Rutgers-Camden/Rowan Merger Still Unpopular; UMDNJ-Rutgers Reconfiguration Gets More Support

Today we revisit public opinion on the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University, following up on a poll we did in February on this topic. Six weeks ago we found strong opposition. Today the story hasn’t changed. New Jersey voters still overwhelmingly oppose the plan – and for once Democrats, Republicans, and independents are all united in their opposition.

We added a question this time on the other reconfiguration under way – the separation of parts of UMDNJ and merger of them with Rutgers-New Brunswick. This plan is about twice as popular as the Rowan plan, though to be fair that leaves it quite short of majority support. On both plans a large number of voters tell us they “don’t know” what they think, not surprisingly since the issue is clearly complex.

The full release follows. For a PDF of the release with questions and tables, click here.

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEY VOTERS REMAIN OPPOSED TO RUTGERS-CAMDEN/ROWAN MERGER

Merger with parts of UMDNJ gets more support

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Opposition to the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University continues unabated, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Statewide, 59 percent of registered voters oppose the merger, while 19 percent support it and 22 percent are unsure of their position. The poll shows little change since an early February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll that found 57 percent opposition and 22 percent support.

“Those working toward the merger have apparently not made their case to New Jerseyans over the past six weeks,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “We’ve seen virtually no movement despite the very public debate on the issue.”

Voters are more supportive of the proposed merger of Rutgers with the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the School of Public Health – all units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey (UMDNJ). A slight plurality (38 percent to 34 percent) favors the takeover while 28 percent say they don’t know.

“The issues surrounding these changes are complex, so it is not surprising to see such uncertainty,” said Redlawsk. “But among those who do have an opinion, twice as many support the Rutgers-UMDNJ changes as support Rowan taking over the Rutgers-Camden campus.”

Results are from a poll of 601 New Jersey adults, including a subsample of 518 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from March 21-27. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

Opposition to Rutgers-Camden/Rowan merger remains high

The proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University has been championed by Gov. Chris Christie following a recommendation by a commission established to examine a possible merger of Rutgers with portions of UMDNJ. Opposition remains broad and deep, with Democrats, independents, and even Republicans united against the plan.

Opposition by Democrats has actually increased by 10 points to 77 percent, while only 9 percent are now in favor. Republican voters’ opinions on the merger have not changed since February. Only 33 percent favor combining Rowan and Rutgers, while 41 percent oppose the plan. Nearly half of independent voters oppose the plan, little different from the 52 percent opposed six weeks ago.  Independent support is virtually unchanged as well at 21 percent.

“Opposition to this proposal remains bipartisan,” said Redlawsk. “While Republicans are somewhat more supportive, a plurality remains opposed despite the governor’s vocal support.”

There is surprisingly little difference between respondents with ties to either Rowan or Rutgers. About 25 percent of voters with a household member who has enrolled in a Rutgers course on any campus favor the merger. Of the small number of respondents with a Rowan connection, 34 percent express support. “Interestingly, opposition is stronger among voters without a Rutgers connection than with one,” said Relawsk.

Support for Rutgers-UMDNJ reconfiguration

While strongly opposed to the Rutgers-Camden and Rowan merger, voters are more inclined to move significant parts of UMDNJ to Rutgers-New Brunswick.

“Support for the Rutgers-UMDNJ plan remains well below a majority because so many simply have no opinion. But even so, that proposal gets twice the support of the Rowan merger,” noted Redlawsk. “Voters clearly differentiate between the two plans, though in both cases many remain uncertain despite – or perhaps because of – the ongoing public debate.”

Republicans are stronger backers of the Rutgers-UMDNJ merger than Democrats, 42 percent to 33 percent; 39 percent of independents approve of the plan. Only 26 percent of Republicans oppose the merger, compared to 43 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents.

“Unlike the proposed merger in south Jersey, the UMDNJ plan shows the more typical partisan split we see on issues championed by Governor Christie,” said Redlawsk. “This may well reflect the fact that the Rowan plan very publicly involves both the governor and key Democratic figures in south Jersey, muddling the partisan differences.”

In contrast to their opposition to the Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University merger, voters with a Rutgers connection or a Rowan connection both support the merger between Rutgers and UMDNJ. There is virtually no difference between the two groups, with about 45 percent of each supporting the plan, while about 30 percent oppose it.

Few regional differences on both plans

As reported in February, voters in southern New Jersey remain no more likely to support the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University than in other parts of the state. “The small difference we see is not statistically significant, though the number of don’t knows is up for South Jerseyans, which mean overt opposition has dropped somewhat,” said Redlawsk. “But this has been offset by Shore county voters, whose greater uncertainty has been replaced by more opposition.”

There are also few regional differences in support for the UMDNJ plan. Exurban voters appear to show somewhat less support than those in other parts of the state, while Shore county voters are the most supportive.

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