Nearly two-thirds of New Mexico's voters support a compromise that would still allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, according to a new poll from Lake Research Partners.
Sixty-four percent of the state's voters support compromise legislation similar to what was passed by the Democrat-controlled state Senate and but met with the promise of a veto by Gov. Susana Martinez during the last general legislative session. The Senate bill would have mandated fingerprinting of foreign nationals and require them to renew licenses every two years instead of every four years.
"It shows that people are interested in a more common-sense approach," Marcela Diaz, executive director of immigrants rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, tells SFR
The Washington DC-based firm that conducted the poll is the namesake of Celinda Lake, a prominent Democratic pollster.
On Wednesday, Martinez told the Las Cruces Sun-News that she would again attempt to repeal the law during the upcoming legislative session next month. She failed to do so during both 2011 sessions.
Martinez, who claims that the current law attracts fraud, cited a 2010 Albuquerque Journal poll that found 72 percent of state voters opposing the law.
She also told the Sun-News that ethnic minorities overwhelmingly oppose the current law. The Lake poll finds something different: 60 percent of Hispanics favor the compromise while less than 1 percent of them view it as the most pressing issue at hand. Jobs, the economy, wages, rising health costs, education and social services all ranked as more important issues to New Mexico voters.
According to Diaz, the poll's question read as:
Would you support a proposal that would subject undocumented immigrants to additional requirements for driver’s licenses including strengthened identity and residency requirements, re-verification of documents and more frequent renewal, a fingerprint database for law enforcement, and additional felonies for fraud?
More takeaways from the poll:
-52 percent of voters strongly support a compromise while 26 percent oppose.
-57 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Independents favor a compromise.
-65 percent of white people favor a compromise.
-Only 10 percent of voters say driver's licenses are their most important issue.
The survey contacted 405 likely voters by telephone between Sept. 15-19. Its margin of error is 4.9 percent.
The LRP memo:
To: Friends and Allies
From: Lake Research Partners
Re: Overwhelming Support for Compromise Legislation on Drivers’ Licenses
Despite Governor Martinez’s push to deny driver’s licenses to all undocumented immigrants who reside in New Mexico, a recent statewide survey shows overwhelming support for legislation that would instead subject undocumented immigrants to additional requirements in order to attain a driver’s license. In addition, the data suggests that the Governor’s insistent focus on this issue is at odds with the electorate.
Nearly two-thirds of voters (64%) support a compromise proposal that would continue to license undocumented immigrants, but subject them to additional requirements before obtaining their licenses, including strengthened identity and residency requirements, re-verification of documents and more frequent renewals, a fingerprint database for law enforcement, and additional felonies for fraud. These measures provide more protections for New Mexicans than denying licenses. Support for this measure is rooted in intensity, as a 52% majority supports it strongly. Just 26% of voters oppose this proposal. Another 10% are undecided.
Voters’ support for this proposal is unusually broad, crossing partisan, regional, and ethnic divides. Fully 57% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans, and 65% of independents are in favor. There is also striking consensus regardless of ethnicity, as 65% of Anglos and 60% of Hispanic voters support the legislation that would allow immigrants to get driver’s licenses but with additional requirements. Support holds up strongly across region as well, with 63% of voters in the Metro North, 71% of voters in the Non-Metro North, and 60% of voters in the South in favor of the proposal.
Finally, the survey sheds light on the disparity between the Governor’s priorities and voters’ own. Support for the compromise legislation notwithstanding, voters regard a host of issues as more important to them than driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Asked what issue is most important to them and their families, a solid majority of voters cites economic concerns, including jobs, the economy, and wages (26%), rising health care costs (10%), taxes (9%), education and the rising cost of college tuitions (8%), and cuts to key services, like education and health care (8%). Only 10% of all voters statewide cite driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants as their most important issue. Less than 1% of Hispanic Voters statewide said driver’s license for undocumented immigrants was their most important issue. Put another way, 61% of voters cite a range of economic issues as more important than driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. All told, this strongly suggests that the Governor’s agenda is wildly out of sync with the issue agenda of New Mexico’s electorate.
* * * * *Bottom Line: Voters’ issue agenda is dominated by economic concerns, not drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. When faced with the prospect of legislation that would subject undocumented immigrants to additional requirements for driver’s licenses, rather than a blanket denial of licenses to all undocumented immigrants in the state, voters across the state—Anglo and Hispanic alike and of every partisan stripe—a
 Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey that was conducted by telephone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 405 likely voters in New Mexico. The survey was conducted September 15-19, 2011. The margin of error for this poll is +/- 4.9%.