Category Archives: NJ Voters


One great thing about the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll is that there is so much history recorded over the past 43 years the poll has been around. Today we tap into that history as we look at current attitudes toward marijuana legalization in New Jersey, looking back to 1972 when we first polled on the issue. We did something similar in 2011, in celebration of our 40th anniversary, but the recent talk about full legalization of pot made us think we should look again. And, to their credit, a group of students in Dave Redlawsk’s Public Opinion Class argued for the topic as well.

Our findings show that support for loosening the reins on recreational marijuana continues to grow, and at the same time, partisan differences on the issue are getting larger. A fascinating aspect of looking back to 1972 is finding that Democrats and Republicans were not very far apart on the issue back then; about 4 points separated the two groups of partisans, and neither was particularly supportive. In fact it was independents who were most supportive of lessened marijuana penalties in 1972. But fast forward to 2014, and the differences are stark, as they are for many other issues. A majority of both Democrats and independents now favors complete legalization, while just 28 percent of Republicans agree. Republican opinions on the issue have changed little over the years, while Democrats and independents have become much more supportive.

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

The text of the release follows.


Attitudes Increasingly Divided by Partisanship in Recent Years

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With the 1960s and 70s drug counterculture a hazy memory for most New Jerseyans, voters in the state have become more laid back than ever about marijuana, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. With recreational marijuana legalization becoming a hot topic across the nation, two-thirds of voters here now say penalties for use should be reduced. This compares to 58 percent of voters in a November 2011 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, and 40 percent of adults in a May 1972 report. Only 29 percent now oppose the relaxation of marijuana use penalties.

Attitudes toward marijuana possession show a similar pattern over the past four decades. In 1972, 34 percent of adults supported the elimination of all penalties for the possession of small amounts, while 56 percent were opposed. Today it is reversed: 65 percent of voters now support eliminating marijuana possession penalties, while 33 percent remain opposed.

In light of societal changes and apparent success in Colorado with legalization, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill in the Legislature to legalize the sale and use of marijuana. But despite strong support for reduced penalties, legalization gets much weaker support: 49 percent agree with complete legalization and 48 percent disagree. Even so, this is a 14-point rise from 2011 and a 28-point difference from adults of 42 years ago.

“New Jersey voters reflect the national trend toward less severe attitudes about marijuana,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “During the 1970s and into 1981, there was some movement on the issue, but little policy change, so we didn’t poll on it again for 30 years. When we finally asked again about marijuana in 2011, we saw signs of liberalization, a trend that has only accelerated since then.”

While Colorado appears to have raked in new tax revenue from legalizing pot, New Jersey voters are split over whether the possibility of more money for the state coffers should lead to making the drug legal here. A quarter of voters strongly agree that the potential for significant state revenue is a good reason to legalize the drug, while another quarter somewhat agree. But 19 percent somewhat disagree and 27 percent strongly disagree with this proposition.

Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 731 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Support from Democrats grows; Republicans much less so

While support for marijuana decriminalization has increased dramatically, the divide between political partisans has also grown. In 1972, Democrats and Republicans held similar views: about 40 percent of each party agreed with reducing penalties for pot use, while 53 percent of independents were in favor. By 2011, 64 percent of Democratic voters and 58 percent of independents supported penalty reductions, but just only 44 percent of Republicans agreed.

Current GOP preferences continue to show little change. Forty-six percent support reduced penalties, 47 percent are opposed. Meanwhile, Democratic and independent support has grown to 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively. “We think of Democrats as liberal on social issues, but 40 years ago they didn’t look much different from Republicans on pot use,” noted Redlawsk. “But as Republicans maintained the status quo, Democrats moved strongly in favor of reducing penalties, increasing the gap between them from four points in 1972 to 28 points today.”

Republicans show more change on eliminating possession penalties (12 points over 42 years), although they remain staunchly opposed and increasingly different from Democrats and independents. In 1972, 29 percent of GOP adults, 38 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents supported decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug. This nine-point gap between the two parties doubled in 2011, when 42 percent of Republican voters and 60 percent of Democrats supported decriminalization. Support among independents grew 11 points stronger.

Today, 74 percent of Democrats voters – nearly double the share in 1972 – want to see possession penalties dropped, versus just 41 percent of Republicans. Only 24 percent of Democrats are opposed, compared to 56 percent of Republicans. Democrats have also caught up to the 71 percent of independent voters who support decriminalization.

In keeping with broader trends, New Jersey voters of all partisan leanings show increased support for completely legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana, although to greatly varying degrees. For the first time, more than half of Democratic and independent voters support legalization, with Democratic support almost tripling since 1972, when only 21 percent of Democratic adults agreed with making pot legal. Between 2011 and 2014, support increased by 17 points.

While 30 percent of independent adults supported legalization 1972, by 2011 the number was still only 37 percent of independent voters. Since then, their support has climbed to 53 percent.
Republican support has doubled over four decades from 14 percent to 28 percent. However, 69 percent of GOP voters today remain against legalization, and the gap between the parties on fully legal pot has quadrupled since 1972 to 29 points.

Generation gap on pot has shrunk, except for legalization

The large generation gap on marijuana decriminalization and penalties from 40 years ago has all but disappeared, except on the question of full legalization. In 1972, two-thirds of adults in their twenties supported reduced penalties for marijuana use versus 24 percent of those 60 and older. That under-30 cohort – now in their 60s and 70s – is even more supportive now, at 72 percent of voters. Meanwhile, 70 percent of today’s millennial voters (18- to 34-years-old) approve decreased penalties, about the same share as their long-ago peers. What was once a 42-point gap between younger and older generations has all but vanished.

More than 60 percent of voters in nearly all age groups support removing possession penalties today, closing age differences that were still apparent in 2011, and were even larger in 1972. But those who were over age 30 in 1972 and are now at least 72 are far less supportive.

Full legalization is a somewhat different story. In 1972, New Jerseyans under age 30 were more likely to favor full legalization than those over 60 that year, 44 percent to 10 percent. Some of this generation gap remains visible today. As 1972’s under youngest residents have aged, their cohort’s opinions have changed very little: 48 percent of today’s voters, 60 to 72, support full legal access to marijuana. Meanwhile the youngest 2014 voters are even stronger supporters, 61 percent to 39 percent. The result is a 13-point generation gap, less than half of what it was 42 years ago.

Mimicking younger voters, more than half of 50 to 64-year olds support legalization. But more in line with today’s seniors, voters who mostly came of age in the Reagan-Bush years (now ages 35 to 49) are more likely to oppose (52 percent) than support (44 percent) legalization of recreational marijuana. “It is pretty clear that the changes we are seeing on marijuana attitudes are less about changing minds than about changing times,” said Redlawsk. “As younger cohorts became adults, they have simply had more liberal attitudes than the older voters they replaced.”

Marijuana sales as tax revenue

Despite support for decriminalization, voters here are clearly split on following in Colorado’s footsteps and fully legalizing the drug with an eye toward the potential for increased state revenue from taxes on its sales. Six in 10 Democrats say they at least somewhat agree with the financial rationale for legalization, as do more than half of independents. Two-thirds of Republicans disagree; most feel strongly. Millennials are much more likely than older voters to agree with legalizing marijuana for tax revenue. More than two-thirds who support reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana also support legalizing the drug for revenue purposes. Among all those favoring complete legalization, 86 percent support the financial rationale for doing so.

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Filed under marijuana, NJ Voters


A PDF of Questions, Tables, and Full Text of this release is available here


  Favorability and Job Ratings Drop to Pre-Sandy Levels

Note: Two-thirds of this poll was completed before the recent allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy aid was withheld from her city due to her unwillingness to support a development linked to Gov. Christie’s allies.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following a second week of revelations about “Bridgegate,” Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval and favorability ratings have dropped dramatically among New Jerseyans, with Democrats driving the decline, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following more than a year of strong bipartisan support, Christie’s favorability rating is now 46 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable, down from 65 percent favorable just before his landslide re-election. This drop in support is led by a 26-point decline among Democrats.

Voters are slightly more positive about Christie’s performance as governor, with 53 percent approving how he handles the job. But this is down 15 points since November; well below the 66 to 73 percent support Christie had enjoyed throughout the year since Superstorm Sandy. Asked to grade the Governor, 43 percent now award Christie an A or B – down 16 points– and 29 percent assign either a D or F, compared to just 18 percent two months ago.

Christie’s ratings drop is driven by a very large decline among Democrats while most Republicans – and many independents – continue to stand by the Governor. In November, 45 percent of Democrats were favorable, but with new challenges to Christie’s bipartisan leadership, only 19 percent of Democrats are now positive. Democratic approval of Christie’s job performance has dropped  from 51 percent to 29 percent. While noticeably down from November, Republicans are still very positive: 78 percent feel favorable, and 83 percent approve of the job Christie is doing. Independent support has also dropped, but a majority continues to favor Christie.

Christie’s ratings are noticeably lower among those who travel across the George Washington Bridge at least once a week, at 37 percent favorable. Those who use the bridge less often are more positive, with 45 percent favorable, compared to 51 percent favorable among voters who never use the bridge. His job approval follows a similar pattern for these commuters.

“Other polls taken immediately after the bridge scandal broke showed relatively small effects,” noted David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But with another week of revelations, damage appears to have been done. The good will the Governor built up among Democrats with his handling of the Sandy aftermath is gone, at least for now.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19. Within this sample are 757 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

“Bridgegate” sinking in

Christie’s ratings have been negatively affected by the “Bridgegate” revelations and the resulting media onslaught. Only five percent of New Jerseyans say they have heard nothing about the scandal. Overall, residents are generally skeptical of Christie, with more than half saying it is somewhat or very unlikely that his advisors acted without his knowledge. And more than half do not believe the explanation Christie gave at his January 9 press conference.

The scandal has created clear partisan differences over what happened. Republicans mostly support Christie: two-thirds think the Governor was likely unaware of what his staff was doing, and 80 percent at least partially accept his explanation. But only a quarter of Democrats think Christie was unaware of his aides’ actions; instead, over half say it is very unlikely Christie was out of the loop. Moreover, 62 percent of Democrats do not believe at all Christie’s explanation for what happened.

“The re-emergence of strong partisan differences in believing the Governor returns us to a pre-Sandy political environment,” said Redlawsk. “Before the storm, Governor Christie’s term was defined by sharp splits, with Democrats generally negative and Republicans very positive. Once Christie proved his leadership after Sandy, partisan differences became quite small right through the election in November. But Democrats are once again very unhappy with the Governor.”

Whether or not they think Christie is telling the truth, New Jerseyans overwhelmingly blame Christie’s “tough-guy” persona for the conduct of his staff: more than 70 percent say the Governor’s attitude contributed at least somewhat to his staff’s reported behavior.  Even six in ten Republicans believe Christie’s demeanor has at least somewhat encouraged these events.

But New Jerseyans are split on whether the state legislature should continue investigating the claims: 49 percent say continue, while 47 percent say the legislature should move on to more important issues. More than half of Democrats want the investigation to continue (57 percent) but majorities of both independents (53 percent) and Republicans (59 percent) want the legislature to move on.

Impact on presidential hopes

More than half of New Jerseyans feel Christie’s lengthy mea culpa was more about damage control for a future presidential run than a sincere apology, and half also think the scandal sheds light on how a future President Christie and his team would act once in the Oval Office.  Again, Republicans mostly stick by the Governor, with nearly half seeing Christie’s apology as heartfelt. But 70 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disagree with GOPers, believing the apology was more about a presidential run. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Republicans do not believe the scandal provides insight into a Christie presidency, but just as many Democrats say that it does.

More than two-thirds of all New Jerseyans think the scandal has been at least somewhat damaging to Christie’s presidential hopes; even 55 percent of Republicans see some damage.  At the same time, most report little effect on their likelihood of voting for Christie if he runs for president. Only 23 percent of registered voters say the scandal would lower at least somewhat their chance of supporting Christie. But another 17 percent say they would not have voted for him in any case. Even with recent events, sixty percent of voters nonetheless think Christie will run in 2016.

Perhaps summarizing the effects of events over the past two weeks, Christie does poorly in a head-to-head matchup with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Among registered voters, Christie loses New Jersey 34 percent to 55 percent for Clinton. “It remains very early in the 2016 presidential cycle,” said Redlawsk. “If the Governor can put this behind him within the next couple of months, and assuming events transpired as he says, then there is every reason to think he can recover in time to mount a strong 2016 campaign. But if it goes on much longer than that, or if allegations continue to build, Christie will have his hands full right here in New Jersey.”

GWB having little effect in most key areas; but Sandy ratings take a hit

With the media focusing on the bridge scandal, the Governor’s favorability and job performance ratings have taken a significant hit. But no significant change has occurred in New Jerseyans’ assessments of Christie’s performance in several key areas, including the economy, taxes, and crime.

On the economy and jobs, 45 percent of voters approved Christie’s performance in November. Today approval stands at 44 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Taxes tell a similar story: 42 percent approved of the way Christie was handling taxes in November, dropping only slightly to 38 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval. Half continue to approve of Christie’s performance on crime and drugs, compared to 53 percent two months ago.

A more significant shift has occurred on approval of Christie’s performance on education, down six points to 48 percent approval. The Governor announced his desire for a longer school day and year in his State of the State speech, placing some brief focus on the issue.

Further, perceptions of Sandy recovery performance have also dropped significantly, from 80 percent approval in November to 69 percent approval now.

“Changes in perceptions of the Governor’s Sandy performance are probably due to the shift of Democrats away from the Governor’s camp and the recent claims by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy recovery aid was tied to supporting a development linked to Christie’s allies,” noted Redlawsk. “Zimmer’s claims may have particularly influenced respondents we talked to on Saturday and Sunday after that story broke.”


Filed under 2016 President, Bridgegate, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff…More on the Internet and the NJ Gubernatorial Campaign

The Internet, the Gubernatorial Election, and Vote Choice

 Caitie Sullivan and Mihir Dixit

 Caitlin Sullivan is a data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a senior at Rutgers-New Brunswick with plans to graduate in January 2014.  Mihir Dixit is also a data visualization intern. He is a first year undergraduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.

Both gubernatorial candidates this past election cycle in New Jersey were quite tech savvy throughout the campaign – maintaining Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and more.  It is therefore interesting to take a look at how big a role the Internet played among the electorate and how voters differently used the Internet throughout the campaign to learn about and interact with the candidates.  While Christie’s frequent usage of the web – particularly social media – is widely known, his supporters this past election season were surprisingly not as “connected” to the Internet as their governor or Buono supporters.  Whether Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or blogs and news sites, those Internet users who voted for Buono were more likely than Christie voters to say they used these online tools.

The differences between Christie and Buono voters in what online tools they use mainly stem from social media usage.  More Internet-using Buono voters than Christie voters used Twitter to keep track of the election – 12 percent versus 7 percent.  There was also a clear difference in the percentage of Internet-using voters for each candidate who reported using Facebook to monitor the election. Twenty-one percent of Christie voters used Facebook to acquire information about the race, versus 26 percent of Buono voters.  The widest margin between Christie voters and Buono voters was for YouTube. While the video sharing website remained unpopular with 12 percent of Christie voters, almost double the number of Buono voters – 22 percent – reported having used it as an informational resource.  Christie and Buono voters were more similar in their use of blogs or news websites: 12 percent of Christie voters and 13 percent of Buono voters said they used this source for election-related news.

These differences in online sources are most likely attributable to the different characteristics underlying Christie voters and Buono voters and not necessarily directly to the vote choice itself.  Despite Christie’s frequent activity online, his supporters – many who are Republicans like Christie – tend to be older and therefore not as likely to use the Internet and especially social media.  Buono supporters, on the other hand, are made up of mainly Democrats and younger voters, who are especially prone to using the Internet.  Therefore, the differing usage of these various Internet tools between Christie voters and Buono voters may be more about the demographics typically most associated with each candidate’s party than simply who they would vote for in the election.


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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, NJ Voters

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff… Internet Use and the NJ Gubernatorial Election

Clicking on and Connecting to the 2013 New Jersey Governor’s Race

Ashley Koning

Ashley Koning is Manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University.

The Internet has become an increasingly integral tool for both voters and politicians alike during campaign seasons, and this past year’s gubernatorial race in New Jersey was no exception.  Gov. Christie has always been technologically savvy – with Twitter accounts, a YouTube channel, thousands of hits on his YouTube videos, and a continually updated Facebook page.  Christie’s Democratic opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono, was also quite active on social media and the Internet in general during the race, often relying on YouTube and Twitter to disseminate messages at low cost due to limited campaign funds.  Voters, likewise, had many opportunities to interact with the candidates online throughout the campaign –watching live streaming video of the debates, “liking” or “following” the candidates, reading live blog updates on Election Day, and more.

In our final pre-election poll from October 28 – November 2, we asked some follow-up questions to the 52 percent of voters who said they used the Internet in some way to get information about the governor’s race during the past election season.  These questions explored more in depth what Internet tools this subset accessed to get election news or interact with the candidates.  Internet-using voters were specifically asked about their usage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs or news sites, and any candidate websites.

Unfortunately, in our first two days of polling, a coding error occurred in this internet source question that prevents us from looking at the details for respondents we interviewed those two days.  We can nonetheless explore responses for the remaining four days when the coding error was corrected.  As it turns out, even if we only look at the last fours days of our poll, we still find 52 percent saying they used the internet for the Gubernatorial campaign. Given the nature of our call center operation, this makes sense, as each day of calling collects a new random sample of NJ voters.

Among the 52 percent who used the internet to get candidate information, about two-thirds said they used one of the specific internet tools we asked about. The other third presumably used other means that we did not include.

Among the voters who used one of the five specified sources, most stuck to using just one or two instead of a combination of them: 58 percent used only one of the tools, 27 percent used two of them, and just 14 percent used three or more.

Candidate websites dominated source usage.  Almost half of all internet-using voters who received the follow-up questions – 45 percent – said they used the candidates’ websites to interact with the candidates or get information about the election.  No other source came close: only 9 percent specifically got information or interacted with the candidates via Twitter, 24 percent via Facebook, 16 percent via YouTube, and 12 percent via blogs or news sites.  When we look at the entire sample including those who do not use the Internet, the number of voters who used each Internet source becomes even smaller: only about 5 percent of all voters used Twitter, 12 percent Facebook, 9 percent YouTube, 6 percent blogs or news sites, and 23 percent candidate websites.

In general, Twitter users were typically the most or the second most likely to use one of the other four specified Internet sources: over two-thirds of Twitter users also used Facebook, over a third also used YouTube, more than 4 in 10 also accessed blogs, and over half also visited candidate websites.  But users of other sources were very unlikely to access Twitter, blog and news visitors being the most likely at 32 percent also using Twitter and candidate website visitors being the least likely at 11 percent also using Twitter.  Users of all sources were highly likely to access Facebook, on the other hand – especially other social media users (Twitter and Facebook).  But candidate websites were the most popular among all types of users, with anywhere from four in ten to six in ten users of other Internet source types visiting these particular sites.

Of course we know that these numbers will fluctuate if we take a closer look within different groups – especially among those groups that we know differ on Internet usage in general.  Therefore, throughout the next few days, some of our undergraduate staff members will take a closer look at how these trends in using the Internet during the governor’s race differ by important voter demographics – in particular, age and gubernatorial vote choice.



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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, NJ Voters

Following up on our Booker – Lonegan Numbers from October

Did the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll have a “Bradley Effect” in Our Final U.S. Senate Results?

Bear with us, this is a LONG post…

In our final pre-Senate special election poll, we had Newark Mayor (and now U.S. Senator) Cory Booker up 22 points over his opponent, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan. The real-world results were different – Booker’s margin was “only” 12 points or so. At the time we speculated on many reasons that our numbers could have been off on the head-to-head question, especially given that we did not see significant levels of variance with other polls on questions such as Booker and Lonegan favorability ratings. We speculated some more the day after the election looking at turnout, but also noting that we wondered if the fact that Booker is an African-American may have played a role. We have since done some fairly complex statistical analysis to examine this question. The upshot is that we see a very clear “race/ethnicity of interviewer” effect in our data; that is, our Black and Hispanic interviewers got more “Booker” votes from among the white respondents they talked to than did our white and Asian callers. And, our white callers got fewer “Booker” votes among Black and Hispanic respondents than did our non-white callers.

This is a complex phenomenon that has previously been documented by researchers, in particular in the aftermath of the 1993 Virginia governor’s race when polls badly overstated support for Doug Wilder, the African American candidate who won, but by a much smaller margin than expected. This is commonly been called the “Bradley Effect“. The argument is that respondents “guess” the race of callers and some will then adjust their responses to conform to what the believe is the caller’s expectation. Whether or not that is exactly what happens, the fact is that the data in our case seem to show exactly that happening.

Now, is the effect enough to account for being off by 10 points? That’s harder to calculate. However, our call center is very diverse – among the 113 student callers working on that poll, 25% were white, 19% Black, 47% Asian, and 11% Hispanic. Across the board our callers averaged about 7 completes per caller, with some variation by race/ethnicity. Overall, 22% of the 695 respondents for whom we have caller data were collected by white callers, 22% by Black callers, 46% by Asian callers, and 10% by Hispanic callers.

So here’s what we have – this is using all our respondents, NOT adjusting for Likely Voters. (Making that adjustment does not make any difference in our basic results.) First the unweighted responses to the question:  “Let’s talk about the Senate election in October. If the special election for the Senate seat were being held today and the candidates were [ROTATE ORDER: Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan], for whom would you vote?”  (Note, that we did a followup to the don’t knows, asking how they “lean”. We will ignore this right now and focus only on the initial question.)


Note we have a 22 point margin between Booker and Lonegan in the raw unweighted data, about the same as we had in the final weighted sample. The “Refused” represents people who would not answer the question at all, and the “System” are people who were not asked because they said in an initial screening question they would not be voting.

So what happens if we look at these responses by race of interviewer?


Now we are only dealing with the 721 people who gave us a response to the question. Note that White interviewers got 50.3% support for Booker. But Black interviewers got 59.5%. Hispanic interviewers found even more Booker support: 62%. Finally, Asian interviewers (the largest group in our call center) found 49.9% support for Booker, pretty much the same as white interviewers.

Next we look at the percentage support for BOOKER by a combination of the Respondent’s race/ethnicity and the caller’s race/ethnicity. This now uses 697 respondents for whom we have their race (a significant number always refuse to answer that question.)


The raw numbers (Total Column) show that 49.6% of these white respondents supported Booker, while Booker support was 91.1% of Black respondents, 80.0% of Hispanics, and 51.2% of other. Other in this case includes Asian, multiracial, and any other response to the question. These are essentially “normal” results in that we expect Black and Hispanic voters to be more supportive of Booker.

Looking at the Total ROW at the bottom, we see that for White callers, 50.7% of all their respondents supported Booker, with a similar result (50.5%) for Asian callers. But for Black callers, 60.1% of respondents supported Booker, while for Hispanic callers it was 65.2%; both are well above the total 56.3% Booker support among this set of respondents.

More importantly, note that WHITE respondents talking to WHITE callers gave Booker 49.2% support. But when talking to Black or Hispanic callers, white respondents were more likely to report a Booker vote, at 54.9% and 58.0% respectively.  This effect has been documented in the past, including in the Wilder race for VA governor in 1993.

We see another interesting effect with non-white respondents, though we have to be very careful here since we have relatively few of them, so any one group could be highly skewed. But in general, non-white respondents who talked to white callers, were less likely to report Booker votes than when they talked to non-white callers.

All of this is interesting but it doesn’t account for the possibility that callers of different races/ethnicities may have talked to different kinds of respondents. As a simple example, if white callers were more likely to talk to Republicans (regardless of respondent race), while non-white callers talked more to Democrats, we would see the same pattern but it would not be because of the race/ethnicity of the caller. To deal with this we must do a more complex multivariate analysis to control for these kinds of differences.

We won’t go into the details of the statistical analysis here, but it was designed to control for key factors that affect the vote choice – partisanship, ideology, and voter race/ethnicity, and voter gender. That means that we make sure the differences we see in the vote by caller race/ethnicity are NOT because of these factors. We added in one more control, that for what is termed in political science as “Racial Resentment” (see also here), a measure of “subtle anti-Black feeling”. We included this because Booker is African American and research has shown that this measure helps predict the likelihood of voting for a Black candidate.

By using multivariate statistics (specifically logistic regression) to predict the likelihood of a vote for Booker based on the controls above AND the race/ethnicity of our callers, we can examine the extent to which we see caller race/ethnicity conditioning poll responses. Follow is what we find:


The first row of data shows all respondents by the race of the interviewer. Results are very similar to the initial table before we control for other factors. Across everyone, voters who talked to Black and Hispanic callers were more likely to say they would vote for Booker than those who talked to white and Asian callers.

As the table shows, there are differences across the race/ethnicity of respondents. Looking only at white voters, they remain more likely to tell Black and Hispanic callers they support Booker. For Black and Hispanic voters, talking to a white caller seems to lower the likelihood of reporting support for Booker, compared to talking to non-white callers. And because the model used for this prediction controls for partisanship and other factors, we are pretty confident that the results are in fact related to the race and ethnicity of callers and the race/ethnicity of voters.

To check this, we also ran similar models with the Buono-Christie responses from the same poll (where our results were in line with everyone else’s in mid-October) which show no effects for race/ethnicity of interviewer. Even more interesting, we also tested this model with the evaluation we asked voters to give to Booker (called a “feeling thermometer rating”) on a 0-100 scale, and we found no significant effects for race/ethnicity of callers. The issue seems limited to the question of the vote itself, and not other questions.

So what does this all mean?

For the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, it means that our pre-election numbers which overstated Booker support were, at least in part, because we have a very diverse call center, probably much more diverse than any other call center that polled on this election. It also means we will have to look more carefully at how we handle election polling when there is a non-white candidate in the mix.

And it also means that in an election like this, with an African-American candidate, polling that does not use interviewers – like computerized polls where respondents listed to a computer ask the question and respond on their phone keypads, known as “interactive voice response” – may result in more accurate results, at least for those who can be reached this way. However, IVR cannot be used to call cell phones, so at a minimum it would be necessary to combined IVR with live calling of cell phones in order to get a reasonable sample of the population. This is what Monmouth did in its pre-election polls, apparently to good effect. IVR has other issues, though, and has to be looked at very carefully.

If you’ve made it this far in this very long post, congratulations! Bottom line for us: our final pre-election Booker-Lonegan poll was off by 10 points, overstating Booker’s numbers. We now think a least some significant part of that error is due to this race/ethnicity of interviewer effect as the evidence shows.

Of course, this does NOT explain our problem in the final Christie-Buono poll, where we were off by 14 points (showing Christie up 36 points while he won by 22.) Given the evidence from the October poll where our numbers for the governor’s race fit with other polling centers results, something else must have happened in our final gubernatorial poll.  Apparently we suffered from one problem in the Senate race, but something else in the race for governor. We’re currently moving forward on trying to understand what that might have been. We’ll report more on that effort in the (we hope) not-too-distant future.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, NJ Voters


Well, once again there are widely varying polls in the last days of an election. And once again we’re at the high end, though this time we are more Republican than some others. Today while we show Gov. Christie with a massive 36 point lead, Monmouth puts the race at 20 points. But this time we’re not alone since a few days ago Quinnipiac gave Christie a 33 point lead and today they say 28 points.

A quick look at Monmouth shows the big difference is due in large part to the reported partisan vote. They have Buono winning 70% of Democrats. In our poll only 59% of Democrats said they are sticking with Buono while 38% support Christie. This alone accounts for some 2/3 of the difference between the polls. The new Quinnipiac Poll today splits the difference here as it does overall – they have Buono winning 64% of Democrats, halfway between us and Monmouth.

Our differences with Quinnipiac are relatively trivial, and within our respective margins of margins of error. But Monmouth definitely tells a different story.

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


Governor holds better than 2-1 lead over challenger

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In the final hours before New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Gov. Chris Christie’s lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono has grown to 36 points among likely voters, up 10 points in the last month, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s 66 percent to 30 percent margin may also be helping Republican Assembly and Senate candidates, as voters prefer Democrats keep control of the Legislature by only seven points, down from 12 points in early September.

Christie’s increasing home stretch lead reflects a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Buono, leading to decreased levels of attention to the race and a lower likelihood of voting. While 95 percent of Republicans support Christie, only 59 percent of Democrats plan to vote for Buono.

“Over the past month, Christie’s campaign appears to have convinced more Democrats to abandon Buono,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Whether Democrats are switching to Christie or just planning to stay home, the small gains Buono had made with her party base over previous months have been reversed. The risk is great for Democrats up and down the ballot if uninspired party faithful fail to turn out.”

In a generic statewide ballot test, likely voters give Assembly Democrats just a six-point margin, 42 percent to 36 percent, nearly erasing what was a 17-point Democratic lead in early September. The state Senate vote is similar: 44 percent plan to vote for Democrats, while 38 percent will support the GOP. Overall, 47 percent of likely voters still want Democrats in control of the Legislature while 40 percent hope for a Republican takeover, down from 50 percent to 38 percent two months ago.

“The real story tomorrow could be that Republicans make unexpected legislative gains,” said Redlawsk. “While the gerrymandered nature of legislative districts – mostly drawn to favor one party over the other – argues against a Republican takeover, Christie’s huge margin may make a difference.”

Voters continue to favor overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour, 68 percent to 30 percent.

Results are from a sample of 535 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points, drawn from 804 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie makes more inroads into Buono’s base

Christie’s already large lead has grown within almost every group of voters. The governor wins 95 percent of his own party members, up two points since October. Likewise, 73 percent of independents now support Christie, up five points. Buono gets support from just 20 percent of independents. Democrats have especially taken to Christie in the final week; 38 percent now say they support him, up from 25 percent four weeks ago. Buono garners only 59 percent among Democrats.

Nonwhite voters also have moved into Christie’s column, 55 percent to 40 percent for Buono, a reversal from early September. Her other stronghold, public union households, now gives Buono just a three-point lead, 48 percent to 45 percent, down from nine points.

“There is simply no good news for Buono in any of our numbers,” said Redlawsk. “To top it off, Christie’s efforts to court black and Hispanic voters seem to be paying off much better than might have been expected.”

Christie continues to win big across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though his margin is somewhat smaller among the most educated. Among voters in households with incomes under $50,000 that usually lean Democratic, Christie’s lead has doubled and is now 70 percent to 27 percent. Christie also holds massive leads in every region of the state.

There is only a limited gender gap in support for the governor. Christie has a 2-1 lead among women (63 percent to 32 percent), while men are five points more likely to back him.

Christie coattails may be in play

Democrats have held a wide lead over Republicans in statewide generic tests of Assembly and Senate races all year. But the combination of a huge Christie margin and possible demobilization of Democrats may be having an impact on down-ballot races, as the previous lead has all but disappeared.

After giving Democrats an 18-point margin in early September, likely voters now favor Democrats by single digits statewide in both Assembly and Senate races. Christie’s success is rubbing off, especially among fellow partisans. Among the increasing number of Christie supporters, Republican Assembly candidates lead, 53 percent to 22 percent. In the Senate, Republicans lead 55 percent to 25 percent among these voters. While more than eight in 10 Buono voters choose legislative Democrats, the smaller share of her supporters means statewide Democrats are in worse shape than two months ago.

Democrats maintain a small lead because most partisan voters still plan to vote for their party in both Assembly and Senate races. However, increasing solidarity among likely Republican voters contributes to Republican gains. In Assembly races, 89 percent of GOP voters are now staying with the party line, up 13 points from September. Eighty-two percent of Democrats plan to vote for legislative Democrats, even as many are defecting to Christie at the top of the ticket. Senate races look similar.

Christie’s coattails are not as strong with independents, but Assembly Republicans eke out a 4- point lead, 32 percent to 28 percent, while independents favor Senate GOPers, 37 percent to 31 percent.

“As always, these statewide tests do not tell us about individual districts, and they are highly contingent on who actually chooses to vote in these races,” noted Redlawsk. “But as the statewide margin closes, some Democratic seats may be more at risk than they were before.”

Democrats lack enthusiasm

Two-thirds of all registered voters say they have followed the election very or fairly closely, and 31 percent are very enthusiastic about their vote choices. Another 52 percent are somewhat enthusiastic.

But Democrats are not nearly as engaged in the race as Republicans. Registered Democrats are five points less likely to say they are paying very close attention to the election, and they are seven points less apt to say they are very likely to turn out to vote. More importantly, enthusiasm for their gubernatorial candidate reveals an even larger gap. Only 22 percent of registered Democrats are very enthusiastic about voting for Buono, compared to half of Republicans who feel that way about re-electing Christie.

“We would expect Democrats remaining with Buono to be more enthusiastic about her compared to defecting Democrats, who might be somewhat reluctantly favoring Christie, but that’s not the case,” said Redlawsk. “Democrats voting for Christie are just as enthusiastic about crossing over as those remaining with Buono feel about her. Across the board, Republicans are excited. Democrats are not.”

Christie voters are much more motivated by support for their candidate than by opposition to Buono. While 60 percent of Buono’s likely voters are primarily voting against Christie, 84 percent of Christie’s voters are marking their ballot in support of him, rather than in opposition to Buono.

Few voters remain unsettled in their choices; only about 10 percent say they might consider changing by Nov. 5. But Buono loses our here as well: 14 percent of her supporters might change their minds versus only 8 percent of Christie voters.

Minimum wage continues to win, but loses some GOP backing

Support for the minimum wage constitutional amendment has fallen eight points since September, to 68 percent, mostly due to an increasingly strong Republican turnout. For the first time, Republicans are now more likely to oppose it: 52 percent are against the increase, versus 45 percent who support it.  Support is also down seven points among independents, though 60 percent still are still in favor. Ninety-one percent of Democrats are behind the minimum wage increase.

Fifty-six percent of Christie voters favor the amendment despite the governor’s opposition –down six points since September. Ninety-one percent of Buono’s backers favor the increase. Women are stronger supporters at 72 percent versus 63 percent for men. A 12-point gap in support exists between the lowest and highest income brackets, though 59 percent in the highest income bracket still support the measure.

“It seems that despite the lack of enthusiasm by Democrats for voting in this election, the minimum wage amendment will pass,” said Redlawsk. “Almost all Democrats will support it, and enough independents agree to likely put it over the top.”


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie, NJ Voters


We’ve already reported that Gov. Chris Christie is up 26 points over Barbara Buono in our latest polling. Today we report more details, focusing on how registered voters as a whole (not just likely voters) feel about Christie and view the governor’s job performance.

We have multiple measures, which may at times seem confusing. We start by asking a “Favorability” question. This is a general question: “I’d like to ask about some people and groups. Please tell me if your general impression of each one is favorable or unfavorable, or if you do not have an opinion.” Both Christie and Buono’s names are given, along with others, in random order.The idea is that this question taps an overall feeling for the person or group, and also gives us a sense of awareness.

Our second question asks people to assign a letter grade to the governor’s performance. We do this because report cards are easy for people to understand and it gives respondents a way to differentiate their assessment of how Christie is doing. Rutgers-Eagleton has been using a report card for several years now.

Our third questions asks for general approval or disapproval of the governor’s job performance – we added this because it was very unclear whether or not some people considered a “C” grade to be “good enough”. The answer is apparently some do, since overall job approval is generally higher than the number of A and B grades.

Finally, we recently added approval questions for specific issues that New Jerseyans continue to tell us are very important to them. As you will see below, this turns out to be interesting. There are major disconnects between the overall approval voters feel for Christie and their disapproval of his work on the economy and jobs as well as taxes.

Text of the release follows. Click here for full text plus questions and tables.


Buono still largely unknown just weeks before the election

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Election Day approaches, New Jersey’s registered voters continue to give incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie high overall ratings, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s favorability remains steady at 61 percent. He is viewed unfavorably by 28 percent of voters. Similarly, his overall job grade and approval are strong: 60 percent grade the governor B or higher and 67 percent approve of the overall job he is doing.

Voters remain persistently negative toward Christie’s efforts on what they perceive as the two most important issues facing the state, the economy and taxes. Only 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy and jobs, which more than a third say is the biggest problem facing New Jersey. Similarly, 38 percent approve of his performance on taxes, the top problem for 25 percent. But, as earlier polls have found, Christie’s overall support is not hurt by disapproval on specific issues.

Christie continues to benefit from Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono’s lack of a statewide profile – 43 percent of respondents have no real impression of her. Among those with an impression, negative views now outweigh positive: 29 percent to 28 percent, a seven-point increase in negative ratings since early September. This slippage reflects Christie’s continued and mostly unanswered TV ads attacking his opponent.

“For a major party challenger, Sen. Buono has had very low visibility throughout this campaign,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Her lack of resources and unwillingness of many Democratic leaders to promote her have hampered her messaging. Christie could have been vulnerable on the issues voters care about, but not without the presence of a visible, viable alternative.”

Voters also have difficultly placing Buono’s ideology: 19 percent say she is very liberal and 25 percent say somewhat liberal. Fifty percent are evenly split between moderate and unsure. Seven percent call her conservative. “This pattern of responses seems more like guessing than a clear recognition of Sen. Buono’s stances,” noted Redlawsk.

By way of contrast, 58 percent mostly see Christie as a moderate (58 percent) or somewhat conservative (22 percent), suggesting he has effectively positioned himself in the middle of the road. Only five percent of registered voters are unable to assess Christie’s ideology.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Democrats increasingly less favorable toward Christie

Ninety percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents fuel Christie’s high favorability. However, as the campaign winds on, Democrats are increasingly negative: the governor’s favorability dropped five points in a month to 38 percent while his unfavorability rose two points to 49 percent.

Also, Democrats’ disapproval of the incumbent’s overall job performance fell three points to 46 percent. Independents, however, are increasingly approving, showing a four-point rise to 74 percent. Nearly all Republicans – 91 percent – approve generally of the job he is doing, and his job grade is slightly higher.

“Democrats have become less enamored of the governor as is to be expected during a campaign.” said Redlawsk. “But between the increasing support of independents and the fact that many Democrats remain on his side, Christie’s favorability and job ratings continue to fly high.”

Sandy still drives ratings

As the one-year anniversary of SuperStorm Sandy approaches, that fact that 85 percent approve of Christie’s post-disaster work drives his overall approval. Approval cuts across party lines.

The governor’s performance on many other issues, however, fails to top 50 percent approval, and partisans are deeply divided. This is especially true on the economy and taxes. Thirty-seven percent call the economy and jobs the most important problem facing the state, while another 23 percent name taxes, followed by education at 12 percent.

Across all registered voters, 42 percent approve of Christie’s performance on the economy and jobs, 38 percent on taxes, and 48 percent on education. But partisan divides are clear. Seventy-five percent of Republicans approve Christie’s work on the economy and jobs, but 65 percent of Democrats disapprove. Even independents, who strongly favor Christie overall, show just 43 percent approval on the economy, while 44 percent disapprove.

On taxes, two-thirds of Republicans approve the governor’s work, while 69 percent of Democrats disapprove. Independents are also more likely to disapprove, 49 percent to 42 percent. Christie does better with independents on education: 53 percent approve versus 39 percent who don’t.

But only 30 percent of respondents who call the economy/jobs the state’s most important problem approve of Christie’s performance on the issue. Another 58 percent disapprove.

The same trend is observed among those most concerned about taxes; 38 percent approve of Christie’s handling of the issue while 53 percent disapprove. And among the 12 percent of voters calling education the state’s most pressing problem, 77 percent disapprove of Christie’s performance and only 19 percent are positive.

The governor does better on crime and drugs by a 2 to 1 margin, 52 percent to 26 percent. Twenty-two percent are unsure. Democrats are split on this issue, 39 percent approving and 37 percent disapproving. About three-quarters of Republicans and half of independents approve. About half approve of his performance on the budget, compared to 37 percent who disapprove and 14 percent who are unsure. Republicans are much more likely to back Christie’s work – 76 percent to 17 percent – compared to 26 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents.

Voters lack clarity on Buono

The Democratic challenger has gained little additional awareness with voters in the final weeks of the campaign. More registered voters have no impression of Buono than have a favorable impression. Moreover, while her favorability has not grown stronger in the last month, her unfavorability has increased by seven points. Importantly, four in 10 Democrats still don’t know or have no opinion of the candidate. Among all Democrats, just 46 percent are favorable, and 13 percent are unfavorable.

Even more independent voters (51 percent) have no impression of the challenger, with just 18 percent unfavorable and 30 percent unfavorable. More Republicans than Democrats or independents have an opinion: 55 percent of all GOP voters are unfavorable, while only 11 percent have a favorable impression of Buono.

“Results from all registered voters reflect those for likely voters,” said Redlawsk. “Buono has not made enough impact to get voters excited. If people don’t know her, they generally won’t vote for her.”

Voters, including Democrats, are unsure about Buono’s ideology. Thirty-six percent of Democrats see her as somewhat or very liberal, but another 35 percent say she is somewhere in between. Twenty-two percent remain uncertain. Seven percent of Democrats even say she is conservative.

Independents and Republicans are even more likely to say they do not know where Buono stands – 28 percent and 24 percent, respectively – and they also both place her as more liberal than moderate on the scale. Forty-three percent of independents say Buono is liberal (20 percent saying very liberal), while 62 percent of Republicans say the same (with 37 percent saying very liberal). Only one in five independents and one in 10 Republicans label Buono a moderate.

“Not all registered voters will actually show up on Election Day,” noted Redlawsk. “But as we previously reported, things are little better for Buono among those most likely to do so. Christie has positioned himself in the ‘sweet spot’ as a moderate, and most voters agree. But for Buono, voters are all over the place, reflecting their lack of awareness of the challenger.”

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters


As the news breaks that Gov. Chris Christie has dropped the state’s appeal of the court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey, we have new numbers on the issue, including results showing that a majority of NJ voters did NOT want an appeal of the decision, and more than 60 percent support same-sex marriage.

Attitudes toward same-sex marriage (often asked as “gay marriage”) in New Jersey have been tracked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll for more than a decade.  The chart below shows the dramatic change in recent year.

SSM over Time

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


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As wedding bells ring for the first same-sex marriages in the Garden State, a majority of New Jersey voters agrees with today’s decision by Gov. Chris Christie to drop the state’s appeal of the ruling that made New Jersey the 14th state to adopt marriage equality, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Reflecting continuing changes in public opinion, support for legalizing same-sex marriage is now at 61 percent, versus 27 percent who oppose and 12 percent who are unsure. For the first time, a plurality of Republicans supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Opinion on the appeal is somewhat less lopsided; 53 percent say the state should accept the decision, while 40 percent wanted it appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“Beliefs about same-sex marriage have shifted rapidly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Fully one-quarter of today’s supporters tell us they were previously opposed. Not long ago, a ruling like this would have created a significant backlash. Now most voters agree with it.”

Even as they concur with the decision and Christie’s decision to drop the appeal, a large majority of voters would still prefer to be the final decision makers. Sixty-two percent say voters should get to weigh in, compared to 23 percent who believe the decision should lie with the courts and 10 percent who want to give the Legislature final say.

“This apparent contradiction occurs partly because 81 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage want it left to voters, while proponents are far less likely to say voters need to make the decision,” noted Redlawsk. “A majority may like the outcome of the court ruling, but any time voters are asked if they should get a chance to decide an issue, they are very likely to say yes.”

New Jersey voters are split on whether same-sex marriage should be decided by individual states (44 percent) or by the federal government (47 per cent). Ten percent are unsure. Supporters prefer a federal role, while opponents say the issue should be decided state by state.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Most voters did not want appeal to go forward

Nearly six in 10 voters agree with Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage to start today. One-third oppose the ruling, and 8 percent are undecided.

Support is widespread. Half of Christie’s re-election supporters favor the ruling, while 79 percent of state Sen. Barbara Buono’s voters back the decision. But while a 49 percent to 37 percent plurality of Republicans now supports marriage equality, only 41 percent agree with this particular court ruling. Besides self-identified conservative Republicans and evangelical and other highly religious New Jerseyans, other demographic groups support the court decision.

Slightly fewer (but still a majority) wanted Christie to abandon any appeal of the court’s ruling as he has now done. The state’s appeal garnered support only from those generally opposed to same-sex marriage – including Republicans, conservatives, born-again Christians and those who most frequently attend religious services. Older voters and shore county residents also wanted the appeal to continue. Still, half of Christie voters opposed the appeal.

“Many voters who wanted the appeal held out some hope that the judge would be overruled,” said Redlawsk. “But others see the Supreme Court as the final arbiter and, although happy with the judge’s ruling, wanted an appeal to affirm it. Gov. Christie obviously saw the writing on the wall in withdrawing the appeal; there was little chance he would win.”

Voters still want to make the decision

Voters seem to be contradictory. Although supporting the court ruling, voters also widely agree with the governor that they should decide on same-sex marriage. Virtually every group wants voters to make the decision, including more than half of the new law’s supporters and 70 percent of Christie voters. Even large majorities of those with a gay or lesbian family member, friend or co-worker want voters to decide.

Sixty percent of minority voters want the issue decided by voters, a clear disconnect from the marriage as a civil right not subject to vote position urged by many minority leaders.

Democrats and liberals are among the relatively few groups split on the question: 46 percent of Democrats want voters to decide, 32 percent favor a court decision and 16 percent prefer legislation. Liberals show a similar pattern, with 42 percent calling for a vote. The most educated respondents show less support for voting compared to other groups: 47 percent say voters should decide, 37 percent want a court decision and 12 percent prefer legislative action.

“Voters aren’t purposely contradictory,” said Redlawsk. “Perhaps, those who support same-sex marriage assume it would pass, which would reinforce other positive decisions. Opponents probably see voters as the only hope, since they have lost in the courts and Legislature. No matter what side they are on, an appeal to voters may seem like the best bet.”

For voters, same-sex marriage not a top issue

The new poll is mostly consistent with earlier polling on the issue. Last spring, a large majority of respondents wanted same-sex marriage on the ballot. Now, a plurality of Republicans supports the issue for the first time, 49 percent to 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Conservatives, however, oppose same-sex marriage by a 19-point margin. Democrats are strong supporters at 71 percent, while 58 percent of independents agree.

Most voters with a position on the issue have not changed their minds, but 20 percent have revised their opinion over time; 90 percent of those have become supporters.

Seventy-four percent of marriage equality supporters have “always” held that view, but a quarter of those have strengthened their position. This shift is especially apparent among Republicans and older voters, of whom over a third say they have changed their minds in support of same-sex marriage.

The vast majority of opponents – 91 percent – say they always have been against same-sex marriage, while only 7 percent say they have changed their minds and become opponents.

Most voters know someone who is gay or lesbian but same-sex marriage is not seen as a top priority. One quarter call it among their most important issues. Thirty-six percent see the issue as only somewhat important, while 37 percent say it is not important at all.

A large majority of same-sex marriage supporters say the issue is not that important: just 31 percent say it is among the top issues to them personally. Opponents are even less likely to see the issue as very important. Only 24 percent put it anywhere near the top.  Those with a gay or lesbian family member (36 percent) or friend (31 percent) are more likely than most to say same-sex marriage is one of their most important issues.

Who decides, states or federal government?

Voters are split on whether states should decide individually on same-sex marriage or the federal government should decide for all states.  Sixty-one percent of marriage-equality supporters prefer the federal government, while 68 percent of opponents want the issue settled state-by-state.

More than 60 percent of Democrats and liberals favor a federal decision. About half of women, middle-aged voters, the best-educated and more secular voters, and those who have a gay or lesbian family member, friend, or co-worker feel the same.

Republicans and conservatives strongly support individual state decisions, as do more than half of male voters. Independents favor letting states decide, 48 percent to 40 percent. Younger voters also lean this way, as do Catholics, Protestants and those who attend religious services more frequently.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters


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

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With New Jersey’s gubernatorial election now less than three weeks away, Gov. Chris Christie commands a 26-point lead over Democrat state Sen. Barbara Buono among likely voters, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie now leads Buono, 59 percent to 33 percent – a 6-point increase in the margin since last month.

These gains come despite likely voters consistently disapproving of Christie’s performance on the state’s taxes and the economy. With the exception of same-sex marriage, however, they still think the governor would do a better job than his challenger on most other issues.

“Barbara Buono is not making any new gains, even among those who should gravitate to her,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Chris Christie simply seems to be a force of nature all but unstoppable in this particular election.” Redlawsk added that most voters – about 90 percent – say they are unlikely to change their mind between now and Election Day.

“As has been the case all season, most think Christie will win,” Redlawsk said. “Even 73 percent of Buono backers do not expect her to win.”

Nearly all Christie voters (87 percent) say their vote is to support the incumbent, rather than to oppose the Democrat. That’s not the case among Buono’s backers. Two-thirds of her supporters are motivated by their opposition to the governor. Only 32 percent are primarily voting in support of her.

“For the last several months we have reported that voters disapprove of Christie’s performance in key areas,” said Redlawsk. “The problem for Buono is that she has not convinced them she would do any better. Voters would rather stay with what they know, than to turn over the reins to someone who has not been able to make an effective case for change.”

Results are from a sample of 562 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points, drawn from 799 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 7-13, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie betters Buono on most issues

Likely voters say Christie would do a better job than Buono on a wide range of issues, including New Jersey’s economy and jobs (59 percent to 28 percent) and taxes (56 percent to 30 percent). As is expected, Democrats are more likely to say Buono would do better on the economy and jobs, but only by 19 points; nearly a third of Buono’s partisans say Christie would do the better job. Republicans are more unified: 88 percent say Christie is better on the economy and jobs, while only 6 percent choose Buono. Similarly on taxes, 55 percent of Democrats pick Buono, while 27 percent choose Christie. Among Republicans, Christie’s Republican margin is 84 percent to 7 percent.

Independent voters also believe Christie will do the better job on the economy and on taxes, by margins of 41 points and 40 points, respectively.

The governor is also preferred on the issue of crime and drugs (by 43 points), and the state budget (by 38 points). Christie even does better than the challenger on two core Democratic issues on which Buono has campaigned – health care (10 points better) and education (11 points better).

Buono’s only advantage is on same-sex marriage, where previous Rutgers-Eagleton Polls have shown majority support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in New Jersey. Fifty-eight percent of likely voters say Buono would do a better job on this issue, compared to 26 percent who pick Christie. Majorities of Democrats and independents say Buono would do best on same-sex marriage, while Republicans are split on their choice, 43 percent to 42 percent in favor of Christie.

“Ultimately, voters like Chris Christie personally, and they are not convinced Buono will do better on the issues they care about,” said Redlawsk. “While she does well on marriage equality, the fact is this is relatively low on most voters’ list of issues.”

Christie voters like his non-nonsense governing style

Christie’s performance in office and his candid, no-nonsense style are the biggest reasons 87 percent of his voters say they are more in support of him than opposing Buono. Thirty percent of these voters cite his governing style, including statements such as Christie is “a great governor for the state,” and he is moving the state “in the right direction.” Another 12 percent name policy stances, while 11 percent talk about the governor’s infamous brand of straight-talk, calling him a “man of his word,” a “straight shooter [who] doesn’t pull punches,” “outspoken and honest,” “refreshing,” and a true “Jersey guy [who] tells it like it is.” And Superstorm Sandy still matters: seven percent still say his leadership before, during, and after the storm is the reason why they plan to vote in support of the governor.

Only about a third of Buono voters say their vote is in support of her, rather than in opposition to Christie. Most of these voters (30 percent) prefer her stances on education, same-sex marriage, and minimum wage. Another 10 percent say they favor her because she’s a Democrat. The fact that Buono is a woman is also cited by 10 percent of her supporters, who say “a woman will be more responsible” and who express desire for a “woman governor.”

Few Christie voters are choosing him simply because they oppose Buono, but two-thirds of Buono voters are voting more against Christie than for her. These voters are opposing Christie mostly because they disagress with the governor’s policies generally, his handling of education, schools, and teachers’ unions specifically, and his “bully[ish]” and “arrogant” personality and attitude.

Christie maintains wide leads among all except Buono’s base

Christie’s double-digit lead spans almost every group, including Republicans and those not usually in his corner. The governor wins 93 of his own party members, as well as 68 percent of independents. Buono gets support from 22 percent of independents.

Although a sizeable gender gap exists, Christie has a 20-point lead among women. Even so, men are still 7 points more likely to back the governor than are women.

Christie also leads across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though the margin is smaller among the most educated voters, at 10-points. His lead has increased among voters in lower income households that would usually vote Democratic; they now favor Christie, 55 to 38 percent. He also leads in every region of the state by a minimum of 9 points.

Buono’s only significant leads continue to be among likely Democratic voters (65 percent to 25 percent) and voters in public union households (52 percent to 43 percent). She also holds a 9-point edge among nonwhite voters, 50 percent to 41 percent. Not surprisingly, 85 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie support her, as do 81 percent of those with a favorable impression of the challenger.

Regardless of their personal choice, large majorities of voters of every stripe say Christie will win again – including Buono supporters, those who view her favorably, voters with a negative opinion of Christie and Democrats in general.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters


Click here for PDF of full text, questions, and tables.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As the government shutdown enters its third week, New Jersey’s registered voters reflect the rest of the nation’s disapproval and assign blame to the Republican Party, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Just one quarter think congressional Republicans did the right thing by insisting to defund Obamacare. As a result, Republicans are suffering the brunt of the blame: more than half of Garden State voters say the shutdown is the GOP’s fault, while 19 percent blame President Obama. Only 5 percent blame on Democrats in Congress, although 20 percent say there is blame enough for everyone.

The shutdown has personally affected about one in five respondents, the poll finds. The biggest impact is on jobs – a quarter of those hurt say either they or a family member were furloughed, or their business has been affected. Also, many New Jerseyans are reporting problems accessing personal benefits or government-funded programs and that the shutdown has been exacting an emotional toll.

Despite the shutdown, Obama’s personal ratings remain unchanged since an early September poll and are still very positive. Fifty-nine percent of voters are favorably disposed toward him, while 34 percent are not and another 7 percent are unsure. Similarly, 50 percent of voters grade Obama’s job performance as B or higher.

Conversely, feelings about the Tea Party are mostly negative; 21 percent of voters have a favorable impression, while 55 percent are unfavorable and 24 percent have no opinion. When the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last asked about the Tea Party, in November 2011, the movement drew favorable ratings from 21 percent of respondents, but 48 percent were unfavorable.

“The federal government shutdown is not playing any better in New Jersey than elsewhere,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Those directly affected are very frustrated, and even those not seeing direct effects say the shutdown was the wrong way to go. While Obama’s ratings have not been affected, reactions to the Tea Party movement have become more negative.”

Results are from a poll of 799 registered New Jersey voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Shutdown directly affects many Garden Staters

Twenty-one percent of registered voters report they have noticed a difference in their personal lives because of the shutdown. Women, minority voters and those in lower income brackets have been especially impacted, as have those living in exurban areas and Philadelphia’s South Jersey suburbs.

Asked to describe the personal effects of the partial shutdown, many offered economic examples, including that they or a family member was furloughed from a job or receiving less pay. Others report difficulties gaining access to personal benefits and government-funded programs, including challenges to getting information about social security, Medicare and food stamps.

Some voters say they have been emotionally affected and called themselves “worried,” “concerned,” “depressed” or “angry.” Respondents also worry over the shutdown’s effects on the stock market and economy, the closing of national parks and monuments, and the impact on personal finances and spending.

ShutdownWordle5Word Cloud for question:
“In just a couple of words, can you tell me how the shutdown has affected you personally?”
Credit: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Release, October 16, 2013

Opinions on shutdown are deeply partisan

While majorities of voters say the government should have been kept open and that Republicans are to blame for the shutdown, Democrats and Republicans hold starkly opposing views of the situation. Eighty-five percent of Democrats say the government should have been kept open without defunding Obamacare, while 7 percent say shutting the government down over Obamacare was the right thing to do. Republicans are more split. Fifty-eight percent say the shutdown was the proper course of action but a significant 34 percent say the government should have been kept open.

Independents lean much closer to Democrats on the shutdown. Just 25 percent support shutting down the government over Obamacare defunding, but 66 percent believe this was the wrong thing to do. As for the Tea party, only 21 percent of all voters and 42 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of the movement. Supporters reflect overall Republican preferences, with 56 percent favoring the shutdown move and 35 percent opposing it.

“New Jersey’s Tea Party supporters do not favor the shutdown over defunding Obamacare any more than other Republicans,” noted Redlawsk. “This is partly because many Republicans feel favorably toward the Tea Party and partly because one in six Tea Party supporters has personally felt the shutdown’s impact. Personal impact can make a difference in attitudes.”

Blame for the shutdown follows similar patterns. Large majorities of Democrats, Obama supporters, and those personally affected by the shutdown, blame Republicans in Congress. Conversely, Republican voters, Tea Party supporters and shutdown advocates all blame the president in large numbers.

Nearly half (46 percent) of Republicans blame Obama, while 14 percent say their own party is to blame. But 87 percent of Democrats put the blame squarely on congressional Republicans. Independent voters see Republicans to blame by a 2-to-1 margin over Obama.

“The fact that independents are far more likely to blame Republicans than Obama or Democrats in Congress is one indicator of the harm this is doing to the Republican brand,” said Redlawsk. “But Democrats do not get off free – more than a third of independents say everyone is to blame.”

Voters’ preferences for U.S. Senate in today’s special election likewise reflects opinions on the shutdown: 87 percent of Booker voters disagree with it, while 63 percent of Lonegan voters say the shutdown was the right thing to do. Gender and racial gaps also exist, with women and minority voters much less likely to believe the shutdown was proper.

Three-quarters of Booker voters place blame for the standoff on the GOP, but six in 10 Lonegan voters blame Obama or the Democrats. While there is no gender gap in placing blame, minority voters are 22-points more likely to blame Republicans than white voters.

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