Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's all a matter of perspective

Patrick Murray at Monmouth points out that in the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll the numbers of those saying NJ is an excellent or good place to live at pretty low compared to historic numbers. And of course that is what the data show, so Patrick is correct. But there is more context to this than simply that number and its trend over time. As Patrick also points out, the percentage who say they take pride in the state and who say they would move out of state if they could have changed little.

But here's the context. This latest poll was asked in the middle of the the worst recession since the depression 80 years ago, and in the middle of one of the most acrimonious debates over the state budget and the future of the state in a long time. Frankly it is fascinating that the numbers look as good as they do in this context.

Of course trends can give useful information. But trends are meaningless without the context in which they operate. And our focus for this poll was on where we are right now, which seems pretty good in light of all of the "stuff" going on around the state and all of the personal challenges individuals are facing.

Not long ago, kind of buried in this Rutgers-Eagleton release we listed some questions about how worried NJ residents are about various economic issues: 36% worry a lot about credit card debt, 36% worry a lot about the availability of good housing, 62% worry a lot about health insurance coverage, and 64% worry a lot about the availability of a good job. Yet in spite of all these worries, most like it here in NJ and most take pride in the state.

So yes, the "place to live" question shows a decline over time, especially recently. But put that decline in the context of right now - and in the context that other indicators are stable - and frankly I was surprised that as many people were positive as there are. But then maybe I am too much of an optimist about things.

And I will bet that once the economy picks up and whatever changes Christie brings about have time to settle in (which could be a while, I suppose), the "good place to live" numbers will move back up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Believe It or Not - Most New Jerseyans Like it Here!

Newsflash! New Jerseyans mostly like NJ! While there are certainly things to complain about - taxes in particular top the list - the latest results from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll show that most residents of New Jersey would stay put in their neighborhood even if they could move (though 23 percent would move out of state), and a majority has at least some (or a great deal) of pride in the state. There is of course a sense among some that most people in New Jersey would leave if they could, and feel little connection to their state. Our results suggest this isn't really true. There is lots to like about living in New Jersey, though maybe ironically one of the top reasons people gave us was the state's proximity to New York City. But other top reasons include the Jersey Shore, the environment in general, and the state's diversity.

So for those of you who think the reason bridge tolls in New Jersey are only on the outbound side is charge people who want to leave, the reality is that people in New Jersey do take pride in the state and in the many things that make it a good place to live. There are problems, of course, including high property taxes, but it seems in most New Jersey residents' minds those problems are outweighed by the positives of such a diverse and interesting place.

The press release follows. Questions and tables can be found here.


While somewhat critical, residents find many good things about Garden State

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – New Jerseyans are simultaneously very proud of their state and somewhat critical of it as a place to live, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 13 percent say it is an excellent place to live, but 39 percent call it a good place to live. Fully half say they take a lot of pride in living here, and less than a quarter say they would move out of the state if they had the opportunity to do so.

The poll of 953 New Jersey adults was conducted March 31 – April 3 and has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

“While New Jerseyans certainly find things to complain about, a majority still see the state as a good place to live,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “What we see is that the many good things about the state seem to outweigh frustrations for most residents.”

Best and worst of New Jersey

Asked to name the best thing about living in New Jersey, respondents gave a wide range of answers, including its proximity to New York and other major centers, the beaches and the shore, the natural environment generally and the state’s diversity. “New Jerseyans have many reasons to like their state, and no one reason really dominates,” said Redlawsk.

About the state’s negatives, taxes were named by 37 percent of respondents, far outpacing any other dislike. Other common negatives were the cost of living here, significant traffic congestion and the existence of political corruption.

“It is no surprise that taxes led the negatives,” said Redlawsk. “This reflects both the sense that taxes are high, but also the ongoing debate over the state budget, which was well underway when we did this survey.”

Lots of pride in New Jersey

Half of New Jerseyans say they take a lot of pride living in the Garden State, while only 8 percent say they don’t take any pride living here. Given the opportunity, 23 percent of respondents said they would move out of state. A large majority (63 percent) would continue to live in their neighborhoods, while another 14 percent would move within their town or elsewhere in the state.

“While some people clearly have frustrations, most would stay here even if they could leave,” Redlawsk said. “This really suggests a sense of stability, even while there are plenty of issues the state needs to address.”

Overall, New Jersey seen as a good place to live

More than half of those polled called New Jersey an excellent (13 percent) or good (39 percent) place to live. Fifteen percent say it is a poor place to live; one in three rates it fair. The 63 percent of residents who would stay in their neighborhoods even if they could move are more positive: 16 percent call the state excellent, and 48 percent good. Sixty percent of this group takes lots of pride in their state, but of the 23 percent who would leave if they could, 80 percent rate New Jersey as only a fair (48 percent) or poor (32 percent) place to live.

Contentment varies with region, party identification, income, race, and age

A closer look at attitudes towards life in New Jersey shows most strikingly that where people live has a great effect on their happiness with the state. Urban residents are more likely to rate New Jersey as an excellent place to live (21 percent) compared to suburban and exurban/northwest residents (13 percent). Ten percent of those at the shore and 8 percent near Philadelphia grade the state excellent. Conversely, 20 percent of Philadelphia area residents call the state a poor place to live, higher than in any other region.

Almost six in 10 urban residents take a lot of pride living here, but only 46 percent of those near Philadelphia feel the same. Given this, not surprisingly Philadelphia area residents are the most likely to say they would move out of state if they could (29 percent). More than two-thirds of exurban residents would remain in their neighborhoods, even if they could move.

Democrats are much happier with life in the Garden State than Republicans, despite the election of a Republican governor last fall; 60 percent of Democrats rate New Jersey as an excellent or good place to live, compared with 45 percent of GOP backers. Independents are also less likely than Democrats to assess New Jersey positively as a place to live.

Wealthier residents are somewhat more content with life in New Jersey. Of those with household incomes over $150,000, 60 percent say the Garden State is an excellent or good place to live, while 50 percent of those making less than $50,000 feel the same.

Asians and Latinos (both 20 percent) are most likely to grade the Garden State as an excellent place to live. Only 12 percent of white respondents and 10 percent of blacks do the same. Black respondents also are more likely to say they would leave the state if they could, with 30 percent ready to move, compared with 24 percent of whites and less than 10 percent of the small samples of Asians and Latinos.

The poll’s youngest and oldest respondents are most proud of New Jersey. More than half (56 percent) of 18-to-29 year olds say they feel a lot of pride in New Jersey compared with 46 percent of 30-to-49 year olds, and 45 percent of 50-to-64 year olds. Fifty-seven percent of those older than 65 said they feel a lot of pride.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Attitudes Towards Local Government Consolidation

Among the other issues we covered in our recent polling in new Jersey is the question of consolidating local government. New Jersey has an amazing number of municipalities and school boards, and a very strong tradition of home rule. But this fragmentation comes with a presumed cost - duplication and inefficiency in particular. In a time of massive state budget cuts and increasingly difficult local budget problems, it may be that merging some of NJ's local governments could have some positive impact.

But the assumption is that consolidation would not be popular with residents of towns that would be merged. The evidence seems to support this in the sense that the few attempts to do so by ballot have generally failed. But it turns out that at least in the abstract New Jerseyans today support local government consolidation, believing it would improve efficiency while maintaining or improving the quality of services provided by local government.

Following is today's release on attitudes towards municipal consolidation. The detailed tables and questions can be found here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – A majority of New Jerseyans favor consolidating local governments, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Support for consolidation is driven by the 50 percent of residents who say there are too many local governments and the 70 percent who believe the quality of local services would stay the same or get better under consolidation.

While believing there are too many local governments, Garden Staters remain more committed to their local schools, with only 36 percent saying there are too many school districts. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, conducted March 31 to April 3, included 953 New Jersey adults. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

“New Jerseyans feel overtaxed at the local level, and believe one solution is to increase efficiency by consolidating local governments,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “As we reported earlier, this same poll shows strong support for cuts in state aid to local government, and making it easier to fire municipal workers. Given what is sometimes called the ‘hyperlocal’ focus of residents, to see a majority support doing away with their own local government is fairly surprising. But it is another reflection of the difficult financial times facing the state.”

Redlawsk also noted that the school district findings are supported by other results showing residents do not want to cut state aid to schools or to lay off teachers. “Residents make a clear distinction between support for their schools and support – or a lack of it – for local government,” he said.

Most Support Local Government Consolidation

Fifty-four percent of respondents favor government consolidation, while 38 percent would prefer to maintain their own local government, the poll found. Half believe there are too many municipal governments, while 40 percent say the number is just right. Nearly three-quarters who say there are too many local governments support consolidation and only 21 percent would prefer to keep their own local officials. Among those who do not think there are too many local governments, 36 percent still support consolidation while 55 percent would keep their own government.

Regional support for consolidation is strongest among Philadelphia area residents (66 percent) and in the exurban areas of New Jersey (67 percent), with 53 percent from shore counties and fewer than half of suburban and urban residents in favor. Resistance to consolidation is strongest in the suburbs: 46 percent oppose the concept compared to 26 percent opposition in exurban areas, 33 percent in the Philadelphia area, 38 percent in shore counties and 39 percent in urban areas.

The prospect of lower property taxes reduces opposition to consolidation, Redlawsk observed. Forty-five percent of opponents said they would favor consolidation if guaranteed a 10 percent tax cut; 54 percent would become proponents with a 20 percent cut. With a 10 percent cut, 47 percent of respondents continue to prefer their own local government but support falls to 36 percent with the enticement of a 20 percent rollback “While consolidation does not guarantee lower taxes, if residents thought merging local government would save money, they would be even more in favor than they are now,” Redlawsk said.

Quality of Services Expected to be Maintained

One-in-four New Jerseyans believe the quality of local services would improve under consolidation, but another 25 percent think services would worsen. Almost half (45 percent) envision no changes in quality. These results are similar to a 1994 Eagleton Poll where 24 percent thought they would see an improvement in quality, 27 percent anticipated a drop in quality and 40 percent thought the quality of services would not change.

“Little has changed between polls,” Redlawsk said, “but there has been virtually no actual consolidation. One reason may be that the state has provided few incentives or mandates to consolidate, and when push comes to shove, the pressure to maintain a sense of community seems to win out, even when residents say they would support consolidation in theory.”

Those favoring consolidation also think it will increase the efficiency of local government by nearly a 6-to-1 margin (62 percent to 11 percent), with 24 percent anticipating not much change.

Among those who approve the current number of municipal governments, most (47 percent) still say not much would change if consolidation were to occur, while 31 percent believe municipal government would be less efficient, and 16 percent say it would be more efficient.

Overall, New Jerseyans think the quality of local services would not be impacted negatively by consolidation, with almost two-thirds of those in favor also believing greater governmental efficiency would result. “Given the economic conditions of the state, there may be more openness to consolidation as a way to get a handle on ever rising costs and property taxes,” Redlawsk said.

Local Government is about Police, Schools, and Garbage Collection

When asked to name their most important local government service, 27 percent of respondents named police services, followed by local schools (23 percent), garbage and recycling (10 percent), roads (9 percent) and fire and rescue (5 percent). No other service drew more than 5 percent of responses.

“Local government is mainly about providing basic services to residents, including police and fire services,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time schools are clearly important to residents. They are reluctant to make cuts in school aid or to lay off teachers but are happy to make it easy to fire municipal workers.”
Redlawsk said that Garden State residents are much less likely to say that there are too many school districts than too many local governments. Only 36 percent say there are too many school districts, while 41 percent say the number of districts is just right, and 14 percent believe there are actually too few school districts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The NY Times is Right about Tea Party Supporters

The New York Times has it Right
Supports February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of New Jersey Residents

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll releases on Tea Party in New Jersey:
February 25, 2010
March 2, 2010

Today's New York Times Report

Today’s (April 15) New York Times reports on what they call the first ever national poll of Tea Party supporters. Methodologically they over sampled supporters of the Tea Party movement in order to ensure a large enough sample from which to draw statistically valid conclusions with a reasonable margin of sampling error. This strategy allows them to report the demographics of Tea Party supporters nationally: “mostly white males, over 45, more wealthy and more conservative than the norm.”

This poll goes a long way towards helping us understand who feels affiliated with the tea Party movement and some of their beliefs. And these national findings track well with our earlier poll of New Jersey. We reported on March 2 that

50 percent of [New Jersey] voters who view the Tea Party favorably are Republicans even though Republicans make up only 27 percent of the registered voter sample. Independents comprise 35 percent of tea party supporters, while 15 percent are Democrats.

We also stated that in New Jersey:

While 27 percent of all New Jersey voters have a favorable impression of the Tea Party, this rises to 31 percent of exurban residents, compared to only 21 percent of urban dwellers. Very few blacks (only 5 percent) have a favorable impression of the Tea Party movement, but more than half (54 percent) of the very small sample of Asian voters express a favorable view, compared to 29 percent of all whites and 24 percent of Latino voters. Tea Party supporters are more likely to be male, with 31 percent of men favorable, compared to 24 percent of women. Higher income also defines those who view the Tea Party movement favorably. While only 18 percent of voters making less than $50,000 have a favorable view, 30 percent of those making more than $50,000 do.

It looks like New Jersey Tea Party supporters are a lot like what the Times finds nationally: whiter, more wealthy, and male, as well as heavily Republican (and thus more conservative) than the norm for the state of New Jersey.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll also found that in New Jersey Tea Party supporters have very extreme views of Barack Obama – with 75% of Republican Tea Party supporters calling him a socialist and 49% calling his administration un-American.

But as befits a group that is generally more wealthy than the public at large, GOP Tea Party supporters in New Jersey are less worried than most about their own personal situation, with few worries 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.

While our numbers are based on much smaller samples because the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll did not over sample for Tea Party supporters (and thus our results have a much higher margin of sampling error) it is interesting and instructive to see that our findings for New Jersey are essentially replicated in a national survey.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Continuing our releases of data on the budget, today we have more details on what NJ residents are willing to cut and what they are not. Quick story: By a large margin they are not supportive of cuts to K-12 education or to laying off teachers, they are mixed (49% oppose - 48% support) on cuts to higher education, and they do not want cuts to assistance to the poor.

What do NJ residents want to cut? They strongly support cut to state aid to local government, and strongly support making it easier to lay off municipal workers.

And they do not support raising taxes or fees to balance the budget.

Here's the release. Tables and details available here.


Residents support cuts to municipal aid, environmental programs, public transportation and property tax rebates, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Despite recognition that the state budget needs to be balanced, New Jersey residents believe cuts should be avoided in the areas of education and poverty relief, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Majorities want no budget reductions at all in state aid to local schools (57 percent) and programs for the poor (51 percent), while 49 percent oppose cuts to state colleges and universities. A large majority (72 percent) also opposes making it easier to lay off school teachers.

At the same time, majorities of New Jerseyans reject raising additional state revenues through increased taxes or fees to solve the budget problem and especially oppose raising the gas tax and raising state income tax rates generally (72 percent opposed for each).

Residents are willing to accept cuts in some areas, however, with only 31 percent opposing cuts to municipal aid, 39 percent opposing cuts to environmental programs and 42 percent opposing cuts to property tax rebates.

The poll, conducted March 31 – April 3, included 953 New Jersey adults. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

“Our recent poll showed that half of New Jerseyans are displeased with Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “These new results give a good sense of residents’ priorities in this difficult time. Laying off teachers or significantly cutting school aid are not seen as solutions. On the other hand, given today’s economic challenges, people do not want to see their own costs increase either. The state is between a rock and a hard place, with clear support for a limited number of solutions, one of which is cuts to municipal government.”

Unwilling to make cuts to public education or aid to the poor

Garden State residents strongly oppose funding cuts for their schools; 57 percent are against any cuts, while 15 percent want such aid cut deeper and 26 percent want lesser cuts. Higher education also fares well, as 49 percent oppose any reductions in college and university funding while 18 percent want deeper cuts and 30 percent want more modest cuts. “Though overall there seems to be little stomach for deep school aid cuts, this is driven by Democrats and independents, nearly two-thirds of whom oppose reducing school aid, while only 38 percent of Republicans oppose cuts,” said Redlawsk. He added that independents side with Republicans on cuts for higher education, with a minority of each groups opposing cuts. Conversely, 65 percent of Democrats oppose higher education cuts.

Independents favor protecting local schools and teachers, but are less supportive of state funding for higher education in the current economic environment.

New Jerseyans also want to protect the poor – 51 percent want no cuts in state programs to aid the poor, and 76 percent do not want to balance local budgets by making it easier to decrease assistance to the needy. There is broad agreement on protecting such help at the local level, with only 33 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats supporting cuts. Republicans, however, are much more likely to support reductions to programs for the poor at the state level, with only 34 percent opposing any state cuts, compared to 53 percent of independents and 62 percent of Democrats.

“There is great sympathy for the poor, probably driven by the broad effects the recession has had on people at all economic levels,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time different political philosophies come into play, with conservatives supportive of local efforts but ready to cut statewide programs, while liberals do not want cuts to the poor at any level.”

New Jerseyans willing to fire municipal workers, but not teachers

Given options on how the state could make it easier to balance local budgets, 57 percent of those polled favor making it easier to fire municipal workers; 38 percent oppose this approach. About one-in-four wants to ease restrictions to lay off teachers and police, and one-in-five favors making it easier to cut assistance to the poor.

“New Jerseyans appear to think there are too many municipal workers and that layoffs in this area could help close local budget gaps,” said Redlawsk. He observed that in addition only 31 percent oppose cutting state aid to local governments. “Clearly if there are to be state aid cuts, most residents want them to hit municipal budgets, not school budgets,” he said.

Raising revenues through taxes and fees nixed by most

New Jerseyans overwhelmingly oppose increasing taxes or fees to close the state budget gap, with resistance strongest to raising the gas and state income tax. Seventy-two percent of respondents oppose either measure. Only 25 percent support an increase in the gas tax and 24 percent support a general increase in state income tax. Residents also oppose raising highway tolls (58 percent) and are against fare hikes on buses and trains (57 percent).
Garden Staters are least resistant to an increase in business tax. Just over 51 percent oppose an increase in business tax, while 43 percent express support for such a measure.

“The challenge to the state is how to make the necessary cuts and revenue enhancements to balance the budget,” said Redlawsk. “New Jerseyans are not completely unrealistic, but they do not want across the board cuts. Yet they do not want to pay more in taxes and fees.

“In a late February Rutgers-Eagleton poll, 61 percent opposed eliminating the surtax on high income residents. Even Republicans were more in favor of the surtax (47 percent) than opposed (46 percent). There is no reason to think this has changed over the last month. Taken together with today’s results, this suggests Garden State residents want to protect school funding and poverty programs, are willing to cut municipal funding and want the pain spread around to include high-income New Jerseyans.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NJ Supports Health Care Reform Bill


Release and Tables here

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jerseyans generally support the health care reform law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows. While a late February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found that two-thirds believed then that Congress should start over with the bill, 48 percent of New Jersey residents now support the law, while 40 percent oppose it, and 12 percent don’t know. Support is slightly lower among registered voters at 47 percent, with 41 percent opposing the bill.

The poll of 953 adults was conducted March 31 to April 3, with a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points. The poll includes a subsample of 845 registered voters.

“New Jerseyans have been supportive of some kind of health care reform all along,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But many were confused by the process and as a result polling seemed to say they would oppose the bill that ultimately was passed. However, this turns out not to be the case.”

Not surprisingly, Republicans do strongly oppose the law, with only 9 percent saying they support it, and 83 percent opposed. The remaining 8 percent are not sure. In turn, 76 percent of Democrats support the law, and only 16 percent oppose it, with 8 percent unsure. Independents are more mixed, with 43 percent in support and 40 percent opposed, while 17 percent are unsure. Ideological moderates, regardless of party, support the new law, 51 percent to 35 percent, while 14 percent don’t know.

Support for health care reform is strongest among those with household incomes under $50,000 at 59 percent, while 38 percent of those with household incomes over $150,000 support the legislation.

“Support for this health care reform law is solid among moderates, and among people who are most likely to benefit,” said Redlawsk. “While there is significant opposition, it generally comes from those less likely to support Democrats, suggesting that passage of health care reform is unlikely to hurt Democratic candidates significantly in New Jersey.”

Opponents of the new law were asked if their opposition is because the bill is “too liberal” or because it is “not liberal enough.” Three-quarters of opponents say the law is too liberal, but 14 percent said they oppose the law because it is not liberal enough. Most Republican opponents (87 percent) say the law is too liberal, while a majority of the relatively small number of Democrats opposed (57 percent) also say it is too liberal. Among independents who oppose the law, 66 percent call it too liberal and 21 percent not liberal enough.

“Digging deeper into the opposition to this law, we see that while most opponents are driven by the belief the bill is too liberal, not all are,” said Redlawsk. “In the end, only 30 percent of New Jerseyans oppose this bill because it is too liberal, far less than it appears when the reason for opposition is not probed.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NEW POLL: Christie Budget Splits Garden Staters

NJ Governor Chris Christie gave his budget address on March 16 and it was an address like no other. Christie told the state that is is broke and that the solution is cuts nearly across the board. He made clear that he intends to depart from business as usual and spent a good deal of time laying the blame for the budget problems at the feet of predecessors, the legislature and both parties in it, and public employee union benefits and pension plans.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll decided to wait a couple weeks to let the realities of the budget sink in, and then to see what Garden Staters think about it. So we went into the field March 31-April 3 to find out, and today we are releasing the first set of results. There is a lot of information here, but the quick story is that New Jerseyans are split on the budget, in some predicable ways, and as he himself predicted, Christie's favorables have taken a significant hit.

One of the cornerstones of the proposed budget is "Proposition 2 1/2" which would place a hard cap on property tax increases of 2 1/2 percent annually. Local voters could allow higher increases, but the governing bodies could not go higher without voter approval. This proposal is patterned on a Massachusetts law.

We asked New Jerseyans what they think about this. Not surprisingly it is wildly popular, but such caps usually are when people do not think about any consequences. So we split our sample, and for half we laid out some consequences that some observers in MA have noted. When we did this, the results are exactly the opposite. Thinking about potential consequences changes opinion - instead of strong support, there becomes strong opposition.

Interesting fodder for whatever campaign materializes around this issue.

The full release follows. Questions and tables can be found HERE.


50 percent of New Jerseyans are displeased with budget while governor’s favorability rating drops 12 points since March 16 address to Legislature

As he himself predicted, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s new budget has not won him many friends, according the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. The Poll finds impressions of Christie dropped from 45 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable in February 2010 to 33 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable following his March 16 budget address. This 12-point drop in one month comes on the heels of a budget proposal that displeases 50 percent of New Jersey residents while pleasing only 43 percent. Even so the Governor is seen much more favorably than either party in state government, where only 26 percent view Democrats and 25 percent see Republicans favorably.

“Three weeks after the budget speech, the impact is starting to sink in,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The result is a recognition that the proposed budget cuts are going to hurt and a significant decrease in favorable impressions of Christie.”
The poll, conducted March 31 – April 3, included 953 New Jersey adults. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points. Specific questions about the budget were asked of a subsample of adults who had heard at least “a little” about the budget.

New Jerseyans are Paying Attention

Governor Christie’s budget proposal has garnered a great deal of attention from Garden Staters, with nearly 4 in 10 who said they had heard at least a little about the budget saying they watched or listened to at least part of the budget speech itself, and 65 percent saying they have heard or read at least something about the budget. “That more than a third of New Jerseyans saw or heard the budget speech first-hand is a testament to how seriously people take the state’s economic situation,” said Redlawsk. “It is also recognition of how visible Christie himself has been on the budget issue. There are very high levels of awareness across all demographic groups.”

Reaction to the Budget Mixed at Best

Of those who have heard about the budget, 43 percent say they are very or somewhat pleased with it, while 50 percent are somewhat or very displeased. Another 8 percent are unsure of their response. Not surprisingly, opposition is centered among those who view Christie unfavorably, with 90 percent displeased. Of those who view Christie favorably, 88 percent say they are pleased with the budget. “Support for Christie is tied directly to the budget proposal,” said Redlawsk. “How this budget process proceeds and the ultimate impact on New Jersey residents may well define Christie’s next few years in office. Of particular note is that the 30 percent of New Jerseyans who have neither a favorable nor unfavorable impression of Christie are displeased by the budget by a 50 percent to 30 percent margin.”

Predictably, Democrats are strongly displeased by the budget (48 percent very displeased) while Republicans are pleased (73 percent either very pleased or somewhat pleased). Independents are evenly split, with 45 percent either very or somewhat pleased and 44 percent very or somewhat displeased. Women are less likely to be pleased by the budget, with 55 percent displeased compared to 44 percent of men.

High-income residents are much more pleased with the budget than any other income group, with 54 percent of those earning $150,000 or more saying they are pleased, while 43 percent are displeased. On the other end of the scale, only 31 percent of those making under $50,000 are very or somewhat pleased. “Those who expect to feel less impact of the budget cuts are much happier with the proposed budget than those who expect to feel the brunt,” said Redlawsk. “Since Christie’s budget does not reinstate the surtax on high earners, which New Jerseyans strongly support according to our February 2010 poll, better-off New Jerseyans are more likely to support it.”

Homeowners are also more pleased with the budget, with 46 percent very or somewhat pleased, compared to 35 percent of renters,.

Budget Cuts Expected to Affect Most

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of Garden State residents aware of the budget expect Christie’s proposed budget cuts to affect them “a great deal,” while another 42 percent expect some impact from the cuts. Fewer than one in 10 expects no impact. “New Jerseyans know that these budget cuts are wide and deep,” said Redlawsk.

Those who expect the budget cuts to affect them a great deal are altogether unhappy with the Governor’s proposal; only 15 percent are at all pleased with the budget proposal, while 59 percent are very displeased. On the other hand, 60 percent of those who expect the cuts to affect them “very little” are pleased with the proposal. “There is a clear sense of self-interest in these results,” noted Redlawsk. “While people may be mistaken in their expectations, those who expect little impact profess to be quite pleased with the plan.”

Christie Favorables now Upside Down

Governor Christie is viewed significantly less favorably now than he was when the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll surveyed New Jerseyans in late February. The February poll gave the Governor a +19 rating, with 45 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable. The new poll has him upside down at -4, with 33 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable, a swing of 23 percentage points.

“The primary event that occurred between our February Poll and the post-budget poll was the budget address,” said Redlawsk. “While Christie has taken a number of actions that might bother some groups, the budget was the most visible, and it has clearly resulted in a major negative shift in opinion about the Governor.”
Christie has lost support across all parties, but most notably among independents, whose positive feelings dropped from 48 percent in February to 34 percent in March. Even so, Christie comes out ahead when compared to how residents feel about their representatives at the state capitol. Only 26 percent say they feel favorably towards the Democrats in Trenton and 25 percent towards the Republicans.

The Governor draws more support from men more than women. Only 30 percent of woman report a favorable impression, compared to 36 percent of their male counterparts. Additionally, those with household incomes more than $150,000 annually are the only group in which the majority views Christie favorably. Of high earners, 50 percent feel favorable toward the Governor, compared to 38 percent with incomes from $100,000-150,000, 34 percent of those between $50,000-$100,000 and 22 percent with household incomes less than 50 thousand dollars per year.

Constitutional Amendment to Limit Property Taxes Supported -- Or Maybe Not

Governor Christie also proposed what he calls “Proposition 2 ½,” based on a Massachusetts constitutional requirement that property taxes increase no more than 2 ½ percent annually. Public opinion on the proposal at this early stage varies widely depending on how the question is phrased when the idea is described. Half of the respondents to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll were asked as if they would support a constitutional amendment proposed by the governor to limit property tax increases. Not surprisingly, nearly two out of three (64 percent) said “yes”. Support for such an amendment is wide, with majority support from Republicans, Democrats, and independents, as well as all income groups and all races.

The other half were asked the same question, but told that Massachusetts had a similar law that “some say resulted in closing fire stations, libraries, and senior centers, and cuts in school programs.” When put this way, a majority oppose the property tax limits the Governor advocates, with 57 percent opposed and 34 percent in support. Only Republicans reach 50 percent support when potential consequences are presented, while 78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents oppose the measure.

“These stunning results suggest that while there is a great deal of concern about property taxes in New Jersey, there is equal concern about what passing Proposition 2 ½ might do,” said Redlawsk. When asked to limit taxes without being made aware of any consequences, New Jerseyans across the board respond with a rousing ‘Yes!’ But when they consider the loss of services that might come with such limits, support dries up considerably. Both supporters and opponents of Proposition 2 ½ might take a lesson from these results.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Poll Results Coming

Earlier this year we decided that we could run two polls during the academic semester, one in late February after our new Governor, Chris Christie had been in office a short time, and another in late March/Early April following his March 16 budget speech. The first poll resulted in releases on the 2010 Congressional Elections, two releases on the Tea Party in New Jersey (1, 2), and some interesting data on initial support for Christie (positive) and his unwillingness to reinstate the income tax surcharge on high earners (which most New Jersey residents want). We also took a look at health care reform before the bill passed Congress.

We're now ready to begin releasing results from our second poll, the one after Christie's budget speech. This one focuses on reactions to the budget (mixed), and where the budget cuts should come. We also asked some questions about municipal consolidation as one way to cut costs of government in New Jersey.

We expect to begin these releases tomorrow, with the budget front and center followed by views on budget cuts. Next week we'll have something on consolidation and also a little bit on how New Jersey residents view their state.

We think there is some interesting stuff in all of this, so stay tuned!