Monthly Archives: October 2012

Polling and Superstorm Sandy

Or not.

Pundits are talking about how the Superstorm that devastated the eastern seaboard states and wreaked havoc as far west as Chicago and Milwaukee, will affect national polling results as we come down to the final week before the election. A number of tracking polls suspended operations, since getting a valid national sample might be difficult at best. In fact, I would argue that getting a valid sample will be impossible for some time, given massive power outages and the challenges of recovery.  We may just have to actually wait for the election to see how the vote turns out. I would be pretty skeptical of any national poll going forward.

As for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and our NJ focus, we have also suspended operations. We had planned to be in the field starting today through Saturday, so we could bring you a final pre-election read on the NJ electorate on Monday. But given that the first priority around here needs to be recovery, and that answering the questions of pollsters is probably pretty low on the list of things people without power, water, and in some cases shelter need to be doing, we will not be doing a pre-election poll. We do expect to be back sometime in mid/late November with a post-election read on what NJ voters want going forward.

And of course, at this time our thoughts are with all of those affected by this storm within New Jersey and elsewhere. Our students, staff, their families, and the vendors we work with are on our minds, and we hope all are safe and sound. That’s a lot more important than our curiosity over the election horserace.

We wish everyone the best, and of course, remember to VOTE next week (or before if your state allows it.)

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WNYC – The Brian Lehrer Show with our director talking about health care polling

A part of our release on our health care questions in conjunction with WNYC and The Brian Lehrer Show, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll director Dave Redlawsk appeared on the show this morning. Click here if you’d like to hear the discussion.

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In partnership with WNYC, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll looks at health care issues

Today we release interesting results of a series of questions we asked about health care reform issues in our latest poll. We worked with The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio to develop questions on support for the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), a major proposed change to Medicare, the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, and whether people trust government or insurance companies on health insurance matters.

Full text of the release follows. For a PDF of the text along with questions and tables, click here.

An Increasing Number of New Jerseyans Appear to Support Obamacare, WNYC/Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Finds
But voters also trust private insurance companies more than government

A clear majority of New Jersey voters support the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new WNYC/Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Nearly 6-in-10 registered voters in the Garden State say the Supreme Court was right to uphold the law, while 37 percent wanted it struck down. This represents a significant increase in support, compared to the 47 percent who supported the law in a March, 2010 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Other key findings of the poll include:

Given a choice between changing Medicare to a system providing fixed payments to seniors who would then buy their own insurance or maintaining the current system, more than two-thirds would stick with Medicare as it is. Only one-quarter supports changing the system to allow purchasing insurance on the market.

The ACA’s provision expanding Medicaid is popular in New Jersey, even though the state has not yet decided whether to participate in the expansion. Just over one-third opposes expanding Medicaid eligibility, while 57 percent support extending its coverage to more low income residents.

At the same time, voters are dubious about government decisions about health insurance: only 35 percent trust government on matters related to health insurance, while 44 percent trust private insurance companies more.

“New Jerseyans are for the most part supportive of the affordable health care act,” said Redlawsk. “While not all that supportive of government making health insurance decisions, they are still quite happy with the prospects of keeping children on parents’ policies and not being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

“We learn again how incredibly conflicted people are when it comes to both health insurance and the role of government,” said Brian Lehrer. “Folks responding to this poll trust private insurance more than government in the abstract, but prefer Medicare to an insurance marketplace in their real lives. It’s also interesting that most New Jerseyans seem to want Governor Christie to opt into the Medicaid expansion, despite the refusal of some other Republican governors to do so.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sep 27-30. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. Questions on health care issues were developed in consultation with The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio, and were sponsored by WNYC.

Overall support for Affordable Care Act hides partisan differences

While 57 percent of New Jersey voters support the ACA court decision, support is driven by the nearly 80 percent of Democrats who are pleased that the law was upheld. Reflecting their party’s consistent position on “Obamacare,” only 23 percent of Republicans support the Court’s decision, while 74 percent wanted the law struck down. Independents are more supportive than not, at 56 percent to 35 percent.

Support for the law is clearly tied to support for President Barack Obama. Among those who say they will vote for Obama, 82 percent are happy with the decision. But 74 percent of Romney voters wish the ACA had been struck down. Reflecting this, there are also strong racial divisions, with only 52 percent of white voters in favor of the ACA, compared to 77 percent of black voters.

Parents of children under 18 are slightly more supportive of the Supreme Court decision on the health care act than are other voters, at 60 percent. Young people – many of whom may be direct beneficiaries of the law – are for the most part supportive: 61 percent are pleased the law was upheld. But senior citizens are much less so, with only 46 percent happy with the decision, with an equal number wishing the law had been overturned.

Voters who trust government more on health care insurance are overwhelmingly supportive of the Court’s decision, at 80 percent, with only 15 percent preferring the Court had ruled the other way. But those who trust private insurance companies more see things differently: 60 percent wanted the law struck down, while only 34 percent wanted it upheld.

“To a great extent, the results suggest that partisan voters stick with their parties on this one,” noted Redlawsk. “Democrats trust government, and also want the law, while Republicans do not. At the same time, those with a personal interest in getting coverage – parents of children, and the young voters themselves – are more supportive, while those who see less positive outcomes are much less so. Seniors generally don’t see much direct benefit, and may be worried about Medicare cuts, leading to less support for the law.”

Little stomach for major Medicare change

A large majority of New Jersey voters does not want Medicare to change from the basic government insurance program that it is today. One-quarter support changing to a type of voucher system, where seniors would buy their own insurance, but 69 percent of New Jerseyans reject that idea. Even a majority of voters who say they trust private insurance companies more on health insurance want to retain the current Medicare system, while 85 percent of those trusting government support the current system against a voucher proposal.

Predictable partisan differences arise, but even so, 54 percent of Republicans reject payments to seniors to buy their own coverage. Democrats, not surprisingly, are broadly in favor of the current system: 82 percent want to leave it alone while 64 percent of independents agree. Yet, 52 percent of Romney supporters would leave the system alone, and 81 percent of Obama voters are in the same camp.

Age matters, though not as much as might be expected. Voters over 65, most of whom are on Medicare, are widely in favor of the current system, but even 58 percent of voters under 30 reject a voucher-style alternative.

“Medicare remains a potential third rail in American politics,” said Redlawsk. “And our results in New Jersey reflect that. While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has talked of a plan allowing seniors to buy their own insurance with a government-provided stipend, even voters in his own party are not so sure they like the idea. Whether they like the federal government or not, most voters like one of its signature programs just the way it is.”

Despite Medicare support, voters dubious about government and health insurance decisions

More New Jersey voters trust private insurance companies than the government when it comes to matters related to health insurance, reflecting a somewhat contradictory position compared to widespread support for the premier government insurance program, Medicare. Divisions over the role of government mostly reflect standard partisan divisions in American politics. Independents (44 percent) and especially Republicans (76 percent) are much more trusting of private insurance companies than are Democrats (25 percent). But significant shares of voters say they do not trust either – about 1 in 7 members of both parties — and 20 percent of independents take this position.

These divisions carry through in predictable ways: while 51 percent of white voters favor private insurance companies, 57 percent of black voters say they trust government more on matters related to health insurance. Voters who support the Supreme Court decision on the ACA are also more likely to trust government, 49 percent versus 26 percent trusting private companies. And voters who oppose the decision are trusting of private companies by a 71 to 14 percent margin.

“People can often hold contradictory opinions,” said Redlawsk. “We all remember the ‘keep your government hands off my Medicare’ comments supposedly made in the early days of the debate over health care. The fact is, while voters are dubious about government decision-making, they are also quite supportive of programs from which they see or expect a direct benefit.”

Redlawsk also pointed out that much of the contradiction comes from Republican voters, who are strongly anti-government, but more supportive than not of Medicare.

Proposed Medicaid Expansion has support

Among the provisions of the health care law is the expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for low income Americans. A federal program, Medicaid is administered by the states, and states have some leeway in establishing eligibility. The ACA would expand eligibility to cover many more Americans with the federal government paying at least 90 percent of the cost. In its ruling the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of the expansion without penalty. New Jersey has not yet announced its decision.

Voters in New Jersey, however, express clear support for Medicaid expansion in the state, with 57 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed. When voters opposed to expansion are told it has little cost to the state, 65 percent of them continue to oppose it, while 23 percent become supporters.

Support for Medicaid expansion decreases as income increases: 65 percent of voters with household incomes under $50,000 are in favor, while only 48 percent of those making $150,000 or more agree. Sharp partisan differences emerge, driven in part by dramatic differences between black and white voters, and by age. Half of whites support expansion, while 86 percent of black voters do. Voters under 30 are also strong supporters, at 73 percent, while only 49 percent of those over 65 agree. As a result, 79 percent of Democrats are in favor of expanding Medicaid, while only 15 percent are opposed. But among Republicans, only 30 percent support expansion, while 60 percent are against it. Independents are much more split: 51 percent support and 41 percent oppose Medicaid expansion.

Three-quarters of those who support the decision to uphold the ACA also want to see Medicaid expanded, while 61 percent of voters who wanted the law struck down also oppose expanding Medicaid.

“Support for Medicaid expansion is driven by the same partisan and self-interest dynamic we see in the other health care questions,” said Redlawsk. “Those who might benefit – lower income voters in particular – are much more supportive than those who would not. Likewise, senior citizens, who already have Medicare accessibility, are also less interested in expanding Medicaid. And of course Republicans oppose it and Democrats support it.”

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Chris Christie job performance up, re-elect down slightly

Continuing on our latest series of releases, we update our Gov. Christie numbers since our August poll. It was only a month between polls, so probably shouldn’t have expected much to change. Granted, there was the Republican National Convention and the governor’s Keynote speech. The speech itself got great reviews from Republicans, and we think we see this reflected in more positive Republican numbers, and more negative Democratic ones. But independents don’t show much movement one way or the other.

And from time to time we see numbers that don’t have a ready explanation in our data or any obvious external events. We see one of those there – the share of women giving Christie a job performance grade of “A” grew 8 points, from 10 to 18 percent, matching the number of men who award the top grade. Interestingly, at the same time, women are also more likely to give the governor a “D” than they were in August. But it is not obvious why we should see such movement among women now, after relative stability for quite a while. And this is doubly true since women have not improved their overall impression of the governor.

Full text of the release is below. For a PDF of the text, with questions and tables, click here.

CHRISTIE JOB GRADE IMPROVES SLIGHTLY, RE-ELECTION SUPPORT DOES NOT
Nearly half of voters think state is heading in right direction

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Almost half of New Jersey’s registered voters – 47 percent –grade Gov. Chris Christie’s job performance as A or B, but the same percentage says they would not vote to re-elect the governor, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Eighteen percent of voters rate Christie’s job performance A, and 29 percent a B, but 30 percent award him a poor or failing grade. Grades are slightly more positive than an August Rutgers-Eagleton Poll; more voters now award an A grade (up three points), and fewer award C (down three points).

Voters remain split over a second term for Christie. While 44 percent would re-elect the governor, 47 percent say it is time for someone new. Last month, 47 percent wanted another term while 46 percent were looking for change.

Christie’s favorability has remained relatively stable since the last poll: 48 percent of voters have a favorable impression of Christie, down a point from August, while 42 percent are unfavorable toward the governor, up two points. Nearly half (49 percent) of voters say New Jersey is going in the right direction while 41 percent say it is on the wrong track.

“New Jersey voters remain evenly split over the governor, as they have been consistently since he’s been in office,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While we see small moves up and down, opinions on Christie remain pretty settled, even though there is some improvement in job performance grades.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sep 27-30. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie’s favorability remains steady, job performance marks improve

Christie’s stable favorability ratings between polls belie some movement among both Republicans and Democrats. While independent voters remain 49 percent favorable, the governor’s favorability among Republicans improved by four points to 88 percent. With Democrats, on the other hand, Christie’s favorability dropped three points to 22 percent. Women remain less positive than men, 43 percent to 52 percent.

An increase in the number of women who give Christie an A has driven Christie’s higher job performance grades since August. As many women as men (18 percent) now give the governor the top grade, up 8 points for women. Although more women than men fail him (17 percent compared to 12 percent of men), this still represents a two-point improvement among women from the last poll.

Independents remain very positive about Christie’s job performance: 47 percent award him A or B, and 14 percent fail him. Democrats are more negative, but 25 percent now grade him A or B, a five-point improvement from August. Nearly a quarter fail him. Not surprisingly, GOP backers overwhelmingly give Christie stellar grades; 83 percent say Christie is doing A or B work (up nine points), while only 2 percent say he should fail (down two points).

“This poll marks the highest percentage of A’s and B’s we’ve seen since we introduced the Christie job report card in February 2011,” said Redlawsk. “Republicans are more positive, and Democrats more negative, as we might expect from Christie’s convention speech. Favorability among women did not change, but job performance ratings became more polarized. Yes, many more women give A grades this month, but we also see an increase in D’s.”

Looking ahead to 2013

Christie’s improved job performance grades are contrasted, however, with a small slip in re-election prospects. The decline is due to a drop in support among Democrats and independents, outweighing gains among Republicans. Only 19 percent of Democrats would give the governor a second term versus the 71 percent who want him out of office next year. Re-election support among independents has dropped five points since August to 44 percent, while 43 percent want someone new, down two points. The number of undecided independents has doubled to 12 percent since the last poll. In contrast, support among GOP voters has increased five points to 85 percent. Twelve percent of Republicans say they want someone new.

“No incumbent wants to be below 50 percent re-election support,” said Redlawsk, “but we don’t yet know who will be the Democratic nominee, nor how brutal a primary Democratic contenders will face. Given that, Christie’s numbers look reasonably good so far.”

Men have become less positive about the governor’s re-election. Forty-eight percent favor re-election, a six-point decline since the summer. Forty-three percent want someone new (up from 39 percent), and 10 percent are unsure (up from 8 percent). Women, on the other hand, have remained steady – 41 percent want the governor re-elected, 50 percent do not, and 9 percent are uncertain.

Christie’s re-election continues to be mostly opposed by voters under 30 (59 percent want someone new, up seven points) and black voters (81 percent, up nine points). He no longer wins among those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 (43 percent say re-elect, 51 percent say someone new) and continues to lose among those in the two lowest income brackets. The governor still has re-election support among white voters, but is down two points to 52 percent. Senior citizens remain on his side, with 53 percent favoring a second term.

New Jersey continues in a positive direction

The share of voters who say New Jersey is going in the right direction (49 percent) may be rebounding from a dip in August; 41 percent continue to believe, however, that the state is on the wrong track. Independents’ positive feeling about the state’s direction increased two points to 49 percent. Their pessimism correspondingly decreased to 39 percent. Republicans are more positive than Democrats by an 81 percent to 31 percent margin.

More than half (55 percent) of voters who think the state is going in the right direction feel this way because they believe things are changing for the better, and 40 percent believe things are not getting worse. Those who say New Jersey is on the wrong track mostly do so because they believe things are just not getting better (62 percent), compared to a little over a third of voters who think things in the state are getting worse (35 percent).

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NJ voters support higher ed bond; making judges pay more for benefits

On Wednesday we released our latest numbers on the presidential race in New Jersey, and that story is one of relatively little change, though perhaps increased voting likelihood among some Democratic leaning voters leading to a slight increase for Obama. In applying our likely voter screen – the same screen we started using last month, which includes  vote intent, campaign interest, attention to politics, and 2010 turnout – we found a slight increase in Democratic turnout, stability among Republicans, and a decline among self-described independents. On top of that, we found more Democrats in our registered voter sample than the previous month. Does that mean our sample was skewed? We don’t think so, since our sampling methods did not change. But Democrats were more energized after the conventions. As a party is doing better in how people perceive it, it tends to gain among voters, since partisanship is not a fixed characteristic, but instead a sense of affiliation.

In any case, today we release additional numbers on two ballot issues facing New Jersey voters this fall. One is on a $750 million bond issue for higher education facilities. The other is a state constitutional amendment that, if passed, will allow the legislature to require state judges to pay more for their benefits (as other state workers have had to) without it being considered a reduction in compensation.

This is the first time we’ve asked about the judge’s benefits, but we asked about the bond twice before, once back in February when it wasn’t certain it would be on the ballot, and again last month. We see significantly more support for the bond this month, suggesting it has a good chance of passing. As for the judges, they will almost certainly be paying more for the benefits after the election.

Full text of the release is below. For a PDF of the release with questions and tables, click here.

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEY VOTERS SUPPORT EDUCATION BOND, INCREASING COST OF BENEFITS FOR JUDGES

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Large majorities of likely New Jersey voters support each of two key issues that will be on the November ballot, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. A proposed $750 million higher education bond issue garners 62 percent support, up from 56 percent a month ago. Only 27 percent of voters oppose the bond, while 11 percent are unsure.

Even more voters – 70 percent – support a state constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to require judges to pay more for their benefits. On this issue, just 18 percent of voters are opposed, while 12 percent have not made up their minds.

The higher education bond designates the money for new academic buildings and technological upgrades at New Jersey colleges and universities. The judges’ benefits amendment was placed on the ballot after a heated battle between the Legislature and state Supreme Court over whether the former could require judges to pay more toward their pensions and health insurance.

“As we get closer to the election, support for the higher education bond seems to be solidifying, reflecting the lack of vocal opposition so far,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “The benefits amendment is even more popular, most likely reflecting a sense that judges, too, should be subject to the same increases in costs that all other state workers have endured.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from September 27-30. Within this sample, 619 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Bond support continues to climb

Support for the higher education bond issue has climbed steadily during the year, including a six-point jump since late August, as more independents have come on board while opposition has remained steady. Voters were much more divided – 48 percent for, 45 percent against – when the potential bond issue was thought to be more than $1 billion in early 2012. The reduction to $750 million appears to have made it much more palatable, Redlawsk noted.

Likely Democratic voters remain the strongest supporters (76 percent). Independent (57 percent) and Republican (46 percent) support has increased since August.

By 93 percent to 54 percent, blacks are stronger supporters of the bond issue than whites. Moreover, black support since August has increased 19 points while white support grew by only 3 points. The disparity is most likely due to a significant drop in blacks who say they are unsure (by 18 percentage points), while the number of whites who are uncertain has dropped by only six points.

“As black voters have become more aware of the bond issue, they’ve become stronger supporters,” said Redlawsk. “White voters are much less likely to support the bond, but their support at least has held steady.”

Though a majority of voters at all education levels support the new higher education funding, support increases with level of education attained. Voters who attended one of the Rutgers campuses are more likely than other college graduates to support the plan, at 69 percent. In addition, younger voters are much more positive – 81 percent of those ages 18 to 34 plan to vote yes, compared to 57 percent of those 65 or older. Support from younger voters is up 11 points since August, and up eight points among seniors.

Regionally, support among shore residents increased 16 points since August while support among voters in exurban areas declined by 6 points.

Voters want judges to contribute more

The amendment to have judges contribute more to the cost of their benefits has widespread support across nearly all groups. Overwhelming majorities of likely GOP (75 percent) and independent (73 percent) voters favor the amendment, as do two-thirds of Democrats.

Men are stronger supporters of the amendment than women: 74 percent to 67 percent. Whites are also more likely to support it than blacks, 72 percent to 66 percent. The differences are small and support is well above a majority in key demographic groups, Redlawsk observed.

“It is hard to imagine the judges’ benefits amendment failing to pass,” said Redlawsk. “For most voters, it seems like the right thing to do, even if the judges themselves argue it amounts to a reduction in pay. Voters don’t seem swayed by the argument that judge’s pay is related to judicial independence and therefore sacrosanct.”

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Obama Lead Grows in NJ

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

OBAMA WIDENS NEW JERSEY LEAD OVER ROMNEY IN LATEST RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – On the eve of today’s first presidential debate, likely New Jersey voters give President Obama a 17-point lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney – a three- point increase since August. According to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 56 percent of New Jersey voters say they prefer Obama while 39 percent support Romney. Another 2 percent would like to see someone else, and only 4 percent are undecided.

Reflecting a national trend since the Democratic convention, voters have become slightly more positive about Obama over the past month: 56 percent now hold a favorable impression, up two points since August, while 39 percent view him unfavorably, unchanged over the past month. During the same time, voters have become increasingly negative about Romney. While 38 percent continue to view him favorably, 54 percent are now unfavorable, up five points from August.

The “economy and jobs” remains the most important election issue by far, named by 56 percent of voters. The president continues to be seen as better able to manage the economy with a 52 percent to 43 percent edge over the challenger. Many fewer voters (10 percent) pick the federal budget deficit as most important, followed by education at 9 percent and “Social Security and Medicare” at 6 percent. Romney holds nearly a 3 to 1 edge (66 percent to 23 percent) among voters who name the budget as the most important issue.

“This poll reflects recent national trends,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Romney’s missteps on Libya and his ’47 percent’ comments may have had effects, though he was already well behind here. We’ve also seen a pickup in voters who say they are Democrats, which is reflected in the poll’s partisan makeup. More people calling themselves Democrats means higher Obama numbers.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from September 27-30. Within this sample, 645 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Obama increases large lead

President Obama’s increased lead is due to several factors. Voters have become more likely to self-identify as Democrats, 95 percent of whom now support Obama. Romney, too, has solidified support among his party, as 94 percent of Republicans are now in his camp, up 11 points since August. Undecided voters and those wishing for another choice have dropped by half, as only 6 percent of likely voters cannot choose between the challenger and incumbent, with the president gaining a larger share of formerly undecided voters.

Most importantly, men have become more supportive of Obama. He now leads among men, 53 percent to 42 percent, compared to a 45 percent to 42 percent lead a month ago. Women remain stronger supporters, with 58 percent for Obama, and 36 percent for Romney, but the previously wide gender gap has closed considerably in recent weeks.

More independents are supporting Obama than when last polled. Romney also gained among this group as fewer independents remain undecided. Obama now leads among independents, 47 percent to 39 percent, compared to 44 percent to 36 percent last month.

“The president’s improving numbers among men, combined with the fact that more younger voters, women and minority voters are entering the likely voter pool than last month, accounts for much of his gain in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “If groups that traditionally support the president are increasingly likely to vote, then his position in New Jersey is probably not at risk.”

White voters favor Romney by a mere 1 point, 47 percent to 46 percent. Nonwhite voters overwhelmingly prefer Obama and comprise nearly 30 percent of likely voters. The Republican holds a seven-point lead among Catholics and a five-point edge among likely voters 65 or older. In contrast, more than half of voters in all other age groups support Obama, with those ages 18 to 34 and 50 to 64 most likely to vote for him, at 63 percent and 62 percent respectively.

Regionally, voters in the shore and exurban counties of New Jersey are stronger Romney supporters, by 11 points 25 points, respectively. Urban, suburban and south Jersey voters are all strong for Obama, with urban voters overwhelming for the president.

Democratic ticket still more likeable

Likely voters are more positive about Obama personally, and more negative about Romney than a month ago. While 56 percent of all likely voters have a favorable impression of Obama, he does not do as well among independents (48 percent). Romney does slightly better among independents at 40 percent favorable, than he does overall (38 percent), a 4-point improvement among independents since August. Romney also receives a huge favorability boost from his own party – 90 percent of Republicans now have a favorable impression of him, compared to just 78 percent before the Republican National Convention. In comparison, 94 percent of Democrats like Obama, virtually unchanged over the past month.

“The Republican National Convention did at least one thing it was meant to do. It greatly improved Romney’s standing among his base voters and somewhat improving how independents perceive him,” said Redlawsk

Likely voters are generally less favorable toward Vice President Joe Biden than they are toward Obama: 49 percent have a favorable impression of Biden, with 39 percent unfavorable. Voters are slightly less negative toward Paul Ryan than they are toward Romney, though Ryan is still viewed unfavorably overall, 36 percent favorable to 48 percent unfavorable.

While the earlier gender gap has closed somewhat, women remain much less positive about Romney than do men while there is now no gender difference in feelings about Obama. Thirty-four percent of women feel favorable toward Romney, compared to 42 percent of men. But while women’s favorability toward Obama declined six points to 57 percent, men increased their rating by nine points to 56 percent favorable. Obama is now viewed as more likeable by both genders.

Changes in favorability among income groups shows some unexpected patterns in the face of Romney’s “47 percent” comments about those he does not believe will support him. The lowest income New Jersey voters, those with less than $50,000 in household income, have become somewhat more favorable toward Romney in the last month, increasing from 33 percent favorable (55 percent unfavorable) to 38 percent favorable (51 percent unfavorable). At the same time, those earning more than $150,000 show little change, barely moving from 44 percent favorable (48 percent unfavorable) to 43 percent favorable (50 percent unfavorable). Voters between these income groups have become significantly more unfavorable toward the Republican challenger.

“It does not look like Romney’s widely reported comments actually moved lower-income voters further away from him,” noted Redlawsk. “In fact, lowest-income group became slightly more likely to vote for Romney over the past month, rather than less likely. On the other hand, middle class voters with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 are the ones who moved in Obama’s direction, while those who make more show relatively little change.”

Voters pick Obama to handle economy but Romney still deemed stronger leader

More than half of likely voters name the economy as their most important issue in the election – though this is down six points from August. Still, no other issue comes close to the
economy as most important to voters. Among voters who care most about the economy, 52 percent say Obama is the right candidate to handle the issue, while 43 percent say Romney would do the better job.

More voters (28 percent) say “strong leader” is the quality they want most in a presidential candidate; among these voters, Romney is preferred 61 percent to 35 percent, an increase for Romney of seven points since August. But the next two qualities – “cares about me” (19 percent choose this quality) and “shares my values” (17 percent) clearly play into Obama’s strengths, as voters who want those qualities strongly support Obama. The president wins on values, 67 percent to 31 percent, and overwhelms Romney on caring, 80 to 14 percent. While Obama support among voters choosing “cares about me” has changed little, “shares my values” voters have moved strongly into Obama’s column, up 18 points in the past month. These voters eliminate any advantage Romney has on leadership.

Interest in the election is high among most registered voters. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) report they are “very interested,” while 23 percent are “somewhat interested” and 4 percent are “not interested at all.” Among those who are deemed likely voters based on history, turnout intent, political interest, and campaign interest, an overwhelming 88 percent say they are “very interested” in this year’s presidential election.

“If there is an enthusiasm gap for Democrats, or at least compared to past elections, we’re not seeing it very clearly in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “At least among registered voters, interest is quite strong, and turnout appears likely to be similar to past presidential elections here.”

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