Monthly Archives: November 2011

We haven’t asked about pot in a while – about 30 years in fact!

Today’s release from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll takes us to our way-back machine once again. With all the talk about medical marijuana lately, combined with our 40th anniversary, we thought we’d go back and look for another interesting topic – attitudes toward marijuana possession and use. Turns out the last time we actually asked anything about it was 30 years ago, in 1981, and even then the Poll only asked one question. The questions were asked multiple times over the decade of the 1970s, then, poof, never again. It’s as if the issue went up in smoke. The Poll did ask about drug use in general, and also alcohol abuse, but not specifically about pot.

So we’ve rectified that, and found that attitudes have continued to liberalize over the last 30 years, though maybe not by as much as we might have thought. Only 1/3 actually supports complete decriminalization. On the other hand, 86 percent support medical use of marijuana with a prescription. This seems like a really interesting way of viewing the issue.

This is the second in what is a series of 40th anniversary questions where we will go back to the early days of the Poll and see what’s happened since. You can also look at the early days, if you want, by going to our archive site at http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/eagleton/ where you will find almost all of the public polling The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has done over the years.

The text of the current release follows. Click here to get a PDF of the text with the questions and tables.

 

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: MAJORITY OF NEW JERSEY VOTERS  SUPPORT MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION

 Overwhelming support for medical use

 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In the almost 40 years since the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll first asked about penalties for marijuana use, New Jersey voters have become more relaxed about the issue, according to the latest poll from the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University.

In May 1972, 40 percent of New Jerseyans said penalties for marijuana use should be reduced. Today nearly six in 10 feel the same. Just over half now think pot possession should not be penalized at all, up from 35 percent, and one-third would now completely legalize its sale and use, compared to 21 percent in 1972.

Like many other issues, marijuana has become more partisan over the years: in 1972, Democrats and Republicans were only four points apart, but today the gap has grown to 20 points, with 64 percent of Democrats, but only 44 percent of Republicans supporting reduced penalties for its use. At the same time, the vast majority of current respondents (86 percent) support the availability of medical marijuana by prescription, including 92 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans.

“When we first asked these questions in the early 1970s, Garden Staters were much less supportive, although attitudes became more liberalized throughout that decade,” said David Redlawsk, poll director and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The change since then is significant, but not unexpected. What is new is the wide support for medical marijuana, even among those who otherwise oppose reducing or eliminating penalties for its recreational use.”

Today’s results are from a poll of 753 registered New Jersey voters, conducted from Nov. 9-12. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. The 1972 results are from a poll of 1218 registered voters, conducted during May 1972. This sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

Not an issue in 1972, medicinal marijuana has broad support today

While medical marijuana was not on the agenda in the 1970s, 86 percent of current respondents favor legalization for medical purposes. Support is strong across almost all groups of voters, though

there is stronger among the most highly educated (92 percent) compared to those with a high school education or less (80 percent). Age does not seem to play much of a role – those over 65 are just about as likely to support medical marijuana as those under 45.

Voters with household incomes under $50,000 are slightly less supportive (84 percent) than higher earners (90 percent). Catholics (87 percent) are slightly stronger supporters than Protestants (82 percent) while virtually all Jewish respondents are positive. Race seems to play some role. Whites are more supportive of medical marijuana than blacks, 86 percent to 78 percent.

“The slowness with which the Christie administration appears to be implementing the medical marijuana law passed at the end of the Corzine administration seems to fly in the face of public opinion,” said Redlawsk. “While recent reports say some of the problem is related to the difficulties of opening the dispensaries called for under the law, public support for the concept is very strong.”

With increased overall support comes partisanship

In 1972, only 40 percent of New Jerseyans believed that penalties for marijuana use should be reduced. By decade’s end, that had climbed to 51 percent. Today, 58 percent favor more lenient laws.

While support has climbed slowly, political partisans have grown apart on the issue of reduced penalties. By a 20-point margin, Democrats are more in favor of reducing penalties than Republicans. Fifty-eight percent of independent voters agree. In the 1972 poll, independents were the strongest supporters of reducing marijuana penalties at 53 percent. Democrats and Republicans were less likely to agree that penalties for marijuana use should be reduced and were only four points apart (42 percent and 38 percent, respectively).

Age cohorts have shown interesting changes. Those in their 20s in 1972 were the strongest supporters (66 percent). That same cohort – now in their 60s – is still supportive, but only by a 50 percent to 40 percent margin. Voters in their 50s are today’s strongest supporters (70 percent) for reducing penalties for marijuana use. “As they have aged, the young voters of the 70s have become somewhat less supportive of reduced penalties,” said Redlawsk. “Even so, while senior citizens are often more conservative on social issues, a majority continues to support greater leniency in marijuana use penalties.”

In 1972 there was a distinct gender gap on this question, with women significant less likely to support reduced penalties for use. Over the past 40 years, support among men is little changed at 56 percent, but support among women has grown dramatically from 37 percent in 1972 to 54 percent today.

Majority support eliminating penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana

More than half of respondents agree that penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana should be eliminated; about one-third agreed 40 years ago. As with the question about use, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 1972, 38 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of Republicans supported eliminating penalties for possession. Today 60 percent of Democrats are in favor, as well as 42 percent of Republicans. Independents have also become more lenient; 56 percent now say penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana should be eliminated. Previously, 45 percent felt the same.

Most age groups support eliminating possession penalties today, except for those in their 40s, who favor penalties by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin. This is in spite of the fact that the same group does support reducing penalties for use, by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin. “Those in their 40s came of age primarily during the Reagan-Bush years, which was an era of strong negative messages about drugs,” noted Redlawsk. “The results seem to be reflected here, with this group significantly less supportive of reduced penalties for use and possession than most others.”

In the early 1970s, education seemed to be a significant indicator of support for decriminalizing some marijuana offenses, with support increasing with the level of education. Today there is little difference among voters with different levels of education.

Completely legalizing the sale and use of marijuana is still opposed by most   

While generally supporting reduced penalties for possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, New Jersey voters remain adamantly opposed to complete legalization. Only 35 percent would support legalizing the sale and the use of marijuana, though this is substantially higher than the 21 percent reported in 1972.

Voters of all political leanings show increased support since 1972, with Democrats nearly doubling support to 40 percent (up 19 points), followed by independents at 37 percent (up from 30 percent) and Republicans at 24 percent, who also nearly double their 14 percent support 40 years ago.

The historical data shows that in the early 1970s, younger people were more likely to favor the complete legalization of marijuana than older people. The same holds today, as those over 60 are more than 10 points less likely to support legalization than other age groups.

“Issues surrounding marijuana remain similar to where they were 30 or 40 years ago, when we last asked, but voters have become a bit more liberal over the years,” said Redlawsk. “Even so, people continue to stop short at complete legalization, except for medical use. There simply does not seem to be any momentum for going much further than that.”


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Happy – and Mostly Stress-Free – Thanksgiving from the Rugers-Eagleton Poll

Click here for a PDF of the full text plus questions and tables for this release

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEYANS PLAN THANKSGIVING TRAVEL BUT MOST WILL STAY IN STATE

 Thanksgiving a Mostly Stress-Free Holiday

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.Half of New Jerseyans plan some travel for Thanksgiving although only 17 percent will leave the state, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Spending the day with friends and family is the most enjoyable part of the holiday for 80 percent of respondents while 11 percent place the meal above all and 3 percent call a TV schedule chock full of football the best part of the holiday.

Despite visits with family and the challenges of preparing a large meal, Thanksgiving appears to be mostly stress-free, with only one-in-four respondents (26 percent) feeling worries about the holiday.

While 51 percent of New Jerseyans will travel for Thanksgiving, about one-in-three won’t leave the state and 48 percent will celebrate at home. Almost half (45 percent) will enjoy time with immediate family and one-third will celebrate with extended family. Economic considerations may play a role in the decision with whom to celebrate: wealthier Garden Staters are much more likely to travel to extended family, while those earning less than $50,000 annually will stay home and celebrate with their immediate family.

“Thanksgiving is very family-oriented,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “However, it takes financial resources to get together with extended family, and that’s more difficult for many in these tough economic times.”

Results are from a poll of 753 registered voters conducted Nov. 9-12, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Women more likely to stay home for the holiday

Despite their traditional role of preparing the meal, only 28 percent of women call Thanksgiving stressful, compared to 24 percent of men. At the same time, women are more likely to stay at home for the holiday. Fifty-five percent of woman plan to celebrate at home, while only 41 percent of men will not travel.

“Traveling means that someone else is taking care of the preparations,” Redlawsk said. “It may be that staying home with the responsibility of meal preparation is what causes the slight increase in stress among women.”

Kitchen duty also might explain why men are twice as likely as women to focus on Thanksgiving dinner, with 14 percent of men naming the meal as what they enjoy most, compared to only 7 percent of women. Still, 74 percent of men and 85 percent of women say the holiday is about family.

Thanksgiving most stressful for lower earners

Income affects respondents’ perception of stress. One-third of those making less than $50,000 say that Thanksgiving comes with at least some stress, but only 20 percent with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 find the holiday stressful. Stress increases for the highest income earners: 28 percent of those earning more than $150,000 report feeling stressed about Thanksgiving.

Not surprisingly, the wealthy are most likely to say they have out-of-state holiday plans. Fully one-quarter of the highest earning households will leave New Jersey, but only 5 percent of those making under $50,000 will be joining them outside the Garden State. Instead, 61 percent will stay home and another one-third will travel in-state. Half of high-income residents will play host for the holiday and a quarter will travel in-state.

Wealthier New Jerseyans, who can better afford to travel outside the state, are much more likely to celebrate the holiday with their extended family: 48 percent earning between $100,000 and $150,000 will celebrate with extended family compared to 18 percent of those making less than $50,000. About half (52 percent) of those earning less than $50,000 will celebrate with immediate family.

Stress greater among most, least educated

Thanksgiving seems to weigh more on those with a high school education or less, and those with graduate degrees. The in-betweeners are much less stressed by the holiday. While about 18 percent with a college education report stress, twice as many of the least educated (37 percent) and most educated (34 percent) say they find the holiday stressful. At the same time, similar percentages of each group plan to stay home for the holiday, so travel is not necessarily causing this difference. Nor is it about with whom people celebrate. While 51 percent of the least educated will celebrate with immediate family, only 34 percent of the most educated say the same.

“This education effect is interesting, but hard to nail down,” said Redlawsk. “Education is clearly related to income, and we see a similar pattern there, but it doesn’t seem we can pin it on who they visit or where they go.”

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Obama is personally liked in NJ (but fewer like how he’s doing his job); Christie continues to do well

As we always do, we once again asked about whether New Jerseyans view President Obama and Gov. Christie “favorably” or “unfavorably”. We also asked our job performance question, which we switched to a report card some months ago.  Other polls have been out lately showing Gov. Christie’s “approval” rating up, and actually higher than we get for a “favorable” rating. While our magnitudes are different – probably because we ask different questions, and perhaps because of question placement, the story is about the same. Gov. Christie continues to have his best favorability and job ratings that we have seen over his term. Pres. Obama, on the other hand, is clearly suffering a job performance gap. Where 49 percent of NJ registered voters tell us they have a favorable impression of Christie, Obama’s number is slightly higher, at 52 percent (though within the margin of error.)

What’s interesting, and we detail below, is that for Chistie, favorability = job performance. There is almost no gap, as 46 percent grade him A or B.

But the President is a different story. Well people feel favorable toward him, they are far less positive about how he’s doing his job. Only 37 percent give him an A or B, and only 11 percent of Democrats actually give him an A. Republicans stand by their guy, 34 percent give him an A, three times the percentage of Democrats who do the same for Obama.

What does this mean for Obama in New Jersey? Well, maybe a lot, maybe not so much. His campaign will need to generate enthusiasm in order to get people to the polls, and it’s hard to get people enthusiastic who seem lukewarm about how you’re doing. But at the same time, evaluation is NOT choice. That is, faced with an actual CHOICE, voters may respond quite differently than they do in giving a general evaluation. New Jersey is still a blue state; the question is can the Obama campaign remind voters of why they voted for him in the first place?

The release text follows. Click here for a PDF of the text plus questions and tables for this release

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEYANS LIKE PRESIDENT OBAMA, LESS SO HIS JOB PERFORMANCE;
GOV. CHRISTIE’S POSITIVE RATINGS GROW STRONGER

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – President Obama continues to make a favorable impression on New Jersey registered voters, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than half (52 percent) now view the president favorably, significantly better than in August, when his popularity stood at 44 percent. Thirty-seven percent view him unfavorably.

However, the Nov. 8 legislative elections uncovered some risk for Obama: those who actually voted are slightly less positive, with 50 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable. While New Jerseyans generally like the president, his job performance is much weaker – only 37 percent of respondents grade him “A” or “B” and 32 percent assign a “D” or “F.”

In contrast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gets higher ratings from those who voted and has substantially better job performance numbers than the president: 46 percent grade the governor A or B, while 30 percent assign a D or F. While 49 percent of registered voters view Christie favorably, 54 percent of actual voters feel positive. Christie is viewed unfavorably by 37 percent of registered and 36 percent of actual voters.

“Both Obama and Christie have seen improved ratings since the summer, but Christie in particular is doing well in this otherwise blue state,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Even as his favorability ratings remain stable, Christie’s job performance numbers are improving most likely because New Jerseyans credit his leadership credit his leadership through several recent crises, including the October snowstorm. But people appear to like Obama himself better than they like his job performance.”

Results are from a survey of 753 respondents drawn from a list of New Jersey registered voters, including 392 respondents who voted in the Nov. 8 legislative races. The survey was conducted from Nov. 9-12. The sample of registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points, while the voter sample has a margin of +/-5.0 percentage points.

Grading Obama’s job performance

While 52 percent of registered voters hold a favorable impression of Obama, only 15 percent give his job performance an A. Another 48 percent grade it B. One-third says his stewardship merits only a C. Conversely, 43 percent of those with an unfavorable impression of the president fail Obama’s job performance and another 32 percent assign him D. Only 22 percent of Obama’s detractors say his job performance rates as high as C.

“Many New Jerseyans who like the President personally are less than thrilled with his job performance, while those with an unfavorable impression are brutally negative,” said Redlawsk. “This suggests an enthusiasm gap, where negative job ratings are reinforced by a personal dislike of Obama, while positive views of him are offset by doubts about his performance.”

Obama’s job performance is viewed even more skeptically by those who actually voted in the recent election: 37 percent of registered voters grade the president A or B but 32 percent of actual voters give him top marks. Thirty-two percent of registered and 35 percent of actual voters handed out grades of D or F.

“While the difference is relatively small, an electorate less positive about the president means a tougher time getting re-elected,” said Redlawsk. “We know turnout will be substantially higher than in this off-year election, likely drawing more Democrat-leaning voters. Obama’s chances are at least in part dependent on how much enthusiasm he can generate, and right now that’s a real challenge for him.”

Democrats show positive, but relatively weak support for Obama’s job performance; 43 percent grade him B, only 11 percent A. One in six Democrats is decidedly negative, grading Obama’s job performance D or F. Support among registered voters unaffiliated with either party is evenly split, with 33 percent awarding an A or B and 31 percent a D or F. Among independents who voted last week, the president does noticeably worse, with 22 percent positive awarding A or B grades and 33 marking him D or F.

“This reinforces the point that turnout makes a difference,” said Redlawsk. “Casual voters seem more inclined to be positive toward Obama, but it also takes more work to get them to the polls.”

Christie’s ratings a study in contrast to Obama

Despite the loss of one Republican seat in the New Jersey General Assembly and the failure of GOP candidates to win any of the senate races in which he campaigned, post-election Christie has maintained the improved ratings he has received since August. His favorable rating matches well with his job performance rating. With a 49 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable rating, the governor is given an A or B by 46 percent of respondents while only 30 percent give a D or F, a 16-point net positive margin compared to Obama’s five-point margin.

Christie is doing much better than Obama among independents. Unaffiliated registered voters rate the governor’s performance favorably: 45 percent grade him A or B and 33 percent D or F. Independents who voted are even stronger supporters of the governor’s job performance with nearly half (49 percent) giving him at least a B.

Christie’s job performance is also more highly rated by his own party than is Obama’s. Just over a third of registered Republicans award the governor an A compared to the 11 percent of Democrats who do the same for Obama. Nearly 40 percent more give him a B. Crossing party lines, Democrats rate Christie much better than Republicans do Obama: 33 percent A or B by Democrats for Christie compared to 11 percent of Republicans giving those positive grades to Obama.

Those who have a favorable impression of Christie back that up with strong support for his job performance. More than one-third (35 percent) award Christie an A, more than twice the percentage of Obama supporters who give the President an A. About half (48 percent) give Christie a B. Thus, more than eight in 10 of those favorable toward Christie are also positive about his job performance, much more than Obama’s 63 percent.

“By and large, Christie seems to have solidified his support, both in terms of general favorability as well as job performance,” said Redlawsk. “The contrast with the president is very clear. Where Obama’s supporters seem lukewarm about his job performance, Christie supporters are quite clear about how pleased they are right now.”

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The 2011 Legislative Elections: The more things change… (oh, that’s right, little changed)

Today we report our polling on the legislative elections last week. As we all know, very little changed in the State House, with Democrats actually picking up one seat in the Assembly, while holding even in the Senate. The day after the election we went out to see what NJ voters thought about it. We used a listed sample of registered voters and a detailed screen to try to identify actual voters. We were most interested in following up our pre-election questions about Gov. Christie as a motivator for turnout. Obviously, given record low turnout, that motivation wasn’t so much. But we did find that 40 percent of voters said they voted to support or oppose the governor. And, as we would expect, we found interesting differences between those who voted Republican and those who voted Democrat.

The full text of today’s release is below. For a PDF with the text as well as the questions and tables, click here.


DESPITE EFFORTS TO DISTANCE HIMSELF,

GOV. CHRISTIE A MAJOR FACTOR IN MANY VOTERS’ DECISIONS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – While Gov. Chris Christie would rather not view the recent legislative election as a personal referendum, 40 percent of New Jersey voters say their votes were driven in part by the governor, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The referendum’s verdict? A split decision, with voters just as likely to support as to oppose Gov. Christie.

Voters were also split over the issues that brought them to the polls, with jobs and unemployment cited as most important by 15 percent of those turning out. Education and Christie’s governing style were each named by 14 percent, while 12 percent cited government spending and 11 percent high taxes. But more voters (28 percent) said they were motivated by positive feelings toward the candidates or party they supported rather than issues. Given the results, 54 percent of all registered voters are happy Democrats retained control of the legislature and can act as a check on the governor, while 32 percent are unhappy with the outcome.

“Before the election, just over half of likely voters said their vote would be driven by their feelings about the governor,” said poll director David Redlawsk, professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While not quite that many actual voters said they voted to show support or opposition to Christie, it is still clear that he was a significant factor in the election, clearly as important as any specific issue.”

Results are from a survey of 753 respondents drawn from a list of New Jersey registered voters, including 392 respondents who voted in the Nov. 8 election, conducted from Nov. 9 – 12. The sample of registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points, while the voter sample has a margin of +/-5.0 percentage points.

For many voters, a referendum on Christie

Registered Republican voters were most likely to see the legislative election as a referendum on Christie, with 39 percent saying they voted to show support for the governor, while 11 percent said they voted to show opposition to him. Half of Republicans said Christie had nothing to do with their vote. For Democrats, the election was somewhat less a referendum, with 29 percent voting to show opposition to Christie, and seven percent voting to show support, while 64 percent said their votes were not about the governor. The same 64 percent of registered independents also denied any connection to Christie, while 20 percent said their vote were in support of the governor, and 16 percent in opposition.

Among those actually voting for Republican Senate and Assembly candidates, 37 percent said they voted to support Christie, while 60 percent denied a connection. Likewise, 37 percent of those voting for Democratic candidates said they did so in opposition to Christie, and 57 percent said they voted for other reasons.

Gov. Christie’s approach to governing was named as the most important issue by 33 percent of those voting to support him. Government spending was second at 20 percent, followed by simply liking the candidates (16 percent) and jobs and unemployment (15 percent). Those voting to show opposition to the Governor were more focused on education, with 35 percent naming education and schools as most important, followed by 25 percent mentioning Christies’ governing style. Unemployment and jobs were named by 23 percent and simply liking the candidates or party followed at 13 percent.

Voters who said their votes were not about Christie at all were focused first on simply liking their choices (36 percent), followed by high taxes (15 percent), government spending (13 percent), unemployment and jobs (11 percent), and education and schools (10 percent).

“Taken together, it becomes clear that while a majority of voters say their votes were not about Christie, for a large number of voters the governor did, in fact, drive their vote choices,” said Redlawsk. “Those who support the governor seemed especially interested in showing that support at the polls, which may explain why Republicans were nearly at parity with Democrats in the statewide vote count.”

Majority happy with results; Large gender gap in the vote

Statewide, official numbers show Democrats outpolled Republicans by only three points, though pre-election polls had shown double digit leads for Democrats. And while the lack of competitive races at the district level means little change in Trenton, 54 percent of all registered voters are at least somewhat happy with Democrats retaining control of the legislature; 25 percent of registered voters are very happy, another 29 percent are somewhat happy. Just under one-third are unhappy, including 17 percent who are somewhat unhappy and 15 percent who are very unhappy with Democrats in control. Ten percent do not care who is in control; most of these say it makes little difference who wins.

The narrow statewide difference between Republican and Democratic vote totals hides a great deal of variation. A gender gap looms large: 53 percent of men voted Republican, but only one-third of women did the same. Sixty percent of women voted for Democrats, while only 37 percent of men did so. College graduates were much more likely to support Democrats, while those with less education were much more likely to vote Republican.

Even though voters had a chance to split their tickets in an Assembly race, or to vote for different parties for the Assembly and Senate, few did so. An overwhelming 92 percent reported voting for the same party in all races. “Parties run candidate slates,” noted Redlawsk, “and voters respond by voting for or against the whole slate. Even 92 percent of registered independents voted for the same party across Assembly and Senate races.”

Partisans mostly stayed with their parties: about eight in ten party members voted only for candidates of their party. Registered independents went Republican by 20 points with 56 percent voting for Republican candidates and only 36 percent voting for Democrats.

“While the independents who voted overwhelmingly supported Republicans, Democrats gained from both the much lower turnout of independents and their own large registration edge,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time, the redistricting map benefited incumbents of both parties, meaning it was unlikely much would change in any case.”

Republican voters say NJ going in the right direction; Democrats disagree

About half of voters (49 percent) say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 40 percent say the state is off on the wrong track. Given a chance to be more specific, only 28 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction because “things are changing for the better,” while 20 percent think the state is going in the right direction only because “things are not getting worse.” One-quarter say the state is on the wrong track because “things are not getting better” while 14 percent say “things are changing for the worse.” Only 15 percent of registered Democratic voters think New Jersey is changing for the better, while 58 percent of Republicans say so. Independents fall in between, with 31 percent saying things are changing for the better.

Sixty two percent of those who think New Jersey is headed in the right direction voted Republican, while 73 percent of those thinking the state is on the wrong track voted for Democrats.

“If we were looking for more evidence that this vote was a referendum on the Governor, these numbers provide it,” said Redlawsk. “Even though Democrats control the legislature, it was those who are unhappy with the state’s direction who voted for them to remain in control. Voters who like where we are going were much more likely to vote for Republicans. Both groups of voters see the direction of the state set by Christie’s leadership, rather than the legislature.”

Democrats focused on education while Republicans put government spending first

While voters were evenly split over the most important voting issue, differences by party are very large. Republican voters were most concerned with government spending (named by 24 percent), followed by high taxes (16 percent), jobs (13 percent), and Christie’s governing style (13 percent). Democratic voters had different priorities, with education and schools first (26 percent), followed by jobs (15 percent) and Christie’s governing style (15 percent). Few of those who voted for Democrats (two percent) said government spending was most important, while six percent named high taxes. Only four percent of those voting Republican put a priority on education.

Men and women had similar priorities on most issues. Education is an exception, with 21 percent of women but only 8 percent of men calling it the most important issue. The tax issue is also an exception, with men (15 percent) twice as likely as women (7 percent) to cite high taxes as most important. Men and women were equally likely to say their votes were simply about liking the candidates or parties.

Jobs were the focus for 23 percent of voters making under $50,000 but only 7 percent of the highest earning voters. Lower income voters were also more concerned about high taxes (23 percent) than were high earners (4 percent.) More than one in five high earners called government spending the most important issue, while only six percent of those making under $50,000 agreed. Yet high income voters were twice as likely as others to say their votes were about liking candidates or the party at 38 percent compared to just under 20 percent of those making under $100,000.

Who voted?

Initial turnout statistics show fewer than 25 percent of eligible voters showed up to the polls on Nov. 8. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll identifies significant differences between those who voted and those who stayed home. While 54 percent of voters are favorable toward Gov. Christie, only 45 percent of non-voters feel the same. Likewise, voters are much more likely to think New Jersey is going in the right direction, with 49 percent feeling positive, eight points higher than non-voters.

Registered independents are less likely to vote in legislative elections: while 57 percent of non-voters were registered to neither party, only 32 percent of those who voted were independents. Men were more likely to turn out in this election, making up 51 percent of voters, but only 44 percent of non-voters. Voters are also much less likely to live in the urban Northeast of the state: 11 percent of voters, but 19 percent of non-voters, come from urban areas, and 22 percent of voters are from Shore counties, compared to only 17 percent of non-voters. Voters are also older with 60 percent of voters over 50 compared to 41 percent of non-voters.

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Mixed Support for Occupy Wall Street in New Jersey; But Most Say Camps Should not be Shut Down

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

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – On the heels of today’s early morning removal of Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park by New York City police, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows that nearly two-thirds of New Jersey registered voters who are aware of the Occupy movement believe the protestors should be allowed to maintain their camps and demonstrations. Only 23 percent say officials should shut down the camps and arrest those who will not leave. The poll, taken Nov. 9-12 before the New York crackdown, asked those who have heard about the protest whether the actions of police in other cities were appropriate.

Despite general support for the rights of the protesters, Garden State voters are less certain about the movement itself. Just 34 percent say they have a favorable impression of Occupy Wall Street, while 39 percent say their impression is unfavorable, and 27 percent are not sure. At the same time, 54 percent say that they are “part of the 99 percent” and 53 percent say Occupy Wall Street makes them “hope things will change in America.” Moreover, 65 percent say taxes need to be raised on the wealthy.

“While many New Jersey voters do not explicitly support the Occupy Wall Street movement, a majority endorses their key messages,” said David Redlawsk, poll director and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Though we asked our questions before today’s NYPD action to remove the Zuccotti Park encampment, a large majority of Garden Staters are supportive of allowing camps and demonstrations to remain in place.”

Results are from a poll of 753 registered voters, conducted from Nov. 9 – 12. The full sample of registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Most do not see OWS as anti-American; many say it gives them hope

Most garden State voters do not support moves in some cities to close camps and arrest protestors despite lukewarm ratings for the movement. Those who view Occupy Wall Street favorably overwhelmingly support the camps (93 percent) while those unfavorable toward the movement are evenly split, with 44 percent in favor of the camps and 44 percent supporting their removal. Even 71 percent of those not sure how they feel say the camps should be allowed.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is well-known: 91 percent of New Jersey voters have heard something about it. Even with mixed feelings about it, only 26 percent of New Jersey voters who have heard something agree that “the people who are part of Occupy Wall Street just make me angry,” while just 14 percent agrees that the movement is “anti-American.” Twenty eight percent agree with the statement that “Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to the Tea Party.”

More than half (55 percent) of those unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street say it makes them angry, while 30 percent of those disliking it say the movement is “anti-American.” But 23 percent of those unfavorable still agree that Occupy Wall Street “makes me hope things will change in America.” Not surprisingly, those with a favorable view feel even better: 88 percent say it gives them hope for change. But even those with a neutral view are hopeful, by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin.

More than half of registered voters agree that “I am part of the 99 percent,” while 27 percent disagree and 20 percent are not sure. Among those who favor the movement, 74 percent say they are part of the “99 percent,” while 37 percent of those not favorable agree anyway. Half of those unsure about the movement call themselves part of the 99 percent.

“Those who say they are unsure whether they feel favorable or unfavorable about Occupy Wall Street seem nonetheless quite supportive of its efforts,” noted Redlawsk. “Their ambivalence toward the movement should not be taken as ambivalence about its key economic message.”

OWS supporters concerned with growing inequality; favor tax increases on wealthy

Half of Garden State voters are “very concerned” about the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, while an additional 30 percent are “somewhat concerned.” Concern about inequality crosses over to those who say they are unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street. Nearly all supporters (97 percent) are at least somewhat concerned about inequality, but even two-thirds of those who do not support the movement express concern.

Those unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street do not extend their concern about inequality to supporting tax increases for the wealthy. While 65 percent of all registered voters say taxes on the wealthy should be increased, 89 percent of those favoring the Occupy Wall Street movement want the rich to pay more. But, despite expressing concern about a growing income gap, 57 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression towards the movement oppose tax increases for wealthy Americans.

New Jersey voters more supportive of OWS than of Tea Party

Occupy Wall Street is viewed favorably by just over one-third of New Jersey voters, substantially more than the 21 percent who favor the Tea Party. One-fifth (22 percent) of those who view the Tea Party favorably also have a favorable opinion of Occupy Wall Street; similarly, 31 percent of registered voters see both groups in a negative light.

Democrats are most likely to have favorable views of the Occupy Wall Street movement (49 percent favorable vs. 26 percent unfavorable) while Republicans are far more negative (23 percent favorable, 59 percent unfavorable.) Independents are also negative by a 12 point margin: 28 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable. Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to see Occupy Wall Street as “anti-American” (27 percent), more likely to say that the movement makes them angry (45 percent), and least likely to identify as “part of the 99 percent” (43 percent).  Only 22 percent of Republicans say that Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to the Tea Party, compared to 27 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents.

Tea Party supporters are even more likely to say OWS is anti-American (31 percent) and to be angered by it (50 percent), even though 27 percent of Tea Party supporters agree that Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to theirs. Even so, a plurality of Tea Party supporters (44 percent) agrees that they are “part of the 99 percent” while 35 percent disagree. A bare majority (51 percent) supports closing down the Occupy Wall Street camps, while 42 percent support continuation of the camps.

Favoring change

Voters who say New Jersey is moving in the right direction view Occupy Wall Street on unfavorable terms. Sixty-four percent of those who say New Jersey is going in the right direction because things are changing for the better have an unfavorable opinion of Occupy Wall Street. Forty-eight percent of those who say New Jersey is at least “not getting worse” are similarly unfavorable.

Those who believe New Jersey is off on the wrong track are more likely to support the Occupy Wall Street movement: 44 percent of voters who think that the state is on the wrong track because things are not getting better favor the Occupy Wall Street movement, as do 55 percent of voters who see New Jersey changing for the worse.

Most registered voters who think conditions are getting worse say they are “part of the 99 percent” (71 percent) as do most (59 percent) who say things are simply not getting better. But, even 49 percent of those who believe things are not getting any worse say they are a “part of the 99 percent” as do 44 percent of voters who see things improving in the Garden State.

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Occupy Wall Street: A New Jersey Take Coming Soon

The news this morning out of NYC that the police rousted the Occupy Wall Streeters from Zuccotti Park overnight was quite stunning to us. And as it turns out we have just concluded polling that incorporated questions about OWS. This is just a heads up that we will be releasing those results within the next couple hours. While a poll of New Jersey, the results should be of wide interest.

Here’s one tidbit – nearly two-thirds of NJ registered voters believe that officials should not close down the OWS camps in cities around the country, even though more NJ votes are unfavorable than favorable to the movement.

More soon…

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Guest Post by Francesca Conti: Why Vote?

Why Vote?

It’s autumn again. This means leaves are turning color, pumpkin pie, apple picking, and another election. Political elections in New Jersey are a routine part of fall. Each year, New Jersey has a major political election.  With State Legislative elections approaching in just a few short weeks, I find myself focusing a little more on local politics.

Although only about thirty percent of registered NJ voters are likely to venture to polls on November 8th, I have begun to ask myself why this is the case rather than who should I cast my ballot for. As a young political enthusiast I feel that I am obliged to be informed on local and national political issues. However, the more I surround myself with my fellow cohorts the more I realize I virtually stand alone. Not because voting in the upcoming election would somehow benefit me more than my fellow colleagues, but alone in regards that I do care. I believe working at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling has played a role in this.

The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling’s main initiative is to understand why people vote the way they do and what factors contribute to this. But how can the poll accurately evaluate the younger generation if this generation does not vote?  When I ask my peers why they don’t bother to vote, or why they don’t care, I generally receive the same response: my vote doesn’t count. I stare at them incredulously because the legislative election is a directly democratic election. Unlike the presidential election where the Electoral College votes on the president, this election allows people to cast their votes on issues that directly affect them and their community.

Before interning this summer with my local state senator, I took was another apathetic twenty something that cared little about how these elections would impact me. However, this experience was eye opening.  Working hands on in my district’s legislative office made me realize that these local representatives really do care about their constituents because they are members of these communities too. Unlike tainted or power hungry major political players, people who run for local politics in my eyes have truly genuine, unselfish intents.

Working as the social media intern at ECPIP has allowed me great insight on to voter’s opinions and concerns on political issues that affect them. How should these issues be any different for the younger generation? We too worry about the economy, jobs (for many of us are entering the work force soon), and foreign relations. Yet, collectively, we still find that people are generally indifferent or don’t care about legislative elections, especially my generation. Our findings have shown that these elections will produce generally low turnout and there will be little change in power.

With this is in mind, I encourage you to vote in the upcoming election. My political experiences have stressed the importance of voicing my opinion. ECPIP’s findings have discovered that NJ voters do have strong opinions about ongoing issues so voice those concerns on November 8th. Especially the younger generation, cease the opportunity to make a difference.

Francesca Conti is a Rutgers student and an intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling

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