Daily Archives: September 1, 2011

Whoops. The tomato is not officially the state vegetable!

Well, I have egg on my face. Turns out while the tomato has been proposed as the state vegetable a number of times, it has never become official. I apologize to corn and all the other vegetables out there for my error!


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New Jersey Picks Tomatoes over Corn

OK, sometimes even we have to have fun here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. So in our most recent poll we asked NJ voters whether they prefer corn or tomatoes. New Jersey is well known for both, so we wondered which it would be. Well, no contest. Tomatoes won big time! (Disappointing maybe to someone who just spent 10 years in Iowa…) It’s across the board – pretty much all demographics told us tomatoes over corn. But in South Jersey the difference is particularly noticeable. By the way, the only reason this is “voters” instead of “adults” is that the rest of this particular poll focused on registered voters, so this question did too. Not sure whether to expect any differences on this one between registered voters and all Garden Staters…

So enjoy your Labor Day weekend and the end of those summer picnics. We’ll be back with more polling in early October, continuing to look at what’s going on in New Jersey policy and politics. We may have other things to say here before then, but this closes out our current round of releases.

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


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Labor Day picnics approach, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll addresses a burning question for all New Jerseyans: Do Garden Staters prefer New Jersey tomatoes or New Jersey corn? The answer is tomatoes, by a large margin. A majority of registered voters (52 percent) say they prefer tomatoes, while only 30 percent prefer corn. Another 15 percent say they cannot make a choice, finding both tasty and delicious.

“We were stunned to find such a preference for tomatoes,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The Garden State is justifiably famous for both, but New Jerseyans of all stripes say tomatoes beat corn. The strong preference for tomatoes may also explain why it is the New Jersey state vegetable, even though it is a fruit.”

Results are from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of 615 registered voters conducted among both landline and cell phone households from Aug. 9 – 15, with a margin of error for the full sample of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

South Jersey more tomato-oriented

Residents of South Jersey and the Shore counties are most likely to prefer tomatoes, while corn comes closer in urban and exurban (northwest) areas of the state.

“We seem to see a North Jersey-South Jersey split,” said Redlawsk, noting that while South Jersey and Shore county voters prefer tomatoes by a 31-point margin, those living in urban areas favor tomatoes by only 15 points. Exurban Garden Staters are even more split, favoring tomatoes by just 12 points.

Tomatoes may have an advantage in South Jersey, since according to legend they were first introduced on the steps of the Salem County Courthouse in 1820 by Col. Robert Given Johnson. While the legend may have had something to do with Campbell’s Soup in Camden, it could help explain why residents south of I-195 really seem to love their tomatoes.

Men and women have similar preferences, although the former are slightly more likely to prefer corn, 32 percent to 28 percent. Women, however, are a little more likely to say that they cannot choose a favorite by 17 percent to 13 percent.

“Since tomatoes are generally quicker and easy to use, we may find it easier to make tomatoes part of our lives, compared to corn, which usually needs to be cooked,” said Redlawsk. “However, as several people pointed out, sweet corn right out of the field can be eaten raw and is delicious. But my guess is fewer people have ready access to fields of sweet corn.”

Republicans love tomatoes; Democrats a little more corny

Republicans prefer tomatoes more strongly than Democrats by a 34-point to eight-point margin. Independents lean Republican, with a tomato margin of 27 points. Conservatives also favor tomatoes by a whopping 59 percent to 21 percent, with 17 percent ambivalent. Voters for Gov. Chris Christie in 2009 like tomatoes, 57 percent to 23 percent. Supporters of former Gov. Jon Corzine choose tomatoes, 48 percent to 34 percent.

“If we understood why Democrats and Republicans differ on how much they like corn, we might have a better handle on New Jersey politics,” said Redlawsk. “As it is, the differences seem to be driven primarily by young people and African-Americans, who not only are more likely to be Democrats, but who apparently have more interest in corn than the average voter.”

The one group that comes closest to preferring corn comprises those with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000, who show only a four-point tomato preference. The highest income voters (more than $150,000) strongly prefer the state veggie by 38 points.

Some like them both

Not all respondents are willing to choose one or the other, Redlawsk observed. “While a minority, a number of New Jerseyans refused to be boxed, rejecting the choice we gave them,” he said. “As one anonymous respondent asked, ‘Why one or the other? The smart people in New Jersey know you need both at an end of summer picnic!’”

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