STRONG SUPPORT FOR “AID IN DYING” BILL

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

STRONG SUPPORT FOR “AID IN DYING” BILL
ASSISTED SUICIDE “MORALLY ACCEPTABLE,” RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL FINDS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” awaits a vote in the state Senate, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of New Jerseyans support the measure, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The bill, which allows terminally ill patients to obtain prescription drugs to end their lives and was passed by the state Assembly in November, is opposed by 29 percent of residents. Eight percent have no opinion.

Furthermore, regardless of their personal feelings on the legality of assisted suicide, 63 percent believe that ending one’s own life is morally acceptable for the terminally ill. Thirty-two percent consider such a measure morally unacceptable.

While Gov. Chris Christie has expressed “grave concerns” over the bill, 58 percent of Republicans, as well as 64 percent of both Democrats and independents, favor the proposed legislation.

“This is not really a partisan issue in New Jersey,” said Ashley Koning, manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. “Though a difficult subject for many, the issue has widespread support and acceptance here. Public opinion is mainly on the bill’s side.”

Sixty-three percent also say that if they had a life-threatening illness, they would rather relieve pain and discomfort, even if it meant not living as long, while 29 percent would choose the alternative – living a longer life even if it meant more pain. When the poll last explored the subject in 2000, 70 percent of residents sided with the former and 20 percent with the latter.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in both English and, when requested, Spanish.

Differences by religious devotion, not denomination, spur opposition

While New Jerseyans generally support the “Aid in Dying” bill and express both moral acceptance of and personal agreement with the idea of self-determination, religion is a significant factor among dissenters. It is not so much one’s particular denomination – more than six in 10 Catholics, Protestants and other denominations support the bill and find the issue morally acceptable – but rather the frequency with which residents practice their religion.

The most devout are the strongest opponents: half of residents who attend religious services at least weekly oppose the bill, while 40 percent support it. Views reverse among those who attend religious services less frequently: among those who attend services once to a few times a month, 59 percent are in favor of the bill, while 73 percent of those who seldom or never attend religious services support it. “Born again” or evangelical Christians are also less likely to support the bill than others; 52 percent favor the proposed legislation and 41 percent oppose it.

Patterns are similar for moral acceptance. Fifty-seven percent of the most devout say ending one’s own life due to terminal illness is morally wrong, but 57 percent who attend religious services less frequently and 76 percent who seldom or never attend say the act is morally acceptable. Half of born again Christians believe the act to be morally wrong. Forty-one percent feel the opposite.

If personally faced with a terminal illness, a majority of New Jerseyans of all denominations and levels of religiosity would prefer to relieve pain and discomfort, even if that meant shortening their life – though to varying degrees. Catholics (64 percent) and other non-Protestant residents (59 percent) are slightly less likely than Protestants (73 percent) to prefer less pain if diagnosed with a life-threatening illness if the tradeoff meant a shorter life. Those who seldom or never attend religious services are eight points more likely than those who attend to prefer reduced pain and discomfort despite possible life-shortening consequences.

Bill support, moral acceptance, and personal choice intertwined

Views on the legality, acceptance and personal preference of ending life if terminally ill are related. Those who believe taking such action is morally wrong are overwhelmingly against the bill – 76 percent oppose, 20 percent support. New Jerseyans who find the act morally acceptable feel just the opposite, with even greater intensity: 89 percent are in favor, versus just 6 percent who oppose. Residents who would endure pain and discomfort to prolong life if faced with a similar situation are much less likely than those who would ease pain to support the bill (52 percent versus 69 percent).

Likewise, 88 percent of bill supporters find the act of taking one’s own life due to terminal illness morally acceptable, and 69 percent of this group would relieve pain and discomfort even if it meant a shorter life. Among bill opponents, 84 percent say the act is morally wrong. However, they still opt to relieve pain instead of extend life by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin. Those who find the act morally wrong are more split on the subject – 45 percent would extend life and 51 percent would relieve pain – while 69 percent of those who say it is morally acceptable would do the latter.

“The evidence is clear that while most New Jerseyans support the ‘Aid in Dying’ bill in New Jersey, personal religious and moral grounds drive those who oppose it,” noted Koning. “The more deep-seated one’s moral views and practices, the more they are against the idea.”

Other key demographics contribute to differences

While religion is a driving factor, other group differences do exist, many of which may be related to differences in religiosity across groups. Nonwhite residents are less likely to support the bill; a plurality of 49 percent do so, compared to 72 percent of white residents. Forty-nine percent of nonwhite residents say ending life if terminally ill is morally acceptable, while 44 percent say it is wrong. Seventy-two percent of whites, on the other hand, say it is morally acceptable, while 24 percent say the opposite. Nonwhite residents are 10 points less likely than white residents to say they would prefer to relieve pain even if it meant not living as long, 57 percent versus 67 percent.

Support for the bill, moral acceptance, and personal preference on the issue increase with income and education.

Just over half of conservatives oppose the bill and think ending life is morally wrong – though six in 10 would still relieve pain at the risk of shortening life if faced with a similar situation.

While there is little difference by age on the bill or on moral acceptance, desire to relieve pain, even if it would shorten life, is preferred more as residents grow older. Three-quarters of senior citizens would choose this option, compared to just over half of those under 30.

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New Jerseyans Support Appointment of Emergency Manager for Atlantic City

We turn today to beleaguered Atlantic City today. We asked a few questions about the appointment of an emergency manager announced by Gov. Christie last month.  While some political players have criticized the move, it turns out that the New Jersey public is in sync with the governor on this one. Nearly 60 percent favor the move, while 35 percent oppose it.

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

 

ATLANTIC CITY FUTURE LOOKS DIM ALTHOUGH NEW JERSEYANS AGREE
STATE NEEDS TO SUPPLY HELP

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite backlash from state and city officials, and credit rating agencies, 57 percent of New Jerseyans – a solid majority – agree with last month’s appointment of an emergency management team to assist in solving Atlantic City’s financial issues. Thirty-five percent think Atlantic City should be left to handle these issues on its own, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Seven percent remain unsure.
Support for the decision remains high, regardless if the decision was said to have been made by “Gov. Chris Christie,” the main target of criticism for doing so, or by the “New Jersey government,” the poll finds.

Even with the appointment of the emergency manager, respondents believe Atlantic City’s future remains bleak. Sixty-three percent say the resort town’s best days are behind it, while just 25 percent believe they are yet to come – virtually unchanged since an October 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Moreover, just 38 percent of New Jerseyans report having visited the resort town in the past 12 months, down slightly from the 43 percent who had done so in the October poll.

“Despite supporting the appointment of the emergency manager, New Jerseyans remain skeptical about Atlantic City’s future,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “This is one recent decision by Gov. Christie that has a solid majority of residents behind it.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in both English and, when requested, Spanish.

Interest highest among those with Atlantic City connections

While Atlantic City’s financial crisis has been widely reported in the state, residents do not appear to be paying much attention. Just 11 percent say they have heard a lot about the emergency management team put in place, 27 percent say they have heard some, 28 percent say a little, and 34 percent say nothing at all.

Attention paid seems to influence responses. New Jerseyans most familiar with the story are least likely to support Christie’s action: 56 percent agree, while 43 percent say Atlantic City should handle things on its own. Those who have heard little about the issue are most likely to agree with the state sending in an emergency management team (at 62 percent).

Shore residents are slightly more likely than others to have heard a lot (15 percent). Urbanites are the least likely to have heard anything; 47 percent say they have heard nothing at all. Visitors to the resort city within the past year are also more likely to be paying attention compared to those who have not.

Broad support for Christie order

Christie’s executive order temporarily implementing an emergency manager in Atlantic City receives high support across most demographic groups, even those who otherwise are negative about the governor. The decision cuts across political partisanship: 61 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans agree with Christie’s course of action.

Millennials – residents under 30 – tend to be stronger supporters than those 65 or older, 67 percent to 53 percent. Similarly, residents with household incomes under $100,000 are stronger backers than wealthier respondents, 63 percent to 52 percent.

Support for Christie’s action does not raise a significant gender gap. Fifty-five percent of men and 60 percent of women favor the move. Also, while still majorities, fewer suburbanites (51 percent) and exurbanites (54 percent) support the appointment of an emergency management team. More than 60 percent of New Jerseyans from all other regions approve of the action.

Those who are more optimistic about Atlantic City’s future are more likely to support the state stepping in to help. Three-quarters of those who believe the resort town’s best days are yet to come support the state’s decision to help compared to about half of those who think the city’s best days are behind it. Both Christie supporters and detractors approve the action, at 60 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
Recent Atlantic City visitors are also more likely to support the emergency management team than those who have not visited within a year, 68 percent to 51 percent.

“Two schools of thought seem to be developing about Atlantic City,” said Redlawsk. “Those who have recently visited and those who see a brighter future want to see the state help make things better. But those who already have written off the city are much less likely to see state action as worthwhile.”
Atlantic City’s future looks dim to most

With few exceptions, New Jerseyans across the board believe Atlantic City’s best days are behind it. Those who have heard little or nothing about the emergency management team hired to help fix Atlantic City’s financial crisis look slightly more favorably upon the destination’s future. But residents who are better informed of the move see the city’s best days in the past (at 69 percent).

By a 33 percent to 13 percent margin, supporters of Christie’s decision are more likely than detractors to see a brighter future for the resort. A majority from both groups still sees the town’s best days mostly in the past. Even recent visitors share similarly bleak opinions with their counterparts; 29 percent say bright days are ahead, compared to 22 percent of those who have not visited in the last year.

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OPPOSITION TO A GAS TAX INCREASE PERSISTS

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

GAS TAX HIKE STILL OPPOSED BY NEW JERSEYANS

Recent low prices spur more travel, spending

 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As state lawmakers struggle to return the virtually bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund to solvency, 54 percent of New Jerseyans continue to oppose a gas tax increase while 42 show support, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Two versions of the question were put to residents, with results virtually unchanged since December 2014.

However, many of the strongest opponents – especially Republicans and men – have a change of heart upon learning the state’s gas tax is the nation’s third lowest and has not been raised in decades. Given that context, 44 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of men support a hike. Without context, 29 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of men favor an increase.

“Across all residents, adding context raises support from 39 percent to only 44 percent,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But, that the added information has a positive effect on the strongest opponents, might provide opportunity for political leaders trying to solve the problem of paying for transportation infrastructure maintenance. A majority remains opposed, but opposition might be softer than it seems if enough context is provided.”

While prices at the pump have recently ticked up after months of decline, New Jerseyans seem to be capitalizing on the savings; half say they have been more likely to travel by car for a weekend getaway or vacation. Also, 52 percent of respondents say they have been able to spend household money elsewhere with savings at the pump.

Unsurprisingly, lower gas prices have not had a positive effect on mass transit use or carpooling. Almost 50 percent of those polled say their mass transit use has not changed and 41 percent say it actually has declined. As for carpooling, while 43 percent say they are just as likely to carpool now, another 39 percent say they have been less likely to do so given cheaper gas. But New Jerseyans say that if the gas tax were raised, they would change some of these behaviors. Just over 20 percent would be more likely to use mass transit or carpool, and 35 percent would cut back on car trips. Forty percent would be less likely to spend household money on other things.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in both English and, when requested, Spanish.

Democrats stronger supporters of a hike

While less than a majority of New Jerseyans support a gas tax increase, some groups are stronger opponents. Across both versions of the question, Republicans are squarely against an increase, 62 percent to 36 percent. Among independents, 54 percent oppose a hike compared with 41 percent in favor. As with most tax issues, Democrats show more support with 47 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.

Transportation modes also influence support. Those less likely to use mass transit or carpool given lower gas prices are more likely to oppose a hike. Daily (or near-daily) drivers also are more likely to oppose paying more: 56 percent, compared with 47 percent of less frequent motorists.

Support for an increased gas tax grows with age and income; a majority of senior citizens (51 percent) and those with household incomes of $150,000 or more (56 percent) favor a higher tax. Fifty-one percent of liberals also support a higher tax. No other major demographic groups show majority support.

Additional information matters

To test the effects of additional information, respondents were randomly given one of two versions of the question. One lacked specific context, the other added that New Jersey’s gas tax “the third lowest in the nation and has not been raised in twenty years.” While making only a non-significant five-point difference across all respondents, the question variation makes a large difference with some groups.

While nearly leveling support among Republicans, independents and Democrats, the context concerning New Jersey’s current gas tax increases support from both daily and less frequent drivers. Opposition from daily drivers declines to 53 percent from 58 percent, while support grows from 38 percent to 44 percent. Support from less frequent drives climbs from 42 percent to 50 percent.

Even among residents who rate local road conditions as only fair to poor, there is limited support for an increased gas tax without context. Told about the relative cheapness of the New Jersey tax, support rises from 37 percent to 48 percent.

Grades for local roads, highways hold steady

Residents remain unconvinced about the low quality of New Jersey roads and bridges despite some objective measures to the contrary. Half say that state roads, excluding the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which are funded by tolls, are in either good (42 percent) or excellent (7 percent) shape. Another 38 percent see state roads as in only fair condition and 11 percent think they are in poor shape. These results mirror those from a December 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Opinions on local roads are more negative: 4 percent say they are excellent and 29 percent call them good. Thirty-six percent says local road conditions are fair, and 31 percent, poor.

“Even with political leaders’ efforts to show New Jerseyans the extent of the transportation infrastructure problem, many residents seem to have little problem with the roads they drive,” noted Redlawsk. “This could be one of the keys to why resistance to a gas tax increase continues.”

How a gas tax hike might affect transportation, spending behavior

While New Jerseyans appear to have changed behaviors in light of lower gas prices in recent months, some groups have changed more than others. White and nonwhite residents differ sharply. As gas prices dropped, nonwhites say they were less likely to use mass transit or carpool, while white respondents report no change. Nonwhite respondents also are nine points more likely than whites to be taking car trips or spending money on other things due to the decline in gas prices.

Behaviors also differ by age: 55 percent of those under 30 say they are now more likely to take a weekend car trip, compared to 37 percent of senior citizens. And despite the decline in the cost of driving, 24 percent of the youngest New Jerseyans report increasing their use of carpools, compared to 9 percent of seniors. Younger people are also more likely to have increased spending on other items: 60 percent versus 47 percent of those 65 and over.

Women are much more economical than men when it comes to spending saved gas money elsewhere: 58 percent of men are more likely to do so, compared to 47 percent of women. Nineteen percent of women are actually less likely to do so recently, compared to 11 percent of men.

These patterns flip when respondents are asked what changes they would make if the gas tax were raised. Nonwhite residents are more than twice as likely as white residents to say they would use mass transit or carpool more and take car trips less often. Almost half of nonwhites say they would be less likely to spend money elsewhere, compared to just over half of whites who say little would change in their spending habits.

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NEW JERSEY VOTERS QUESTION IF CHRISTIE HAS WHAT IT TAKES FOR 2016

As promised, here is the third release related to Chris Christie and 2016. Last week we talked about his overall ratings as governor, and yesterday we looked at Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, finding she would currently trounce Christie in NJ. Today we look specifically at the governor as a presidential candidate.

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

A ‘BULLY’ FOR PRESIDENT?
NEW JERSEY VOTERS QUESTION IF CHRISTIE HAS WHAT IT TAKES FOR 2016

Two-thirds of Rutgers-Eagleton Poll respondents say governor puts 2016 ahead of New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares for a 2016 presidential run in the midst of declining ratings at home, 59 percent of New Jersey voters say he would not make a good president, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 34 percent believe Christie would do well in the Oval Office.

Perceptions of Christie’s attitude and behavior haunt his chances for 2016, according to voters here. Asked to best describe the governor in a single word, voters respond with “bully,” “arrogant,” “selfish,” “aggressive,” and “bad” at the top of the list. But there also are positives further down in the top 10, such as “good,” “honest,” “strong,” “tough” and “ambitious.”

Voters’ views on a Christie presidency are also shaped by perceptions that the governor is lacking in qualifications to become commander-in-chief. Thirty-seven percent say he has the right “look” to be president, 36 percent say he has the right “demeanor and personality,” and 45 percent say he has the right amount of “experience” when considered against other potential Republican contenders.

“Governor Christie’s numbers are a far cry from the very positive results we reported yesterday for Hillary Clinton,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While voters’ views of Clinton are upbeat, the negative ratings given to Christie’s gubernatorial performance we reported last week are clearly influencing perceptions of him as a president.”

Voters in the Garden State are now more likely than ever – at 68 percent, up 13 points from December – to say Christie’s positions on issues, and his decisions on whether to sign or veto bills, are more about a potential presidential run than what is best for New Jersey. Just 22 percent feel he is putting the state first. Half of voters also say Christie’s travel schedule hurts his ability to be an effective governor, while 44 percent say it does not.

Despite this, voters are evenly split on whether Christie will become the 2016 GOP nominee. Thirteen percent say this is very likely while 36 percent think it is somewhat likely. Another 49 percent think it is either somewhat unlikely (27 percent) or not at all likely (22 percent).

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie in a word? Bully

While respondents offered more than 200 one-word or one-phrase descriptions of the governor, a few words were offered repeatedly. Ten percent used the word bully and more than 7 percent said arrogant. At 4 percent, good was the most popular positive word given.

ChristieOneWordrev One word that best describes Gov. Chris Christie
(c) Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Feb 18, 2015

“Of the 20 most frequently used words, the top three – bully, arrogant and selfish – are all negative, with about 20 percent of voters using them to describe Christie,” said Redlawsk. “Good and honest follow those three, but total only 6 percent combined.”

Bully comes to mind for a sizable share of Democrats (15 percent) and independents (9 percent). Arrogant is second with both, and selfish is not far behind. But not all their top adjectives are bad news for the governor: “good” actually ranks third among Democrats.

Republicans are more varied in their responses. Honest is first (4 percent) while other positives (excellent, fair, good, strong) and some negatives (aggressive, arrogant, selfish) are each named by 3 percent. Overall, Republicans are less consistent than Democrats in the words they use.

Christie’s presidential prospects fall far short of Clinton’s

As with Christie’s gubernatorial ratings, views on a potential “President Christie” are much more positive among his base than they are among Democrats or even independents. But Christie support among the New Jersey GOP does not match the intensity with which independents and Democrats rally around Hillary Clinton.

The 72 percent of Republicans who say Christie would make a good president falls well short of the 89 percent of Democrats who say the same about Clinton. Also, only 19 percent of Democrats see Christie as a good president, but 27 percent of Republicans think this about Clinton. More importantly, just 28 percent of independents say Christie would be a good president, far from the 60 percent of this group who back Clinton in the same scenario.

Voters give Christie lukewarm scores in terms of a potential presidency, with the majority holding a negative outlook, as opposed to the exceedingly positive one they give Clinton. Even GOP intensity for their governor is not as strong as Democrats’ for Clinton. Fifty-eight percent of Republican voters say Christie has the right “look” to be president, just eight points higher than their percentage for Clinton. Twenty-seven percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents feel the same about Christie – much lower than their thoughts on his potential Democratic opponent.

Sixty-two percent of Republican voters, 20 percent of Democrats, and 36 percent of independents say Christie has the right demeanor and personality for the top job. While GOP views are much higher in this area than they are for Clinton, independents and especially Democrats are far less positive here for Christie.

As for experience, Republican views on Christie (at 62 percent) are virtually the same as on Clinton. Three in 10 Democrats feel Christie has enough experience, while independents are more split on his credentials.

“New Jersey is more Democratic than Republican, which accounts for some of Clinton’s apparent advantage,” said Redlawsk. “But when GOP voters give Christie marks on presidential characteristics that are only marginally higher than hers, Christie has serious fence-mending to do with New Jersey voters.”

GOP grows divided over Christie’s presidential preparations

Voters have grown increasingly negative about Christie’s views, actions, and time spent out of state the last several months, believing ulterior presidential motives are behind his decisions.

Christie’s national focus has not gone unnoticed, even among his base. Republicans are now split over whether Christie’s recent words and deeds been about what is best for the Garden State or for his own presidential run. Forty-five percent of Republicans say his decision are about New Jersey, down 12 points since December. Nearly as many, 43 percent, think Christie is making decisions with his eyes on the White House, up 16 points.

Just 12 percent of Democrats believe Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey; 82 percent do not. Independents’ views of Christie’s motivations are also negative: 20 percent think he’s acting for the state versus 68 percent who say decisions are about a presidential run.

Opinions are similarly divided over how Christie’s travel schedule affects his ability to govern: 67 percent of Republicans say his frequent trips have no effect (down seven points), but 52 percent of independents – up 10 points, reaching a majority for the first time – and 60 percent of Democrats (up eight points) say it has hurt his ability to govern effectively.

 

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TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE? NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

Today’s release focuses on Hillary Clinton, while (spoiler alert!) we will have a similar release about Chris Christie tomorrow. We decided to split the releases because there is simply too much information to jam into one. For both Clinton and Christie we asked a series of questions about whether they seem presidential compared to other potential (and unnamed) competitors from their own parties,  and whether they would make a good president overall. For this release on Clinton, we additionally asked whether the country is “ready” for a women president and whether New Jersey voters want to see a woman president in their lifetimes.

The topline? Clinton currently cleans up in New Jersey – with huge leads over Christie, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in head-to-head tests, and New Jersey voters overwhelmingly think the country is ready for a woman president. Half also say they want to see a women president in their lifetimes, but half says this does not matter to them. Not surprisingly, since the potential woman president who comes universally to mind is Clinton, Republicans aren’t particularly interested, and Democrats really, really want this to happen. Especially female Democrats.

One interesting sidelight – questions like “is the country ready…” are often thought to stand in for the kind of direct questions that maybe cannot be asked. If we ask people directly if they are ready for a women president, few will directly admit to any gender bias on this score. But when we ask indirectly, we may be getting some insight into the respondent’s own preferences.  In this case, however, 80% of New Jersey voters say the country is ready, which suggests even on the individual respondent level, there is relatively little bias in New Jersey against such an event. In the end this is all the more interesting since during Clinton’s 2008 run, a CNN poll found Americans more “ready” for a Black president than they were for a woman. Maybe times have changed?

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

TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE?
NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

Clinton clobbers Christie, other GOP hopefuls in NJ matchups, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With all signs pointing to a second presidential campaign by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 80 percent of New Jersey voters say Americans are ready for a woman in the Oval Office, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 16 percent think the country is not yet ready for such a groundbreaking event.

Further, half of Garden State voters hope to see a woman become president in their lifetime, although the other half says it does not matter to them personally.

For many, hope for a woman president is apparently related to being “ready for Hillary.” A large majority of New Jersey voters has a positive view of Clinton and her potential, with 63 percent saying she would make a good president overall. Respondents are very upbeat about Clinton: 70 percent say she has the right “look” to be president, 74 percent say she has the right “demeanor and personality” and 83 percent say she has the right amount of “experience” when considered against other potential Democratic contenders.

“During Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for president, there was a great deal of talk about how voters would respond to her gender,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In January 2008, a CNN poll found Americans more ‘ready’ for a black president than a woman. Fast forward seven years and New Jerseyans, at least, have little doubt that the country is now ready for a woman president.”

Clinton continues to command high favorability ratings here. Her 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable rating puts her well ahead of any other figures the poll tested, including President Obama (53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable). One result of her strong showing is that she easily crushes potential 2016 Republican opponents in New Jersey head-to-head matchups. She tops Gov. Chris Christie, 58 percent to 35 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 58 percent to 32 percent; and Wisc. Gov. Schott Walker, 60 percent to 29 percent.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Partisanship, gender and a woman president

Democrats (85 percent) and independent voters (83 percent) overwhelmingly believe the nation is ready for a woman president. Republicans are less certain, with 67 percent agreeing and 31 percent disagreeing. Partisanship plays an even stronger role when it comes to personal hopes regarding a woman in the Oval Office. Two-thirds of Democrats want to see a woman in the White House in their lifetime, but 70 percent of Republicans say such an historic event does not matter to them. Independents are split – 47 percent hope for a woman president, while 53 percent say it does not matter.

“Of course, asking about the potential for a woman president brings only one candidate easily to mind for most – Hillary Clinton,” noted Redlawsk. “Voters are influenced by who they can imagine in the White House, so Republicans are dramatically less likely to want it to happen any time soon. Given a strong female Republican candidate, we would no doubt see a significant shift among GOP supporters.”

Men and women also differ in their expectations about a future woman president. Men are more likely to say the U.S. is ready to elect one, 84 percent to 77 percent. Women are 16 points more likely to personally hope to see a woman elected in their lifetime, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Given Hillary Clinton’s prominence, the desire to see a woman president is especially driven by Democratic women voters. More than 70 percent want to see a woman elected in their lifetime, compared to just over 50 percent of Democratic men. There is no gender gap among Republicans: about 30 percent of each gender personally hopes to see a woman elected during their lifetime.

But regardless of party, women are less likely to think the country is ready for one of their own as president, with the same gap between men and women evident for Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“Women are more likely to see gender discrimination, which probably makes them more cautious about the prospects for a woman president, said Redlawsk. “On the other hand, Democratic women in particular want to see their gender finally represented in the White House, something that doesn’t resonate the same way with men of any partisan stripe. These patterns track with national averages.”

Clinton’s presidential prospects high among voter base

Even as an unannounced candidate, Clinton has most New Jersey voters believing in her capabilities, especially voters most likely to be among her base. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents agree Clinton would make a good president overall. Only 27 percent of Republicans feel the same. Women are more likely to agree than men (66 percent versus 59 percent). Nonwhite voters and those under 65 years old are more likely as well.

As for particular presidential qualities, Clinton does well even with Republicans, half of whom agree that she has the right “look” to be president; 86 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents say the same. As for her presidential “demeanor and personality,” 92 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans agree with the statement. Additionally, 95 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans concur that Clinton has the right “experience” to be president.

Men and women share similar views on these questions. Nonwhite and younger to middle-age voters resemble Democrats in their assessments. Even a fair share of those unfavorable toward Clinton herself say she has the right look (42 percent), demeanor (35 percent) and especially experience (61 percent) – though only 16 percent of this group say she would make a good president.

“While they are not particularly interested in her becoming president, even Republicans see Hillary Clinton as experienced and of presidential character compared to other unnamed Democratic candidates,” said Redlawsk. “More importantly, she does well on these characteristics among independents, crucial to any general election.”

Top GOP candidates no match in New Jersey

Clinton’s favorability rating has remained well above 50 percent throughout the past year, after an initial slip from 65 percent in January 2014. Democrats are overwhelmingly favorable toward Clinton, at 88 percent. More than over half of independents agree, but just over one in five Republicans feels the same.

Women are 11 points more likely to have a favorable impression of her than men (64 percent to 53 percent). Nonwhite voters are much more likely than white voters to feel favorably towards Clinton – 79 percent versus 50 percent.

Tested head-to-head with Christie, Bush or Walker, Clinton maintains large leads across a wide range of New Jersey voters. Christie does slightly better than Bush and Walker but still loses to Clinton by wide margins among most groups, except Republicans and conservatives. Walker does the worst of all three GOP governors among independents and Republicans when pitted against Clinton. Bush sees the largest gender gap in his matchup.

Those who say Clinton has the right look, demeanor, and experience, and would make a good president overall, are much more likely to say they would vote for her in each matchup. Just under two-thirds of those who think the U.S. is ready for a woman president prefer Clinton in all matchups, as do about three-quarters of those who hope to see a woman president in their lifetime.

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GOV. CHRISTIE RATINGS FALL TO LOWEST POINT IN RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL

Today we have the first of three releases focused in some way on Gov. Chris Christie: his ratings; New Jerseyan’s attitudes toward his presidential campaign; and a third release on perceptions of Hillary Clinton as a presidential opponent. The latter two will come out next week.

In the meantime we focus today on Christie’s ratings with NJ voters. And the story is not a good one for the governor. He has reached the lowest approval point we have recorded across his entire term, breaking through the 50% negative impressions and job approval barrier. The drop seems to be driven by a huge negative shift among independents.

We also, for the first time ever, asked voters to tell us int heir own words why they think Christie’s ratings had taken a downward trend over the last couple months.   The keys? His personality appears perhaps to be wearing thin on voters, the Bridgegate scandal which remains on their minds, and his focus on national ambitions, rather than on his job as governor. Sometimes it is really interesting to simply record what people say in their own terms. It certainly is here.

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

CHRISTIE’S RATINGS DROP TO ALL-TIME LOWS AS VOTERS CITE GOVERNOR’S ATTITUDE, PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS, BRIDGEGATE AS REASONS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Chris Christie attempts to build a following among national Republicans in preparation for an expected 2016 presidential bid, New Jersey voters have soured on the governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a recent spate of damaging headlines, Christie’s support has collapsed to just 37 percent of registered voters reporting a favorable impression, down seven points in just two months.

For the first time, a clear majority (53 percent) feels unfavorable towards the governor. His overall job approval is also clearly negative: 52 percent disapprove while 42 percent approve, a drop of six points since December.

ChristieFavFeb2015

Voters have definite opinions about reasons behind the slide. Twenty percent mention his attitude, personality, and behavior; 15 percent refer specifically to “Bridgegate” and 10 percent say something about shunning his current duties to pursue presidential ambitions.

“As one respondent said, ‘Christie visiting different states for the presidential race made New Jerseyans not like him,’” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Others used words like ‘arrogance,’ ‘rudeness’ and ‘abrasive’ to explain the turnaround from his high flying post-Sandy days. And of course, all manner of mentions of Bridgegate and other scandals were offered.”

Christie’s slump is reflected in specific issues as well. His job approval on taxes (the top concern for 29 percent of voters) is down three points to 28 percent since the December 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. On the economy – the most important issue for 24 percent – Christie is down four points to 31 percent approval.

And what was already a strikingly low approval rating on handling the pension situation has fallen an additional five points to 19 percent. The largest decline, seven points to 35 percent, has been in respondents’ perception of how he has been handling education. Only approval levels on Sandy recovery (55 percent, the highest of any issue), crime and drugs (48 percent), and the budget (31 percent) have remained steady since the last poll.

Despite Christie’s increasingly negative ratings, voters split on whether he has been a good or bad governor: 38 percent of voters are positive, 33 percent negative, and 29 percent neutral. But voters are increasingly negative on the direction of the state: 35 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 54 percent say it is on the wrong track.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie loses independents in overall ratings

A key to keeping Christie’s ratings in positive territory through most of tenure has been ongoing support provided by independent voters. But that has changed. Independent voters now are squarely against a governor they long supported, with favorable impressions falling a record-breaking 16 points since December to 31 percent. Meanwhile, the share of independent voters with an unfavorable impression grew by double digits to 55 percent.

“Christie’s loss of independent support undercuts his efforts to be seen as appealing across the political spectrum,” noted Redlawsk. “This 16-point drop is even larger than we found in the aftermath of Bridgegate, when the decline was 14 points over two-and-a-half months. This would seem to be nothing but bad news as the governor ramps up his national profile. For the first time, independents look more like Democrats than they do Republicans in their assessments of Christie.”

While New Jersey independents show a steep drop, Democrats and Republicans hold steady in their assessments. Democrats are at 24 percent favorable to 70 percent unfavorable, while Republicans are just the opposite, at 73 percent favorable to 20 percent favorable.

Christie’s overall job approval reflects more of the same. Independents’ approval of his performance has completely flipped; just 39 percent now approve (down 13 points), versus 55 percent who disapprove (up 13 points). Just 25 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove, while Republicans remain at 79 percent approval to 16 percent disapproval.

Christie slips among Republican on key issues

Republicans retain their overall positive assessments of Christie, but the story varies on some key issues. While GOP approval of Christie’s performance on taxes remains steady at 47 percent, the same is not true of the economy and jobs, where his 46 percent approval rating among Republicans represents an 11-point decline. More Republicans now disapprove – 48 percent – a huge increase of 19 points since December. Christie also suffers from declines within his base on the state budget, with 55 percent now approving (down nine points), crime and drugs (down six points to 64 percent), and the state pension fund (down six points to 37 percent).

“In December, independents remained more positive than negative overall, despite significant drops on some key issues,” said Redlawsk. “The decline on issues, however, was clearly a leading indicator, as overall support among independents has now plummeted. The question is whether we will see the same dynamic with Republicans, who continue strongly positive overall, but are now trending negative on two major issues: the economy and the state pension fund.”

Voters’ key reasons for Christie’s decline span his past, present, and future

ChristieReasonsWordcloud

Christie’s perennial “Jersey guy” personality, attitude, and behavior – a blessing in the best of times and a curse to him in the worst – is seen by voters as the top reason for his ratings decline, as 20 percent cite this when asked to explain what polls have been showing. The George Washington Bridge scandal is also high on voters’ minds, coming in a close second at 15 percent, along with an additional 4 percent who mention scandals generally.

Christie’s 2016 aspirations have not been lost on voters either. His lack of attention to New Jersey as he focuses on presidential preparations is named by 10 percent, with another 4 percent specifically mentioning Christie’s “excessive” out of state travel.

Some, however, believe Christie’s fall may not be entirely his fault; 6 percent of voters cite news coverage and his portrayal by the media. Others look to specific issues – 5 percent name his handling of the economy and jobs; another 5 percent reference state employees, unions and pensions. Four percent bring up general poor governing, lack of leadership, and not doing enough for the state.

Democrats and independents are much more likely to reference Christie’s personality, attitude and behavior than Republicans (23 percent and 20 percent, respectively, to 12 percent). At 19 percent, Bridgegate is the top reason given among Republican voters. They are also much more likely than Democrats to blame Christie’s downfall on his portrayal in the media (11 percent versus just 2 percent of Democrats).

Mixed views on Christie’s legacy

For the most part, voters are split on how good or bad a governor Christie has been over the past five years. Independents are the most split: 35 percent say Christie has been a good governor, 34 percent say bad, and 31 percent say neither. But 69 percent of Republicans look positively on the governor’s time in office, while 24 percent are neutral; just 7 percent say Christie has been bad.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats differ: 22 percent say Christie has been good, 46 percent say he has been bad, while 31 percent are ambivalent about his performance.

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It’s Nearly Valentine’s Day So We’ve got the Numbers (ain’t we romantic?)

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll we’re feeling a little giddy. Some of us are in very long term relationships, while others are at the beginning, but one thing is clear. Like most of our fellow New Jerseyans, we’re looking forward to the day with a sense of excitement, and maybe, for some of us, a little dread. So to start off our next round of Rutgers-Eagleton Poll press releases, we present something different from our usual politics and policy: LOVE! For the first time in over a decade, we polled New Jerseyans on Valentine’s plans, and we found that just as in 2004, seven-in-ten of our fellow Garden Staters have a Valentine this year.

We will return you to our usual barrage of politics in a day or two, but for now, sit back and let cupid do his stuff.

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

VALENTINE’S DAY: LOVE IS IN THE AIR FOR MOST NEW JERSEYANS

More excitement than dread about the big day of romance, Rutgers-Eagleton ‘Cupids’ find

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite the snowy forecast, love is in the air in the Garden State as 70 percent of residents will “be mine” with a special someone this Valentine’s Day, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Cupid’s arrow is apparently consistent; the share of residents with a valentine has changed little since Eagleton last explored feelings about the holiday more than a decade ago. Among those with a valentine, seven in ten plan to celebrate this year.

Traditional tokens of affection are the top choices when it comes to the wide range of gifts valentines would like to receive. Chocolate, candy, and other food items are the top choice (at 11 percent), followed by jewelry (at 8 percent). Receiving a card, spending time together, flowers, affection, and dinner are also up on the list (each at 7 percent).

Forty-four percent of New Jerseyans – regardless of whether or not they have a valentine – are excited for the romantic holiday, while just 16 percent say V-Day makes them feel more dread than excitement; four in ten don’t have a feeling either way.

“When it comes to Valentine’s Day, New Jerseyans mostly resemble the rest of the country, but with a few key differences,” said Ashley Koning, manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. “Compared to recent national polls, the hopeless romantics here are more likely to plan special celebrations. Yet as a whole, Garden Staters are more neutral about the holiday – feeling neither any significant excitement nor dread about a day typically associated with both romance and pressure and expense.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in both English and, when requested, Spanish.

Men more likely to dread the day; women more excited

Reinforcing traditional gender roles, men are more likely to feel the heat when it comes to Valentine’s Day; 22 percent feel dread versus just 10 percent of women. Half of women, on the other hand, are excited about the holiday, compared to just 39 percent of men.

“Men arguably face more pressure in planning the perfect Valentine’s Day for their sweethearts, so it’s no wonder they are more likely to have some dread about the holiday,” said Koning. “With such decisions as picking the perfect flowers or piece of jewelry, Valentine’s Day has the potential for causing a certain amount of stress.”

Despite these differences in anticipation, men and women are similarly likely to have a valentine and to plan on celebrating in a special way. Gift preferences, however, differ. Men would most like to receive chocolate, with a card or note coming in second, and time together or affection tying for third. Jewelry tops the list among women, followed by flowers, and then some type of edible treat.

A holiday for different ages in different ways

Excitement in anticipation of Valentine’s Day does not vary greatly by age, but younger to middle-aged New Jerseyans are twice as likely to feel dread compared to 40-64 year olds and more than four times as likely as those 65 and over. Yet this sense of pressure does not appear to stem from differences in planning a special celebration for the day; about seven in ten residents of all ages plan to do so.

The youngest and oldest Garden Staters are both less likely to have a valentine than middle-aged respondents, however. Sixty-seven percent of 18-39 year olds have a special someone for the romantic holiday, similar to what residents 65 years and older report (at 61 percent). New Jerseyans 40 to 64 years old are the most likely to have a valentine, at 77 percent. This is presumably a natural consequence of the life cycle, Koning noted, as those who are in the middle age bracket are more likely to be settled down and married with permanent valentines.

While about one in ten romantics of all ages favor chocolates or other edibles as their number one gift choice, other desired gifts vary by age group. 18-39 year olds also prefer flowers, jewelry, and affection, while 40-64 year olds additionally desire a card or jewelry. Senior citizens uniquely mention most wanting some kind of attention as their Valentine’s Day gift: 14 percent say they would like to spend time or have a visit or conversation with someone, and another 10 percent desire a nice meal.

Romance changes with marriage, length of relationship

Not surprisingly, New Jerseyans who are currently married are more likely than others to say they have a valentine but marital status does not seem to affect plans to celebrate with one’s valentine. Gift preferences are a different story: unmarried valentines prefer chocolates or other sweets, as well as some expression of affection, over other gift options, while married valentines are equally likely to prefer chocolates or a card.

The length of a marriage or committed relationship also reveals some interesting Valentine’s Day patterns. New Jerseyans in newer relationships –from one to 10 years – are the most likely to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit and say they have a valentine. They are also slightly more likely to feel both excitement and dread about the holiday than most others.

Residents in 11 to 25-year relationships show a slump in holiday excitement and are less inclined to celebrate compared to other committed individuals. This group is also far more likely to call a card or jewelry their ideal gift. Chocolate is the top choice for those in newer relationships – but a nice meal does the trick for those in relationships lasting more than 25 years.

“The bloom, as they say, isn’t necessarily off the rose for good for lasting relationships,” Koning said. “Instead, romance seems to renew after a few decades together, with individuals committed for more than 20 years looking much like those in newfound love. But whether new or old, love will certainly be flourishing this weekend in the Garden State.”

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