It’s been four years since the Santa Fe Association of Realtors polled city voters ahead of an election. And somewhere among the budget shortfalls, parks bond controversies and sugary-drink tax elections, since last time, voters seem to have lost their faith in city government.
In 2013, 51 percent of likely city-election voters said Santa Fe was headed in the right direction, a 15-point gap over those who thought the city was on the wrong track. This year, that gap has narrowed to a single point: 45-44.
"I would call it a conflicted community," says Joe Goode, a pollster with American Strategies, the Washington, DC-based firm that conducted the survey for SFAR, which released the results on Tuesday.
Santa Feans are far more optimistic about their city than they are about the state, the poll shows, but their optimism doesn't necessarily run deep. While seven in 10 likely voters say they have either an "excellent" or "good" quality of life, twice as many chose "good." And while a quarter of people think their life is excellent, just as many people think their quality of life is just fair.
What's more, their outlook varies depending on where they live, how much school they've had and their race. The survey results show different Santa Fes.
Voters who live in City Council Districts 1 and 2 are far more likely to think the city is headed in the right direction. Those who live in Districts 3 and 4 are just as adamant that the city is on the wrong track. Hispanics tend to be more pessimistic about the city's direction, Anglos tend to be optimistic. Those who have completed college are more optimistic than those who haven't.
"It probably has more to do with economic status and how people are feeling economically pressured," says Goode.
The city isn't entirely divided. There's broad recognition that affordable housing is a major challenge. The development overlay district along St. Michael's Drive remains a popular potential solution to that problem. Voters favor environmental protection over reduced regulation. And they have become more skeptical about the ability of the city to deliver basic services.
As far as who gets the blame for that, the mayor fares better than the City Council.
"The City Council gets just kind of lukewarm scores on everything," Goode explains. Regardless of the issue—reducing crime, handling the budget, maintaining infrastructure—at least 68 percent of voters felt the council did a poor or just fair job of handling it.
Voters echoed that sentiment when it came time to rate the job of elected officials. The City Council's job rating was 38 percent positive, 59 percent negative. Mayor Javier Gonzales, who has yet to declare a decision about a run for a second term in the March 2018 election, sported a 51 percent job rating compared to the 48 percent of voters who had a negative impression of the job he's done.
Pollsters surveyed 400 likely voters. Cell and internet-based phones made up more than half the respondents.