Thursday, November 12, 2009


Respondents Mixed as to State’s Future with Gov-Elect Chris Christie

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Nearly half of New Jersey residents want to see Governor-elect Chris Christie cut taxes in his first year in office, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll taken after the November 3 election. Fewer than one in ten (6%) think it is very likely that taxes will be cut, while about half (49%) think it is somewhat likely. At the same time only 29% believe the future of New Jersey after Christie’s election will be better than it was, with 26% saying it will remain the same and 21% projecting the future to be worse. Nearly a quarter (24%) did not want to venture a guess about the future after the election.

The poll of 903 New Jersey adults was fielded November 6-10 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. The poll included interviews with 451 respondents who had been previously interviewed before the election and 452 new respondents.

New Jerseyans want their Taxes Cut – No other Priority Comes Close

The poll asked both voters and nonvoters to identify what they believe should be the new governor’s top priority next year. Cutting property taxes led the way at 27 percent, followed by cutting other taxes at 20 percent. Reducing unemployment (10 percent) and supporting public education and fighting corruption (each 6 percent) trailed the tax cuts.

Christie voters were much more likely than those who voted for Governor Jon Corzine to make tax cuts their priority, 56 percent to 36 percent. Corzine voters were much more likely to name supporting public education as the priority, 9% to 1%.

Residents are somewhat cynical about their named priorities actually getting done next year, however. Only 8 percent believe it is very likely that their priority will get accomplished, while 46 percent think it is somewhat likely. Even Christie voters are not all that certain, with only 14 percent saying very likely and 61 percent saying somewhat likely.

Respondents who prioritize cutting taxes are even less certain – only 5% think it is very likely property taxes will be cut, while 46% think it is somewhat likely. They are a little more likely to believe other taxes will be cut, with 8% saying very likely and 53% somewhat likely.

“Taxes are clearly on the minds of New Jerseyans,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science. “While that’s not surprising, it is interesting how even a large percentage of Corzine voters want Christie to cut taxes in the next year. However, at the same time, people are pretty uncertain as to whether this can even be done. This suggests that while the pressure will be on Christie to take visible action on taxes, few will be surprised if little actually changes.”

Residents Strongly Support Closing the Budget Gap by Reducing Spending

With New Jersey facing a projected budget deficit of $8 billion and Christie bound by the state constitution to balance it, the poll asked how that might be accomplished. Well over half of residents call for a reduction in spending, while only about one-quarter support a tax increase. Another 6 percent support a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

Among those who favor spending cuts, about 25 percent admit they do not know what should be cut. Another 10 percent simply give an unfocused “cut spending” response. Almost a quarter (23 percent) believe that spending cuts should start with reducing waste and inefficiency, 9 percent mention cutting government employee pay and benefits, and another 9 percent call for a cut in government jobs. Corzine voters are more likely to look for savings in waste and inefficiency (32 percent) compared to Christie voters (22 percent), while 10 percent of Christie voters cite program cuts as a way to save money, compared to only 4 percent of Corzine voters.

“There is a clear sense that government spending in New Jersey is out of control,” said Redlawsk, “and residents do not see taxes as the way to solve the budget problem. But people in New Jersey also have no real sense of how to go about making the needed cuts. And when we tell them that the budget gap is $8 billion, they are slightly more likely to support tax increases of
some kind than when they are not informed about the size of the gap (34 percent to 30 percent). But overall, the mandate for cutting spending is clear, if unfocused.”

Christie Wins on Turnout, Partisan Support, and Independents

While a larger percentage of poll respondents said they voted than was true of the general population, the results show that Christie benefited from increased turnout among Republicans, less party drop-off, and overwhelming support from independents. In the Poll, 70% of Democrats said they voted, compared to 87% of Republicans. And Christie won 88% of all Republican votes, while Corzine won only 79% of Democrats. Independent Chris Daggett drew much more heavily from Democrats, winning 11% of Democrats and only 3% of Republicans. Examining racial and ethnic voting, Christie won 52% of white voters, 32% of Latino voters, and 12% of black voters in the Poll.

“We always say it ahead of time, but turnout was absolutely the key to this election,” said Redlawsk. “The turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats was 17 points among our respondents, and the additional cohesiveness of Republicans added to Christie’s victory. Had Democrats even come within 10 points of Republican turnout, it would have closed the gap between Corzine and Christie.”

The Poll shows that voters were just as likely to say they voted against other candidates as to say they voted for their candidate. This election was as much about Corzine as anything, noted Redlawsk. While 51% of Christie voters said they cast their vote more for him, 44% said they were voting against the other candidates. Moreover, fully 72% of Daggett voters cast their vote as a protest against the others.

A Rutgers-Eagelton Poll taken about three weeks before the election showed independent Chris Daggett with 20% support. On election day, his support dropped to about 6%. The new Poll asked the 92% of respondents who did not vote for Daggett why they did not choose him. More than a quarter (27%) said the main reason was they knew little or nothing about him. Another 25% said they did not vote for him because Daggett could not win. Only 13% said it was because of his policies and 10% said they voted for their party.

“Despite the attention Daggett received in the last few weeks of the campaign, a large share of New Jersey voters still knew nothing about him, and for those who did, there was real concern about wasting their votes,” said Redlawsk. “Thus we saw the typical result for an independent – a high water mark a few weeks out and then steady decline to the election.”

Open Space wins by a Nose

Voters in the Poll supported the open space bond 52%-48%, close to the election day result of 53%-47%. Democrats were much more likely to vote for open space, with nearly three-quarters voting yes. Only 38% of Republicans and 43% of independents said they supported the bond issue. The results were similar by Governor candidate, with 35% of Christie voters, 74% of Corzine voters, and 50% of Daggett voters in support of the bond. The bond was strongly supported in urban areas, while strongly opposed in the shore areas. Exurban and suburban voters were evenly split with 51% support in the suburbs and 49% support in the exurbs.

“Our October Poll showed the vote much closer than other polling in the run up to the election,” said Redlawsk. “We had a statistical tie while others called an easy win. The difference was that voters clearly had the costs of the bond issue – the fact that it requires borrowing money – on their minds when they voted. Fortunately for those supporting the bond, extremely strong urban and Democratic support overcame reluctance in other parts of the state and among Republicans.

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