NJ Voters Not Particularly Positive about Christie Traits

Today we release results from our roughly  every six months assessment of how NJ voters view a set of positive and negative traits that might be ascribed to Gov. Chris Christie. The last time we did this was in October, 2014. At that time positive traits were moving down and negatives moving up. As it turns out the trend has continued. Perceptions of Christie as trustworthy, fair, effective, and reformer are all at new lows. Meanwhile negative trait perceptions continue to become stronger – in particular arrogant, bully, and impulsive are all at new highs. What do we learn from questions like these? Mostly we get another perspective on what might underlie the decline in Gov. Christie’s overall ratings, beyond how voters think he’s doing on the issues. While issues do matter, so do perceptions of a politician as a leader. Unfortunately for the governor, those perceptions are also declining significantly.

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

CHRISTIE CHARACTER TRAITS LEAVE NEW JERSEY VOTERS DUBIOUS;  GOVERNOR SEEN AS LESS TRUSTWORTHY, MORE ARROGANT

Most see governor as ‘stubborn’ with weaker positive traits: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As a kinder, gentler Chris Christie wooed New Hampshire Republicans last week in a visit that included two town hall meetings, New Jersey voters are less likely than ever to apply positive personality and leadership traits to their governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 17 percent now say “trustworthy” describes the governor “very well,” while 44 percent say it does not apply at all. Another 36 percent think it applies only “somewhat well.”
Besides the decline in trustworthiness, three other positive traits have reached new lows since last polled in October 2014. Only one in five voters now thinks the terms “reformer” or “fair” describe Christie very well, and only a quarter say the same for “effective.”

The perception of Christie as a “strong leader,” which two-thirds of voters thought described Christie very well throughout 2013, has dropped to 39 percent, its lowest point since August 2010.

“These declines in how New Jersey voters see Christie’s positive traits are clearly part of what is driving the continued declines we have reported in his favorability and job ratings, and in views of him as a good president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While issues matter – and Christie’s numbers keeps hitting new lows there as well – voters are very much attuned to personality and leadership traits.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll recently reported that only 24 percent of New Jersey voters think Christie would make a “good president,” and 54 percent disapprove of his job performance.

Perceptions of Christie’s negative traits have not changed quite as dramatically as his positives. The new poll records further upticks in voters who say “arrogant” (57 percent) “bully” (45 percent) and “impulsive” (43 percent) describe the governor very well, with all three at new highs. In addition, while easing slightly since October 2014, 64 percent still say “stubborn” applies very well, and 46 percent continue to think “self-centered” is a very apt descriptor for the governor.

“Governor Christie needs to convince Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire that he’s not the arrogant bully that many back home seem to think he is,” said Redlawsk. “He is in a tough position, though. Voters want leaders, but they want a certain humbleness at the same time. While Christie gets kudos in the press for last week’s warm and fuzzy New Hampshire town halls, there are an awful lot of YouTube videos showing something very different in New Jersey over the past five years.”

After last year’s Bridgegate scandal destroyed a year of Sandy-induced positivity, voters are feeling slightly more “angry” about Christie (now at 40 percent) while 43 percent are “worried.” An even stronger emotion, contempt, is felt by one-third of New Jersey voters, the first time this question has been asked.
As for positive emotions, Christie has experienced some slippage: about three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic.” Both are down four points since October.

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 to April 3, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans sour on positive perceptions of Christie

Similar to Christie’s overall ratings, the declines in positive trait perceptions are driven, in part, by his own party base. Trustworthiness shows an 11-point drop among Republicans over the past six months, to 37 percent who now say the label describes him very well. Independents show a decline of six points to 15 percent, while the number of Democrats who trust Christie remains stable at just 8 percent.

Republican support for Christie as a strong leader in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy has also declined precipitously. While 60 percent of GOP voters still say the trait describes the governor very well, this is down 15 points since October. By comparison, independents are down 12 points to 36 percent, with Democrats holding relatively steady at 31 percent.

GOP support for two other positive Christie characteristics declined by double digits. Forty-five percent of GOP voters now think effective applies very well, while 44 percent see the term “fair” in the same light. Both are down 10 points since last polled.

Only 18 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Independents now say effective applies very well, and 11 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of independents say the same for fair.

A larger number of partisans regardless of party still believe Christie is independent and smart. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats, 43 percent of independents, and 65 percent of Republicans say independent describes the governor very well; 40 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of independents, and 71 percent of Republicans say the same about smart.

Negative perceptions increase slightly

Voters’ perceptions of negative traits that might apply to Christie have changed only incrementally since a significant increase in the immediate Bridgegate aftermath. More than half of all partisans continue to say stubborn – dubbed the most apt description of Christie – describes him very well: 77 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans take this position.

Arrogant shows more of a divide. While 73 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents say this describes Christie very well, 42 percent of Republicans say the same. But that doesn’t mean the rest of Republicans think the trait does not apply at all – just 22 percent say this, compared to another 35 percent who say it fits him somewhat well.

The infamous trait of bully has ticked up most noticeably for Republicans, with 26 percent now saying this describes the governor very well (up seven points). Sixty-two percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents say the same, little changed from October. A similar pattern emerges on self-centered, with 60 percent of Democrats, 45 percent of independents, and 26 percent of Republicans saying the traits suits him very well.

Impulsive has also seen a notable jump among GOP voters – up nine points to 34 percent. Forty-one percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats now believe the governor is impulsive.

“Assuming Christie continues to show a ‘softer’ side in his responses to challengers at town hall meetings, some of these negative trait perceptions may be reversed,” noted Redlawsk. “Many of them reflect that the governor has been seen to publicly attack even average citizens who disagree with him. Backing away from the direct confrontations that have defined him for New Jerseyans could be a very good strategy if he pursues a national run.”

Partisans’ emotions

While emotional responses to reading or hearing about Christie have moved only slightly overall since October, partisan patterns resemble the ups and downs seen with traits. GOP voters especially show a decline in more positive emotions towards the governor – pride is now at 56 percent (down 13 points) and enthusiasm is now at 49 percent (down 15 points).

The already low numbers for Democrats and independents are little changed: one in five Democrats feel either positive emotion, while one in three independents do.
Negative emotions show less movement, with all partisans relatively stable since October. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans feel angry. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 37 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Republicans feel worried.

Asked for the first time in this series, the feeling of contempt is expressed by one-third of voters overall and shows virtually no partisan split. While 37 percent of Democrats say they feel contempt thinking about Christie, so do 35 percent of Republicans, and 30 percent of independent voters.

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

NEW JERSEY VOTERS DON’T SEE GOVERNOR AS GOOD FIT FOR PRESIDENT

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

OVAL OFFICE, CHRISTIE PERFECT TOGETHER? NEW JERSEY VOTERS DON’T SEE GOVERNOR AS GOOD FIT FOR PRESIDENT

Majority thinks he will run but 58 percent say ‘presidential’ is not apt description

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to host town hall events in New Hampshire, scene of the first 2016 presidential primary, an increasing number of New Jersey registered voters think Christie would not make a good president, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 24 percent think Christie would be a good president, while 69 percent say he would not, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll.

Voters are mixed on the likelihood of Christie becoming the Republican nominee. Forty-four percent say the governor’s chances have worsened over the past few months, 46 percent say they are about the same, but only 6 percent say they have improved.

Moreover, given a range of character traits, 58 percent of voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie “at all,” versus 28 percent who think it describes the governor “somewhat well” and 10 percent who say “very well.”

Still, most voters do not think these declining prospects will deter New Jersey’s governor: 57 percent still believe he will become a candidate, 32 percent do not, and 11 percent are unsure. In December 2014, 63 percent thought he would try for the GOP nomination and 25 percent did not.

“Voters who know Gov. Christie best simply do not see him as president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “New Jerseyans have watched him in good times and bad. While his strengths were on display after the Sandy disaster, he was seen as just another politician after the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations it spawned, and he has never recovered.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 to April 3, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Only his staunchest supporters envision ‘President Christie’

A Christie presidency is difficult to envision for most groups. Belying Christie’s claims that he appeals to Democrats and independents, 85 percent of the former group and 68 percent of the latter say the governor would not make a good president. Seventy-one percent of women, 66 percent of men, 79 percent of nonwhite voters, and 72 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) feel the same. Given the governor’s attacks on public employee unions, it is not surprising that 80 percent of voters in public union households say Christie would not make a good president.

Likewise, a majority of most groups would not describe Christie as presidential. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents say this does not describe Christie at all; another 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively, say it describes him somewhat well.

A surprisingly small majority of his most likely supporters can see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie. Twenty-five percent of GOP voters think presidential describes Christie very well and another 40 percent “somewhat well.” Thirty-two percent say the word does not describe him at all.

“It does seem that Christie’s better shot at the presidency might have been in 2012,” noted Redlawsk. “While New Jersey voters were also not keen on him running when we asked in 2011, the national environment was very different, with many Republican leaders begging him to run. Four additional years in office have not helped his case, even with his near-universal support right after Superstorm Sandy. It’s a different Republican pool, and a Bridgegate-damaged Chris Christie.”

Voters still expect a Christie Campaign

Despite declining job ratings at home and his apparent status as an also-ran in national Republican polls, a majority of respondents – 58 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans – still expect Christie to run for president. Age and levels of education are more significant variables than political affiliation. Expectations that Christie will run decrease with age: 68 percent of voters, 18 to 34, say he will, compared to 41 percent of voters 65 and older. Belief that Christie will run increases among more educated voters: 49 percent among those with a high school education or less to 66 percent of those with graduate work.

Those who say Christie would make a good president are slightly more likely to say he will run, 65 percent compared to 55 percent who say he would not make a good president. Voters who believe “presidential” aptly describes Christie are also more likely than those who do not to believe he will seek the Republican nomination.

Mixed views on Christie’s presidential chances

Given relatively little positive press for the governor’s presidential efforts over the past few months, the vast majority of New Jersey voters do not think Christie has made any further gains towards 2016. Only Republicans (at 12 percent) and supporters of Christie and the job he is doing (at 10 percent) reach double-digits in believing that his presidential chances have improved.

Instead, voters are mostly split between whether Christie’s chances have worsened or remained the same. About the same share of independents (44 percent), Democrats (48 percent) and Republicans (48 percent) think his chances have not changed in the past few months. But 46 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents say Christie’s chances have worsened, along with 38 percent of Republicans.

Even voters with a favorable impression of Christie do not think things have improved for him in terms of 2016. Fifty-seven percent of his supporters say that Christie’s chances remain unchanged; another 26 percent say they have worsened. But the large majority of those unfavorable toward Christie see his chances declining: 60 percent think they have gotten worse, while 37 percent say his chances are holding steady. Only 2 percent think things have gotten better for the governor.

Voters who believe Christie will run in 2016 are more evenly split on his chances – 44 percent say they have worsened, 47 percent say they remain about the same. Voters who think Christie will not run are slightly more likely to say things have gotten worse: 51 percent to 46 percent who say his chances have not changed. Even those who believe Christie would make a good president and consider him “presidential” are squarely in the “unchanged” camp.

 

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GOV CHRIS CHRISTIE’S NJ RATINGS: NEW LOWS FOR OVERALL JOB APPROVAL, SANDY, AND TAXES

Today we take our regular look at ratings given to Gov. Chris Christie by NJ voters. The story is pretty similar to February, when his favorability rating hit an all-time low. While that rating ticked back up slightly, the governor’s job performance rating fell some more, and in particular for the first time fewer than half approve his performance on Sandy recovery.

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

CHRISTIE’S NEGATIVE RATINGS CONTINUE; NEW LOWS FOR OVERALL JOB APPROVAL, SANDY, AND TAXES

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds Six in Ten Voters Say Garden State is on the Wrong Track

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As N.J. Gov. Chris Christie increases his focus on a potential presidential campaign, he continues to be met with negativity back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters disapprove of the overall job Christie is doing as governor, while 41 percent approve. Though relatively steady from February, this is his highest job disapproval to date.

On Superstorm Sandy recovery, Christie’s job approval has dropped below 50 percent for the first time: 48 percent now approve, down 7 points from February and far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-four percent currently disapprove his work on Sandy recovery.

Approval ratings for Christie on issues other than Sandy recovery are also low. Christie reaches new depths on taxes (26 percent approve, 65 disapprove) and the state budget (28 percent approve, 61 disapprove), and maintains his low water mark of 31 percent approval on the economy and jobs.

Christie’s overall favorability rating stands at 48 percent unfavorable, somewhat improved from his 53 percent unfavorable rating in February. The 38 percent who are favorable is essentially unchanged from February’s 37 percent favorable.

Negativity toward Christie himself parallels voters’ assessments of the direction of the state itself. Sixty percent of voters say the Garden State is on the wrong track, the highest number since just before Christie’s first election in October 2009. Thirty percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction – a 10-point drop from December 2014 and less than half of the quarter-century high of 61 percent in June 2013.

“Often, as the economy improves, voters feel more positive. But in this state there is now widespread feeling that things are on the wrong track,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While the governor continues to explore a national run, voters back home are expressing more and more concern about what’s happening in New Jersey and the governor’s performance in dealing with these issues.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27- Apr. 3, 2015, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie losing Republican support at home

Despite the relative steadiness of Christie’s overall ratings between February and now, there seems to be growing dissent on the governor’s job performance amongst his base. Democrats (24 percent approval) and independents (40 percent approval) remain steady in their assessments. Republicans, however, show a double-digit drop over the past two months; job approval is down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval is up 11 points to 27 percent. Moreover, while 68 percent of GOP voters continue to have a favorable impression of Christie, this is down five points from February.

About a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents have a favorable impression of Christie, with Democrats steady over the past two months and independents up five points.

Republicans continue to be split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, 44 percent approve of his approach while 49 percent disapprove. They are slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve to 44 percent disapprove); Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

On the state pension fund, Christie’s lowest-rated issue with 22 percent approval from all voters, a plurality of Republicans remains in the governor’s corner – 45 percent approve (up 8 points from February) and 34 percent disapprove (down 5 points). On the other hand, Democrats and independents rate performance here worst of all, at 8 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

“It is one thing to lose support among Democrats and even independents, but losing GOP voters is a big problem,” said Redlawsk. “We’re now seeing the decline in support for Christie among Republicans that we predicted in February based on leading indicators. When those who should be Christie’s strongest cheerleaders turn away, things are clearly not going well for him here in New Jersey.”

Christie still receives high marks from Republicans on crime and drugs (69 percent), education (62 percent), and the state budget (54 percent), but 75 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents now disapprove of Christie’s performance on the budget.

Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected

As of February, a majority of New Jersey voters continued to support Christie’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, always his strength. Two months later, even Sandy recovery approval has taken a downward turn for the governor. As recently as October 2014, 60 percent approved of his job performance on Sandy; today, only 48 percent do.

This decline is seen across multiple groups. Republicans’ support is down 11 points to 60 percent, while 31 percent now disapprove of Christie’s efforts. Democrats’ approval on Sandy has fallen 8 points to 39 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. Half of independents express approval on the governor’s recovery efforts – the only issue to reach 50 percent approval among this group – though this is down four points, while 42 percent now disapprove.

Christie also loses support on Sandy in areas where it counts the most – regions particularly affected by the storm two and a half years ago. In shore counties, Christie drew 60 percent approval two months ago, but more of those voters are now negative than positive on Sandy recovery – 46 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove. Urbanites also show a similar drop of 15 points, with approval now at 43 percent, while 49 percent disapprove.

Voters living in the southern region of the state near Philadelphia similarly fell 9 points to 49 percent approve (43 percent disapprove). About half of suburbanites and 54 percent of exurbanites approve of Christie’s job on Sandy.

Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State

While voters’ views on the direction of New Jersey as a whole have not been generally positive since January 2014, the proportion who say the state is on the wrong track hit its highest point in six years, reaching a level of dissatisfaction rarely seen in the past two and a half decades.

Partisans of all stripes show a less positive view on the state over the past two months. Democrats and Republicans who say the state is going in the right direction are both down 7 points, now at 25 percent and 43 percent, respectively; independents are down three points, now at 28 percent. A solid majority of Democrats and independents believe New Jersey has gotten off on the wrong track, as does a plurality of Republicans.

Opinions of both men and women are equally negative: about six in ten say the state is on the wrong track. Declines in assessment of the state’s direction are especially clear among younger voters and seniors: just 28 percent of those 18 to 39 years old (down 14 points from February) and 24 percent of those 65 years and older (down 8 points) maintain a positive outlook.

The state’s voters have grown more negative across all regions. Negative views on Christie are particularly tied to negative views of the state – 79 percent of those unfavorable toward the governor also say New Jersey is off on the wrong track; just 13 percent say the opposite. Those favorable toward Christie are somewhat more split: 54 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 37 percent say wrong track.

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

NEW JERSEYANS SAY KEEP MENENDEZ IN OFFICE UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY

Today we are out with new polling on last week’s indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on charges of corruption. We had planned to be in the field beginning March 27, so added a series of questions on perceptions of corruption in New Jersey, along with two questions about the then-rumored allegations against the Senator. While we were in the field the rumors became fact on April 1.  One question was designed to see how much people had heard about the rumors/indictment, while the other asks if the Senator should resign immediately because of the allegations. After the indictment, both the Star Ledger and The New York Times called on Menendez to step down.

We had initially asked the questions in terms of “rumors” so we had to change them to reflect the new reality, which provides us an interesting natural experiment, where we can see if the news of the actual indictment makes much difference in responses. The answer seems to be “maybe”.

Because our original goal was focused more on corruption generally than on Menendez specifically, we embedded a question experiment in our survey which resulted in having only half the sample asked specifically about whether Menendez should resign immediately, or stay unless/until convicted. The other half was asked a generic question about “officials” charged with corruption, in order to directly compare to a question on a previous poll. So while we have 860 respondents with a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points, our subsamples on Menendez staying or going has a margin of error of +/-5.2 percentage points. Even so, since 58 percent say he should not resign on allegations alone, and 34 percent say he should quit, we are quite confident that a majority of New Jerseyans support him staying in office for the time being.

Some may wonder why we didn’t ask the public whether they think Menendez is guilty. The simple answer is that we figured a) the public doesn’t really know, and b) the result was likely to be strongly partisan, with Democrats saying not guilty and Republican guilty. Better to let a trial decide in any case.

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

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEYANS SAY KEEP MENENDEZ IN OFFICE UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite last week’s multi-count federal indictment of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on alleged corrupt dealings with a wealthy ophthalmologist friend and campaign donor, New Jerseyans are not yet ready to throw the Senator out of office. Fifty-eight percent of Garden State residents say Menendez should stay unless he is proven guilty, while 34 percent want him to leave immediately, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Half of the poll sample was asked specifically about Menendez, while the other half was asked a generic question from an earlier poll. As with Menendez, New Jerseyans generally believe a politician should not leave office until found guilty, with two-thirds taking this position. Just 29 percent prefer that an accused official quit immediately. This is a sharp departure from October 2009, when a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that half of New Jersey residents demanded that accused officials quit when charged, while 42 percent thought they should wait it out.

In the wake of initial rumors, and then the indictment itself, 34 percent of residents have a favorable impression of Menendez – down a mere three points compared to February 2015. Twenty-seven percent are unfavorable towards the Senator (up four points), while 38 percent have no opinion.
But the quarter of Garden Staters who have heard a lot about the charges are decidedly more negative: 47 percent are unfavorable, compared to 35 percent favorable; just 18 percent have no opinion. Similarly, residents asked after Menendez’s actual indictment are more negative than those asked in the days when the charges were only rumors.

“The last time we asked about corruption was in the wake of the July 2009 ‘Operation Bid Rig’ scandal. At that time, people seemed more adamant that an accused official should immediately leave office than they are today,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Either New Jerseyans are more accepting of such accusations than they once were, or the Menendez case has not yet sunk in. But opinions on Sen. Menendez’s future may also be less harsh because this case does not seem as cut and dry as Bid Rig.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27 – Apr. 3, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. The margin of error for the subsamples asked about Menendez or generic officials is +/- 5.2 and +/- 5.3 percentage points respectively. Interviews were completed in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Menendez should stay unless convicted, residents say

The poll was ongoing as rumors that Menendez would be indicted changed to reality. Residents interviewed following the indictment, while less favorable toward the Senator, also tended to be more likely to say he should stay in office unless found guilty than those who were asked earlier. The difference – 65 percent supported remaining in office post-indictment, compared to 55 percent before the announcement – while large, is not statistically significant due to the relatively small number asked this question after the indictment was made public.

While those who have heard a lot about the allegations are more unfavorable toward Menendez overall, nearly two thirds of these most aware residents also say the Senator should remain in office unless he is convicted.

“Once the indictment was announced, we made an appropriate change in the question; the result seems to be more support for the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ even as the Star Ledger and New York Times have called for Menendez to quit,” said Redlawsk. “Perhaps the Senator’s strong response that he will fight the charges had some initial effect as the story was breaking.”

The idea that Menendez, or any official, should not be forced from office before corruption charges are substantiated is supported by both Republicans and Democrats. While 63 percent of Democrats and those leaning Democrat asked specifically about Menendez say he should stay unless convicted, 61 percent of Republicans and GOP leaners agree, little different from the results of the generic question not naming any official. Independents not leaning toward either party are less supportive: only 48 percent say Menendez should remain in office, far fewer than the 65 percent who say the same about a generic official.

A slight ratings slip post-indictment?

Menendez’s favorability ratings have stayed relatively steady across the years he has been in office; in June 2006, one of the first times Rutgers-Eagleton asked about him, 36 percent had a favorable impression. His current rating of 34 percent favorable is indistinguishable from his ratings across the past decade and little changed from last February.

However, the announcement of the actual indictment appears to make a difference: those asked to rate the Senator prior to his indictment were less likely to have an unfavorable impression (23 percent) than those asked after (36 percent), as well as more likely to say they had no opinion or did not know Menendez (41 percent before and 33 percent after the indictment). The share of residents favorable towards Menendez also shows a slight slip post-indictment – 36 percent prior, compared to 31 percent after charges were announced.

“Our pre-indictment sample is much larger than the sample after, which makes us less certain of the changes we see,” explained Redlawsk. “But if the trend continues, the drop in favorability may eventually lead to more people preferring that Menendez step down rather than fight. For now, though, many may be giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

While little partisan difference is evident in whether any accused official should immediately quit, the usual party differences appear in Menendez’s ratings. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 43 percent have a favorable impression, compared to 27 percent of independents and 25 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners. But 38 percent of Democrats, 47 percent of independents, and 31 percent of Republicans still do not express an opinion about the Senator.

Menendez’s job approval follows a similar pattern. While his approval is basically unchanged from February, disapproval is up 8 points. After the indictment, disapproval increased by 11 points to 36 percent, compared to before the announcement of charges, while approval remained steady (37 percent before, 35 percent after). As with favorability, disapproval increases with attention to coverage of the corruption case.

New Jersey not seen as more corrupt

Most Garden Staters say there is a lot (51 percent) or some (35 percent) corruption in New Jersey politics, but this is little changed from the last time they were asked in October 2009. The apparent leniency toward Menendez and other officials accused of corruption may instead be influenced by the majorities who say the state is no more corrupt than in the past nor compared to other states. Just 20 percent think New Jersey has become more corrupt in the past five years, while 54 percent say nothing has changed, and 17 percent think corruption has declined. At the same time, the 52 percent who think New Jersey is just like other states represents a sharp decline from a February 2014 poll, when 67 percent saw no difference.

Despite perceiving corruption as the norm in politics, residents nonetheless prefer an honest politician, even if he or she may have trouble making things happen, over a politician who might be corrupt but could get things done – 67 percent versus 26 percent. New Jerseyans also see corruption as a major problem in the state: 15 percent mention government corruption and abuse of power as the most important issue in New Jersey, ranking third overall only behind taxes and the economy.

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A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Understanding the Future of New Jersey’s Most Important Problem

By Brandon Diaz-Abreu

Brandon Diaz-Abreu is a data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and a sophomore at Rutgers University.

In our most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, New Jerseyans continue to say that taxes, followed closely by the economy and jobs, are the most important problems facing the Garden State – a combined 53 percent. Our previous polls show that these two issues have consistently been mentioned as the top problems since February 2013. But while there is a lot of focus on how the prolonged reign of these issues impacts politics in the Garden State, a closer inspection reveals some possible new trends in the years to come.

Approximately 10-13 percent of New Jersey residents have said education is the top problem in the state in the same time period as stated above, consistently ranked third or fourth as the most important issue. But when we look closer at this question by age and region, we see that each month, education is the first or second most important problem for people 18-39 years old (21 percent this past February) and is usually a close second for people who live in urban areas (12 percent this past February) – arguably two of the groups most impacted by this issue.

For young adults, the rising costs of higher education is one part of the issue that looms large: young college students are worried about how to pay tuition rates that are on the rise, and recent college graduates may be struggling to pay off their accumulated student loans. As for urban residents, their heightened interest in this issue may stem from concerns for quality of education and child safety in urban school systems.

As we can see in the table below, the issue of education has become an increasingly important problem to these particular groups, as well as to the New Jersey population overall, between 2009 and now. Though taxes and the economy have perennially been top concerns, it is possible that education could take the number one spot in New Jersey in the next few decades if little continues to be done for the state’s educational system.

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Filed under Education, Most Important Problem, New Jersey

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Do I Like You, or Do I Know You? The Question of Republicans in 2016

By Robert Cartmell

Robert Cartmell is a Data Visualization Intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a junior at Rutgers University.

It is widely speculated that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but when it comes to the Republicans, no one is completely sure who will come through the primaries to challenge Hillary in the general election. Three of the most frequently talked about candidates are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and New Jersey’s own Governor Chris Christie. The three governors all have different strengths, weaknesses, and ideas on key issues, but one way to attempt to identify a frontrunner is to look at their personal ratings. The latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked New Jersey voters for their impressions of each of these political figures.

At this stage in the presidential game, these three Republican figures are probably most concerned with how they perform among the GOP base. In New Jersey, 73 percent of Republican voters say they are favorable towards Chris Christie; 50 percent of Republicans say the same about Jeb Bush, and 33 percent say it about Scott Walker. Christie appears to have a clear lead in ratings within his own state, but favorability is only half the story. Christie and Bush both have a notable number of Republican voters who feel unfavorably towards them as well – 20 percent for Christie and 24 percent for Bush. Just 5 percent express this kind of negativity for Scott Walker; while he is shown the least favorability, he also garners the least disdain, probably because he is the least know among New Jerseyans.

As for other partisans in the Garden State, majorities of Democrats (70 percent) and independents (55 percent) are unfavorable towards Christie. Bush fairs better among both of these groups; 51 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Independents are unfavorable towards him. While Walker has low unfavorable numbers among these groups, at least six in ten Democrats and independents do not know who he is or have no opinion of him.

For the Republicans in 2016, there still appears to be no clear front-runner yet. We will see whether the nominee turns out to be someone who is seen as more favorable, the most unknown at this point, or the candidate who is somewhere in between. Only time – and a whole lot of campaigning – will tell.

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Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Voting for a Woman in the Oval Office: What Difference Does Age Make?

By Liz Kantor and Sonni Waknin

Elizabeth Kantor, a junior at Rutgers University, is the Lead Data Archivist and a methodological intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. Sonni Waknin, a sophomore at Rutgers University, is an archiving and general research intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

As we reported last month, the most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed that New Jersey voters think the country is ready for a woman president, and in a series of hypothetical matchups, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in particular, easily beats any of her potential Republican opponents – including Governor Christie himself. Although the United States has never elected a woman president, eight in ten New Jersey registered voters believe the country is ready for one; just 15 percent feel the opposite, and four percent are unsure.

And this overwhelming belief does not differ across age groups. From young to old, New Jerseyans across the board see the country as ready for a woman in the Oval Office. There are no statistically significant differences between millennial, middle aged, and senior voters.

But voters of different ages in the Garden State do not all think alike when it comes to their own personal preferences. While, overall, voters are split down the middle about personally hoping for a woman president in their lifetime, nearly six in ten millennial voters hope for such a milestone. But this personal desire decreases with age. Half of those 40 to 64 years old, and just over four in ten senior citizen voters, say the same.

With Clinton’s potential presidential bid, the difference between those who believe the U.S. is ready to have a woman president and those who personally hope to elect one is noteworthy. Younger citizens seemingly have a vested personal interest in seeing a woman elected president more than any other age group. This difference might be attributable to the fact that millennials have come of age in a society that more openly advocates for gender equality, making them more comfortable and invested in electing a woman as president. Though younger voters are generally less likely to turn out, perhaps increased hope for a woman president will lead younger New Jerseyans to vote at a higher rate on Election Day in 2016 if Hillary Clinton does in fact run.

Garden state voters of all ages furthermore seem to be on Clinton’s side when it comes to prospective 2016 matchups. New Jersey voters across the board would vote for Clinton over their own governor, Chris Christie, 58 percent to 35 percent, if the election for president were held today. While the personal desire for a woman president does vary with age, support for Clinton within New Jersey does not.  Apparently when the abstract is made specific in reference to Clinton, voters focus on her rather than the general idea of a woman president.

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Filed under 2016 President, Hillary Clinton, Woman president