Monday, December 20, 2010

How's The Governor Doing? The Latest from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll

As a wrap up to a very busy year of polling, we present one final release on our December poll. Since it's close to the end of the first year for NJ Governor Chris Christie, it seemed appropriate to take a look at his job performance ratings in some kind of context. So we went back to old Eagleton polls (available here) to see how other governors were doing at a similar point in their first terms.

Christie gets some of the highest AND some of the lowest ratings - that's right, he is more polarizing than any other governor for whom we have data (back to Brendan Byrne in 1974). And his overall job rating - which nets out negatively at the moment - is actually about the middle of the pack, equal to Tom Kean's first year rating.

New Jersey tends to be pretty hard on its governors, at least in terms of their first year ratings.

One small problem with our data - for the last two governors the poll asked the question differently than before or since. Instead of giving a four point scale - excellent, good, fair, poor - the pollsters back then asked if people "approved" or "disapproved" the job the governor was doing. So that limits us somewhat for both Jim McGreevey and Jon Corzine, but even so we have some interesting data to look at.

The press release follows. A PDF with tables and questions included can be found here.

Governor Christie Generates Divided Responses as First Year Ends

Job Rating More Polarized than Most First-year NJ Governors; Overall in Middle of the Pack

NEW BRUNSWICK – As his first year draws to a close, New Jerseyans are split about Gov. Chris Christie’s job performance with a majority rating him only fair or poor, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. Only 39 percent of Garden State residents rate the governor’s job performance either excellent (17 percent) or good (22 percent), compared to 54 percent who rate him fair (26 percent) or poor (28 percent), and 6 percent who are unsure. Support is stronger among those who say they voted in the recent congressional election: 21 percent of voters rate his performance excellent, and 23 percent rate him as good. Another 23 percent say he is doing a fair job and 29 percent say he is doing a poor job, while 4 percent of voters are unsure.

Gov. Christie’s “poor” rating is the second highest over the history of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in the first year of a new governor, while his “excellent” rating is also among the highest. Since Gov. Brendan Byrne, only Gov. Jim Florio has performed worse, while Christie’s overall positive job rating of 39 percent equals or beats other first-year governors except Jon Corzine (53 percent approval) and Christie Whitman (52 percent good or excellent).

“Historically, New Jerseyans are pretty hard on their governors in the first year,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “And Gov. Christie has clearly polarized the Garden State. The 45 percent of adults who rate his job at one extreme or the other is exceeded only by the 48 percent who did so with Gov. Florio during September of his first year.”

The poll of 906 New Jersey adults was conducted December 2-6. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. The sample includes 666 respondents who say they voted in the 2010 congressional elections. This subsample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Christie job performance rating stable; middle of the first-year governor pack

Gov. Christie’s job performance rating has been consistent over the past few months. His favorable ratings (excellent and good) have generally been between 40 and 45 percent with little change despite controversies like the Race to the Top education funding, the recent ARC tunnel cancellation, and other events. Likewise negative views have generally hovered between 52 and 58 percent. Since August his job performance rating has been more negative than positive.

However, compared to Governors since 1974, Christie’s job ratings are similar to or better than most early in the first term. The highest-rated was Gov. Christie Whitman, with 52 to 56 percent giving her positive ratings in her first year, followed by 53 percent approval of Corzine’s performance at about the same point. Gov. Tom Kean’s rating of 39 percent positive in 1982 is equal to Christie’s while only 27 to 33 percent rated Gov. Brendan Byrne positively late in 1974. Gov. Jim McGreevey’s job performance was approved of by 34 percent after his first year, while Gov. Jim Florio did worst with an 18 percent positive rating in late 1990 and 21 percent in early 1991.

“One thing is clear from this historical data – we cannot make predictions on the rest of the term based on how citizens view governors in the first year,” said Redlawsk. “Both Gov. Corzine and Gov. Whitman had high positive ratings at the beginning. But in the end Whitman barely hung on for a second term, and Corzine was defeated. Likewise, Gov. Kean’s rating was middling at best, and he won a second term by an unprecedented margin.”

Governor Christie more polarizing

Christie’s ratings are more polarized than those of previous governors where data exists, with half of voters and 45 percent of all respondents giving his job performance either an “excellent” or a “poor” rating. In comparison, for most governors back to Brendan Byrne, fewer than 25 percent chose one of the more extreme categories. More Garden Staters say that Christie is doing an excellent job (17 percent of all, and 21 percent of voters) than gave an excellent rating to the next highest, Gov. Whitman (about 13 percent), early in her term.

Similarly, Christie’s “poor” rating beats everyone except Gov. Florio by a wide margin. Twenty-eight percent of adults (29 percent of voters) rate his job performance as “poor” compared to Florio’s 38 to 45 percent at a similar time in his term. No other governor is above the 20 percent “poor” given to Gov. Byrne in January 1975.

“The image of Gov. Christie as polarizing is borne out in the data,” said Redlawsk. “While many Garden Staters see him as a breath of fresh air making needed changes in Trenton, even more rank him as low as they can on our rating scale. The events of his term so far have done little to temper this polarization. If anything, polarization has increased since September.”

Christie support highest among Tea Party supporters

Christie’s job performance is rated highest among Republicans with a favorable impression of the Tea Party movement, offering a clue to why he may be so polarizing. Eighty percent of Republicans holding a favorable opinion of the Tea Party rate Christie positively with 43 percent saying he is doing an excellent job and 37 percent rating his job performance as good. Only 17 percent say he is doing a fair job and 3 percent say he is doing a poor job. Republicans who are not favorable towards the Tea Party movement feel more negative towards the governor. Overall 57 percent of this group – which makes up 45 percent of all Republicans – rate the governor as good or excellent, while 41 percent give him a fair or poor rating.

Independents and Democrats feel negatively about Christie’s job performance after nearly a year in office. While 40 percent of independents say the governor is doing an excellent or good job, 52 percent rate him only fair or poor. Democrats, not surprisingly, are very negative: 18 percent say the governor is doing a good or excellent job while 76 percent call his performance fair or poor.

“Tea Party supporters clearly form the governor’s base and are generally very happy with his performance to date,” said Redlawsk. “However, his negative ratings among independents and his less positive ratings among non-Tea Party Republicans suggests potential trouble getting support for some of his major reform proposals. The polarization in these data is unlikely to subside any time soon.”

Impressions of Christie more positive than job performance

Despite his job performance ratings, more New Jerseyans say they have a favorable impression of the governor overall. While 38 percent view him unfavorably, 45 percent express a favorable impression, with 17 percent either neutral or unsure of their feelings toward the governor.

Over the first year of his term, Christie has been seen favorably by fewer than 50 percent of Garden Staters. While in April 2010 his 33 percent favorable rating was substantially lower, in five out of six polls over the year about 45 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of the Governor. Overall his rating has been slightly more favorable than unfavorable most of the year.

“Despite qualms about the job he is doing, Garden Staters on average see Christie in a fairly favorable light,” said Redlawsk. “Even where they may disagree with his policies or see his job performance more negatively, as an individual they tend to like him more than dislike him.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quality of Life Followup: Garden Staters Like Their Communities Better than Their State

Last April we did a quality of life type survey of New Jerseyans where we asked a series of questions about living in the Garden State. At the time we probably were a bit too positive in our assessment of the results, at least at the state level. Half of NJ residents thought NJ a good or excellent place to live, which seemed pretty good given the current economic and political environment. But looking back much further, those numbers were really rather down over prior decades.

We decided to re-ask some of the questions and to ask some new ones in our most recent survey. The results are similar - in general Garden Staters really DO like their local communities and give lots of reasons for doing so. But they are more skeptical of the state itself, and most telling, a majority thinks things have gotten worse in the last 5-10 years. When we last asked that question, back in April 2001, only 26% thought things had gotten worse. So there is much more negativity about the direction of the state these days. Even so, in the glass half full department, 80% remain at least somewhat "proud" of living in New Jersey.

Following is the text of the release. You can find the full release with questions, tables, and trends here.

Garden Staters Like Their Communities Better than Their State

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – New Jersey residents continue to have mixed views about living in the Garden State, continuing a trend identified in April 2010, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While 78 percent of New Jerseyans feel positive about the communities in which they live, they are far more negative about the state itself, with a majority thinking New Jersey has become a worse place to live over the past five to ten years. Just over half feel positive about living in New Jersey, and half say they take a lot of pride in living in the state. Still, one in five says they take little or no pride in being part of the Garden State.

“New Jerseyans have a strong sense of liking their own communities even as they are less positive about the state as a whole,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Nine years ago when we asked about the state’s direction, only 26 percent said New Jersey had become a worse place to live. But today 52 percent believe things have gone downhill in recent years. Still, these negative feelings about the state do not translate into dislike for the local communities in which people live.”

The poll of 906 New Jersey adults was conducted December 2-6. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Local communities rate highly

Asked to rate their own community as a place to live, 37 percent of New Jerseyans say their community is excellent and 41 percent rate it as good, while 16 percent say their community is only fair, and 6 percent call it a poor place to live.
Those living in exurban areas of the state are much more likely to believe their local communities are excellent places to live (55 percent) than those living in other areas of the state. Only 20 percent of urban residents think their local communities are excellent, while somewhat more than a third of those living in suburban, shore, and Philadelphia areas agree.

Exurban residents are least likely to say their communities are only fair or poor at 11 percent, while 19 percent of shore area, 21 percent of suburban, and 22 percent of Philadelphia area residents say the same. Urban residents are most likely to dislike their communities, with 39 percent calling their community a fair or poor place to live.

Asked why they rate their community as they do, respondents have a wide range of answers. Among those feeling positive (excellent or good) about their community, 27 percent say it is the people that make it a good place to live, while 22 percent cite the safety of their community. About 13 percent say the environment, open space, and local beauty makes them feel positive, and 9 percent say the accessibility of their locale is what matters. Education is named by 8 percent.
Among those who feel more negative (fair or poor) toward their local community, the top responses include the people living there (19 percent), followed by economic hard times and unemployment (15 percent), crime (15 percent), lack of public services and problems with government (14 percent) and taxes (12 percent).

“The good news is that most New Jerseyans do like their communities and have many good reasons for doing so,” said Redlawsk. “And while ‘people’ are named as a reason to dislike a community as well as to like it, other reasons for feeling unhappy about where they live represent the litany of problems many communities do face.”

New Jerseyans remain less positive about the state; distinctly negative about its direction

While attitudes towards local communities are quite positive, feelings about the state as a whole are no better than they were when the same question was asked nine months ago. Only 14 percent say New Jersey is an excellent place to live, while another 39 percent say it is good. But 32 percent say as a place to live New Jersey is only fair, and 14 percent say it is poor.

The 53 percent who rate the state as excellent or good is about the same as an April 2010 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which found 52 percent giving a positive rating to the state. But this remains at the bottom of ratings over the past three decades. Archival data from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll show that the next lowest rating was in 1990, with 59% of New Jerseyans rating the state as an excellent or good place to live while polls in the 1980s, mid and late 1990s, and 2000s reveal that more than 6 in 10 gave positive ratings to the state.

Ironically, while rating their own communities lower, those living in urban northeastern New Jersey view the state itself more favorably than in all other regions of the state. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of urban residents say New Jersey is an excellent or good place to live, compared to 60 percent of suburbanites, 51 percent of exurban residents, 49 percent living in the Philadelphia area and 46 percent of those in shore counties. Those living in counties comprising the shore and in the Philadelphia suburbs are more likely to view New Jersey as a poor place to live, at 21 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Asked about the progress of the state over the last 5 to 10 years, only 15 percent think New Jersey has become a better place to live. A majority (52 percent) says the Garden State has become a worse place to reside, while another 29 percent say there has been no appreciable change. The last time this question was asked, in an April 2001 Star-Ledger-Eagleton Poll, only 26 percent thought the state had become a worse place to live over the preceding five to ten years, while 29 percent thought it had become better, and 39 percent reported no change.

When asked about pride in their state, 50 percent say they take a lot of pride in living in New Jersey, while 30 percent take some pride. But 13 percent say they take little and 6 take no pride in living in the state. Even so, despite more negative views towards the state as a place to live, voters are relatively positive in terms of pride in their state. The 80 percent who take at least some pride in living in New Jersey is little changed from April 2001, when 81 percent took pride in the state, though it is a decline from the 86 percent who felt that way in 1994.

“Garden Staters have a complicated relationship with their state,” said Redlawsk. “It almost seems a point of pride to complain about it. And clearly people feel things have gotten worse in the past decade. The positives are that New Jerseyans like their communities and retain significant pride in living in the state, and it is still the case that a slim majority feels positive about the state as a whole. Perhaps things will look better if and when the economy picks up.”

Race and income related to beliefs about local community; not attitudes toward state

Whites and upper income residents are far more positive about their local communities than are lower income and African Americans in New Jersey. While 84 percent of whites say their community is a good or excellent place to live, only 54 percent of African Americans agree. Likewise while 70 percent of those with household incomes under $50,000 feel positive about their local community, 91 percent of upper income respondents like where they live. On the other hand, there are no significant differences by race or income in attitudes toward the state of New Jersey itself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Compromise? Well Maybe

In our most recent poll we asked a few questions about what comes next, now that the election is over and the Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives. Well, not surprisingly, New Jersey Democrats and Republicans have differing opinions over what Congress should tackle first. We asked an open ended question about the first thing Congress should "fix", and found a couple interesting results.

Republicans say "fixing" health care reform is the top priority, with 23 percent, while job creation is the first priority for Democrats, mentioned by 25 percent.

The top five issues named - Economy, jobs, health care, tax cuts, and the deficit, were named by 85 percent of all Republicans, and only 67 percent of Democrats. What this suggests is that Republicans are far more focused and unified on what they see as priorities. And for Republicans, jobs are fourth on the list. Interestingly, independents, who leaned strongly Republican in voting (11 points in our survey), agree with the Democrats that jobs are job one.

And given all the focus on the deficit lately in Washington, you'd think the public cares about it. But in fact, they have much higher priorities right now - the deficit comes in a pretty distant fifth on the list.

We also asked the question about whether representatives should compromise or stick to their beliefs. Overall it looks like NJ wants them to compromise to get things done. BUT, and it's a big one, Republicans prefer their representatives stick to their beliefs (50 percent to only 31 percent of Democrats). And Tea Party supporters are even more adamant - 60 percent do not want comprise, while only 36 percent think there should be compromise.

So what does this say? Well, winners don't like to compromise, and clearly the Republicans feel like winners - even if results in NJ were far less earth shattering than elsewhere. Second, Republican legislators may feel pressure to not compromise - given their base's preferences - while Democrats will feel pressured to compromise, since their base is strongly supportive of compromise, as are independents.

The test of the release follows. The complete release with tables is here.

In the Aftermath of 2010 Elections, Republicans Want Congress to Fix Health Care Reform; Democrats Want Job Creation

NEW BRUNSWICK – New Jersey Democrats and Republicans have differing priorities for the new U.S. Congress, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. While Democrats name “jobs” as their top priority, Republicans focus on fixing the health care reform law as the most important task for Congress. Independents, while having favored Republican congressional candidates by 11 points (46 percent to 35 percent voting Democrat) agree with Democrats that jobs are the most important issue that needs to be fixed in the next Congress.

“Republicans and Democrats continue to have different priorities even after all the talk of coming together in compromise to resolve the country’s problems,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Partisans are simply on different wavelengths – for Republicans jobs rank only fourth as a priority, while only one in ten Democrats wants to see health care re-opened.”

The poll of 906 New Jersey adults was conducted December 2-6. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

The 2010 Congressional election: Independents continue to lean Republican

Of those interviewed, 64 percent said they voted and could recall the direction of their vote. Partisans did not deviate from their parties: 94 percent of both Democrats and Republicans say they voted for a congressional candidate from their party. Independents, however, continued to lean Republican as they did in last year’s gubernatorial election, with 46 percent of independents voting Republican and 35 percent voting Democrat. A surprising 19 percent of independents said they voted for a third party candidate.

“As is nearly always the case, those who identify with a party voted for a candidate from that party,” said Redlawsk. “But Democrats have to be worried that independent voters continue to show a strong preference for Republican candidates.”

Looking Forward: What Should Congress Do?

Asked in an open-ended question to name the “single most important thing” they would like Congress to “fix” in the upcoming session, 21 percent of New Jersey adults say jobs are most important, while 16 percent say the economy overall should be first. Another 16 percent say health care is the priority, while 12 percent say taxes are too high, and eight percent worry about the budget deficit.

Priorities differ widely by party however. For Democrats, jobs are the clear top priority at 26 percent, followed by the economy in general at 19 percent, and fixing health care at 11 percent. Two other issues – tax cuts and the deficit – each gather the support of 6 percent of Democrats. Republicans, however, put fixing health care at the top of their list, at 23 percent, followed by the economy (20 percent), tax cuts (18 percent), jobs (15 percent), and the budget deficit (11 percent). Independents share both parties’ priorities, though jobs (20 percent) are at the top of their list, followed by health care (15 percent), tax cuts (13 percent), the economy (11 percent) and the budget deficit (8 percent).

Redlawsk cited two key findings from the survey. “First, Republicans are just less concerned about jobs than either Democrats or independents. They focus on repealing or reshaping the recent health care reform law. Second, for all the focus in Washington on the budget deficit, it’s not what anyone wants Congress to make its top priority, given the current economic environment.”

Republicans expect some priorities to get done, Democrats and independents pessimistic

Overall, few New Jerseyans think it “very likely” that the priority they consider “most important” will “actually get done.” Their pessimism is reflected in the fact that only 7 percent say it is “very likely” Congress will address their concerns come January while another 42 percent say it is “somewhat likely” and 48 percent say it is “not at all likely.”

Republicans however, are more optimistic, reflecting their success in the election. A majority (60 percent) says that it is very or somewhat likely that Congress will accomplish what they see as the most important task, while 39 percent of Republicans think this is not at all likely. Only 46 percent of Democrats feel at all positive, while 51 percent are negative about the prospects of action on their issue. And despite leaning Republican in their votes, independents are no more optimistic than Democrats.

On specific issues, a majority of those focused on jobs and the economy think there is some chance Congress will effectively address these issues, while about 6 in 10 focused on tax cuts and the deficit think it is not at all likely Congress will fix these issues. Those who want health care fixed are also less than optimistic: 44 percent say Congress say it is at least somewhat likely Congress will act, while 51 percent say it is not at all likely.

Republicans want representatives to stick to their beliefs; Democrats want compromise

While the majority of Garden State residents want their representatives to compromise to get laws passed, Republicans are 19 points more likely than Democrats to want their representatives to “stick to their beliefs.” Across all New Jerseyans, the desire for compromise is fairly strong, with 54 percent calling for legislators to work together, compared to 38 percent who say sticking to beliefs is more important. But this is driven by Democrats and independents, and reflected in the voting results, where 65 percent of those who voted Democrat want representatives to compromise, compared to only 44 percent of those who voted Republican.

Education appears strongly related to support for compromise. While only 48 percent of those with a high school education or less support compromise, more than 60 percent of college graduates and post-graduates call for compromise in order to get laws passed.

New Jerseyans who feel favorable to the Tea Party movement are even less likely to want compromise than other Republicans. While 50 percent of Republicans want their representatives to stick to their beliefs, 60 percent of those who support the Teas Party movement hold this view.

“The desire for compromise seems a bit one-sided from a partisan perspective,” said Redlawsk. “To some extent this reflects some of the personalities of partisans, as liberals appear more read to compromise than conservatives. But also, winners are less likely to want compromise than those who lose. Even so, for compromise to work, both sides must be willing to give, as reflected in the tax cut extension bill now working through Congress.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tunneling into Public Opinion

Yesterday we revisited the (now mostly dead) TSA security controversy that tore up the airwaves and blogs in November. Today we go back to October to look again at the Access to the Region's Core (ARC) tunnel project that Governor Chris Christie canceled saying the state cannot afford it. Back when he did this we were in the field with a poll so we asked what New Jerseyans thought. In general, they agreed with the governor, supporting his decision and expressing some dubiousness over the project's economic benefits.

We decided to ask about the tunnel again, but this time to do a little question order experiment. In October we asked people to think about the potential economic benefits of the tunnel BEFORE we asked them if they supported the Governor's decision. This time we split the sample into two groups. One was asked first about economic benefits (thus is directly comparable to October) while the other was asked about Christie's decision first.

This kind of thing is fun. And the results are instructive. People asked about the decision first - before being asked about economic benefits - are much less likely to oppose the Governor's decision than those asked about the decision before thinking about whether there are any economic benefits.

And we also find that those asked about the economic benefits after being asked about support for Christie's decision are much less likely to say the project is very important to the economy of the state. It's a classic example of priming (as were yesterday's TSA questions.) If we first ask about the decision, people are giving an answer to the economic question that is framed by first thinking about the governor's decision to cancel it. And if we ask about the benefits first, then their support of the governor's decision is primed specifically by potential economic benefits. More lessons in how important question wording and order really are to understanding the results of polls. You can't make sense of a poll if you don't know what was asked and in which order.

Read the release below for some more interesting results, including what happens if we frame questions around the potential costs of Gov. Christie's cancellation of the tunnel. You can get the PDF of the release with questions and tables here.

New Jerseyans Continue to Support Governor’s Decision to Cut ARC Tunnel

Strongly Support Proposal to Extend Subway Line under the Hudson

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Controversy erupted in October when Governor Chris Christie announced that he would withdraw New Jersey’s support for the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project that would link northern New Jersey to Manhattan via the Hudson River. While opponents of the Governor’s plan cited stifled economic growth, supporters heralded Christie’s decision as financially responsible in a deficit-laden state.

A new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds that support for Governor Christie’s decision to cancel the project has grown from 51 percent to 56 percent since October’s cancellation. At the same time, a substantial majority (74 percent) supports the recent proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to extend a subway line from Manhattan into New Jersey.

“It is clear that across New Jersey, residents continue to support the governor’s decision to cancel the project,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “At the same time, there is recognition that increasing mass transit options into and out of New York – if that can be done at a lower cost – is a good idea.”

The poll of 906 New Jersey adults was conducted December 2-6. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Random subsamples have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

Thinking about economic benefits increases opposition to Christie’s decision

Supporters of the tunnel point to anticipated economic benefits, suggesting people would be more supportive of the project if they thought about its value. To test this, one group of respondents was asked whether they support Christie’s decision before being asked to consider the economic benefits of the tunnel, while the other group was asked to think about economic benefits first. The October poll asked everyone the economic benefits question first.

Asked first about Christie’s decision, 58 percent of New Jerseyans support canceling the tunnel, while 23 percent oppose it and 20 percent are unsure. But, when asked this question after a question about the economic importance of the tunnel project, opposition grows substantially, to 37 percent, while only 7 percent are unsure. Even so, 56 percent support the governor’s decision even after considering its potential economic benefits.

“Thinking about potential economic benefits does not decrease support for Christie’s cancellation of the project,” said Redlawsk. “But it does cause opposition to grow because fewer respondents are uncertain, with more taking a position – generally against Christie’s decision – if they think first about potential benefits of the tunnel.”

Overwhelming support for the extension of NYC subway line to Secaucus

In response to the cancellation of the ARC tunnel project, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed extending the #7 subway line westward under the Hudson River to Secaucus. New Jerseyans are overwhelmingly in favor of this proposal, with 74 percent supporting the plan, and 13 percent opposing it, with another 12 percent unsure. Support for this proposal holds across both political parties and independents, as well as among both commuters and non-commuters.

Most see some value to the tunnel; Asking about cancellation first makes it less valuable

When asked to evaluate the tunnel project before being asked about its cancellation, 37 percent say it is “very important” to the economic development of the Garden State, while 38 percent say it is “somewhat important”, and only 12 percent say it is “not at all important.” In October, 28 percent thought the project was very important to economic growth, while 42 said “somewhat important”, and 23 percent said “not at all important.”

“While continuing to support Christie’s decision overall, New Jerseyans have actually become more convinced that the tunnel would bring economic benefits to the state,” said Redlawsk. “A direct comparison to October with the same question order shows an increase of 9 points in how many say the project is “extremely important.”
But those asked about the tunnel’s economic value after being asked about Gov. Christie’s decision to end the project are much less likely to say the project is “very important” at only 22 percent. Forty-eight percent say it is “somewhat important”, and 22 percent say it is “not at all important”.

“This is a classic effect. Asking people to agree or disagree with the Governor’s decision first tends to make them align their opinion about the project’s value to their opinion of the decision,” said Redlawsk. “It is another warning that the way we ask questions and the order in which we ask them really matters if we want to understand public opinion.”

Support for Christie’s decision drops somewhat in light of scenarios

When asked about two scenarios surrounding the controversy around the ARC tunnel project, support for Governor Christie’s decision to cancel the project drops. The federal government has insisted that New Jersey pay back $271 million allocated for the project, but Governor Christie is suing, arguing that payback is not required. When asked about continuation of the tunnel project in light of this payback obligation, 47 percent say it should have been continued, while only 37 percent say it should have been canceled. Almost all the shift comes from Democrats and independents: 55 percent of Republicans remain in favor of cancellation while only 42 percent of independents and 29 percent of Democrats think it should have been canceled, given the payback requirement.

Similar results come from asking if the project should have continued in light of the claims by supporters that cancellation would stifle job growth in the state. Given this scenario, 48 percent say it should have been continued and 40 percent support its cancellation, with 12 percent undecided. A majority (54 percent) of Republicans again continue to support cancellation, while independents narrowly favor continuation of the project in this scenario, 45 percent to 42 percent. Considering the potential effect on jobs, Democrats say the project should have been continued, 62 percent to 28 percent.

“In the abstract, support for Christie’s decision is very strong across parties,” said Redlawsk. “But when potential effects of the cancellation are described, support by Democrats drops precipitously. This suggests that while even Democrats see some validity in canceling the project, when given specific reasons to oppose this decision by Christie, they respond.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What NJ thinks about Airport Screening

Our final statewide survey for 2010 has just come out of the field, and we'll be doing releases on it this week and next. For our first release we thought we'd look at the airport security controversy and see what New Jerseyans really think about it.

For this battery of questions, we included an experiment where we asked a general question about support for security measures either before (version 1) or after (version 2) we asked about the specific screening methods that were causing all the uproar at Thanksgiving. The idea is to see whether people have a different feeling about airport security overall when they are prompted to think about full body scans or pat-downs.

First, whether asked before or after, New Jerseyans overall are pretty supportive of security measures "no matter how intrusive". But, when we ask them to think about scans or pat downs before we ask the general question, those who are asked about pat downs are LESS likely to support "any" security measure, and they are much more likely to say the pat down goes too far. Those asked about scans however, do not see them as too intrusive, nor does thinking about scans make them less supportive of security measures overall.

The upshot? The scans are seen as OK, but the pat downs are a different story, with far less support.

We also look at those who fly regularly (at least two or three times a year or more) versus those who rarely fly (either never, or once a year at the most). This question splits the sample almost exactly in half, with 50.5% in the more frequent and 49.5% in the less frequent category. Interestingly frequent flyers are a little more supportive of the full body scans and much LESS supportive of the pat downs than are less frequent flyers, who strongly support both screening methods.

The text of the release follows. The full release with tables can be read here.

New Jerseyans Less Favorable Toward TSA Measures the More They Think about Them.

NEW BRUNSWICK – Support among New Jerseyans for new airport security measures introduced in November varies depending on how the question is asked, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. When initially asked about support for “any airport security measure” or whether some security measures “go too far violating personal privacy,” 50 percent support any security measure, while 41 percent say some measures go too far. But when asked first to think about either the new full body scans or enhanced pat-downs, support for airport security measures overall declines substantially, with only 39 percent supporting any security measure while 59 percent say some measures go too far violating personal privacy.

Garden Staters are much more supportive of the full body scans than they are of the enhanced pat-downs now used by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for those who refuse the scans. More than 6 in 10 (62 percent) say the scans are necessary for airport security, while 54 percent say the same about the pat-down procedure.

“In the abstract, most people think more airport security is always a good thing,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “But it’s one thing to support security in the abstract; it is another to confront specific procedures. While New Jerseyans generally support the new TSA measures, given a chance to think about it, they are not so thrilled about the possibility of having intimate areas patted down.”

The poll of 906 New Jersey adults was conducted December 2-6. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Random groups of respondents were asked about either full body scans or enhanced pat-down security measures. These groups can each be generalized to the state adult population and compared. Random subsamples have margins of error from +/- 4.4 to +/- 5.0 percentage points, depending on subsample size.

Respondents find full body pat-downs more intrusive than body scans

New Jerseyans have paid a great deal of attention to the controversy over full body scanning and pat-downs implemented by the TSA. But the full body scans are perceived to be significantly less intrusive than pat-downs. When asked if full body scans “producing a nude image” are “too intrusive without increasing real security,” or “are needed to keep the public safe,” only 30 percent say scans are too intrusive, compared to 41 percent who say that pat-downs are too intrusive.

“While there is strong support for full body scans in New Jersey, the new pat-down procedures are seen as much more intrusive,” said Redlawsk. “Even so, most New Jerseyans would put up with them, believing they enhance security on airplanes.”

Differences between more and less frequent flyers

About half of New Jerseyans fly at least “a couple times a year,” while half fly only once a year or less often (including 10 percent who say they never fly). More frequent flyers are more aware of the controversy: 92 percent are very aware, compared to 61 percent of those who fly less often. And more frequent flyers are initially more supportive of “any airport security measure” at 59 percent compared to 43 percent of less frequent flyers. There is little difference between the two groups in believing full body scans are needed for safety; only about 30 percent of both groups think they are too intrusive. But 52 percent of frequent flyers say that pat-downs are too intrusive, while less frequent flyers are more supportive of pat-downs, with only 31 percent saying pat-downs are too intrusive.

Pat-downs may deter individuals from flying

When asked if knowing that flying requires respondents to go through a full body scan would affect their frequency of flying, 3 percent say that a full scan would make them more likely to fly, 11 percent say it would make them less likely and 86 percent say it would not affect the frequency of their air travel. The new pat-down procedure causes much more concern, with 24 percent saying they are less likely to fly because of it, while 69 percent say their flying plans would not be affected by this measure, and 4 percent say they would fly more often. Frequent flyers in particular are more likely to say they would fly less given the pat-downs, at 27 percent, compared to 21 percent of less frequent flyers.

“While the prospect of a full body scan has little effect on flying plans, the pat-downs bother many more people,” said Redlawsk. “More than a quarter of those who fly more often say they would cut back on their flying if they had to go through a pat-down. This should be of some worry to the airlines, since those who fly most often are the ones who bring in the most revenue. On the other hand, frequent flyers are generally fine with going through the full body scanners, and if they do so, they generally will not be subject to pat-downs. But the prospect of such a procedure causes many to think twice about flying.”

Women are more supportive of new measures

When it comes to using full body scanners or pat-downs, women are more supportive than men: 70 percent of women say the scanners are necessary for security, while only 54 percent of men agree. Only 23 percent of women think they are too intrusive, compared to 37 percent of men. The difference in opinion on pat-downs is not as great: 59 percent of women say they are necessary for security, compared to 48 percent of men, while 45 percent of men find pat-downs too intrusive versus only 37 percent of women.

Older people are more likely to say scanners are necessary: 71 percent of those over 65 compared to 62 percent of 18 to 29 year olds support the use of scanners. But younger people are far more likely to support pat-downs, with 67 percent of those under 30 saying pat-downs are necessary, versus only 53 percent of those over 65.

Thinking about new security procedures increases concern

An experiment shows that New Jerseyans are more willing to support security measures if they have not been asked first to think about the details of pat-downs or full body scans. One group of respondents was randomly selected to express their support for, or opposition against new security measures at the beginning of the series of security questions. The other group was not asked this question until after being asked specifically about support for the procedures.

When asked about their support for security measures first, 50 percent support any measure that might increase security, while 41 percent say some measures go too far. When the same question was asked only after three other questions about pat-downs or scans, support for security measures drops substantially: only 39 percent favor any measure while 59 percent say some measures go too far. Frequent flyers change the most; only 36 percent feel some measures go to far when asked before the security questions, while 64 percent say some measures go too far when asked after questions about specific security measures.

“We must be cautious in interpreting the public’s response to these new airport security measures,” said Redlawsk. “Asked in a vacuum without reference to specific measures, the public is generally supportive of almost anything they think might make airplanes safer. But when they are given information about specific measures, they are much more dubious across the board. In the abstract people say ‘keep me safe at all costs,’ but when confronted with potential invasions of privacy, they are more willing to balance their own privacy against security issues.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Logic of Voters: Personal Financial Situation and Vote Choice

A few late thoughts on the election and voters' perceptions of their financial condition. This is not one of our regular press releases; rather it is just something I find interesting.

Many have argued that this month's election in which Republicans took the majority in the House of Representatives (winning one Democratic-held seat in NJ), was a referendum on the state of the economy. Though economists have officially proclaimed that the recession is over, our polling just before the election shows that New Jerseyans are still feeling the pinch.

When asked about their current financial situation, 44% of registered New Jersey voters said that they were worse off than they were a year ago, while 42% said that they were getting along “about the same” (and this is compared to the depths of the recession LAST year!) Only 14% of registered New Jersey voters said that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

On our generic ballot test (vote for Republican or Democrat for Congress) the results are not surprising: among registered voters statewide who reported that they were worse off financially than a year ago, 42% chose the Republican versus 32% who chose the Democrat. On the other hand, those who said they were doing better were MUCH more likely to support a Democrat: 51% to 24%. Clearly, New Jerseyans who are feeling the pinch were more likely to want to elect Republicans, in repudiation (refudiation?) of the Democrats who were in charge.

We also saw that those who were worse off were more likely to say they would vote against their incumbent representative than those who were not doing so badly. (We asked half our respondents the generic ballot test and the other half an incumbent/challenger test.)

Those who said they are worse off now than they were this time last year were pretty evenly split, with 32% for their current congressman and 27% for a challenger. But, 42 percent of those doing “about the same” said they supported their incumbent, while 29% favored a challenger. And those who are doing better supported their current representative even more: 41% to 14%, a 27 point margin.

These results coincide with favorability ratings of the parties in Congress. Among those who report being worse off, 55% had an unfavorable view of Republicans, and 52% had an unfavorable view of Democrats. Essentially it's a pox on both their houses - but given a two party system they had to vote for someone (if they voted) and as noted above, it was against Democrats.

Among those who report being better off financially than they were a year ago, an overwhelming 76% had an unfavorable view of Republicans, while only 42% were unfavorable towards Democrats. And for those doing about the same as last year, 61% were unfavorable toward Congressional Republicans and 52% were unfavorable toward Democrats.

This all seems very logical to me and suggests that voters do not just cast votes without any sense behind them. If you know Democrats are in charge and things aren't getting better, than disliking them and voting against them makes sense. And if you are actually somehow doing better in this environment, you should want to reward those in charge. And that's what we see, with the folks doing no better, no worse, solidly in the middle. Actually gives you some hope that voters (sort of) know what they are doing.

(Thanks to Virginia Tangel, of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll staff for this analysis.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Atttitudes Towards Education Reform

In our pre-election poll we also asked NJ registered voters their attitudes towards several education reform plans. Today we release the results. The full release with tables is available here.

The test of the release follows:


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Though harboring mixed feelings about key aspects of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed education reform plan, a clear majority of New Jerseyans say the state is underfunding education, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Almost six-in-10 (59 percent) registered voters say not enough is being spent on schooling; 15 percent believes too much is being spent, while 21 percent thinks expenditures are adequate.

At the same time, Garden Staters are decidedly mixed on two of the governor’s key reform proposals. A large majority of registered voters (70 percent) say tenure for school teachers is mostly a barrier to removing bad teachers, but 63 percent opposes basing teacher pay on pupil test results.

“The spending results are consistent with our earlier polling,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “New Jerseyans generally support their schools and want to see them better funded, even while they want the state to cut back on funding in other areas. While they question tenure, they do not necessarily support the governor’s plans or his spending cuts.”

The poll results are from a random sample of 885 registered voters interviewed statewide Oct. 21-27. The margin of error for the full sample is +/-3.3 percentage points.

Partisans split on funding

Almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans (74 percent to 38 percent) say state funding for education is inadequate. A majority of independents (55 percent) feel the same. Sixty-five percent of parents with children under 18 believe that New Jersey does not spend enough on its schools compared to 54 percent of adults living in households without children.

Public mixed on Christie’s ideas

In September, Gov. Christie unveiled his plan for education reforms that included eliminating tenure, basing pay on pupil performance and testing teacher proficiency in reading and math. New Jerseyans are split on his ideas: 63 percent oppose basing a teacher’s salary on test scores while 32 percent support the concept of merit pay. Respondents are likely to favor tenure reform, since 70 percent think tenure is a “barrier to eliminating bad teachers,” while only 22 percent believe teacher tenure is necessary for job protection. An overwhelming 90 percent of registered voters say teachers should be tested for their reading and math proficiency.

Virtually all (95 percent) parents of minor children support teacher testing, while 59 percent oppose merit-based pay and 73 percent see tenure as a barrier to removing bad teachers. “Those in households with children under 18 are a little less likely to oppose merit pay and somewhat more likely to see tenure as a barrier,” said Redlawsk. “Those closest to the system see its problems more directly, but still do not support key parts of the Christie plan.”

Republicans and Democrats agree: don’t base pay on test scores

Sixty-eight percent of Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents oppose linking teacher salaries to pupil test scores. At the same time, even a strong majority (60 percent) of Democrats see tenure as a barrier to removing bad teachers, rather than an important job protection. Even more Republicans (80 percent) and independents (75 percent) agree. Just 29 percent of Democrats, 15 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of independents see tenure as an important job protection.

Support for teacher testing in math and reading also crosses party lines: 86 percent of Democrats, 92 percent of Republicans, and 94 percent of independents think teachers should be required to pass reading and math tests to be certified.

“While Democrats and Republicans may differ on state spending for education, there is remarkable agreement across parties on other issues,” Redlawsk said. “The governor’s idea for merit pay gets little support across the board, but members of both parties agree with testing teachers and are dubious about tenure.”

Diverse thoughts about problems in education

Asked to name New Jersey education’s most pressing problem in their own words – before hearing other questions on the subject – registered voters come up with many ideas, Redlawsk observed. About 20 percent says budget issues, while 15 percent names teacher-related issues, including high salaries and benefits, and teacher proficiency. In this group a small percentage (2%) says teacher shortages.

Another 8 percent call the New Jersey Education Association (or “teachers’ union”) the most important problem, 5 percent say “bureaucracy” and 4 percent focus on class size. Only 3 percent cite teacher tenure as the most important problem.

One in four parents (26 percent) sees budgets as the biggest problem in education, with another 17 percent citing teacher-related issues. Just 8 percent of parents call the NJEA the biggest problem in education.

Democrats and Republicans view the biggest problem differently: 25 percent of Democrats cite budget issues while only 16 percent of Republicans agree, along with 20 percent of independents. Twenty percent of Democrats, 14 percent of Republicans, and 11 percent of independents cite teachers as the biggest problem facing education in New Jersey. Republicans are much more likely to name the NJEA as the problem, by a 13 percent to 3 percent margin over Democrats; 11 percent of independents think the NJEA is the biggest problem facing education in the state today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Day before...

It's the day before the Tsunami election of 2010, or whatever the pundits are calling it. There is no denying the Republican trend - certainly in New Jersey we see more enthusiams among Republicans, a swing twoard Republicans for independent voters (if they show up), and today we report that NJ voters appear to prefer some Republican solutions to issues, at least statewide.

Our polling last week gives us a sense of the overall environment throughout the state, but it not meant to describe any one Congressional district (except for the specific polling we did in CD 3.

So here's today's release - an overview of where we are right before the election. A PDF of the full release with all tables is available here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Taxes, the economy and unemployment will be primary on the minds of voters as they head to the polls tomorrow. New Jerseyans believe Republican policies are more likely to fix the economy, are less favorable toward such Democratic measures as government stimulus spending and view GOP leaders more favorably than their counterparts, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

“In addition to a clear ‘enthusiasm gap’ where Republicans are more motivated to turn out, voters are also more favorable toward GOP officials and approaches,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “New Jersey voters are paralleling what is being seen all over the country, but most Garden State congressional districts are so one-sided that the majority of incumbents are unlikely to feel the direct effects.”

Results are from a statewide Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of 885 registered voters, including 552 likely voters, was conducted October 21-27, with a +/- 3.3 percentage point margin of error for registered voters and +/- 4.1 for likely voters. Generic vote questions were asked of random half-samples, which have a margin of error of +/-4.6 percentage points for registered and +/-5.9 for likely voters. The poll did not survey individual congressional districts and provides a general sense of the state rather than specific results for any one race.

Most important problem

Asked about the state’s most important problem, 31 percent of likely voters say taxes of some type, while 20 percent name jobs and 10 percent offer the economy. Education also draws 10 percent, followed by the budget deficit at 7 percent. Of those who name taxes, 56 percent will vote for a Republican congressional candidate and 31 percent for a Democrat.

Of those who say jobs or unemployment is most important in New Jersey, 65 percent prefer a Democrat, while 14 percent prefer a Republican. Among those who think the economy is most pressing, 48 percent will support the GOP and 39 percent will vote Democratic. Where education is the top concern, 47 percent say they will vote for the Democrat and only 20 percent will support the Republican.

“There are clear differences between the parties on theses issues, and voters recognize them,” said Redlawsk. “Voters who focus on taxes prefer Republican approaches, but those focused specifically on jobs lean Democratic. The problem for Democrats is that voters in New Jersey are more worried about taxes than they are jobs.”

More prefer Republican approach to job creation

The greater concern about taxes results in a preference for a Republican-oriented approach to job creation across all likely voters. Asked whether tax cuts or government spending would create jobs more effectively, the majority (51 percent) of likely voters say the former will help more. Only 38 percent favor government spending for creating jobs. Of those preferring tax cuts, almost three times as many say they will vote Republican as Democratic (63 percent to 23 percent). Among those who prefer government spending, likely Democratic voters far outstrip Republics by nearly 5-to-1 (71 percent to 15 percent).

Likely voters like Christie, dislike Pelosi, are split on Obama

Preference for a Republican approach to jobs is reflected in likely voters’ evaluations of elected officials. They view Gov. Chris Christie favorably, are divided on President Obama and appear decidedly negative toward Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Half hold a favorable impression of the governor, while 38 percent hold an unfavorable impression, a significant improvement since a September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed that 46 percent or all registered voters were favorable, and 42 percent unfavorable toward Christie. Sixty-six percent holding a favorable opinion of Christie will vote Republican, and 19 percent will vote Democratic. Of those who hold an unfavorable opinion of the governor, 79 percent will vote Democratic and only 10 percent will vote Republican.

Pelosi is evaluated much less favorably: by a 2-to-1 margin, likely voters hold an unfavorable impression of the speaker. Of these, 67 percent will vote GOP and 18 percent will vote Democratic.

Likely voters are evenly divided on Obama. Forty-four percent have a favorable impression, 45 percent unfavorable. Eighty-four percent who hold Obama in esteem will vote Democratic tomorrow, 75 percent with a negative opinion of the president will vote for the GOP hopeful.

More likely voters approve of Christie’s job performance than Obama’s

Job approval ratings for Obama and Christie show even more clearly how dissatisfied likely voters are with Democrats. Christie enjoys a 12 percentage point lead in positive job approval ratings over Obama. A majority think Christie is doing an excellent (19 percent) or good job (32 percent) job, a six-point gain since September. Fewer than 40 percent believe that Obama is doing an excellent or good job (14 and 25 percent, respectively). Almost half say Christie is doing a fair or poor job, while nearly six-in-10 say the same of Obama.

More Obama voters will defect

While 77 percent of those who voted for Obama in 2008 plan to vote for Democrats for Congress, 10 percent plan to vote for Republicans, 6 percent say they would prefer a third party candidate and 6 percent are unsure who they will support. John McCain voters are more likely to stay loyal to the GOP: 84 percent say they will vote a Republican for Congress, 6 percent support a Democrat and 9 percent say they don’t know.

Obama: Stay home and do your job

Just as last month’s poll found that New Jerseyans preferred Christie to work on issues affecting the state rather than campaigning across the country, the new poll offered similar results for Obama. Almost two-thirds think he should remain in Washington rather than support candidates out of town. Only those who believe Obama is doing an excellent job say he should campaign, with 66 percent of this group happy to have him support other candidates

Friday, October 29, 2010

Something OTHER THAN the election!

Well, there IS other news in New Jersey besides the upcoming election. Wednesday Governor Chris Christie reaffirmed his decision to cancel the propsed ARC (access to the Region's Core) tunnel under the Hudson River. While some call it the tunnel to Macy's basement (or to nowhere), others argue the tunnel is absolutely needed to allow continued economic growth in NJ, as there is essentially no more capacity to move commuters via rail from NJ to NYC.

The Governor put the kibosh on the tunnel saying that the expected cost (including estimates of overruns) is just too rich for New Jersey's blood in this day or retrnechment and cuts. Never mind that the project has been under way for more than a decade and that dirt has actually been moved and properties acquired. The holes that have been dug are to be filled in and the project ended immediately. NJ may find itself paying back hundreds of millions to the federal government and foregoing billions in transit funding.

Be that as it may, since we were going into the field for the pre-election, we decided to ask a few questions about the tunnel and transportation funding.

The upshot - NJ voters support the Governor's decision, especially voters living outside of the NYC commuting area. While a pluraility thinks enough is being spent on transportation already, a signifcant share believe more needs to be spent, and these voters are much ore likely to oppose Christie's decision.

And as befitting a state with a thousand-lane turnpike (or whatever it is) running through it, New Jerseyans would prefer money be spend on roads and bridges rather than trains and buses, if they had to make a choice between the two.

The full release with tables is here.

The release itself follows:


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A majority of New Jerseyans support the cancellation of the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project announced two weeks ago and reaffirmed this week by Gov. Chris Christie, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. While believing the tunnel could be important to the state’s economic development, 51percent of Garden State voters think Christie was right to cancel the project, while 39 percent disagree with the decision, and 10 percent are unsure.

Support for canceling the tunnel varies by region. Northern New Jerseyans and commuters to Manhattan are more likely to disagree with the decision. A majority of commuters (52 percent) opposes Christie’s decision. Support for the decision is split, 46 percent to 45 percent, for those living in northern New Jersey counties.

“Across the state, voters applaud the governor’s decision,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While those who regularly travel to New York feel differently, much of the state agrees with Christie that the project is too expensive.”

The poll of 885 registered voters was conducted October 21-27, with a +/- 3.3 percentage point margin of error.

Opinions on transportation spending split

While 40 percent of voters say “just the right amount” is being spent on transportation, nearly one-third (32 percent) believe the state needs to spend more, and about 12 percent say too much is being spent. Another 16 percent are not sure. Asked to prioritize spending, 58 percent believe funding should go toward roads and bridges rather than trains and buses while 32 percent would prioritize trains and buses. Eight percent don’t know.

Two-thirds who say the state is spending the right amount favor investing first on roads and bridges. Responses are more mixed among those wanting additional spending: 48 percent prefer a focus on roads and bridges, while 44 percent make spending on trains and buses their priority.

Respondent-advocates of mass transit oppose Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC tunnel, 48 percent to 41 percent; 11 percent are undecided. Those focused on spending for roads and bridges strongly favor cancellation, 57 percent to 36 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

“Clearly, support for Christie’s decision depends on your belief in increased state spending for public transportation infrastructure,” said Redlawsk. “Most New Jerseyans rely on their cars and would prefer spending focus on roads and bridges.”

Garden Staters question value of ARC to economic development

Across the state, New Jerseyans are dubious about the economic value of the proposed tunnel. Only 28 percent say the tunnel is “very important” to the state’s economic development, while 42 percent call it “somewhat important.” Almost one-quarter consider it not at all important to the state’s economy. Commuters and north Jersey residents are more likely to see the tunnel as important, with 38 percent of city commuters calling it very important, and 34 percent of all north Jersey residents agreeing.

Support for Christie’s position has partisan undertones

Like nearly everything Christie does, the decision on the tunnel strikes Democrats very differently from Republicans. While 71 percent of Republicans support the governor’s decision, only 32 percent of Democrats do so. However, a strong majority of independents (58 percent) side with Christie on canceling the tunnel.

While more supportive of the project, only 39 percent of Democrats say trains and buses should have priority in spending. Even fewer independents (29 percent) and Republicans (27 percent) feel the same. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats say too little is being spent on transportation generally compared to 30 percent of Republicans. Independents are least likely to think more needs to be spent, and only 26 percent say so.

“The fact that it is Christie canceling the tunnel is what seems to bother Democrats most,” said Redlawsk. “While they are somewhat more likely to support public transportation and think more needs to be spent, their opposition to Christie’s decision really goes beyond this, since many Democrats who want more roads and bridges and think spending levels are fine are also unhappy with the decision.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NJ Congressional Races Tightening Overall; Republicans More Enthusiastic

Full release with tables available here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – With the midterm election only days away, New Jersey voters statewide are moving toward Republicans, as the overall generic ballot tightens, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. While 41 percent of registered voters say they will vote for a Democrat, with 31 percent preferring a Republican, likely voters are leaning more Republican; a generic Democrat leads by only 46 percent to 40 percent.

This is a distinct improvement for Republicans, who trailed by 11 points in a September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll among likely voters. Only 7 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

Concurrently, there is a noticeable “enthusiasm gap” between GOP backers and Democrats. About two-thirds of Republicans are at the “top of the enthusiasm scale” compared to 42 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independents. About half of New Jersey registered voters say they are moderately or very enthusiastic about voting.

“Partisans remain with their party,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But independent likely voters who moved toward Democrats in September are trending back to Republicans, preferring a generic Republican by a 42 percent to 35 percent margin. If independents turn out, they could tip close races, especially if Democrats stay home.”

The poll of 885 registered New Jersey voters was conducted Oct. 21-27. The registered voters sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Generic vote questions were asked of random half-samples, which have a margin of error of +/-4.6 percentage points. Results do not apply to specific districts but give a sense of the overall mood of the state.

Overall support for incumbents increasing

To test attitudes toward incumbent members of Congress, half those polled were asked if they would vote for a generic Republican versus a Democrat, while the other half were asked if they would vote for their current representative or a challenger.

While the partisan vote has tightened, voters have also become more supportive of incumbents in the final weeks of the campaign. Among registered voters, 37 percent would vote for their “current congressman,” while 26 percent would support a challenger. When faced with this choice, 16 percent say they would not vote, and 19 percent are unsure.

Likely voters also prefer their incumbent to a challenger, 44 percent to 34 percent, with 22 percent unsure. This is a large shift from September, when incumbents were favored by two points.

“We see a partisan split in the generic incumbent test,” said Redlawsk. “Likely Democratic voters statewide support incumbents by almost a 4-1 ratio, while Republicans prefer a challenger by 4-to-3. Independents also slightly prefer challengers, by a 10-to-9 margin.

Republican incumbents increasingly safer

In GOP-held districts across the state, 48 percent of likely voters say they will vote Republican, while 38 percent will vote for a Democrat. Eleven percent are undecided. This is a substantial improvement for Republican incumbents, who were losing the generic ballot test in September, 42 percent to 44 percent.

When framed in terms of “current congressman” versus a “challenger,” Republicans are doing even better: 50 percent of likely voters support their current representative, 27 percent, the challenger and 23 percent are unsure. “While we can’t speak about a specific district, we see no evidence that any of the state’s five Republican representatives is in danger next week,” Redlawsk said.

Some Democrats in trouble

Across New Jersey’s eight Democratic congressional districts, little has changed since September: 52 percent of likely voters support a Democrat, while 36 percent will vote Republican. Another 8 percent prefer a third party candidate, and 5 percent don’t know. When framed as incumbent versus challenger, likely voters favor their current congressman by only 2 points. Registered voters prefer the incumbent by nine percentage points.

“Those more likely to turn out in these districts are at least in part motivated by anti-incumbency,” said Redlawsk. “Even so, the generic party ballot suggests that most Democratic incumbents will win as usual.”

Examining the three most competitive Democratic-held seats paints a very different picture, Redlawsk observed. Across the 3rd, 6th, and 12th districts combined, a generic Democrat holds a four percentage point lead, a “tossup” when the small size of the sample is considered. Moreover, in these districts likely voters favor a challenger over their current congressman by 15 points, 49 percent to 34 percent.

“We see very tough races for incumbents Rush Holt (12th CD), John Adler (3rd CD), and to a lesser extent, Frank Pallone (6th CD),” said Redlawsk. “Our separate 3rd District polling shows a tie, while this generic across-district polling shows things tight in all three districts. The key is turnout. Among registered voters, the generic Democrat leads by eight percentage points, but by only four points among likely voters. And when we ask about incumbents, registered voters are only slightly anti-incumbent by four points, while likely voters are ready to throw them out.”

Voters mood somewhat worse with more ready for Republicans

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of likely voters report that the country is on the wrong track, while only 30 percent think it is going in the right direction. Republicans and independents overwhelmingly feel this way, with 89 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of independents feeling things are on the wrong track. Forty percent of Democrats feel the same.

Voters seem to be less willing to give Democrats more time to do things in Washington, with 48 percent saying Democrats should get more time and 43 percent saying it is time to turn to the GOP. Support for Democrats is down substantially from September, when 56 percent would have given them more time, and only 36 percent said it is time to elect Republicans. Independents support electing Republicans by a 46 percent to 40 percent margin.

The long campaign may finally be wearing on voters, the poll found. Only 31 percent of likely voters now say they are following news about the election very closely, compared to 42 percent in September.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Of Tax Donkeys and Tea Parties: The State of the NJ CD-3 Race

We are out today with our third and final poll of the NJ third congressional district race between Democratic incumbent John Adler and Republican challenger Jon Runyan. Oh, and don’t forget purported “Tea Party” candidate Peter DeStefano. The upshot? It’s tied. All locked up. 44-44. No space between the two candidates. At least among those we believe to be likely voters. And DeStefano - his 4-5 percent could be making the difference.

Our polling in this district is through live phone calls, using both landlines and cell phones. We are very comfortable that we have a reasonable sample. The trick of course is determining who is actually going to vote. I talked about that before at the beginning of our last CD3 release, so I won’t repeat it here. But even without the likely screen, things have gotten interesting. Where in September Adler was up 9 points among registered voters (while only 2 points among likelies) he has lost his lead among registered voters as well, up only 2 points (within the margin of error). No matter how we cut the data it is a tie.

We see two cross cutting currents in our data. First, overall trends are towards Runyan. Voters are more willing to support an outsider generally than last month, less positive towards Adler (and more positive towards Runyan) and at least some are annoyed by the newspaper reports that DeStefano is only on the ballot because Democrats put him there to get 5 percent. And, at least at the moment, that’s about what DeStefano is getting. Without this Democratic Tea Party, Runyan might well be ahead.

Runyan is also still benefiting from an enthusiasm gap – Republicans remain more likely to be in our “likely voter” sample than Democrats. And not surprisingly for a midterm, independents are the least likely to turn out.

On the other hand, it’s not over for Adler until the last vote is counted. Even many of Runyan's supporters find Runyan's tax donkeys to be an unfair use of the farmland assessment program. And of particular note is that Democrats are MUCH more unified that Republicans. While Alder wins the voters of 85 percent of likely Democratic voters, Runyan is only at 77 percent of Republicans, with 16 percent of Republicans supporting Adler. A bit of a push on Democratic turnout and Alder could win another squeaker. Remember, this is an historically Republican district in a very Republican year. Yet Runyan has not been able to seal the deal. That, if anything, gives Adler significant hope.

The release follows. A PDF of the release with questions and tables is here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – With a week to go until Election Day, incumbent Democrat John Adler and his challenger, Republican Jon Runyan, are tied in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Among likely voters, both Adler and Runyan get support from 44 percent, while independent Peter DeStefano is at 4 percent and 9 percent say they still are not sure. But even among those who have decided, nearly a quarter may change their mind by Election Day.

The results show a distinct tightening of the race as Adler’s September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll nine-point lead among registered voters has disappeared. Among registered voters, Adler now leads within the margin of error, 37 percent to 35 percent, with 5 percent for DeStefano, 14 percent undecided and 10 percent saying given the choices, they will not vote.

“This is anyone’s race,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “All along, Runyan has been doing better among likely voters, while Adler held a lead with all voters. But recent events – including the news of Democratic Party involvement in putting DeStefano on the ballot – have moved things more toward Runyan.”

The telephone poll of 453 registered voters yielding 292 likely voters living in the 3rd District was conducted Oct. 23-24 and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points for registered voters and 5.6 percentage points for likely voters. The survey included both landline and cell phone respondents.

The DeStefano Effect

Recent reports speculating that Democratic Party workers were heavily involved in supporting independent DeStefano’s candidacy have had some effect on the race. While large numbers of registered (43 percent) and likely voters (39 percent) are unaware of the controversy, among those who have heard about it, nearly one-third say the controversy makes them less likely to vote for Adler. Among those who say they might change their mind, 32 percent say the DeStefano controversy makes them less likely to vote for Adler, while 59 percent say it has no effect and 6 percent say it will make them more likely to vote for Adler.

“The combination of a razor-thin race, the presence of an independent candidate drawing about 5 percent and the claims that DeStefano is merely on the ballot to take votes from Runyan creates a volatile situation,” said Redlawsk. “DeStefano supporters seem more likely to become Runyan than Adler supporters if they do change their minds. This small group could make the difference. At the same time, the Runyan campaign has not effectively publicized this controversy, given how many voters have heard nothing about it.”

Adler’s favorables decline and Runyan’s improve

Adler has become less favorably viewed by voters down the homestretch. His 12-point positive rating in September (43 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable) has evaporated (now 36 percent favorable and unfavorable). Runyan’s ratings have improved, however, from 29 percent favorable and 30 percent unfavorable in September to 36 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable. DeStefano’s favorability now is only 3 percent, half September’s tally, while his unfavorable standing grew from 8 percent to 14 percent. Most voters have no opinion of DeStefano.

Also in the 3rd District, fewer respondents view President Obama positively (44 percent) than Gov. Chris Christie (57 percent). Other indicators seem to favor the challenger as well. The majority of respondents (58 percent) are angry with Washington. Only 40 percent now prefer experience versus an outsider, down from 47 percent in September. Republicans remain more enthusiastic about voting (60 percent) than do Democrats (52 percent) and independents (44 percent).

Further, 41 percent of likely voters agree that “Adler is part of the problem in Washington,” while 44 percent disagree and 15 percent don’t know. Of those in agreement, 16 percent will vote for Adler, 75 percent will vote for Runyan and 7 percent will vote for DeStefano. Among those who disagree, 75 percent say they will vote for Adler, 20 percent will vote for Runyan, 1 percent for DeStefano, and 4 percent are undecided.

“Whether it is because of the news about DeStefano or other issues, Adler no longer is in the positive position he was all fall,” said Redlawsk. “While voters were positive toward Adler and strongly preferred experience, that has changed. The environment in the 3rd District has become noticeably more difficult for the incumbent.”

Tax, donkeys and other issues

Adler has accused Runyan of benefiting from New Jersey’s farmland assessment program by raising donkeys and barely qualifying for a significant property tax reduction. Likely voters seem to agree that Runyan unfairly takes advantage of the tax break, 54 percent to 33 percent, while 13 percent are unsure. Of those who believe the assessment is unfair, 66 percent say they will vote for Adler, while 25 percent support Runyan. Not surprisingly, those who see the assessment as fair are more likely to support Runyan over Adler, 72 percent to 20 percent.

Even so, many Runyan voters have some question about the assessment, with 32 percent of Runyan voters believing he unfairly takes advantage of the farmland assessment, while most (80 percent) Adler voters feel the same.

Nearly half (44 percent) all likely voters in the 3rd CD favor off-shore drilling near the New Jersey coast. Almost as many (43 percent) are against it and 13 percent are not sure. Among those who favor drilling, 27 percent will vote for Adler and 60 percent for Runyan. Two-thirds (64 percent) of drilling opponents will vote for Adler and 30 percent will vote for Runyan.

Forty-two percent of likely voters support the health care legislation passed this year, while 50 percent oppose it and 8 percent say they don’t know. More than eight-in-10 proponents (81 percent) say they will vote for Adler and 14 percent for Runyan. Among those opposed, 20 percent say they will vote for Adler and 71 percent will vote for Runyan.

Adler stronger with his base; Runyan up with independents

The latest poll found some good news for Adler: support from his base. Among Democratic likely voters, 85 percent support Adler, 6 percent Runyan, with only 2 percent for DeStefano and 6 percent undecided. Runyan does not do as well among Republicans: 77 percent support his candidacy while 16 percent support Adler and 2 percent support DeStefano. Five percent are undecided.

Independent likely voters favor Runyan over Adler, 49 percent to 40 percent.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Obama Muslim? Some NJ Voters Continue to Think So

Today we release our polling on attitudes towards President Barack Obama in New Jersey. Recently the Pew polling folks released this poll showing nearly 20% of the country thinks Obama is Muslim. Another 43% said they do not know his religion and only 34 percent properly identified him as Christian.

Lots of coverage of this poll, and lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth. How could the American public be so dumb? How could they NOT know the president is Christian? I wrote a little op-ed on this that appeared in the Bergen Record based on my research on political evaluation. Today though we have some polling results from New Jersey on this topic.

We asked registered voters to tell us Obama (and Gov. Chris Christie's) religion. We did not give a list, just asked people to tell us what they thought it is. In a nutshell, 12 percent say Obama is Muslim, 43 percent correctly identify him as Protestant (more specific than Christian), and 38 percent say they don't know Obama's religion.

So NJ voters are a little smarter than people nationally, right? They are more likely to know Obama's religion and less likely to think he is Muslim. Yet we would expect this simply because of the level of coverage of the issue since the Pew poll. We'd also expect it because more NJ voters are Democrats, and Democrats are much more likely NOT to say Obama is Muslim.

By the way, even more voters get Christie's religion wrong - though no one calls him Muslim. About 56% say they don't know the Governor's religion, and only 14 percent identify specifically him as Catholic.

Anyway, who cares? Why does it matter? Well, it probably does not matter that people don't know Christie's religion. But thinking Obama is Muslim is related very directly to other negative attitudes towards him. For example, 40 percent of those who say he is Muslim also say that Obama's administration is "un-American" and 60% say Obama is a socialist. We also find that this is directly very personally at Obama himself (and his policies). When we ask people if they are angry at "the government in Washington", those who believe Obama is Muslim are no more likely to say they are angry than anyone else. This Obama is Muslim rhetoric is about the president and his policies, not about the general sense of frustration and anger the majority of New Jersey voters feel towards Washington.

The release follows. You can see the full release and all of the questions and tables here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – While New Jersey voters are less likely to say President Barack Obama is Muslim compared to recent national polls, a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today finds 12 percent still call him Muslim. Obama is Protestant, and his religion is correctly identified by 43 percent of respondents; 3 percent think he is Roman Catholic, while 38 percent say they do not know. Nationally, 43 percent do not know Obama’s religion, according to a Pew Center poll released last month.

About three-in-four voters who think Obama is a Muslim claim they learned his religion from the media, 10 percent from presidential behavior or statements and 7 percent from the Internet. The remaining 7 percent are unsure or say his ancestry or name reveals his faith.

Voters in general know little about the religious beliefs Gov. Chris Christie as well: 56 percent say they do not know Christie’s religion. Only14 percent correctly identify him as Catholic, while 25 percent voters believe Christie is Protestant.

“The public’s erroneous perception about Obama’s religion has been well-documented in recent weeks,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science. “Our polling shows that misperception is still widespread in the state. The reason this matters for Obama – while not meaning much for other elected officials – is that those who identify him as Muslim do so in a negative way. Being Muslim is seen as out of the mainstream. Being identified as Protestant when you are Catholic has limited consequences.”

The poll of 912 registered New Jersey voters was conducted Sept. 23 to 26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Who believes Obama is a Muslim?

Almost half (48 percent) the most religious voters (those who attend services at least weekly) correctly identify Obama’s religion, while only 10 percent say he is Muslim and 33 percent say they don’t know. Less religious voters are more likely to get Obama’s religion wrong. Among those attending services monthly, 16 percent label the president as Muslim, 34 percent correctly say he is Protestant and 41 percent say they don’t know.

Partisanship plays a central role in questions about Obama’s religion. Only 8 percent of Democrats say he is Muslim, one-third the percentage of Republicans. Just 6 percent of independents believe the president is Muslim.

Conversely, 54 percent of Democrats get Obama’s religion right, twice the percentage of Republicans and 12 percent higher than independents. The latter group also is the most likely to say they don’t know Obama’s religion (46 percent). One-quarter of Republicans with a favorable impression of the Tea Party call Obama Muslim, but only 18 percent of Republicans who are unfavorable toward the Tea Party do the same.

Impressions of the President and Job Approval

President Obama has seen a five percentage point gain among registered voters in his New Jersey favorability ratings (now 57 percent) since an August Rutgers-Eagleton Poll; 34 percent hold an unfavorable view, down from 36 percent. More than half (53 percent) rate Obama’s job performance excellent or good and 45 percent judge it fair or poor. Of those with a favorable impression of the president, 83 percent think he is doing an excellent or good job. Of those with an unfavorable impression, only 12 percent call his work excellent or good; 60 percent say he is doing a poor job.

Belief that Obama is Muslim is highly correlated with attitudes toward the president: 8 percent with a favorable view say he is Muslim, 51 percent correctly identify him as Protestant, and 34 percent say they don’t know his religion. Among voters with an unfavorable impression, 18 percent say he is Muslim, 31 percent say he is Protestant, and 43 percent are unsure.

“One thing we know is that belief that Obama is Muslim is part of a package of negative feelings towards him,” said Redlawsk. “While most who disapprove of Obama do not say he is Muslim, a significant number do, while few of those who approve of him say the same.”

Obama’s “Americanism” and ideology questioned by many in New Jersey

As in February, voters were asked to agree or disagree with a series of questions, including several about Obama and his administration. Twenty-five percent of voters now agree that the Obama Administration is “un-American” (up from 18 percent in February), and 39 percent concur that Obama is a socialist (up from 32 percent). More Republicans and Democrats now agree with both statements than in February, but agreement is much stronger among GOP voters.

A perception that the administration is un-American is also related to belief that Obama is Muslim, with 19 percent of this group identifying him as such. Only 9 percent of those who disagree with this statement identify Obama as Muslim. Further, 20 percent of those who call the president a socialist also say he is Muslim, while only 6 percent of other voters think so.

The connection between Obama’s perceived religion and voters’ negative feelings about his administration and ideology is very strong. Fully 40 percent of voters who say Obama is Muslim also think the administration is un-American; 64 percent say Obama is a socialist.

Anger at Washington unrelated to beliefs about Obama’s Religion

Asked if “thinking about the government in Washington makes me angry,” 59 percent agreed and 38 percent disagreed. This anger is unrelated to beliefs about Obama’s religion, Redlawsk said. Among voters who say Washington causes anger, 44 percent know Obama’s religion. Nearly as many (42 percent) who are not angry accurately identify Obama as Protestant. Twelve percent of those who are angry at Washington say Obama is a Muslim, compared to 11 percent who are not angry.

“The ‘Obama is Muslim’ discussion is not about Washington politics as such, but is directed at Obama himself,” said Redlawsk. “For the 12 percent of New Jersey voters who say that Obama is Muslim, the issue is personal. Most think he is a socialist and many consider him un-American, but they are no more likely to be angry at ‘the government in Washington’ than anyone else.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Governor Christie Travels; Voters Want Him to Stay Home

We are up today with our more recent statewide polling on job performance and ratings of Governor Chris Christie. For fun, we included a question about his travels to support Republican candidates nationwide and another about how proud he makes New Jerseyans feel. For whatever it's worth, NJ Voters want the Governor to stay home and work on state issues. Moreover, only a minority say that Christie's national recognition makes them proud to be from New Jersey.

To me the most fun thing in this is that those who are least supportive of Christie want him to stay home, while those who like him most want him to go away! Well, not really go away, of course. These results are a reflection of course of partisanship among other things. Republicans who do strongly support the governor want to share the love and probably expect that he will help other Republicans around the country. Those who are less supportive - including both Independents and Democrats, want him to stay in stay. But I wonder if for Democrats it's also partly because they worry that he will be an effective campaigner for Republicans!

But in any case, voters who think he's doing a good job say "go ahead, leave" and those who think he's doing a bad job say "stay here and work on issues". But if he's doing such a bad job, shouldn't they want him anywhere but New Jersey? {Humor intended!}

On a more serious note, the governor's favorability ratings have tightened a bit, but his job performance ratings have actually improved by 6 points since our August Poll. This despite the "Race to the Top" controversy, for which he takes the greatest blame from voters (we asked this but don't report it below. I intend to get something up on that here on the blog soon.)

Driving positive views about Christie is the belief that taxes are the most important issue facing the state. Voters who think this (the second largest group) are very supportive of the Governor. But voters who think the economy is most important are more negative than positive, and those who rate education at the top are strongly negative about the Governor.

The release follows. Questions and tables are available here at the end of the PDF version of the release.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie continues his national tour for Republican candidates, New Jersey’s registered voters would prefer he stay home and focus on Garden State issues, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Almost two-of-three New Jerseyans (64 percent) want Christie here, while one-in-four (24 percent) support his travels.

For the 22 percent of respondents who rate Christie’s job performance excellent, a majority (55 percent) say he should campaign, while 38 percent prefer he remain in state. Others disagree: of those who think he is doing a good job (23 percent), only 22 percent want him to campaign, while 64 percent say he should stay home. Of the 52 percent who say Christie is doing only a fair or poor job, nearly three-quarters want him to stay put and work on New Jersey issues.

“The paradox is fascinating. Those who view Christie’s performance negatively nonetheless would prefer he stay in New Jersey and work on our issues, rather than campaign in other states,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science. “Those who are most supportive agree with his campaigning out of state. This is probably because his strongest supporters are overwhelmingly Republicans who believe the governor’s star power will help other Republicans. It may be those who oppose Christie’s travels – the largest group of whom are Democrats – also worry about the same thing.”

The poll of 912 registered New Jersey voters was conducted Sept. 23 to 26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Christie’s national reputation does not make New Jersey proud

About one-third (37 percent) of respondents say Christie’ national recognition makes them proud to be from New Jersey. The large majority (56 percent) say it does not.

Not surprisingly, partisan Republicans have a different view. While 62 percent of Republicans say Christie makes them proud to be from the Garden State, only 38 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats feel the same.

Support for Christie’s national campaign tour is apparently related to pride: 61 percent of those favoring his campaigning also say Christie makes them proud to be from New Jersey. Two-thirds (64 percent) of those who want him to stay home say the governor does not make them proud.

“Republicans want Christie to spread the word on behalf of other Republicans nationwide,” said Redlawsk, “but the governor seems to not be making the same impression on independents, who make the difference in his favorability ratings, as they did when he was elected.”

Christie favorability tightens, job performance improves

Voters continue to feel slightly more favorable than unfavorable toward the governor as was true in the August Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, despite the high profile controversy of the Race to the Top competition. However, the number holding an unfavorable impression has increased. Across the state, 46 percent of voters have a favorable impression of Christie, while 42 percent have an unfavorable impression and 12 percent are unsure. In August, Christie’s rating was 46 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable with 15 percent unsure.

At the same time, Christie’s job performance ratings have improved, with 45 percent saying he is doing an excellent or good job, compared to 39 percent in August. Fifty-two percent currently rate his performance fair or poor while 58 percent did so in August.

Issues of importance in the Garden State

When voters were asked the most important problem in New Jersey today, they are most worried about the economy and unemployment (32 percent) and taxes (24 percent). Education (13 percent), state budget/spending (7 percent) and crime/drugs (5 percent) follow. Only 2 percent call health care the most important problem, the same percentage as those who name the governor himself. Only 1 percent cites the environment and the NJEA (teachers union).

When asked to rate the importance of a specific list of issues, New Jerseyans overwhelmingly (91 percent) say the economy matters to them personally, followed by unemployment (81 percent), health care (80 percent), taxes (77 percent), the budget deficit (74 percent), terrorism (67 percent), the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (64 percent), and immigration (49 percent).

Christie finds support from voters concerned with taxes

What voters see as the most important problem facing the state conditions how they view the governor’s job performance, the poll shows.

Those who name taxes as the most important issue are more supportive of the governor, with 53 percent rating his performance excellent or good and only 45 percent fair or poor. Among voters most worried about the economy and their own financial security, a majority is negative, with 44 percent rating Christie excellent or good while 53 percent rate him only fair or poor. Voters most concerned about education are much more negative than other voters, with only 30 percent rating Christie’s performance positively, while 68 percent have a negative view of his job performance.

“Those who view Governor Christie doing a good job are much more likely to be focused on taxes, compared to other New Jersey voters,” said Redlawsk, “and it is clear he has lost voters who think education is the most important. Fortunately for him, that is currently a relatively small group. Yet given the overriding importance of the economy to voters, his negative rating with that group drags the governor down overall.”