Thursday, March 11, 2010

An UPDATE on Health Care Reform Attitudes in NJ

In our most recent poll at the end of February we asked a couple questions about health care reform. One was a version of the question we asked in November about whether or not reform is needed. Little has changed - most Garden Staters think reform is needed. We also asked whether the current bill should be passed, and here New Jerseyans give a big NO. Given the choice between starting over or passing the current bill, they want to start over, even though reform is important to them.

For the press release with tables, click HERE. The press release itself is below.


81 percent of respondents support change for a broken system that Congress should fix

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Support for health care reform remains strong in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll that finds 81 percent of residents say the health care system needs to be changed. Only 17 percent believe the current system works well enough.

At the same time, given a choice between passing the current health care bill and starting over, more than two-thirds believe Congress should start crafting new legislation.

“Despite the limited progress that health care reform has made in Washington, the desire for change remains very strong in New Jersey,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The vast majority sees the need for change, but has soured on the bill under debate in Congress.”

The poll of 953 New Jersey adults was conducted Feb. 19-22 with a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

Change Worth taking a risk

Most New Jerseyans (70 percent) believe changing the health care system is worth whatever risk it may carry, while only 25 percent say that change is too risky. Five percent are not sure. Of those favoring change, 82 percent believe the risk is worthwhile; only 13 percent think it would be too risky to do so. Among the small group of adults who think the system works well, 75 percent say making a change would be too risky.

“There is real pressure for health care reform,” said Redlawsk. “A solid majority believes the current system needs to be fixed and it is worth the risk to pass a bill. There has been remarkably little change in opinion on the need for reform since early November, despite the debate inside and outside of Washington.”
That Rutgers-Eagleton Poll reported that 63 percent of New Jerseyans thought the health care system “could work better” and 88 percent said “change is needed.”

Change yes, current bill no

While Garden Staters are willing to risk health care reform, they feel strongly that Congress should and come up with a new bill. Only 22 percent say Congress should pass the current reform proposals, while 68 percent want the lawmakers to start over. More than half of Democrats want to begin anew, along with 60 percent of independents and 91 percent of Republicans. Only 37 percent of Democrats want passage of the current proposal. Of those favoring a fresh look at reform by Congress, 62 percent think the risk is worthwhile. Almost a third (31 percent) calls it too risky.

Two-thirds of those backing health care system reform, however, still say Congress should start on new legislation. Only 24 percent think the bill should be passed as is. A larger group (74 percent) of those who say the current health care system works well enough believes lawmakers should introduce a new bill, compared to only 18 percent favoring the proposed legislation.

“The interesting finding is despite the strong interest in change and the willingness to say change is worth the risk it brings, New Jerseyans still want Congress to start over,” Redlawsk said. “To most New Jerseyans, the current health care process has resulted in a bill they just do not believe is worth passing.”

Reform continues to be important to Garden State residents

Compared to the November Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Garden State residents are just as likely to say health care reform is very or somewhat important to them now. The new poll finds 58 percent call health care reform very important, and 27 percent say it is somewhat important. In the November poll, 60 percent said reform was very important and 26 percent said it was somewhat important.

An overwhelming majority – 90 percent – of residents who call health care very important also believe the system must be changed. Similarly, respondents who feel health care reform is very important value the potential payoff, with 76 percent thinking the risk is worthwhile. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of this group is just as likely as others to think Congress should propose new legislation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Support for Chris Christie in New Jersey

Continuing with our releases from the February 22-25 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, today we report on support for Governor Chris Christie. The quick story is that his favorables are pretty good - not as good as Obama's, but a lot better than Palin's! And way up from when he was elected. At the same time, voters do NOT support cutting taxes for high income earners, and they are skeptical that sweeping change will actually come to New Jersey. But they have some sense that it might happen. Of course, Christie's budget address on March 16 will really make clear where things are going.

Click HERE to get the full release, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give his budget address March 16, he has significant support from New Jersey registered voters, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Christie is viewed favorably by 45 percent, and unfavorably by 26 percent. Another 26 percent feel neither favorable nor unfavorable toward him. Christie’s positive rating comes though few voters say it is “very likely” he will be able to make the sweeping changes he proposes, and most oppose his call for cutting tax rates for wealthy New Jerseyans.

The telephone poll of 953 New Jersey adults conducted Feb. 19-22 included 886 registered voters out of 953 randomly selected adults. The registered voter sample reported here has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

“Governor Christie has managed to solidify a strong net positive rating among New Jersey voters in a short time,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While Democrats predictably view him very unfavorably, independents view Christie favorably by a 2-to-1 margin. Continuing support among independents will be important to Christie’s ability to make changes in Trenton, since Democratic legislative leaders are likely to pay close attention to that.”

Redlawsk also observed that more than a quarter of voters are not ready to give an opinion and may be swayed by what they see in the weeks following the budget address.

Christie’s favorability rating falls between two national politicians. President Barack Obama is viewed favorably by 56 percent and unfavorably by 31 percent. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, has little support in New Jersey, viewed favorably by only 27 percent and unfavorably by 52 percent. Thus Christie’s net positive rating of 19 percent, though not quite as high as Obama’s 25 point margin, is far above Palin’s 25 point negative rating.

Christie is viewed particularly positively by Evangelical Christians, 52 percent to 20 percent, and men, who give him a 54 percent to 22 percent favorable rating. Women are much less positive, supporting Christie 37 percent to 29 percent. Voters living in union households are also slightly positive, 42 percent to 35 percent. Black voters are negative, 40 percent to 22 percent. Voters over 65 are much more favorable than younger voters under 30. The former group views Christie favorably, 52 percent to 18 percent, while the latter group splits, 35 percent both favorable and unfavorable.

New Jersey’s future looking better? Voters are not sure

Asked if the future of New Jersey is better, worse, or the same since Christie’s defeat of former Gov. Jon Corzine, most believe prospects are about the same (42 percent), while 27 percent say “better” and 18 percent say “worse.” Not surprisingly, Democrats and Corzine voters are much more likely to think the future will be worse, while half of Republicans and Christie voters say the future will be better. Evangelical Christians are not as positive, with only a quarter saying the future will be better, while 43 percent expect it to be the same.

Views of the future vary greatly by age. Registered voters under 30 are much more likely to say the future will be worse (29 percent) than better (14 percent), while 31 percent of voters 65 and over believe the future will be better, while only 9 percent think it will be worse. Likewise, high-income voters are twice as likely as lower-income voters to say the future will be better (40 percent to 20 percent).

Voters skeptical about sweeping changes

Significant skepticism that Christie’s plans for a sweeping change in Trenton ever will come about appears to be softening voters’ optimism for the future. A November post-election Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed that only 5 percent of those who wanted Christie’s top priority to be cutting taxes thought it was very likely to happen.

The new poll shows that voters still are not sure change is really coming – only 7 percent think the “sweeping changes” proposed by Christie are “very likely” to happen, while 55 percent think they are “somewhat likely.” More than one- third (36 percent) say sweeping changes are not likely at all. Even Christie voters are somewhat skeptical, with only 17 percent saying sweeping changes are “very likely.”
“Voters recognize that while Governor Christie has an agenda of change and reform, politics in Trenton is complicated,” said Redlawsk. “They have seen governors come in before promising change and still their taxes go up, roads remain in terrible shape and state government doesn’t seem to change.”

No to tax cut for wealthy

Most voters agree that tax rates for New Jerseyans making $400,000 or more per year should not be cut, despite Christie’s support for allowing the surcharge imposed on high earners to expire. A majority of virtually every demographic group opposes the cut, and even Republicans are not sure, with 46 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing the tax cut. Independents strongly oppose the tax cut, by a 2-to-1 margin, the same ratio among voters who are unsure of their opinion about Christie.

Interestingly, even voters making more than $150,000 per year oppose the tax cut, with only 35 percent supporting the cut and 64 percent opposing it.

“Governor Christie has built up a lot of favorability since he took office, but cutting taxes for high-earning New Jerseyans is very unpopular, even when we made clear that Christie supports the expiration of the surcharge on high-income filers,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time, there has been much less focus on this, and a lot more on his moves to cut costs, so overall the tax rate issue does not seem to be hurting him directly.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

2010 Congressional Elections in NJ: 8 Months Out

At some level it may seem pretty silly to poll on elections eight months from now. But on the other hand we are always curious about the state of public opinion and the general mindset of the voters. So in our recent poll we asked tow voter intent questions. For half of our sample we asked the standard (and familiar) "generic ballot" test. Respondents are asked "If the election were today would you vote for the Republican, the Democrat, someone else, or would you not vote?" (We added the "not vote" option to allow people to opt out.) The other half of the sample received a question about voting for their current congressman (all House members in New Jersey are men at the moment) or for a "challenger running against him". The not vote option was given here as well.

Why did we ask only half samples these questions? First, asking one might well confuse a respondent about the other. One might also influence the other. But our main reason was simply to keep our costs down. As usual we had so many things we wanted to ask about that we had to make decisions about what we could actually get done under budget and without over burdening respondents. While we'd like to have more cases for each question, we're pretty comfortable that what we have is meaningful.

So what do we have? Statewide Republicans are essentially at parity with Democrats on the generic ballot. In a state considered pretty blue (although NJ did just elect a Republican Governor) this suggests Democrats are in real trouble. But it's not so simple. First, nearly 40%of respondents answered something other than the two parties - someone else, not vote, and don't know. And second, looking at the incumbent question, "incumbents" hold a lead over "challengers".

But much more persuasively - at least for a poll that does NOT look at individual districts - when we aggregate results by which congressional district respondents live in, we find a very different outcome in the generic test. In districts held by Republican incumbents, "a Republican" has a large lead over "a Democrat". And in Democratic districts, the opposite is true. Except for the case of 3rd District Democratic incumbent John Adler (which we did not poll specifically, but simply looking at the challenge developing against him), incumbents of both parties appear in pretty good shape this early on. Having said that, there are lots of undecided potential voters out there, and a lot can happen in eight months.

The incumbent-challenger ballot test also supports this. Aggregating the results by party of incumbent, in Republican districts "Current congressman" beats "challenger" by 31% - 24%, while in Democratic districts the margin for the current member of congress is 38% - 22%.

So there we are. New Jersey registered voters are unhappy with both parties in Washington, but they support Barack Obama. Obama's coattails are limited however, and lots of folks simply don't know yet what they will do. As always these generic ballot tests are limited - voters will actually see names when they do vote, and in competitive races they will hear an awful lot about both sides before November. Still, most races will not be competitive, if history and these results are any guide.

Here's the press release on this poll. Click HERE to get the full release with questions and tables in PDF format.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Despite voter dissatisfaction with Washington politics, most incumbent members of Congress in New Jersey do not appear in great danger of losing their seats, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today.

While 33 percent of registered voters say they will vote for a Democrat for Congress, and 31 percent say they will vote for a Republican, statewide results are misleading. Across the five congressional districts held by Republicans, voters plan to vote for Republicans by a 40 percent to 25 percent margin, while across the eight Democratic districts, voters intend to vote for Democrats by an even larger margin, 41 percent to 22 percent. Significantly, however, nearly 20 percent do not know how they will vote, and 10 percent say they do not plan to vote at all.

The poll of 953 New Jersey adults conducted Feb. 19-22 included 886 registered voters. The full registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. Vote intention questions were asked of half samples which have a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points.

“The overall picture statewide seems to suggest that Republicans are at parity with Democrats in 2010, but this is misleading,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While the statewide vote may be close, it is less likely to be so in most congressional districts. We did not poll at the district level, and in the 3rd district Democrat John Adler is likely to face a very difficult challenge. Still, at the aggregate level incumbents of both parties start the year with an advantage over potential general election challengers.”

When voters were asked about voting for their current member of Congress or for a challenger – without identifying either by party – they gave incumbents a 32 percent to 25 percent lead statewide. Across GOP-held districts, incumbents hold a 7-point lead while overall, Democratic incumbents are ahead by 16 points across their districts. At the same time, voters asked about their 2010 voting plans were much more likely to say they “don’t know” or that they do not plan to vote.

“The wildcards this early in the year are not knowing how many challengers will mount strong campaigns and how undecided voters will feel in eight months.” said Redlawsk. “Historically Rutgers-Eagleton Polls have shown large numbers of undecideds until quite late in an election year. A strong anti-Democrat or even anti-incumbent sentiment could have a base to build on, but it will also need well-funded candidates who appeal to independents.

Independents present a mixed picture

Statewide, it appears that independent voters lean towards Republicans for the 2010 election as they did in the 2009 gubernatorial election when Chris Christie outpolled Jon Corzine with independents, 60 percent to 30 percent. Independents asked about their congressional vote by party choose Republicans, 30 percent to 17 percent. But another 12 percent say they will vote for someone else, 32 percent say they don’t know, and 9 percent say they will not vote. Without labeling candidates by party, independents are evenly split between incumbents and challengers, 28 percent each, while 30 percent don’t know and 14 percent say they will not vote.

More importantly, independents with a preference living in Democratic districts are slightly more likely to vote for a Democrat while those in Republican districts strongly support a Republican. While based on very small samples, the independents’ pro-Democratic margin in districts with Democratic incumbents is 26 percent to 22 percent. In Republican districts, independents vote Republican 30 to 14 percent. According to Redlawsk, this suggests that unless a strong anti-incumbent campaign develops, independents may be mostly drawn to the party of their incumbent congressman, but there are risks for Democrats in the current environment.

Obama voters less certain to vote Democratic in 2010

Not surprisingly, a large share of John McCain voters (75 percent) plan to vote for a Republican for Congress, while 5 percent will vote for a Democrat. But just 57 percent of Barack Obama voters say they will vote for a Democrat this time around and 8 percent choose the GOP. Only 11 percent of McCain voters say they are undecided about November’s vote; twice as many Obama voters (23 percent) have no preference for Congress, and another 8 percent say they will not vote. Virtually all McCain voters claim they will vote in 2010.

Corzine voters are more likely to vote for a fellow Democrat for Congress (68 percent) than Chris Christie voters are to vote for a Republican (58 percent.) According to Redlawsk, the larger overall support for Obama in 2008 compared to Corzine’s in 2009 accounts for the difference. Many Obama voters had already defected from Corzine in 2009, leaving only stronger Democratic voters remaining. Among registered voters who did not vote for governor, twice as many support a Democrat for Congress (41 percent) than a Republican (21 percent.)

Obama approval does not mean long coattails

While 57 percent of New Jersey registered voters approve of President Obama’s job performance, only 51 percent say they will vote for a Democrat for Congress in 2010. Twelve percent say they will vote for a Republican, 10 percent say they do not expect to vote and 22 percent are undecided.

Of the 37 percent who disapprove of Obama’s job performance, 61 percent say they will vote for a Republican while 8 percent will vote for a Democrat despite their disapproval of Obama. Another 8 percent say they will not vote, and 15 percent are undecided.

Those approving of the president’s job performance are much more likely to say they will vote for their incumbent congressman, 42 percent to 15 percent for a challenger. Another 22 percent say they will abstain and 22 percent don’t know. The opposite is true of those who disapprove – 40 percent say they will vote for a challenger, compared to 19 percent for an incumbent. But one-third don’t know and 8 percent will not vote.

Worried voters say they will vote for Democrats; less worried support Republicans

Fifty-one percent of registered voters who worry “a lot” about aspects of their personal financial situation say they will vote for a Democrat for Congress in 2010, while 42 percent of those who do not worry a lot plan to vote for a Republican. Across five concerns – housing, credit card debt, heath insurance, jobs and saving for retirement – 16 percent of voters say none of these worry them “a lot,” while 36 percent worry “a lot” about four or all five concerns. Yet this does not translate to voting for challengers against incumbents. Across all levels of worry, voters pick incumbents by 3 to 10 point margins. Those who worry most are actually more likely to say they favor an incumbent.

Looking specifically at concerns about health insurance coverage, 62 percent of registered voters worry “a lot,” 20 percent worry “a little,” and 18 percent worry “none at all.” Democrats running for Congress have an advantage among those who worry a lot, 38 percent to 26 percent, while those who worry only a little support Republicans, 36 percent to 32 percent. Those without concerns about health care strong support a Republican candidate, 44 percent to 17 percent. Similar patterns hold for other personal financial worries.

Change in the air?

A majority of registered voters in New Jersey (52 percent) believe the change Obama promised in his campaign is happening too slowly. Only 32 percent of these voters say they will vote Democratic in 2010, while 30 percent say they will vote for the Republican for Congress. But 20 percent are undecided.

Of the 13 percent who say change is happening too quickly, 71 percent say they will vote Republican, while 12 percent plan to vote for the Democrat. Only 8 percent do not know their candidate preference and 4 percent say they will not vote.

Thirty-one percent of New Jersey voters think the pace of change in Washington is “about right.” Of these, 49 percent say they will vote Democratic while 13 percent will vote Republican. Twenty-two percent don’t know and 12 percent say they will not vote.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More on the TEA Party Movement in NJ

We are releasing more on our polling on the TEA Party movement in New Jersey. No time to write about it right now other than to post the press release. To get the TABLES and QUESTIONS, click on the post title, or HERE to get a PDF of the release.

Here's the release:


Movement a complex mix of beliefs – most are anti-Obama, but many are more moderate

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Seventy five percent of New Jersey Republicans with a favorable impression of the TEA Party movement think President Barack Obama is a socialist, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Republicans who do not favor the movement disagree, with only 38 percent calling Obama a socialist.

Similarly, while 84 percent of pro-TEA Party Republicans say Obama is disconnected from people like them and 49 percent call the Obama administration un-American, other Republicans have very different opinions: 20 percent call Obama un-American and 51 percent say he is disconnected from people like them.

“We find that Republicans who favor the TEA Party movement are driven, at least in part, by an antipathy towards Obama which is simply less prevalent among Republicans who are not favorable toward the TEA Party,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political Science at Rutgers University. The poll of 953 New Jersey adults including 886 register voters was conducted Feb. 19-22, 2010 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points for the registered voter sample.

Registered voters in New Jersey have a less favorable impression of the TEA Party movement than other states, as shown in recent national polls. Statewide, only 27 percent of New Jersey voters have a favorable impression of the movement, while 29 percent view it unfavorably and 44 percent express no opinion either way.

Not surprisingly, there is a strong partisan split, with 48 percent of Republican or leaning Republican voters expressing a favorable impression of the TEA Party movement, while 10 percent are unfavorable, and 42 percent have no opinion.

At the same time, 30 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats and leaning Democrats have a favorable impression of the movement. Overall, 70 percent of those with a favorable view of the TEA Party are Republicans, while 30 percent are independents and Democrats.

TEA Party Republicans differ from Democrats and independents favoring group

The relatively small sample of pro-TEA Party independents and Democrats diverges from the movement’s Republican supporters in several ways, according to Redlawsk. While Republicans favoring the TEA Party movement are strongly negative toward Obama by an 84 percent to 8 percent margin, two-thirds of non-Republicans who favor the movement also view Obama favorably, and only 20 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. Moreover, 60 percent of the non-Republicans favoring the TEA Party do not believe that Obama is a socialist and 65 percent do not consider his administration un-American.

TEA Party supporters less extreme on issues than on Obama

TEA Party supporters agree with other New Jersey voters about New Jerseyans’ lack of personal fiscal responsibility. More than 68 percent of the state’s voters believe that Americans are not personally fiscally responsible. This includes 73 percent of GOP TEA Party supporters, and 65 percent of those who are not; 62 percent of non-Republican TEA Party supporters, and 69 percent of Democrats and independents who do not favor the movement.

On the government bailout of large financial institutions TEA Party Republicans look more like other Republicans, with 85 percent disagreeing that the “financial bailout was a good use of money” compared to 75 percent of Republicans without a favorable impression of the movement. Among Democrats and independents, 53 percent oppose the bailout regardless of their views of the Tea Party.

Asked to react to the statement, “Our country used to stand for something; it doesn’t anymore,” TEA Party supporters are more likely to agree, regardless of party preference; 62 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats and independents concur. The statement is supported by only a minority of those who do not view the TEA Party favorably: 49 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats and independents.

Republicans who favor the TEA Party are less likely to believe that “Government should do more to help middle class people,” with 65 percent in agreement. Still, when action is focused on the middle class, a majority of TEA Party supporters see a role for government. All others groups of respondents were even more likely to agree, with 79 percent of Republican Tea Party detractors, 86 percent of Democrats and independents who favor the TEA Party and 89 percent of all other Democrats and independents agreeing with the statement.

“Taken together, we see that those with a favorable view of the TEA Party movement cannot be cast as a single group marching in lockstep,” said Redlawsk. “In some ways Republicans favorable towards the movement are completely different from their fellow Republicans, or from non-Republicans who also favor the movement. But in others, TEA Party supporters of all stripes differ from those without a favorable view of the group. And in still other ways, TEA Party supporters are directly in the opinion mainstream.”

“Ultimately, our analysis suggests that among Republicans TEA Party supporters there is great motivation in their negativity towards Obama,” said Redlawsk. “But pro-Tea Party Democrats and independents have more general concerns about the state of America today.”

TEA Party Republicans less worried about their personal situation

Differences between TEA Party Republican supporters and other voters are very clear when asked how much they worry about their personal financial situation. Pro-TEA Party GOPers are much less worried than other voters about housing, health insurance, jobs and retirement. The difference is stark for housing, where just 18 percent of Republicans favoring the TEA Party worry “a lot” about the availability of good housing compared to 33 percent to 42 percent from other groups. While 45 percent of these Republicans worry “a lot” about health insurance coverage, 62 percent to 75 percent from other groups worry a lot about coverage.

That Pro-Tea Party Republicans are financially better off than counterparts from other groups, explains different levels of concern, Redlawsk said.

Demographics of TEA Party Movement

GOP TEA Party movement supporters are clustered in the $50,000 to $100,000 income range and are somewhat older than the average New Jersey voter. They are also significantly more likely to be male, white, and to consider themselves born-again Christians. Democrats and independents favoring the TEA Party are more likely to have incomes under $50,000, are much younger, and less likely to be white males.

“There appear to be two demographic bases for the TEA Party movement,” said Redlawsk. “One is a higher income, older, male, Republican, anti-Obama group. The other is a lower income, younger group who are not Republicans and who like Obama. These voters are attracted to the TEA Party because of worries about their own financial situation and feelings that something is wrong in America. With more than a quarter of New Jersey voters favorable towards the TEA Party, it is possible that the movement could have real impact on politics. The question is whether it can provide what both groups want at the same time. If the focus is on impacting the Republican Party, it may lose the 30 percent who are not Republicans. But to keep that group happy may require a focus that is much broader than Republican Party politics and an intense dislike of the Obama administration.”