A BONUS Release on Atlantic City – What Do Visitors Do?

Today we are wrapping up our most recent poll with a bonus release looking at the last of our Atlantic City questions. We already covered how New Jerseyans feel about AC and its prospects, and about their perceptions of gambling. Today we look at what visitors do besides gamble, as well as for those who do gamble, which casino do they go to most often. The results are both interesting and not terribly surprising – the AC Boardwalk is most often named as an attraction, but so are many other things. And there are interesting differences by age and other demographics.

A shout out goes here to the great team of interns (and staff) we have for the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. A group of our interns worked diligently under the direction of Poll Manager Ashley Koning to code the open ended responses to the question of what people do when they Do AC. We could not do what we do without them.

The full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF with text, questions, and tables.


Boardwalk, dining, and entertainment top activities at ‘America’s Favorite Playground’

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – It may take a crystal ball to see the future of Atlantic City’s casino industry, but New Jerseyans who have visited the resort town say gambling is only a small part of the fun there, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While nearly half of visitors gamble at least occasionally, a majority says they stay away from the casino floor entirely, taking advantage of other activities in the shore community. A third of visitors report they are equally or more likely to engage in non-gambling activities as they are to visit the casinos.

Spending time on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk is named most often as a non-gaming activity, followed by dining out. Attending some type of show, concert, or other form of entertainment, as well as shopping and the beach, are among other popular things visitors do there.

“Most New Jerseyans take a dim view of Atlantic City’s gaming future and think the city has failed to become a major resort destination,” said Ashley Koning, manager of Rutgers-Eagleton Poll at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “Yet visitors are more likely to focus on non-gambling activities than they are to roll the dice. This disconnect may be making it difficult for Atlantic City to effectively promote its wide range of activities that don’t require setting foot on a gaming floor.”

Almost all New Jersey adults have been to Atlantic City at some point in their lives. Forty-three percent say they have visited within the last year, and over a third plan a visit in the coming year.

Visitors name Borgata the top casino, with just over one in ten saying they spend the most time there, followed closely by Tropicana and the Trump Taj Mahal. Among those planning a visit in the next year, Borgata’s lead is even greater: 17 percent spend the most time there, while 14 percent name Tropicana and 12 percent focus on the Taj Mahal. Koning noted that the question did not focus specifically on gambling, so responses would likely include visits to restaurants and shows as well.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

Not everyone gambles; lower priority for many who do

More than half of those who have ever visited Atlantic City say they do not gamble there. Among those who do, casino games do not take up most of their time. Seventy-eight percent of occasional gamblers spend more time on other activities; 34 percent of frequent gamblers say the same.

The likelihood of gambling does not differ by gender, but does by race: whites are 12 points more likely than non-whites to say they gamble some or most of the time, and more than twice as likely to spend more time on gambling than non-gambling activities.

Millennial visitors are least likely to say they gamble: more than six in ten spend all of their time on non-gambling activities. About a quarter do some gambling but spend more time on other activities. Only 7 percent of Millennials spend more time gambling than visiting outside of the casinos. Despite the grey-haired gambler stereotype, 55 percent of visitors age 50 and over say they do not gamble at all.

Gambling is more frequent among the more affluent. Those living in households with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 are the most likely to say they gamble on at least some visits – more than half do so – but only 10 percent actually dedicate most of their trip it, as opposed to other activities. Those making more than $150,000 are the most frequent gamblers, with over a quarter saying they gamble on most visits; 20 percent says they spend more time gambling than on other things.


Non-gambling activities named by Atlantic City visitors     ACVisitors

©Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, October 2014


Visitors name wide range of non-gambling activities

As Atlantic City campaigns tirelessly to promote non-gambling activities, many visitors already look beyond the casinos for things to do. Spending time on the Boardwalk – the first in the United States when it opened in 1870 – tops the mentions of main activities, at 35 percent. Dining out is named by 30 percent, while 25 percent mention entertainment like a show, concert, or movie. One in five spends time shopping at places such as the Outlets, while a similar number focuses on the city’s free beach.

Visitors also mention – though to a much lesser degree – nightlife activities like clubbing or dancing, walking around seeing the sights, and visiting for a professional meeting. Just a few mention visiting for some type of wellness treatment or relaxation or for a sporting event. “It seems like many visitors are ‘doing AC’ the way promotional campaigns have hoped, and visitors’ responses highlight the array of activities the city offers beyond gambling,” said Koning. “But there is some distance to go to build bigger and consistently loyal crowds.”

Affinity for the Boardwalk increases with age: 24 percent of Millennials name it as a main activity, compared to 42 percent of seniors 65 and older. Rather than the boardwalk, the top activities for Millennials are the beach and shopping. Visitors aged 30-49 are most likely to name dining out, at 36 percent. Those under 50 are much more likely to say something about Atlantic City’s nightlife: one in six talks about going out, compared to almost no visitors 50 or older. Older visitors are most likely to mention the boardwalk and more likely than younger visitors to mention viewing some type of show.

Older, more affluent, and close by are most frequent visitors

While nine in ten New Jerseyans have visited Atlantic City at one point or another, younger residents (79 percent) and those in households making under $50,000 per year (87 percent) are less likely to report having been there. Those living in urban or exurban counties are also less likely to have ever visited Atlantic City, compared to those closer to the resort town.

Just over four in ten New Jersey residents have been to Atlantic City within the past year. Age has the reverse effect among this group: younger New Jerseyans are much more likely to have visited in the past year compared to older New Jerseyans. Poll manager Koning suggested that older residents may see less of a need to come back as the lure of gambling declines. “Given that Millennials are least likely to gamble, they may instead see growing nightlife and getaway opportunities awaiting them in Atlantic City beyond the casino floors,” she added.

Income matters: about half of those in households making $100,000 or more have gone to Atlantic City recently, versus just 36 percent of those making under $50,000. Garden Staters living in closer proximity to the resort city are more likely to have visited within the past twelve months.

Planned visits over the next 12 months are down: just 35 percent say they will visit soon, eight points fewer than said they visited in the past year. The decline cuts across all groups. While Millennials still dominate as future visitors, the 44 percent who say they will visit is 11 points lower than visited in the past year. Just 23 percent of seniors say they plan a visit in the near future.

In a worrisome result, those closest to Atlantic City show the largest drop in likely visits: while 56 percent of Shore county residents visited last year, 43 percent say they have a visit planned. Results are similar in South Jersey: 45 percent plan to visit, versus the 60 percent who visited in the last year.

Borgata is #1, but not for everyone

The luxurious Las Vegas-esque casino, Borgata, reigns as the number one spot for Atlantic City visitors, with 11 percent identifying it as the casino hotel in which they spend most of their time, relatively similar to the 9 percent naming Tropicana and 8 percent saying Trump Taj Mahal. The Caesar’s Entertainment casinos – Caesar’s, Bally’s, Harrah’s, and the recently closed Showboat – are each named by 4 to 5 percent. The shuttered Trump Plaza was named by 3 percent, and the massive failure that was Revel got just 2 percent. All others get 2 percent or less, and 38 percent of visitors say they never go to any casino at all while in Atlantic City.

Casino preferences vary by age. Among millennials, almost one in five say Tropicana is number one for them, perhaps because of the bustling nightlife and entertainment choices against the lively Havana-themed backdrop. Borgata is most popular among the 30-49 crowd, at 14 percent – also the age group who frequents casinos the most.

The Borgata not only has a richer feel to it, but also has a richer clientele. One in five visitors in households making $100,000 or more prefer Borgata; while this is the top choice among those making $50,000 to less than $100,000, it is in a virtual tie with Tropicana. Visitors in the lowest income bracket are more than twice as likely to prefer boardwalk casinos Tropicana and the Taj Mahal to Borgata.

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More on Atlantic City – a future not bright enough to need shades?

Today we release a second report on our polling focused on Atlantic City and gambling. (See the first one here.) In today’s release we look at perceptions of the city’s future, both by New Jersey residents and by those who visit Atlantic City. We also look at visitors who say they gamble when there (about 50% of all visitors.) The upshot is simple: lots of pessimism over the city’s future and a strong sense that gambling has not benefited the residents of the Island resort town. We find that more people say they visited Atlantic City in the last 12 months than say they plan to do so in the coming year. If this pans out, it does not bode well. Visitors are slightly more positive than non-visitors, but even they do not foresee a bright future.

Text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release, with questions and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With shrinking profits, casino closings, and layoffs the new norm, nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans say Atlantic City’s best days are behind it, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 22 percent say the resort’s best days are yet to come, and 15 percent are unsure.

That gambling has not benefited the entire city and its residents seems in part to be driving this sentiment. An overwhelming 63 percent of New Jerseyans say gambling has benefited only the casino-hotels while 25 percent believe gambling has been good for both residents and the casinos. This perspective is not new. Even in the early boom years of casinos, a 1982 Eagleton Poll found just 30 percent of respondents thought gambling had benefited both parties. Similar results were found in 1986 and 1999 polls.

Despite Atlantic City’s aspirations to be known for more than casinos, New Jerseyans widely see gambling as its defining feature. While 25 percent view the city as a major convention and resort destination for all types of visitors, 63 percent believe it is only known for gambling. This is markedly down from 1982 when nearly half the state thought Atlantic City was becoming a major resort, and even 1999, when the number had dropped to 34 percent.

“The early days of gambling prompted some optimism that the industry would make Atlantic City a major resort destination,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers. “But New Jerseyans were always somewhat cynical about the prospects, as our early polling shows. That most now think the city’s best days are in the past reflects the recognition of serious problems there.”

As hope wanes for Atlantic City’s future, Garden State gamblers may be developing split loyalties. Nearly half who gamble on most trips to Atlantic City report visiting a casino outside New Jersey in the past year. For less frequent gamblers, the lure is not quite as great: 33 percent say they have gone out of state to gamble. Most (68 percent) of Atlantic City gamblers still prefer to gamble there, but 28 percent are now more likely to gamble elsewhere as bordering states continue to build casinos.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

Though still popular, resort’s future isn’t bright  

Despite concerns for its future, 91 percent of New Jerseyans have visited Atlantic City at least once, 43 percent within the past year. Thirty-five percent say they plan a trip within the coming 12 months. While still quite dubious about the city’s future, recent visitors are more positive than other New Jerseyans, 28 percent to 17 percent. Likewise, 29 percent expecting a future trip to the resort are positive compared to the 14 percent with no plans to visit. Those who have not visited recently are not necessarily more negative, but instead are more likely to offer no opinion. But those not planning a future visit are far more negative: 71 percent think the best days are in the past compared to 58 percent looking toward another visit.

Twenty-eight percent of frequent gamblers think the city’s best days are ahead, but only 23 percent of occasional gamblers feel the same.

“While visitors are more positive about the future of Atlantic City than those who don’t go, most are still sure the city’s best days are in the past,” said Redlawsk. “An even bigger concern may be the drop in the percentage who visited last year compared to those planning a visit in the next 12 months. If this represents a trend, the future will almost certainly not be better for Atlantic City.”

Some gamblers turn elsewhere

The poll finds some truth in the theory that the rise of casinos in neighboring states has contributed to the closure of four Atlantic City casinos and put a fifth in possible jeopardy. About half the resort’s tourists gamble during at least some of their visits just over a quarter of those gamblers say they are now more likely to go out of state than to keep coming to the shore.

Gamblers who visited Atlantic City during the past year are more loyal than those who did not, by a 72 percent to 62 percent margin. Loyalty is even stronger among gamblers with plans to visit within a year: 78 percent say they will remain loyal to Atlantic City, compared to 49 percent   with no immediate plans to return.

“No doubt Atlantic City’s casino industry is in trouble, and our results suggest that the problem is long-term,” Redlawsk noted. “The rise of alternatives may be appealing to a growing number of New Jersey gamblers. The key seems to be finding a way to make sure gamblers return. Once out of the habit, the evidence is that they will continue to look elsewhere.”

Casinos, not residents, have benefited

While casinos may be struggling, New Jerseyans believe by more than 2-to-1 that the industry, rather than the people of Atlantic City, has benefited from gambling. There has been little change over time on this question, and few differences among key demographic groups.

Visitor status does not change views, and even those who gamble the most are no more likely to think gambling has benefited Atlantic City residents more than other New Jerseyans.

However, there is a much greater belief that gambling has helped the city as a whole among those who consider Atlantic City a major resort destination with features beyond gambling. Nearly 40 percent of these Garden Staters see shared benefits to the gaming industry, compared to 21 percent of those who view the city primarily as a gambling destination.

Few see Atlantic City as a major resort

Relatively few New Jerseyans see Atlantic City as a major convention and resort city for all types of visitors. Evenly divided near the dawn of casino gambling in 1982, Garden Staters have become increasingly more likely to perceive Atlantic City as mostly for and about gambling, rather than as a resort for all.

Women are nine points more likely than men to say Atlantic City has become a major resort, although most still say it is mainly about gambling. Senior citizens are most likely to see it as an all-around resort, at 32 percent, compared to 18 percent of residents ages 50-64, and just over a quarter of younger New Jerseyans. Those in households making under $50,000 are somewhat more likely than others income groups to see Atlantic City as a major resort destination, at 31 percent.

Visiting the city does seem to affect perceptions: Around one-third of recent visitors or those who plan to visit within 12 months say the resort is a major destination for all. Only about 20 percent of others agree. Thirty-three percent of Atlantic City gamblers say the city offers more than just gambling; 20 percent of non-gamblers think likewise.

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Gambling and Atlantic City; New Results

Today we release the first of two assessments of gambling and Atlantic City from our most recent polling. The focus today is primarily on proposals that some say will improve things for the gamble resort; in particular sports and online betting. New Jerseyans are not so sure these really will help – most do not see them as being good for Atlantic City. And while more residents (compared to a 1999 poll) think casinos should be allowed elsewhere in the state, an increased number does not think gambling has been good for the state overall.

The full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release with text, questions, and tables.


Almost two-thirds say ‘no dice’ to alcohol on the boardwalk

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Although Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation to allow sports betting at racetracks and casinos to try to help revitalize a flagging Atlantic City, many New Jersey residents are not sure the idea is a good bet for the resort town. While 44 percent of New Jerseyans sees sports betting as a plus for Atlantic City, 48 percent is less positive about its value: 31 percent says it will make no difference and 17 percent views sports betting as bad for the struggling resort city, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

New Jerseyans are even more negative when it comes to online gambling. More than half (55 percent) thinks online gambling is bad for Atlantic City, compared with just 5 percent saying it is a good thing. Twenty-three percent says it makes no difference, and 17 percent is not sure.

Residents split their hands when it comes to permitting casinos in other parts of New Jersey, something state legislators have been discussing. Nearly half of Garden Staters agree with the idea, but 43 percent says casinos should just be limited to Atlantic City. Other residents are mostly unsure, but 3 percent offers that gambling should not be legal anywhere in the state. Support is up 12 points from a similar question asked in 1999, when 35 percent favored a statewide casino industry.

Even as support has climbed for statewide expansion, New Jerseyans still question the benefits of gambling. In 1999, 72 percent saw gambling as good for the state, but today only 33 percent agrees. Thirteen percent says it has been bad and 46 percent says it has made no difference.

Sixty-two percent also does not want to gamble on making Atlantic City more like Las Vegas by allowing alcoholic drinks to be carried and consumed outside of casinos. Just over a third say they would support such a measure, which some have suggested would help.

“In the face of Atlantic City’s troubles, most New Jerseyans no longer think gambling is particularly good for the state,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Nearly four decades after the first casino opened, residents are split on whether gambling should expand and clearly don’t believe some current plans will be of much help to Atlantic City itself.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

An inside look at support for sports betting

The poll shows a clear partisan split in belief about the benefits of sports betting for Atlantic City. Half of Republicans and independents says it will be a good thing, while about a quarter of both groups thinks it will make no difference. But among Democrats, 40 percent thinks sports betting will make no difference to Atlantics City, compared to the 35 percent who says sports betting will help. About one in six of all partisan groups see sports betting as bad for the resort city.

“Sports betting has become somewhat of a partisan issue in the months of back and forth between the governor, the Legislature, and the courts,” said Redlawsk. “Given Christie’s most recent championing of the idea, the split between Republicans and Democrats is not too surprising, since Democrats are no longer Christie fans.”

Where New Jerseyans live affects levels of support. Fifty-six percent of residents of shore counties says sports betting will be good for Atlantic City; but just 40 percent of other residents agrees. Optimism towards sports betting also drops among seniors compared to younger respondents and those in lower income brackets compared to wealthier New Jerseyans.

The more frequently Atlantic City visitors gamble, the more they perceive sports betting as valuable: 62 percent who gamble on most visits sees the value in sports betting, 54 percent of those who gamble on some visits agrees. Only 41 percent of non-gamblers in Atlantic City feels the same.

Online gambling seen as bad for Atlantic City

Despite the barrage of commercials touting new online gambling options, there is wide disbelief that online gambling helps Atlantic City, as supporters have argued. Even among those who gamble during most of their resort visits, only 8 percent says online gambling has been good for the city. Fifty-nine percent of these frequent gamblers thinks it has been bad, and 20 percent says it makes no difference.

Unlike sports betting, there is partisan agreement that online gambling is not good for Atlantic City. Lower income residents are less likely than wealthier ones to think online gambling is bad for Atlantic City, 48 percent to 63 percent for those at the top of the income scale.

Expanding casinos elsewhere

Proposals to expand casino gambling beyond Atlantic City are not new, but New Jerseyans are much more supportive than they were in 1999, when 35 percent agreed while 54 percent wanted casinos limited to the resort.

Republicans, at 54 percent, and independents at 50 percent, are both more likely than Democrats (39 percent) to support the idea of casino expansion. More than six in 10 millennials favors the idea, but only 35 percent of seniors over 65 years old agree. A clear majority (57 percent) of residents in households earning below $50,000 a year likes expansion. Fifty-one percent of both suburban and urban residents – those perhaps most likely to benefit from the proposal – say yes to additional casinos in the state compared to about 43 percent of residents elsewhere.

Keep the boardwalk dry

State Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. recently suggested allowing alcoholic beverages to be carried outside Atlantic City casinos, but New Jersey residents nix this idea almost 2 to 1. In true partisan fashion, Republicans (40 percent) are more likely to support the proposal than are Democrats (30 percent); 37 percent of independents agrees. Men are stronger supporters, 42 percent to 30 percent, and millennials, at 48 percent, are the top supporters by age.

Visitors to Atlantic City in the past year are stronger proponents of alcohol on the boardwalk than non-visitors, 39 percent to 32 percent. Among those planning to visit in the next year, 44 percent favors allowing alcohol outside. There is no difference between visitors who gamble and those who do not.

Support for casino gambling slips

Despite New Jerseyans’ increased support for casino expansion beyond Atlantic City since the 1999 poll, they are less positive about the benefits of gambling. The share saying gambling is good for the state has plummeted by 39 points to 33 percent. The key difference: almost half (46 percent) thinks gambling has made no difference to New Jersey, compared to 7 percent in 1999.

Republicans (40 percent) are more likely to say casino gambling has been good for the state compared to independents (33 percent) and Democrats (31 percent). Men are six points more likely to say the same than women. Only 21 percent of millennials agree, compared to 33 percent to 41 percent of other age groups. Those in the lowest income bracket (at 24 percent) are 11 to 20 points less likely than those with higher household incomes to say casino gambling is good for New Jersey.

Regionally, casino gambling receives its greatest support from those closest to Atlantic City: 48 percent of shore residents. More than half of frequent visitors who gamble agree, compared to 39 percent of occasional gamblers and just 20 percent visitors who do not gamble at all.

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Click here for a PDF of the release with questions and tables.

Perceptions of governor’s trustworthiness, other positive traits, continue to decline

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Trust in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has continued to decline further after hitting an all-time low last March, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 22 percent of Garden State voters now say “trustworthy” describes Christie “very well.” Another 35 percent think it applies only “somewhat well.” Nearly 40 percent say the character trait no longer applies to the governor.

By comparison, 43 percent said trustworthy applied to Christie very well a month before his November 2013 re-election, and 32 percent said somewhat well. Only 20 percent thought it did not apply at all. Immediately following January’s “Bridgegate” revelations, the share of voters holding this position plunged 16 percentage points; it has since declined an additional five points.

“Not that long ago, voters were very likely to see Christie as trustworthy. This was especially noteworthy given how little people trust most politicians,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Bridgegate, of course, changed that view for many. And once trust is lost, it can be hard to recover.”

Perceptions of Christie as a “strong leader,” “effective,” and “fair,” which all took significant hits immediately after the G.W. Bridge lane-closing story broke, have also continued to decline.

Nearly half (47 percent) of voters still say strong leader applies very well to Christie, but this is down 19 points since October 2013 with half the drop coming immediately after Bridgegate. Views of Christie as effective are also down 19 points to 31 percent of voters who now say the word applies very well, but two-thirds of that decline has come in the past several months. The 27 percent who say fair fits very well is a 14-point drop since October 2013, with most of the decline coming immediately following the news about Bridgegate.

“The controversy surrounding the lane closures in Ft. Lee had an immediate impact on nearly every assessment of Christie, with positive trait assessments continuing to fall since,” said Redlawsk. “This may be a key to the governor’s overall favorability and job performance ratings decline. People care about issues but they also look for important character traits in assessing their leaders.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Negative perceptions of Christie stable since January

Besides seeing Christie as less trustworthy and effective, voters have lowered their opinion of the governor regarding other positive character traits since January. Fifty-three percent now say “smart” fits him very well, a decline of five points. Only 25 percent, a new low, call “reformer” a very apt label, and just under half still see Christie as “independent.” Sixty-two percent still consider “fighter” a very appropriate description, but even this represents a 10-point drop in the past year.

Unlike positive traits, voters’ perceptions of negative traits that might apply to Christie have changed little since an initial increase in the immediate Bridgegate aftermath. Sixty-seven percent of respondents now say “stubborn” fits very well, the highest total to date and a 13-point increase during the past 12 months. The change has been only three points since January, however.

More than half (54 percent) of voters now think “arrogant” applies very well to Christie, just three points higher than in January, but up eight points in a year. “Self-centered” is unchanged from January’s poll, when an 11-point increase brought the total to 47 percent who thought the description applied very well. Perceptions of Christie as a bully are now at 42 percent, nearly flat since January, when they had climbed nine points to 43 percent who saw the term as applying very well.

Voters’ emotional responses to Christie also remain steady since January, after significant decreases in positive feelings and increases in negative feelings following Bridgegate. About a third of voters say they are proud and enthusiastic when they read or hear about the governor, similar to January. Worry, at 45 percent of voters, is up a few points, and anger, at 37 percent, has subsided a bit since earlier this year.

A closer look at three traits

While the poll examined a wide range of positive and negative traits, Redlawsk said what voters most want their officeholders to be are “effective, trustworthy, and strong leaders.”

“As perceptions of these traits become less positive – especially among independents and co-partisans – leaders can lose key bases of support. We may be seeing exactly that over what has become a long year for Christie since last fall’s victory,” he said.


Republicans and men are significantly fueling the declines in perceptions in Christie’s trustworthiness. Republicans show the biggest drop since last October: 27 points to 48 percent saying it fits very well today. Most of this damage occurred right after Bridgegate. Among independents, trust as a particularly apt descriptor dropped 23 points in the past year, to 21 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats, who always have had misgivings about Christie, still ascribe trustworthiness to him.

Unlike the 19-point drop in trustworthiness among women, most of which came between October 2013 and January 2014, the 23-point drop among men has occurred more gradually. Today, 23 percent of women and 20 percent of men think trustworthy applies very well to the governor.


Republicans, at 55 percent, are now 23 points less likely to say the label effective applies very well to Christie than one year ago. Independents’ perceptions of effectiveness have dropped 22 points in the same period, to 31 percent. Democrats show a 12-point decline, with 19 percent now saying effective describes Christie very well.

Perceptions of effectiveness among men, who typically have been stronger Christie supporters than women, have dropped by 22 points; for women the drop has been 15 points. Among the former group, most of the decline has been in recent months.

Strong Leader

Perceptions of Christie as a strong leader, which skyrocketed following Superstorm Sandy, are down 25 points (to 48 percent saying the term fits very well) over the past year among independent voters. Among Republicans, the drop is 18 points, although 75 percent still say strong leader describes Christie very well. Just 29 percent of Democrats agree, down 15 points since last October. For Republicans, unlike Democrats and independents, most of this drop occurred immediately after Bridgegate.

Only 48 percent of men now say strong leader fits Christie very well, a decline of 22 points in a year. During the same period, women show a 17-point decline to 46 percent, all but erasing the small gender gap that once existed.

“After Bridgegate crushed Christie’s overall ratings, we saw a small rebound this past spring and summer,” said Redlawsk. “But the continuing loss of support on these key traits, especially among Republicans and men, appears to have caught up with overall perceptions of the governor’s favorability and job performance, helping to drag down both of these ratings.”


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Today we release the first of two analyses of assessments of NJ Gov. Chris Christie we carried out as part of our new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. In today’s release we focus on Christie’s favorability ratings and job performance. The former has dropped to lowest point we have yet recorded for the governor; 42 percent of NJ voters have a favorable impression while 45 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job performance rating is also down, but remains slightly positive at 50 percent approval to 46 percent disapproval. Perhaps more critically, approval of Christie’s performance on a range of top issues is quite negative and declining. On taxes, just 33 percent approve the governor’s job performance, with 38 percent approving his work on the economy and 39 percent on education. The numbers are simply not good for a governor who a year ago was riding high toward an overwhelming re-election.

Full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release with questions and tables.


Governor’s favorability among registered voters drops seven points in two months

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – For the first time since August 2011, more New Jersey voters have an unfavorable impression of Gov. Chris Christie than a favorable one, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a seven-point decline during the past two months, just 42 percent of registered voters now feel favorable toward the governor, while 45 percent feel unfavorable.

“This is the lowest favorability rating we have ever recorded for Christie, below the 44 percent of August 2011,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “What had seemed like a small rebound following Christie’s Bridgegate ratings collapse now looks more like a temporary blip.”

While remaining slightly positive, Christie’s overall job approval rating is also dropping, falling three more points to 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproving, up five points.
Voters say taxes (24 percent), and the economy and jobs (21 percent) are the top two concerns, followed by corruption and abuse of power (16 percent) and education (12 percent). Underlying Christie’s decline is a roughly eight-month drop on three of these top issues: taxes (down 10 points to 33 percent approval), the economy (down three points to 38 percent) and education (down 10 points to 39 percent).

In addition, voters remain negative about Christie’s handling of the budget (down six points from a January 2014 poll, to 37 percent approval) and the pension crisis (24 percent approval, unchanged since first asked in August 2014.)

Only approval of Christie’s performance on Sandy recovery has shown significant improvement, rebounding to 60 percent from 54 percent last February. Approval of his handling of crime and drugs is up an insignificant two points to 52 percent over nearly the same period.

“The last time New Jerseyans were more negative than positive toward Christie the pension reform bill had just been signed, Christie had begun pushing a voter-supported teacher-tenure package and, there had been no Superstorm Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “But the good will he piled up after acting on those voter supported issues, and his handling of Sandy, has vanished. By nearly every measure we have, Christie is losing support.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Top problems: taxes and the economy

Analysis of voters’ two top concerns shed some light on Christie’s ratings decline. While Republicans remain about 20 points more positive than negative on the governor’s performance on taxes and the economy, Democrats and independents have a different perspective. On taxes, 20 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of Christie’s performance; 74 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents disapprove. On the economy and jobs, 27 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove. Thirty-seven percent of independents approve, 53 percent do not.

Among the 24 percent who call taxes the most important problem, Christie does quite well: a 60-29 percent favorability rating, and a 63-33 percent overall job approval rating. Yet these same voters are very negative on Christie’s actual performance on taxes: 35 percent approve of his work while 57 percent disapprove.

A similar pattern emerges on the economy; the 21 percent who care the most give a 50-46 percent overall job approval rating and split 44 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable on impressions of Christie. But like voters focused on taxes, these respondents hit Christie hard on their key issue: 29 percent approve Christie’s work on the economy while 65 percent disapprove.

Redlawsk identified GOP voters’ strong overall support for Christie as a cause of this odd pattern. “For Republicans, partisan preference overrides specific job performance,” he said. “We see a huge 25-point-plus gap between Republicans’ overall ratings of Christie and their evaluations on taxes and the economy. They may be much less supportive of the governor’s actions on these issues, but this does not interfere with supporting their fellow Republican.”
Democrats, and to a lesser extent independents, have become more consistent in connecting their general ratings of the governor with disapproval of his specific performance on issues, Redlawsk added. “The much smaller gap between job approval and assessments on top issues for these voters leads to the very negative ratings we find when we look at all voters who care most about taxes and the economy.”

Partisanship and ratings

The share of Democrats with a positive impression of Christie has fallen seven points to 21 percent since last August and 37 percent since a high point in February 2013. Since August, favorability among independents has dropped eight points to 44 percent, and among Republicans five points to 74 percent. At Christie’s high point 20 months ago, 71 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans, respectively, felt favorably.

“The partisan favorability gap has skyrocketed to 53 points, as Democratic negativity has greatly increased since Bridgegate,” said Redlawsk. “But Christie is also losing independents at a growing rate, which threatens to undermine his image as a leader with broad support.”

Because some voters who dislike Christie still give him positive job ratings, his general job approval remains more positive than negative. But this partisan gap has also grown to 53 points: 80 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and just over half of independent voters approve.

Where support weakens

Christie’s favorability and job support ratings among men have each fallen nine points the past two months; approval and disapproval of his overall job performance each stand at 47 percent, while 41 percent of men feel favorable about him. His favorability among women has declined four points to 44 percent, while they still approve of his job performance, 50 percent to 46 percent, virtually unchanged since August. Among urban voters, Christie’s job approval now stands at 31 percent, an 11-point tumble since August; 65 percent disapprove. Over the same period, suburban voters’ approval of Christie’s job performance fell seven points to 44 percent. Half of suburban voters now disapprove of how the governor does his job.

Christie’s report card: New lows

Since a pre-Bridgegate poll in November 2013, Christie’s job performance grades have plunged: only 10 percent now award him A, his smallest-ever share of the top grade and an 11-point drop. One-quarter of registered voters grade him B, also among the lowest total ever. C grades now dominate at 28 percent. The percentage of voters assigning D (16 percent) and F (19 percent) grades has climbed since last November, when only 8 percent of respondents failed the governor.

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Still no love for Gas Tax Increase

Today we release new polling on support for – or should we say opposition to – increasing New jersey’s gas tax, one of the lowest in the nation. Despite crumbling transportation infrastructure and even when it is specified the money would only be used to fix that, just 38% say they are in favor of a higher gas tax. There is one small ray of hope for those who think we need to do this. When we last asked in April, support was even lower, at 31%. Maybe some messages about road and bridge conditions are getting through. But even so, New Jerseyans feel already overburdened by taxes, so they are pretty much against any increase for any reason, or so it might seem.

Full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF of the release with questions and tables.


New Jerseyans oppose tax increase, borrowing to repair crumbling roads and bridges

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While legislators debate the merits of a gas tax hike, New Jerseyans continue to oppose a higher levy by a wide margin, even as the condition of the state’s roads and bridges worsens.

Despite the Garden State’s crumbling infrastructure, 58 percent of respondents to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll oppose paying more at the pump to fund the much-needed repairs and other transportation costs. At the same time there has been some movement in favor of an increase: in early April, two-thirds of New Jerseyans were against a hike. Since then, the number favoring an increase has risen seven points to 38 percent.

Respondents were given a choice to pay a fixed, 15-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax, to apply the current 7 percent state sales tax to gasoline purchases, or to borrow money for needed road and bridge repairs. The majority chose none of the above; 18 percent would apply the sales tax to gas purchases, 17 percent would favor an increase by a fixed amount and 8 percent would approve borrowing funds. Fifty-four percent refused to support any of the options.

“As has been the case every time we ask, New Jerseyans simply oppose a gas tax increase,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “While we see some shift towards more support, it is not yet clear if this is a blip or real change. Anyone who drives in New Jersey knows the roads and bridges are in terrible shape, but there seem to be little will to raise the funds needed to fix them.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

Pockets of support grow

While no specific demographic group gives majority support to an increased gas tax, there has been significant movement in some quarters since the April poll. Democrats fuel much of the increase: an 11-point jump to 46 percent. Republican (up five points) and independents’ (up six points) show much smaller moves to 29 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

“It is not surprising that Republicans are the most dubious about more taxes, and that’s unlikely to change,” said Redlawsk. “Unless independents become stronger supporters, it will be hard to solve the problem of a broke transportation trust fund.”

Men and women show roughly the same increase in support: seven points to 41 percent for men and eight points to 36 percent for women.

The largest gains in support for a gas tax hike come from residents living in the state’s northwest exurban area (up 12 points to 43 percent) and in south Jersey/Philadelphia suburbs, where support jumped 16 points to 44 percent. Only one in three shore residents favor a tax increase (a six-point gain since April). Urban residents show virtually no change at 38 percent, while suburban support is up only four points to 36 percent.

Garden Staters from lower income households are strongly against an increased gas tax: 64 percent living in households earning less than $50,000 oppose it, as do 56 percent of residents in households making between $50,000 and $100,000. But those making more are more supportive: 50 percent of residents with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 are in favor, along with 48 percent of the highest earners.

Borrowing is the least attractive option

While support for a specific gas tax option varies across groups, borrowing funds is the least popular of the three options for all. Among the 38 percent of residents who initially support a gas tax increase, nearly four in 10 prefer a fixed increase of 15 cents per gallon, while 29 percent would prefer applying the sales tax to gasoline purchases. Only 7 percent would borrow the money (instead of raising the gas tax), but another 23 percent do not like any of the options provided.

“While most initial gas tax supporters choose one of the options we gave to increase the tax, a significant minority rejected both gas tax approaches, despite their initial support,” said Redlawsk. “This may reflect rejection of an increase after hearing specific proposals, or they may be unwilling to pay the amounts we suggested.”

Slightly more than ten percent of the New Jerseyans who initially opposed a gas tax increase actually support adding the sales tax to gasoline when faced with a list of ways to pay for transportation infrastructure. Three percent pick a fixed gas tax increase, and 8 percent would borrow. But 75 percent oppose all three approaches.

“Initial gas tax opponents basically appear to be willing to accept the current situation, seeing none of the proposals as viable solutions. Most seem to reflect a strong anti-any-tax response,” added Redlawsk.

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Today’s release looks at the level of concern about Ebola amongst New Jersey residents. The outbreak, which claimed its first victim on U.S. soil today, does have New Jerseyans concerned – 69 percent are at least somewhat concerned about the potential for a large outbreak in the U.S. More interestingly perhaps, those who are paying the most attention to news accounts of the story are the most likely to hold key misperceptions about the virus.  Paying closer attention means being less aware that Ebola is difficult to transmit from one person to another and that no one has yet been reported to have caught Ebola in the United States. More attentive residents are also more likely to think there is an effective treatment for the virus. They are also much more likely than those paying little attention to believe Ebola has become a more serious concern recently, rather than just being covered more carefully by the media.

These results should give pause. Many people count on the media to provide information, but the evidence here is that this is not happening very effectively. As noted in the release below, it is very likely that the hysterical tone of the wall-to-wall coverage of the disease is a reason. It may be worth keeping in mind as horrible as it is, Ebola pales in terms of its likelihood of killing Americans to things like the flu, which over the past 30 years has killed as many as 49,000 Americans in one year.

The full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF with text, questions, and tables.



Those paying more attention are less knowledgeable about Ebola risks

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever continues to rage in West Africa, 69 percent of New Jersey residents are at least somewhat concerned about the possibility of an outbreak in the United States, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than one-third of residents are paying “very close” attention to Ebola news, while an additional 40 percent are following the story “somewhat closely.”

Despite extensive media coverage of the crisis, however, New Jerseyans are uncertain about Ebola’s transmission and treatment. Public health officials explain that Ebola is far less contagious than measles or influenza, but 67 percent of residents believe the virus is relatively easily transmitted, the survey finds. And while there is no cure with patients primarily treated for their symptoms, 39 percent think there is a medicine effective against Ebola, while 40 percent know there is none; another 21 percent are unsure.

Also, uncertainty about whether anyone hospitalized for Ebola in the U.S. actually caught the virus here is high: 42 percent think the virus has been transmitted on American soil, while 45 percent say, correctly, that this is not the case.

Misperceptions about Ebola are greatest among New Jerseyans paying the most attention, the poll discovers. Those most focused on the news are more than twice as likely as the least attentive residents to think there is an effective medicine, and 13 points more likely to think the virus spreads relatively easily.

Greater attention to the news is also related to stronger concern about a U.S. outbreak. Seventy-six percent of residents following Ebola news very closely are at least somewhat concerned that an outbreak will happen here, compared to 60 percent of those paying relatively little attention. .

“As in national polls, Garden Staters are worried about Ebola, but many do not know basic facts,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Within the countless hours of media coverage, some hysterical voices are feeding perceptions that Ebola is a huge threat to the U.S. But, so far it is not even close to the threat of death from the flu, which statistics show kills from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans every year.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. Some questions included in the poll were inspired by a recent nationwide poll by the Harvard School of Public Health.

Concern about Ebola varies across groups

Only 31 percent of respondents say they are not at all concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., but some groups are more worried than others. Women are 10 points more likely than men to be concerned, and nonwhites are 19 points more concerned than whites. Levels of concern are significantly higher among those with lower incomes and less education.

Recognizing that Ebola is relatively difficult to transmit reduces concern about an outbreak. Just 13 percent of residents who know the virus is not easily spread are very concerned, but 53 percent of those who think it is highly contagious express high levels of concern.

“Concern is greatest when people are least certain about risks,” noted Redlawsk. “Ebola is particularly scary, with no cure and a high death rate. Believing it is easily spread feeds this fear.”

Increased news consumption does not lead to accuracy

Residents interviewed after the Sept. 30 announcement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the first U.S.-diagnosed Ebola case in Texas were more likely to be following the news very closely, compared to those interviewed before the announcement. But paying attention to news about Ebola does not necessarily improve New Jerseyans’ knowledge of basic facts: 48 percent of the most attentive incorrectly think there is an effective medicine for Ebola. Only 20 percent of those not following the story closely say the same.

Increased news consumption is related to thinking someone has already caught Ebola in the U.S., with residents paying the most attention nine points more likely to think so than those paying little attention. Ebola news watchers are also the most likely to think the virus spreads very easily.

Moreover, news consumption may be driving fear in another way: while 22 percent of those paying the least attention think Ebola has become a more serious threat recently, 55 percent of residents watching very closely say the virus has become a greater threat.

“Paying careful attention to news coverage about Ebola may not be a good idea,” said Ashley Koning, manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. “The tone of the coverage seems to be increasing fear while not improving understanding. And today’s tragic death of the Ebola patient in Texas may well add to people’s worries as the media doubles down on covering the story.”

As an example, Koning pointed to the increase in misperceptions among respondents interviewed following the CDC announcement, noting that, “After the announcement, we saw a 10-point increase in thinking there is an effective treatment, and a 12-point increase in thinking someone actually caught Ebola in the U.S. However, in contrast, there was an 11-point decline in the incorrect belief that Ebola is easily spread. Some accurate information may be getting through the noise, but not enough.”

Some groups appear more likely than others to hold misperceptions about Ebola: 73 percent of women think the disease is easily spread compared to 60 percent of mem. Millennials – those under 30 – are more than 10 points more likely than older residents to think Ebola is easily spread.

Middle-age residents are most likely to believe a treatment exists, while younger residents are least likely to believe this, the research finds. Republicans are nine points more likely than Democrats to think there is a viable treatment for the disease.

Nonwhites are 10 points more likely than whites to say someone in the U.S. caught Ebola while in this country, and 10 points more likely to think the disease is very easily spread.

News consumption differs by key groups and announcement of first U.S. case

While most New Jerseyans are paying at least some attention to Ebola, residents interviewed after the CDC announcement were 11 points more likely to say they were following the story very closely than those interviewed earlier. There also are notable differences in who is paying attention. Republicans are 12 points more likely than Democrats and independents to be following Ebola news very closely. While 82 percent of white residents are following the story at least somewhat closely, this drops to 68 percent among nonwhites.

News consumption steadily increases with age: 22 percent of millennials are following the media reports very closely, compared to 49 percent of seniors. Attention also rises with income and education: residents with household incomes over $100,000 are 20 points more likely than those making less than $50,000 to be following the story at least somewhat.


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