Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shooting from the Hip doesn't always Pan Out

This past week has seen a new type of story on NJ Governor Chris Christie - one in which failure figures prominently. It goes something like this: First we learn New Jersey came in 11th in the federal Race to the Top competition for school funding. Unfortunately there were only 10 winners. That's bad enough, but then it turns out there was an error in the New Jersey application that cost us 4.2 points. We apparently only needed 3 more to come in 10th and get the $400 million prize.

Governor Christie takes to the podium, three binders in hand, which he says is the thousand page application. He rails on at faceless bureaucrats in Washington, President Obama, and others, saying it's Washington's fault we lost out, that we weren't allowed to correct a minor clerical error made by some mid level staff person. It's vintage Christie, shooting from the hip.

Then we find out that the feds videotaped the presentation, and despite the Governor's claims, NJ WAS given a chance to produce the right numbers. And it's on tape. Suddenly shooting from the hip doesn't look so good. We also find out that the original version of the application that (now former) Education Commissioner Bret Schundler worked out with the NJEA had the right information. But the Governor, in a high profile, shooting from the hip slap down of both the NJEA and Schundler, rejected the compromise and (presumably) his office redid the application and introduced the error.

So in the next shot from the hip Schundler ends up directly in the line of fire and is out as Commissioner. But he insists he did nothing wrong, and in fact told the Governor not to make the claim that the Obama administration didn't let New Jersey correct the numbers.

So here we are. A Governor who has blasted to fame as a straight talking, shoot from the hip, take no prisoners, etc., kind of guy, is caught by his own style.

Is this going to hurt him politically? Will it embolden the Democrats, who seem to cower in Christie's presence? Our recent polling might give some some insight.

In our August 2010 poll we found that Christie was viewed favorably by 46% and unfavorably by 39%. Both numbers are up from last spring, when he was viewed more negatively. But interestingly, his job performance numbers are quite negative, with only 39% rating him excellent or good, and 58% only fair or poor.

So New Jersey voters like Christie overall as a governor, but do not think he's doing that good a job. What kept his favorables positive in the face of the job performance number?

I think it is because New Jerseyans have appreciated Christie's style of leadership, with 70 percent saying the words "Strong Leader" apply either very or somewhat well to him. They also think he's smart with 76 percent saying that word applies. So he's a smart, strong leader, which in times of uncertainty people like very much. Even a majority of Democrats think these words apply to him.

But, 76 percent also say he is stubborn, and 60 percent report that "arrogant" applies to the Governor. And therein lies some risk for him in this dust up.

Will this nearly half-billion dollar screw up hurt the Governor? It is likely to if it impacts beliefs about him being a smart leader, and reinforces his stubbornness and even arrogance in people's minds. But more importantly, it is likely to because Garden Staters LOVE their local schools and their teachers. They may well not love the teacher's union, but that's a lot like hating congress but liking one's own congressman, which time and time again is the case. And here was a chance to get a lot of money for our schools. A chance that was bungled.

In all our polling on the budget, one thing comes out clearly. The cuts to school funding are not popular and many people want the funding restored. In our August poll we asked whether overall budget cuts should be reversed when times get better, or taxes cut. While we haven't published the results, we found that 41 percent want programs restored (while 53 percent want tax cuts). We then asked those who want programs restored, which should be the top priority, and school funding blew every other option away, with 51 percent. Second was restoring programs for the poor at only 16 percent. This tracks with our polling in April where there was strong desire to protect education.

So the numbers tell us that Christie's support from the public is based not so much on job performance, and definitely not on the budget (only 30 percent support the budget in our August poll) but instead on perceptions of Christie the smart strong leader, who comes across as taking on the entrenched interests. And this 400 million dollar misstep may well erode that image the longer it is talked about. If so this could be the beginning of a new perspective on the rookie Governor. Votes may well begin questioning whether it is the leadership or the stubbornness and arrogance that drives what Christie does. As a leader people respect him even if they disagree. But if his leadership results in such high profile failures, they may begin to wonder what else they should question about his approach to running New Jersey.

Governor Christie may continue to shoot from the hip, but he will need to be more careful where he's pointing when he does so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Overview of NJ's Congressional Races

Today we follow up on a survey we ran way back in February, trying to get an overall feel for the upcoming Congressional races in New Jersey. There are no statewide races on the ballot this fall, so it is likely to be a low turnout election, if history is any guide. On the other hand, a surprising number of people claim to be paying at least some attention to news about the election, and we all keep reading about how certain groups are energized and others are not. So maybe we'll see more coming to the polls than usual for this off-year election.

In any case, we did a statewide survey where we split the sample into two groups. With one group we asked the standard generic Republican vs. Democrat ballot test for Congress. With the other we asked about voting for "your current congressman" versus a "challenger running against him". (YES, all of NJ's members of Congress are male.)

These aggregate results give us an overall picture, but of course do not tell us about individual districts, since we have only about 55-60 respondents per district. So we aggregate by whether the district is currently held by a Republican or a Democrat to look a little more deeply at the results.

I should note too that these statewide aggregate results do NOT include the 3rd district, where we specifically polled the Adler/Runyan race. The release on that race is available here.

Following is the release. A PDF with the release and questions and tables is available here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Will New Jersey voters support their incumbent congressional representatives in this fall’s contentious midterm elections?
Their answers depend on how the question is asked.

If the question is framed in terms of incumbency – will you vote for your current congressman? – voters who have made up their minds are split nearly evenly between incumbents and challengers.

But, if the question is framed purely partisan terms – will you vote for a Democrat or a Republican this fall? – voters who have made up their minds are favoring Democrats.

When registered voters statewide are asked about voting for their current member of Congress or for a challenger – without identifying either by party – they give incumbents a 30 percent to 28 percent lead, while 31 percent say they do not know how they would vote and 11 percent say they definitely would not vote. This compares a February, 2010 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which showed incumbents supported 32 percent to 25 percent, with 27 percent undecided and 17 percent not voting.

“We have seen tightening of the generic incumbent versus challenger results since February,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Among those making a choice, it is now a statistical dead heat statewide, where incumbents had a seven-point margin six months ago. No question that the environment is more risky than usual for incumbents, though it still seems likely that most, if not all, New Jersey incumbents will survive.”

Half those polled were asked about voting for their “current congressman” versus a challenger; half were asked about voting for a generic Republican versus a Democrat. Among these latter voters, 38 percent said they would vote for a Democrat and 29 percent supported a Republican, with 4 percent “other,” 25 percent don’t know and 4 percent saying they will not vote. In February, 33 percent favored Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 7 percent someone else, with 20 percent saying didn’t know and 10 percent not voting.

The poll of 751 registered New Jersey voters was conducted Aug. 5 to Aug. 8. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points. Vote questions were asked of random half samples, which have a margin of error of +/- 5.0 percentage points.

Democratic “incumbents” fare badly, but “Democrats” do just fine

Across all districts held by Democrats, voters support a generic Democrat over a Republican 41 percent to 28 percent. But when party is not named, voters in these same districts appear more ready to toss their incumbents, with 29 percent supporting their “current congressman” and 31 percent supporting “a challenger.” The story is the opposite for Republicans. When party is named, voters in GOP-held districts support an unnamed Democrat 34 percent to 31 percent for the Republican, a -3 margin for Republicans. In February a generic Republican led by 15 points in these same districts. But when asked about supporting their “current congressman” over a challenger, voters support the incumbent 33 percent to 23 percent, a 10 point margin, compared to 7 points in February.

Republicans are hurt when their party is named because voters are very unhappy with Republicans in Congress. While only 37 percent of voters feel favorable towards Congressional Democrats, Republicans are liked by even fewer; only 27 percent hold a “favorable” impression.

“Still when we ask voters about supporting their current congressman or voting for a challenger, Democratic districts suffer the most, reflecting that voters are unhappy and know that it is Democrats who are in charge,” said Redlawsk. “Voters in GOP districts overall are more supportive of their ‘current congressman’ than those in Democratic-held districts, when party is not named. Anti-incumbency, such as it is, is more directed at Democrats than Republicans.”

Independents leaning Republican

Independent voters are more supportive of Republicans then Democrats. When asked whether they would vote for an unnamed Democrat or Republican for Congress, independents pick the Republican 25 percent to 14 percent for the Democrat with 8 percent preferring someone else. But 46 percent of independents are undecided, and another 7 percent say they will not vote. This is a slight drop for both parties from the February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll when Republicans led Democrats 30 to 17 percent.

When asked if they would vote for their current congressman or a challenger, independents statewide support a challenger 30 percent to 22 percent, with 34 percent undecided and 15 percent saying they would not vote. Challengers have gained since February when independents were evenly split 28 to 28 percent.

“But, as indicated by the very large undecided and not voting groups, turnout by independents in off-year elections is usually much lower than partisans,” Redlawsk said. “So while Republicans and challengers generally may gain from independent voters, the gain will be limited unless turnout by these voters is much higher than usual.”

There is some evidence independents may turn out in larger than usual numbers. More independents than Democrats say they are following news about the election somewhat or very closely, 63 percent to 52 percent. Republicans are paying even more attention, with 72 percent claiming they are following election news somewhat or very closely.

Obama and Christie have influence

Voters’ opinions about President Obama and Gov. Christie have some bearing on how voters see the congressional races. President Obama is seen favorably by 52 percent of New Jersey votes, and unfavorably by 36 percent, compared to 56 to 31 percent in March. Meanwhile, Gov. Christie is viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 39 percent, up from April, when his rating was 33 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable.

Support for Obama appears to have a stronger partisan influence on registered voters, than Christie. Statewide, voters who view Obama favorably say they will vote for a Democrat for Congress, 61 percent to 8 percent for a Republican, while those favorable to Christie support a Republican 55 percent to 14 percent.

In districts held by Democrats, Christie support increases the vote for a challenger over the incumbent. Voters favorable towards Christie say they will vote for a challenger, 39 percent to 20 percent, while those unfavorable towards the Governor support the incumbent, 42 percent to 24 percent, a 37 point shift away from the Democratic incumbent based on Christie favorability in Democratic districts. Obama’s influence in Republican districts is not as strong. While support for Obama also leads to support for a challenger, 28 percent to 24 percent, those unfavorable towards Obama support the Republican incumbent, 40 to 19 percent. This is a shift of only 25 points from the incumbent based on favorability towards Obama in GOP districts.

“Voters in Democratic districts are more easily moved by support for Christie than are voters in GOP-held districts by support for Obama; Republicans are just less likely to defect,” said Redlawsk.

Statewide results do not include the 3rd Congressional District, where a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Aug. 10 shows incumbent Democrat John Adler leading Republican Jon Runyan 31 to 25 percent.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Governor Christie continues to Fascinate

There seems little doubt that NJ Governor Chris Christie is different from any governor most New Jerseyans can remember. He is supremely self confident, willing to express what he appears to really believe, and ready to take on whomever appears tob e standing in his way. Like his policies or not, the Governor is something different in recent New Jersey politics.

And Garden State residents are not completely sure what to make of him. As the results we are releasing today (below) show, the Governor's favorability rating is net positive by 7 points, meaning more people are favorable towards him (46% of registered voters) than unfavorable (39%). While we don't publish them in today's release, this compares well to President Obama (+16, 52% to 36%), and is far better than the state legislature (18% - 44%) with a whopping -26.

But at the very same time, Christie's job performance rating in our poll is negative. Only 12% say he is doing an excellent job, and 27% say a good job. But a majority, 58% rate his performance as fair (33%) or poor (25%).

So they seem to like him as a guy, but are not overly happy with the specifics of what he is doing. This is borne out by the negative reaction to the budget, with only 30% supporting it, while 63% think more could have been done to protect programs from cuts.

We wanted to dig more deeply into these attitudes towards the Governor, so we asked how well a series of "trait words" describe Gov. Christie. There were four positive and four negative words, randomly presented. The positives were: smart, independent, strong leader, and reformer, while the negatives were stubborn, uncaring, arrogant, and bully. Some fancy statistical analysis (Factor Analysis) shows that there are two dimensions to these eight words, a positive and a negative one, and each group fits into the factor we expected. So "Stubborn" which might be a positive trait to some people, fits better with the other negative traits statistically.

You can see the release below for the details. Most interesting to me is that Democrats are very mixed - majorities see EVERY word as fitting Christie either very or somewhat well. They see both good and bad in the guy. They are willing to say he is a smart leader, but they also think he is an uncaring bully. Republicans on the other hand, see only the positives, with 85-94% of them saying the positive words describe the Governor very or somewhat well. But most reject the negative words, except for "stubborn", which 69% of Republicans say describes the Governor. Independents are a little more positive and a little less negative than Democrats, but they look more like Democrats than Republicans in their beliefs about these traits.

Overall the order of the traits thought to describe Governor Christie either very or somewhat well is: Smart (76%), Stubborn (76%), Independent (74%), strong leader (70%). Following these are Reformer (66%), Arrogant (60%), Bully (49%) and Uncaring (47%). Note that of the top four words, three are positive (and stubborn may have positive connotations). Of the last four, three are negative. Even with the job performance rating sitting in negative territory, Garden Staters are more positive than negative towards the Governor, at least given this list of descriptors.

Of course, public employee union members are somewhat more negative towards the Governor but they also see his positive traits as well, especially as a strong leader. Given the high profile battles between Governor Christie and public employee unions, especially the New Jersey Teachers’ Association, it is not surprising that members of these unions are more negative. Yet they also perhaps begrudgingly recognize that he is clearly leading and perhaps a smart politician even if he is going where they don’t want to go.

There is also a gender difference in the trait words. This reflects both partisanship, in that women are more likely to be democrats, but also suggests different takes on Christie’s style as governor. Women see him as stubborn and independent first, with many also saying "arrogant" describes him very well, while men characterize him as smart and a strong leader, though also recognize that stubborn can describe the governor as well.

Here's the actual release. Tables and Questions available here.

New Jersey Voters Think Gov. Christie is Stubborn but Independent and Smart

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J –New Jersey’s registered voters think Gov. Chris Christie is “stubborn,” but they also see him as “independent” and “smart,” according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. About 4 in 10 Garden Staters think these words describe Christie “very well,” while fewer than 2 in 10 say they do not describe him at all. Given a set of four positive and four negative character traits, slightly more voters say the positive traits describe Christie very well.

The telephone poll of 751 registered voters statewide was conducted Aug. 5 to 8 and has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points.

“New Jerseyans describe the governor as a smart leader, but they are also quite willing to call him stubborn,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science. “Many who say he isn’t doing a good job, describe him in positive terms.”

Positive and negative views of Christie

Asked how strongly they agree with a random list of four positive (smart, independent, strong leader and reformer) and four negative traits (stubborn, uncaring, arrogant and bully) to describe Christie, three-quarters say stubborn “very” (42 percent) or “somewhat” well (34 percent). About the same percentage call him “very” (39 percent) or “somewhat” smart (37 percent). Seventy-four percent agree Christie is at least somewhat independent; 70 percent view him as a strong leader. Sixty-six percent call him a reformer, 60 percent arrogant, 49 percent a bully and 47 percent uncaring.

“That both the positive and negative descriptors fit is striking,” said Redlawsk, “that some of this is driven by partisanship is not. But a majority of Democrats say that all the positive traits are at least somewhat applicable, while a majority of Republicans (69 percent) agree that one negative – stubborn – applies. Republicans are very positive about the governor. Democrats see both positive and negative.”

Independents are mixed; a majority agrees that all the positive traits apply at least somewhat to Christie, as well as two negatives – stubborn (76 percent) and arrogant (59 percent).

“Stubborn can be seen both ways,” said Redlawsk. “The governor does seem to make it a virtue, but its possible coupling with arrogance in independent voters’ minds could suggest there is a thin line between a positive and negative assessment of such a trait.”

Favorability is positive, but job performance negative

According to the poll, Christie’s favorability among registered voters has returned to February’s level (46 percent), but his unfavorable rating during the same stretch has increased 13 points to 39 percent. Only 15 percent of respondents today say they don't have an opinion of Christie, down from 29 percent in February.

At the same time, though almost half the voters say they have a favorable opinion of the governor, a majority think Christie is doing only a fair or poor job. Thirty-nine percent say he is doing a good job, but 33 percent say he is doing a fair job and 25 percent rate him poor. The state budget is the issue that most strongly influences attitudes toward Christie – 63 percent of voters think more could have been done to alleviate program cuts. Only 30 percent say they support the budget as passed.

Public employee union members are more negative

Public employee union members (about 12 percent of respondents) are significantly more likely to say the negative traits describe Christie “very well.” More than half (57 percent) agree he is stubborn, while 49 percent call him arrogant, 41 percent a bully 34 percent uncaring. At the same time they are relatively likely to agree Christie is independent (41 percent) and smart (34 percent). Fewer see him as a reformer or leader (each 26 percent).

Perceptions of Christie as leader vary by employment status

Among unemployed New Jerseyans, only 27 percent call Christie a strong leader, compared to 36 percent of registered voters; 35 percent of the jobless disagree with the description. However, more than half of retired New Jerseyans think Christie a strong leader, while 15 percent disagree. The evaluation of part-time or full-time workers is more mixed: about one third from each employment category think him a strong leader. About one-quarter from each disagree.

A gender gap in perceptions

Men and women hold different perceptions of Christie and his job performance. More men – 51 percent to 42 percent – feel favorable toward Christie and his job performance; 36 percent of men compared to 31 percent of women rate his work performance as fair.

Nearly 80 percent of women agree Christie is stubborn, 75 percent call him independent and 71 percent say he is smart. He is called smart (82 percent), a strong leader (76 percent) and independent (73 percent) by men. Almost half the men, compared to one-third of the women, think the bully label does not apply to Christie. By a 10-point margin, women are more likely to say Christie is not a strong leader.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hot Race in CD-3. Adler leads among registered voters; Runyan among those paying attention

As promised, we are releasing our first poll of the congressional campaign season, and we are focusing on the 3rd District, and the pitched battle between incumbent John Adler and challenger Jon Runyan. Results are interesting. Among all registered voters, Adler holds a pretty strong lead, and among those who claim they are at least somewhat likely to vote, the lead jumps to 10 points. But, among those who say they are actually paying attention, Runyan is up by 1 point, an 11-point swing.

These numbers actually include an option to "not vote". If the people who choose that option are then dropped from the totals, Adler's overall lead is an additional point higher. We reported the "Not Vote" in the head-to-head because there is an interesting pattern when we include Peter DeStefano, the (maybe) self-identified Tea Party independent who Runyan says is a plant for Adler. What happens is that DeStefano takes more votes from Adler than Runyan [though we're only talking about a handful of actual people], and the number who say they will not vote drops dramatically. But DeStefano doesn't get them, they move to undecided rather than any candidate. In our poll, DeStefano, who we did NOT label as "Tea Party", gets only 4 percent of the vote.

The bottom line seems to be that this race is as competitive in August as people thought it would be. Whether it stays so depends on who is paying attention, the extent to which Runyan can minimize Adler's much larger cash-on-hand advantage, and what the political environment looks like by November 3.

Here's the press release:


But Runyan Catches Adler among Voters Paying the most Attention

NOTE: This release with Questions and Tables can be found here.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – In the already heated battle for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Democrat John Adler holds a narrow lead over Republican challenger Jon Runyan, among all registered voters according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. With third party candidate Peter DeStefano included, Adler leads 31 percent to 25 percent, while DeStefano polls at 4 percent, and 34 percent say “don’t know”. Another 6 percent say they will not vote in the Congressional race. Without DeStefano on the ballot, Adler leads Runyan 35 percent to 28 percent, with 23 percent don’t know and 13 percent not voting.

The telephone poll of 421 registered voters living in the 3rd Congressional District was conducted August 5-8, 2010 and has a margin of error of +/-4.8 percentage points.

While Adler leads among all registered voters, Runyan pulls ahead 36 to 35 percent among voters who are paying the most attention to the campaign.

Adler Support Higher among Self-Identified Likely Voters; Small lead with Independents

Among registered voters who say they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to vote in November, Adler’s lead grows to 10 points, 40 percent to 30 percent, with 22 percent don’t know and 8 percent saying they would not vote in this race. The 10 point lead holds when DeStefano is included in the list of candidates.

Among Republican voters, 60 percent say they will vote for Runyan, while 56 percent of Democrats will support Adler. At the same time 19 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats don’t know whom they support. Among independents, Adler has a small lead, 23 to 19 percent, but 45 percent say they don’t know who they will support.

“It is hard in August to predict who will really vote in November,” said David Redlawsk, Director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and Professor of Political Science. "Thus, while a simple likely voter screen suggests that Adler does better, more people say they will vote than actually turn out.”

Runyan Stronger among those Most Paying Attention

While likely voters give Adler a lead, his advantage disappears among the 54 percent of registered voters who report following the election “very” or “somewhat” closely, Runyan outpolls Adler from this group, 36 percent to 35 percent, while DeStefano receives 4 percent; 24 percent don’t know. About 1 percent say they will not vote in this race. However, Adler has a strong lead among those following the election “Not too closely” or not at all, 24 percent to 11 percent for Runyan, and 3 percent for DeStefano, The majority of these registered voters either answer “don’t know” (49 percent) or that they will not vote (13 percent).

“While likely voters put Adler up strongly, it’s more realistic to analyze those who follow the election news,” Redlawsk said. “In a midterm election, these are the voters most likely to turn out. If that pattern holds, then the race is essentially a dead heat.”

Experience verses the Outsider

By a 22-percentage point margin, registered voters say they prefer an experienced candidate over a political outsider. Among those who favor experience, Adler is preferred to Runyan, 38 percent to 18 percent, with 4 percent choosing DeStefano. Among voters preferring an outsider, DeStefano polls 9 percent, while Runyan gets 36 percent and Adler 14 percent.

The DeStefano Effect

Respondents were given two ballot tests: the first with candidates Adler and Runyan (with “don’t know” and “will not vote” options), and a second test that included DeStefano. Among registered voters, Adler’s support was more adversely affected than Runyon’s by DeStefano, who picked up 6 percent of initial Adler voters, but only 2 percent of Runyan supporters. DeStefano also added 14 percent of those who initially said they would not vote. These effects are relatively small however, given the low level of support for DeStefano overall.

“Despite the debate over the DeStefano candidacy, our polling suggests that he is not currently much of a factor, and if anything, affects Adler slightly more,” said Redlawsk. “Interestingly, when he is included on the ballot test, the number saying they will not vote plummets, and the ‘don’t knows’ grow. This suggests that at least some voters may be open to an alternative to the two major party candidates. Even so, it seems unlikely that DeStefano’s presence on the ballot would greatly affect the dynamics of the race.”

In the Adler internal campaign poll reported in the press, DeStefano was tagged as a “Tea Party” candidate. However, given the controversy and uncertainty over his connection to the Tea Party movement, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll simply labeled him as an “independent candidate.”

“We chose not to label DeStefano as a Tea Party candidate, and this no doubt lowered his support in the poll, compared to the internal Adler campaign poll,” said Redlawsk. “However, given the level of debate over his status, even labeling him as Tea Party would most likely have had a limited effect, especially among those voters most paying attention.”

State of the Race in the 3rd District

“As a well-funded incumbent, John Adler could be expected to start off with an advantage in the election,” said David Redlawsk. “Even so, given the general sense of frustration voters are expressing, Adler’s very close win two years ago, and the competitive nature of the 3rd District, he has a fight on his hands.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

It may be the dog days, but at least one NJ Congressional race is hot!

It has been a while since I have updated this blog, primarily because I have been traveling to research conferences and the like for much of the summer. It's also the case that most people say that political polling in August is not worth the effort.

I would usually agree, but this year it's not only the weather that has heated up. In the midst of this sweltering New Jersey summer, the 3rd Congressional District race has been even hotter. Incumbent freshman Democrat John Adler, who won the traditionally Republican seat two years ago, is fighting to hold onto it in the face of a challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman John Runyan. Runyan won the Republican primary, and has been racing money at a decent clip. Most observers assume the race will be a close one, given the Republican leanings of the district (Gov. Christie won it handily) and the general negative environment for Democrats.

Adding early excitement was an Adler campaign poll, released (leaked) to the press showing the Congressman up 17 points over Runyan. What made this interesting was not the margin, but the addition of a third candidate who was not on anyone's radar. Peter DeStefano was included as a "Tea Party Independent" in the poll and according to Adler's pollster, got 12 percent when no one seemed to even know he was running. No doubt the "Tea Party" label made the difference.

The question is what is the real state of the race in these early days of August? It is a truism that November is still a long way off, but it seems worth getting a baseline to work from.

So we are doing that. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will release a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of the 3rd district, gauging the race as it stands right now. It is a simple poll - a head-to-head and a few other questions. What makes it potentially interesting is that we initially do not include DeStefano in the mix, and then follow up with a second ballot test including him.

We also ask if people are paying much attention - and 54% say they are paying a lot or at least some attention to news about the campaign. That seems pretty high for August, but suggests that this really will be the race to watch in New Jersey. Not to give too much away before we do the actual release, but the results among those paying attention are quite different than among the rest of the CD-3 registered voters we surveyed.

Also, we simultaneously did a statewide survey of registered voters focusing on questions about Gov. Christie, the state budget, and generic Congressional ballot tests. We will be releasing those data over the next week.

Finally, we made a very small foray into calling cell phones on the statewide survey, with about 10% of our completes coming from cell phone only households and the remaining 90% from a traditional landline RDD sample.

Stay tuned for more soon.