Monday, December 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor Christie Generates Divided Responses as First Year Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor Christie more polarizing

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

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

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

Christie support highest among Tea Party supporters

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

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

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

Impressions of Christie more positive than job performance

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

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

Garden Staters Like Their Communities Better than Their State

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

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

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

Local communities rate highly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Compromise? Well Maybe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2010 Congressional election: Independents continue to lean Republican

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

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

Looking Forward: What Should Congress Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tunneling into Public Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strongly Support Proposal to Extend Subway Line under the Hudson

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

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

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

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

Thinking about economic benefits increases opposition to Christie’s decision

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

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

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

Overwhelming support for the extension of NYC subway line to Secaucus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What NJ thinks about Airport Screening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differences between more and less frequent flyers

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

Pat-downs may deter individuals from flying

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

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

Women are more supportive of new measures

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

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

Thinking about new security procedures increases concern

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

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

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