very serious problem, a fairly serious problem, a minor problem, or none at all.” problem at all”.

All interviews were conducted by live professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.

Mobile phone numbers (79%) and landline phone numbers (21%) of voters who had proven themselves in general elections were used.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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