Thursday, October 22, 2009

CORZINE MAY BE OPENING SOME SPACE: DAGGETT GAINING THOUGH STILL WELL BEHIND

Contact: David Redlawsk, PhD
Email: redlawsk@rutgers.edu
Phone: (732) 932-9384 ext. 285

(Note - this is a corrected version. We had an error in reading the numbers in the most important problem section where we said of the small number who say corruption is the most important problem, 50 percent support Daggett. It should have been 50 percent support Christie. Sorry for the error. The paragraph has been removed.)


CORZINE MAY BE OPENING SOME SPACE
DAGGETT GAINING THOUGH STILL WELL BEHIND


The Horse Race

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine may be benefiting from increasing interest in independent Chris Daggett at the expense of Republican Chris Christie, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, conducted Oct 15 through 20. The poll of 583 likely voters finds that 39 percent support Corzine, 36 percent Christie, and 20 percent Daggett when leaners are included. This is the first poll to find Daggett at or above 20 percent support. The margin of error on the poll is +/- 4.1 percent.

Both major party candidates have now solidified most of their party supporters, with 71 percent of Democrats supporting Corzine and 75 percent of Republicans supporting Christie. Daggett draws from both parties, with 16 percent support from Democrats and 14 percent from Republicans. Independents split 35 percent for Christie, 31 percent for Daggett, and 27 percent for Corzine. These results suggest some softening in Corzine’s and Christie’s bases, compared to other recent polls, while Daggett’s independent support has come more at Christie’s expense.

“While Jon Corzine has made up a lot of ground in all the polls since last summer, he has not done it by increasing his support. Instead, Chris Christie has lost support as some voters who are opposed to Corzine have become attracted to Chris Daggett,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Even so, it is important to note that Corzine’s lead in this poll is within the margin of error and if the election were today, the winner would be the candidate who can best rally his troops. We don’t know now who that will be.”

The Daggett Effect

According to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, independent candidate Chris Daggett has continued to make gains, reaching 20 percent support overall. Other polls have shown a steady increase in support for Daggett as fewer New Jerseyans report that they know nothing about him. Daggett’s support appears to come from both potential Corzine and Christie voters, but the effect is slightly stronger on Christie. When asked how they would vote if Daggett were not on the ballot, 37 percent of Daggett supporters say they don’t know or they would simply not vote. Another 34 percent say they would vote for Christie, while 28 percent would vote for Corzine.

“Daggett continues to draw fairly evenly from both major party candidates,” said Redlawsk. “However, in a close race, it may make a difference that Daggett voters are people who would have been slightly more on Christie’s side than on Corzine’s in a two-way race. The underlying question is whether current Daggett supporters really will vote for him on Election Day, or whether they will opt for their second choice, one of the major party candidates.”

In recent weeks Christie has been working to tie Daggett to Corzine, suggesting that a vote for Daggett is the equivalent of a vote for the governor. This strategy makes sense in light of opinions of those who see Daggett unfavorably. Among this relatively small group of respondents 52 percent say they would vote for Christie and 38 percent for Corzine. This suggests that if Christie can create a negative impression of Daggett among those who learn about him in the next two weeks, Christie can make up much of the ground needed to win.

Also driving Daggett’s support: voters see both major party candidates more unfavorably than favorably. Likely voters were asked, “Is your opinion of [Candidate name,] favorable, unfavorable, or haven’t you heard enough about him?” Corzine was rated 40 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable, Christie was rated 39 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable. Only Daggett had a positive rating, with 31 percent favorable and 15 percent unfavorable. However, more than half of respondents said they could not form an impression of Daggett. Of those who could, 53 percent with a favorable impression of Daggett say they would vote for him. But only 6 percent of those who could not form an impression said they would vote for Daggett.

“While it might seem odd that Daggett only wins 53 percent of those who view him favorably, independents are often viewed somewhat favorably, even by those who will not vote for them,” noted Redlawsk. “Daggett is doing well to get a majority of these voters to support him in a three-way race.

Most voters say they have heard at least a little about Daggett’s tax plan, with 23 percent saying they have heard a lot, 52 percent a little, and 25 percent none at all. Daggett gets support from about 23 percent of those who have heard something about his plan, but only 13 percent from those who have heard nothing.

“Overall,” added Redlawsk, “those voters who do know Daggett tend to like him, and those who like him support him at unprecedented levels for a New Jersey independent candidate. The question remains whether he can hold on to those voters without the kind of organized turnout operation that the two major parties have in place.”

“While Daggett is clearly having an impact on this race, it seems that on the current trajectory, the vote would have to be very close for his candidacy to make the deciding difference,” said Redlawsk. “If Daggett’s name was suddenly to disappear from the ballot, Christie would pick up a few more Daggett supporters than would Corzine. It’s important to remember, however, that in two recent New Jersey Governor’s races (in 1993 and 1997), the victor’s margin was only about 1 percent of the vote.”

Most Important Problem

A majority of New Jersey likely voters say taxes in general are the most important problem facing the state. Not surprisingly, specific mentions of property taxes lead the list.

When respondents were asked to report their single most important problem in “just a word or two,” property taxes were named by 35 percent of likely voters. Other taxes followed at 17 percent. Following far behind is unemployment at 11 percent, corruption at 9 percent, and the state budget and economy generally, both at 5 percent. No other problem was mentioned by more than 5 percent.

The large group of likely voters who name property taxes are evenly split between Corzine (36 percent) and Christie (34 percent), while Daggett wins only 24 percent of these voters, despite having proposed the first detailed plan to address taxes. However, voters concerned with other (non-property) taxes strongly support Christie, 43 percent to 24 percent for Corzine and 24 percent for Daggett.

Corzine is strongest on the economy. Among likely voters who consider the economy or unemployment the most important problem, Corzine wins 57 percent, compared to 24 percent for Christie and 14 percent for Daggett.

“New Jerseyans care deeply about the problem of taxes, especially property taxes,” said Redlawsk. “However, the issue does not greatly advantage Chris Christie, and despite Chris Daggett’s tax plan proposal, he does only marginally better among these voters than he does in general. Still, for Christie the issue of taxes remains his strongest; fortunately for Corzine voters who care most about the economy do not seem to be interested in changing horses in midstream.”

Likely voters were also asked which candidate would do the best job on their most important problem. Nearly 21 percent do not know who would handle their problem best or volunteered that none of the candidates would.

Across all problems, 30 percent of likely voters think Christie would do the best job, 30 percent say Corzine, and 19 percent say Daggett.

For specific issues, among those who said property taxes were most important, 30 percent say Christie would do the best job, while 27 percent said Corzine, 24 percent picked Daggett and 19 percent could not choose a candidate. Among those concerned about other taxes, 32 percent pick Christie, 17 percent Daggett, and 13 percent Corzine, while 38 percent cannot choose. Voters caring about corruption also think Christie would do the best job, 39 percent to 29 percent for Daggett, 16 percent for Corzine and 16 percent none of the candidates. On the economy, Corzine again leads, with 51 percent saying he would handle the issue best, 21 percent Christie and 15 percent Daggett, with 13 percent none of the candidates.

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