Friday, October 29, 2010

Something OTHER THAN the election!

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

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

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

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

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

The full release with tables is here.

The release itself follows:


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

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

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

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

Opinions on transportation spending split

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

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

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

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

Garden Staters question value of ARC to economic development

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

Support for Christie’s position has partisan undertones

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

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NJ Congressional Races Tightening Overall; Republicans More Enthusiastic

Full release with tables available here.

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

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

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

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

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

Overall support for incumbents increasing

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

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

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

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

Republican incumbents increasingly safer

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

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

Some Democrats in trouble

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

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

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

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

Voters mood somewhat worse with more ready for Republicans

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The DeStefano Effect

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

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

Adler’s favorables decline and Runyan’s improve

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

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

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

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

Tax, donkeys and other issues

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

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

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

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

Adler stronger with his base; Runyan up with independents

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

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Obama Muslim? Some NJ Voters Continue to Think So

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Who believes Obama is a Muslim?

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

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

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

Impressions of the President and Job Approval

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger at Washington unrelated to beliefs about Obama’s Religion

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

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Governor Christie Travels; Voters Want Him to Stay Home

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Christie’s national reputation does not make New Jersey proud

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

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

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

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

Christie favorability tightens, job performance improves

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

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

Issues of importance in the Garden State

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

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

Christie finds support from voters concerned with taxes

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

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

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

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not a lot of Change in the Aggregate NJ Congressional Numbers

We are out today with our latest statewide poll of registered voters in New Jersey. Today's release is about our generic congressional ballot test questions and is a follow up to our early August poll that found incumbents in general in pretty good shape (always excepting CD-3 where John Adler has probably the strongest challenge of any incumbent.

I should make very clear that this poll is STATEWIDE and not focused on any specific Congressional districts. This means that we have about 830 registered voters across all 13 districts. The result is that no district has more than about 65-70 or so respondents in it. Thus we cannot draw conclusions at the district level.

So why do this? Mainly because we think it is useful to judge the overall mood of the state in terms of voting for Democrats versus Republicans and Incumbents versus Challengers.

As we did in August, we randomly split our sample so that half get a traditional generic party ballot test (if the election were today would you vote for a Democrat, and Republican, Third Party, or would you not vote?") and half get an incumbent versus challenger test ("...would you vote for your current congressman or a challenger running against him?").

When asked by party, Democrats maintain the healthy partisan lead they had in August. Not surprising since there are far more Democrats in NJ than Republicans, even these days. Independents have move toward the Democrats, rather than away, and what was an 11 point margin for the Republicans among these registered voters in August is now a 5 point margin. While voters ARE in a grumpy mood overall, Democrats in NJ still support Democrats - we see no evidence of significant partisan defection in the aggregate.

On the other hand, and here is where it gets really interesting. When we ask the question as "incumbent" versus "challenger", incumbents fair pretty badly overall, no matter whether they are democrats or republicans. If voters were to go into the booth simply to vote the bums out, challengers would do very well according to our numbers. But most voters - especially the kind of partisan ones who show up in off-year elections - really don't do that as witness our question on whether the Democrats should be given more time in Washington - 54 percent say yes; only 34 percent say it is time to elect Republicans.

So for the moment I stick by my assessment that even with the unsettled electorate, incumbents of both parties in NJ are probably in pretty good shape, through partisan support and gerrymandered districts that maximize that support. Except for John Adler, in CD 3 of course, where it is a real horse race.

And of course, this is only a snapshot in time, not a prediction. A lot can change in the remaining weeks of this campaign.

The press release follows. The full release with questions and tables can be accessed here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – New Jersey voters seem to be moving toward Democrats in a statewide test of generic congressional candidates, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Among registered voters, 45 percent say they would vote for a Democrat for Congress, up from 38 percent in August and 33 percent in February. Republican support has stayed consistent, at 33 percent now, compared to 29 percent in August and 31 percent in February. At the same time, voters have become more certain of their choices, with only 14 percent “don’t know,” down from 25 percent in August.

Applying a “likely voter” screen – defined as those who voted in the last two elections and are generally enthusiastic about voting this time – does not change results very much. Among likely voters, 47 percent say they would vote for a Democrat and 36 percent for a Republican, while 4 percent prefer a third party and 12 percent do not make a choice.

“When we test by party, eight of 10 voters support their own party, and there are simply more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Independents continue to lean Republican as they have all year, but the margin has dropped from 11 points in August to five points. And in any case, independents are much more likely to stay home in an off-year election.”

The poll of 830 registered New Jersey voters was conducted September 23 to 26. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points. Generic vote questions were asked of random half samples, which have a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points. Results do not apply to specific districts but give a sense of the overall mood of the state.

Support for incumbents vs. challengers depends on the question

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

While supporting their party, voters are more uncertain when it comes to supporting their representative. Registered voters favor their current congressperson by only one percentage point, 32 percent to 31 percent; another 24 percent are undecided and 13 percent say they would not vote. Among “likely voters” only, incumbents are ahead, 35 percent to 33 percent. Results are essentially unchanged from August, when generic incumbents held a 30 percent to 28 percent lead over challengers among registered voters, with 31 percent don’t know.

“We have consistently seen that voters readily support their own party in a generic ballot test,” said Redlawsk. “But they are much less sure if they support their ‘current congressman’ when they are not given a party cue. If voters vote by party, incumbents are generally safe. If they enter the voting booth in a ‘throw the bums out’ mood, some races could be closer than expected.”

Voters in a relatively sour mood, but give Democrats another chance

New Jersey registered voters match the mood of the nation: half think the state is on the wrong track, while only 40 percent think it is going in the right direction. Fifty-eight percent say thinking about the government in Washington makes them angry. New Jerseyans also are less than positive about both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Forty-four percent of registered voters have a favorable view of Democrats in Congress, while only 33 percent feel the same about Republicans. While both parties have gained six points since August, Democrats are in a stronger position, with only 39 percent holding an unfavorable view, versus 50 percent for Republicans.

Reflecting their feelings about the parties and the generic ballot test, 54 percent of Garden Staters think Democrats should be “given more time to solve the country’s problems” while only 34 percent say “it is time to elect Republicans to take charge in Congress.”

In Democratic districts, Democratic margin increases as voters decide

Across current Democratic congressional districts, 47 percent of registered voters would vote for a generic Democrat compared to 31 percent for a Republican, while 15 percent of voters living in Democratic districts are still undecided. This is an increase in support for both parties since August when 41 percent of registered voters living in Democratic districts supported a Democrat and 28 percent supported a Republican.

Support for incumbents in these districts is 15 points lower when the question is asked about supporting “your current congressman” and not including political party. Among registered voters living in a Democratic district, only 32 percent say that they would vote for their current representative, while 31 percent favor a challenger. At the same time, when party is not included, 24 percent of voters are still undecided, and 13 percent say they would not vote. Support for incumbents in Democratic districts is about the same among likely voters who favor their current representative over a challenger by a 36 percent to 32 percent.

Republican Districts remain closer

Across all Republican-held districts, 38 percent of registered voters would vote for a generic Republican, while 42 percent would vote for a generic Democratic candidate; an increase of one point for Democrats since August. Republicans pick up four points among likely voters, with 42 percent siding with the Republican and 44 percent the Democrat. Another 5 percent would vote for a third party candidate and 7 percent are undecided. Likely voters in Republican districts are more certain about their choices than those voters living in Democratic districts (13 percent undecided).

Framing the question as incumbent versus challenger makes some difference across all Republican-held districts. Put this way, 32 percent of registered voters in these districts would vote to re-elect their current congressman, while 32 percent say they would vote for a challenger. As with Democratic districts, many more say they are undecided when party is not included: 21 percent are undecided, and 15 percent say they would not vote.

“While it would appear Republican incumbents face a tougher electorate than Democrats in New Jersey, this is mostly due to the aggregate nature of our statewide polling,” said Redlawsk. “We have fewer respondents in the five Republican districts than the eight Democratic districts, so we must be much more tentative with the numbers here. At this point there is no reason to believe any Republican incumbents in New Jersey are actually in trouble.”

Independents voters favoring Republicans, challengers

Independent registered voters are more supportive of generic Republican congressional candidates than Democrats. When asked if they would vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress, 25 percent pick the Republican, 20 percent the Democrat, and 16 percent prefer another candidate. But 35 percent of independent voters are undecided, and 5 percent say that they will not vote. This shows an increase in the number of independents preferring a third party candidate, as well as an increase in support of Democratic candidates from August.

When framed in terms of voting for a current incumbent or a challenger, independents are riding the anti-incumbency wave along with their partisan counterparts: 30 percent say that they would support a challenger in a congressional race, while only 24 percent would favor an incumbent. Another 30 percent have not yet made up their minds, and 16 percent say they would not vote.

Partisans are paying attention

Republican and Democratic likely voters are following election news much more closely than independents. Among likely Republican voters, 46 percent say they are following news “very closely” along with 44 percent of likely Democratic voters. But only 31 percent of independents report that they are following the election news “very closely.”