Monthly Archives: February 2012

Looking back on Taxes in NJ: 40 years of polling by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll

Today we dig deep into our archives as we have at other times this year in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. One of the great things about this place is the treasure-trove of data from the past. The archives, which are publicly accessible, contain results from all of our public polls back to 1972, and up until late 2010. We are in the process of adding more recent polls, though we have a one-year wall. That is, we add polls to the public archive approximately one year after we do them. This gives us a little time to use the data for our academic work before throwing it out to the world.

In any case, we’re looking at taxes today through two questions we have asked off and on since that very first year. One is whether New Jerseyans feel they get what they pay for in their state and local taxes. The answer is no, and has been every time we have polled it. The second is whether people recognize NJ as one of the most taxing states. Turns out back in 1972 – when we were in the top 5, according to the Tax Foundation, no one knew this. Now everyone does.

So strap yourself into our Wayback Machine and read the full text of today’s release below. For a PDF of the text as well as the questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Much has changed in New Jersey since 1972. Gambling came to Atlantic City. The Giants and the Jets moved to the Meadowlands. And 1.7 million more people call New Jersey home.

At least one thing endures, however. For four decades, Garden State voters have said they pay too much in state and local taxes for what they get in return. Even as Gov. Chris Christie touts his proposed income tax cut, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds that only 18 percent of registered voters say they get their money’s worth from the taxes they pay. The vast majority, 76 percent, disagree.

A review of 40 years of Rutgers-Eagleton polls reveals that this belief is nothing new. In 1972, before the passage of the state income tax, 73 percent of respondents said they paid too much for services. Only in 1984 did fewer than 70 percent say they did not get their money’s worth; 64 percent were disgruntled while 29 percent thought they paid the right amount for services.

Voters also recognize New Jersey is a high tax state: 85 percent say they pay more than other states. But that recognition was slow in coming. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent thought they paid more. By 1984 this had climbed above 50 percent, and it has continued a steady rise since.

“Historical data show that state and local taxes in New Jersey have been among the highest in the nation for at least the past 40 years.” said David Redlawsk, poll director and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But it took a while for people to fully recognize that fact, even though complaints about taxes have been around as long as taxes themselves.”

New results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Data from older surveys comes from the publicly available Rutgers-Eagleton Poll archives at with margins of error from +/- 2.8 to +/-4.4 percentage points.

 New Jersey and Taxes

As previously reported, more than half of voters (52 percent) support Christie’s proposed 10 percent cut in the state income tax while 36 percent are opposed. Even so, 76 percent would rather see property taxes cut first, though most wouldn’t balk at saving tax money from either source. However, most overestimate what a 10 percent state income tax cut would mean, with a median expected savings of nearly $750, compared to a typical cut of about $100 for median income earners.

Driving both findings may be the widespread belief that more is paid than is gotten in return. Moreover, awareness that New Jersey sits at the top of the list of high-tax states is now pervasive.

“While voters may not really know what an income tax cut means to them, they are painfully aware of the state’s reputation as one of the most highly taxed in the nation,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the amount they’ll get from a tax cut, they no doubt hope it will ease some of the pain.”

Since the first Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in 1972, data shows that New Jerseyans do not feel they get a good return on their tax dollars – 21 percent thought they “got their money’s worth” from state and local tax payments, and 73 percent felt otherwise. Twelve years later, attitudes improved a bit, with 29 percent saying they got their money’s worth and 64 percent believing they paid too much for what they got. But negatives hit 70 percent by 1990 and currently stand at 76 percent.

While New Jersey’s tax rates have been among the top five nationally since the 1970s, voters did not realize this in 1972,  when only 9 percent said they paid more than other states, while 44 percent thought they paid the same and a third actually believed they paid less.

“The view that we pay less than other states is now as rare as declining property taxes,” said Redlawsk, noting that only 1 percent of New Jerseyans now think they pay less, while 85 percent say they pay more than in other states.

Republicans express the most negativity, but this wasn’t always been the case

In 1972, more Republicans (27 percent) than Democrats (20 percent) thought they got what they paid for with their taxes, but in both 1984 and 1990 there was virtually no difference between the parties. Today, state and local taxes are a major issue for Republicans; 80 percent say they pay too much in state and local tax and only 13 percent feel they are getting their money’s worth.

Democrats are slightly more positive, with 22 percent saying they get their money’s worth. Nevertheless, most Democrats (71 percent) and independents (78 percent) feel they pay too much.

In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of all voters thought New Jersey’s taxes were higher than those in states. By 1984, that number increased to about 50 percent of Democrats and Republicans, and nearly 67 percent of independents. Since 2000, Republicans’ perception of New Jersey as highly taxed grew 16 percentage points to 91 percent. Democrats’ perception has remained relatively steady and stands at 79 percent.

Higher earning residents generally have been more likely to say they get their money’s worth from their state and local taxes than those making less. This group also has been more likely to recognize New Jersey’s high tax status. Today, 23 percent of those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 annually say they get their money’s worth. The very highest earners are somewhat less likely to agree (19 percent), and those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are least positive at only 14 percent. High-income voters are also much more likely to recognize New Jersey’s position among states: 93 percent of the wealthiest say New Jersey pays more, compared to only 76 percent of those making less than $50,000.

The best educated voters are more likely to think they get their money’s worth from their taxes, though fewer than 25 percent feel this way. Liberals are among the most positive at 27 percent, while only 13 percent of conservative agree. And 23 percent of retired voters say they get value for money, but this drops to 16 percent of full-time workers and 13 percent of those not employed.

“Even with these differences among groups, the clear story is that New Jerseyans have never really felt they got their money’s worth out of their taxes, at least since we’ve been asking,” said Redlawsk. “And while it took a while, the perception of where New Jersey stands relative to the rest of the states has now caught up with reality.”


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2012 US Senate and House – An early look in NJ

As we did two years ago, we are beginning our polling on the 2012 Congressional races in New Jersey. This time around we have a U.S. Senate race, with incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez running for re-election. And while two Republicans have declared their interest in running against him – Anna Little and State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, from our current vantage point Kyrillos is the one building a potentially strong campaign, so we test him against Menendez in this round of polling. Menendez has pretty weak favorability for an incumbent, but mainly because nearly 40 percent of registered voters have no opinion about him. Among those who do, he is 10 point to the positive in his favorability rating, pretty much where he has been for the past year. Kyrillos, however, is unknown – 80 percent venture no opinion when asked whether they see him favorably or unfavorably. In a head to head ballot test, Menendez holds a strong lead. But when we ask a generic party-only ballot test, the gap closes from 22 points to 12 points. Maybe that signals potential for Kyrillos.

We also ask about the U.S. House races, in a generic fashion. Half our sample gets asked if they prefer a Republican or Democrat and half is asked whether they want the incumbent or a challenger. The results lean more toward the Democrats than they did at this time two years ago, mostly because independents are currently evenly split, where in 2010 they had a strong Republican tilt. But, this says nothing about individual districts – we don’t have the resources to poll all 12 House districts. Instead, it is an overall read of registered voters 9 months before the election, with all the limitations that suggests.

The full text of the release follows. For a PDF of the text, along with all relevant questions and tables, click here.


Statewide, New Jersey voters support Democrats for U.S. house

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez holds a commanding lead over New Jersey state Sen. Joe Kyrillos in an early test of the 2012 U.S. Senate election, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Menendez, a Democrat, is favored by 44 percent of Garden State registered voters and 22 percent name Kyrillos, while 26 percent are unsure and 7 percent say they would not vote. An unnamed Republican does better than Kyrillos in the Senate race, though still loses to a generic Democrat by a 46 percent to 34 percent margin.

Kyrillos’ primary weakness is that few voters know him; 80 percent either have no opinion (50 percent) or are unsure (30 percent) about the GOP challenger. Eleven percent have a favorable impression and 9 percent do not.

Voters feel more positive toward Menendez, 37 percent to 24 percent, but nearly 40 percent have no opinion about the incumbent. “Menendez’s favorability numbers crept up slightly early last year, but for an incumbent, he has a very low profile,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Kyrillos, however, is completely unknown at this point, a huge advantage for Menendez. We certainly expect that the numbers will tighten as the campaign develops, but Menendez starts off in a good position.”

Democrats also hold a significant lead over Republicans statewide in an early 2012 U.S. House election ballot test, according to the poll. Statewide, 45 percent of registered voters would support an unnamed Democrat, 28 percent would vote Republican, 11 percent would not vote and 15 percent are unsure.

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Questions about the U.S. Senate and House elections were split into two random subsamples, with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points for each.

 Even Republicans don’t know Kyrillos

While the state’s voters tend to lean Democratic in national elections, Kyrillos is at a particular disadvantage, suffering from virtually no name recognition nine months before the election. Only 20 percent of voters venture an opinion (11 percent favorable and 9 percent unfavorable). Even among Republicans, few know how they feel about the state senator: 12 percent are favorable, 4 percent unfavorable, but 84 percent have no opinion.

“No name recognition is a double whammy for Kyrillos,” said Redlawsk. “He must overcome the lack of a statewide profile and the underlying Democratic leanings of voters. Neither is impossible to do, with enough time and enough money, but it is a clear challenge.”

That Kyrillos’ lack of name recognition is a drag on his candidacy against Menendez is reflected by a party name ballot test for the Senate, where half of the poll’s respondents were asked to pick a Democrat or Republican for the seat. Among those with this option, a generic Democrat beats a generic Republican by only 12 percentage points, with 18 percent unsure. When the matchup is described as Kyrillos versus Menendez, the Democrat’s lead grows to 22 points. However, 33 percent say they would not vote or they cannot decide.

“Given a partisan cue – vote for a Republican or a Democrat – voters can express their generic preference pretty easily,” noted Redlawsk. “Asking them to choose between candidates they don’t know well leaves more room for uncertainty.”

Menendez rating stable and favorable, but lots of ‘no opinion’

Although an incumbent up for re-election, Menendez continues to have a surprisingly low profile: 39 percent of respondents have either no opinion of him (32 percent) or don’t know (7 percent). Thirty-seven percent feel favorably and 24 percent do not. One year ago, those favoring Menendez provided a 10-point cushion. Just as many held no opinion then as now.

“Without a sense of the candidates as individuals, voters are likely to fall back on party cues,” said Redlawsk. “This gives Kyrillos the opportunity to define Menendez, which could make the race more competitive by November. But first Kyrillos has to make himself known.”

Independents are particularly unsure where they will go at this point, said Redlawsk. Those asked to vote for an unnamed Republican or Democrat split evenly at 32 percent, but 37 percent would not choose one party over the other. Given named candidates, independents swing heavily to the name they recognize better: 43 percent would vote for Menendez, 23 percent for Kyrillos, and 34 percent are undecided or would not vote.

 Democrats lead in statewide U.S. House test

To examine the 2012 U.S. House race, one-half of respondents chose between a Republican and a Democrat, while the other half was asked to choose between their “current congressman” and a “challenger running against him.”

In the party name test, 45 percent of registered voters pick a Democrat while 28 percent say they would vote GOP. Another 11 percent would not vote, and 15 percent are uncertain. Asked to choose the incumbent or challenger, voters are more ambivalent, with 30 percent choosing the officeholder and 27 percent preferring the opponent. Given this choice, 20 percent would not vote, and 23 percent could not make a choice.

“For perspective, two years ago when we asked these same questions, 33 percent picked a Democrat and 31 percent wanted a Republican,” said Redlawsk. “These results suggest a shift towards the Democrats, much of which is driven by independents, who were 2-to-1 for Republicans in February 2010, and are now leaning slightly Democratic.”

Redlawsk also noted that the desire for challengers is not much different now than two years ago, when 32 percent supported their “current congressman” and 25 percent preferred someone else. As the 2010 election progressed, voters shifted slightly toward challengers in the polling, but in the end re-elected all but one of the state’s incumbents.

While noting that getting an early read on where the electorate is for 2012 provides a sense of the political environment, early numbers give only some guidance for the fall. “I would caution against reading too much into this,” said Redlawsk. “It’s early, for one thing. And whether a voter wants to throw out an incumbent, or wants a candidate of one party or the other, it really doesn’t matter if there isn’t a strong alternative to the incumbent on the ballot.”

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For a PDF of the full text plus questions and tables click here.

We weigh in again on the 2012 presidential election here in New Jersey. Last time we looked – in December – Mitt Romney led and Newt Gingrich came in second. Well, mirroring the national trend, Gingrich has dropped off the New Jersey radar and Rick Santorum has climbed into second. Romney continues to hold a decent lead, but he still hasn’t broken 40 percent. There remains a lot of uncertainty in the Republican race.

For the first time in this cycle we have also asked about issues and candidate qualities. No surprise on issues: it’s the economy again, stupid. By a long shot. Candidate qualities vary by party – Republicans clearly want a leader; Democrats are evenly split between a leader, a candidate who shares their values, and a candidate “who cares about me.”

And in the head-to-head between Obama and Romney, Obama has widened the lead we reported in December, as is now up by 25 points.

We should note two things. One, we have changed our Republican nomination question. Throughout 2011, we used an open ended question, asking people to name their preference. Not surprisingly, a lot of people could not. We used an  open ended question because it was difficult to name every (possible) candidate before the voting began. But now that we are down to four Republican candidates, we have switched to the typical named ballot test – we give all four names and ask voters to choose. This drives down the don’t knows. And the two questions are not strictly comparable. So while we feel comfortable that Romney continues to lead as he has, we can’t exactly say how much his lead has changed since December.

Second, a mea culpa. When we wrote the questionnaire, about three and a half weeks ago, Rick Santorum still seemed mostly dead – and he certainly did not register in our December polling. So in the interest of saving time (which means keeping our costs down) we did NOT do a head-to-head between Santorum and Obama. Nor did we test Santorum’s favorability rating. We DO know Romney leads Santorum by 17 points. We do NOT know how voters view Santorum or how he would do against Obama. We suspect, however, it would be worse than Romney, given the dynamics of New Jersey. But that’s truly just informed speculation, not based on data.

Text of the release follows. For a PDF of the full text plus questions and tables click here.


Voters call jobs and the economy most important issues

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – With just over three months until the New Jersey primary and nine months from the presidential election, New Jersey Republicans continue to prefer former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as their standard-bearer in the battle against President Barack Obama. But Romney has yet to solidify his support here, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

While about a third (36 percent) of GOP voters and “leaners” favor Romney, former U.S. senator, Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum has risen to second at 19 percent. The two are followed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Representative Ron Paul, each of whom claims support from 11 percent of Republicans. Another 14 percent say they would prefer “someone else” not in the field or none of the choices, and 8 percent are unsure.

“Romney has yet to break 40 percent here, reflecting the continued uncertainty about him among Republicans,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “As in other states, we have seen Santorum rise from nearly nothing to become a contender. But for the moment Romney remains well out front in the GOP field.”

Jobs and the economy are the most important issues in their choice for president among a majority of respondents, Redlawsk observed. At the same time, most want a strong leader, someone who shares their values and “cares about people like them.” These desired characteristics aside, a majority also wants a president who will compromise.

In a general election matchup, Obama would beat Romney in New Jersey by 25 percentage points, 56 percent to 31 percent. He led Romney by 19 points in December. “As the president’s favorability ratings and job performance grade improve, he has also improved his electoral position,” noted Redlawsk. “While New Jersey isn’t necessarily in the bag for the president, he has certainly pulled ahead in this traditionally blue state.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. While New Jerseyans must be registered in a political party to vote in its primary, an independent voter can declare party affiliation at the polls and vote. Thus the sample includes a subsample of 289 Republican and Republican-leaning independents, with a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percentage points.

Republicans support Romney, but many are not satisfied with choices

As the election draws closer, only 8 percent of registered Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they do not know who to pick, although another 14 percent wish they had another choice. Among the remaining contenders, 36 percent prefer Romney, up from 28 percent in an open-ended question in December. The race remains fluid, however, as Romney stays below 40 percent, Redlawsk said. He added that Santorum is the most recent beneficiary of the unsettled race. The former senator was named by only 1 percent of GOP voters in December, but now gets 19 percent, and has supplanted Gingrich as New Jersey’s second choice.

That the race remains up in the air is reflected in the fact that only 11 percent of Republicans are “very satisfied” with the candidates, while another 57 percent are “somewhat satisfied,” Redlawsk said. Nearly a third says they are not satisfied, but this an improvement since last August, when only 3 percent were very satisfied with their choices for the nomination.

Conservatives are more satisfied than moderates: 82 percent are at least somewhat satisfied with the field, although only 19 percent are very satisfied. On the other hand, 5 percent of moderates report being very satisfied and 56 percent are somewhat satisfied with the choices available to them.

“The overall picture here seems to be somewhat grudging support for Romney that has grown slowly over time,” said Redlawsk. “But he has always had one or another pesky challenger nipping at his heels here, and now that’s Santorum. If Santorum continues to rise nationally, he could be a real threat to Romney in New Jersey.”

The economy is the issue but voters eye personal characteristics as well

Sixty percent of voters say the “economy and jobs” is the most important issue when deciding on a presidential candidate. Republicans (64 percent), Democrats (58 percent) and independents (60 percent) all agree.

Across all voters, health care is a very distant second, named by 12 percent of voters, followed by education (9 percent) and the federal budget deficit (8 percent). However, Republicans (11 percent) and independents (10 percent) put the budget deficit second, while Democrats name health care and education (15 percent and 14 percent, respectively) after the economy.

“There is wide agreement that the economy is the most important issues for voters and nothing else comes close,” said Redlawsk.

Leadership is the most prized candidate quality, according to 28 percent of all registered voters. “Shares my values” and “cares about me” are next at 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively.  Republicans are especially focused on leadership (43 percent) and shared values (18 percent). The spread is closer among Democrats: caring (25 percent) edges leadership (24 percent) and shared values (21 percent).

Voters also favor flexibility in the White House. Almost two-thirds want a president who will compromise to complete an agenda while the remainder prefers a leader who sticks to his beliefs. Seventy percent of independents wish for a compromiser but fewer partisans (62 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans) are enamored of this trait.

Obama extends lead over Romney

Since December’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Obama has added six percentage points to his 19-point lead over Romney and would now beat the Garden State GOP frontrunner, 56 percent to 31 percent. The president leads among independents, 49 percent to 34 percent, while 90 percent of Democrats say they would stick by the president. Republicans are not quite as united for Romney: 78 percent say they would vote for him.

As for personal traits, Romney wins among voters who want a strong leader, 47 percent to 43 percent. Obama, however, easily wins among those looking for shared values (60 percent to 26 percent) and a caring leader (75 percent to 17 percent).

“Part of Obama’s advantage right now is the contentious Republican race,” said Redlawsk. “Once a nominee is chosen, Republicans are likely to rally around him. Still, with many more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey, any Republican nominee has to do better among unaffiliated voters than we are seeing now.”

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Gov. Christie income tax cut supported, but little awareness of how much it will save

We continue today with our series of releases on our current poll. Last week was about same-sex marriage (here, and here) , the merger of Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, and how Gov. Christie and Pres. Obama are doing in NJ. Today we take on attitudes toward Gov. Christie’s proposed 10% income tax cut. The governor is giving his budget address today, so it seems to make sense to see how NJ voters feel about his proposal. In a nutshell, a majority supports a 10% income tax cut, but most seem to have no real idea how much such a cut would save them, and the vast majority wants to see property taxes cut first if they had a choice.

We should point out that these releases all come from the same poll – that is, we were in the field calling people from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11. We asked a series of questions on many different topics, as we usually do. The result is that we release the different parts of the poll over time – usually no more than three weeks – in order to give time to digest it all, and to give us time to do the analysis and writing! So there is still more to come this week and next, including a look back at 40 years of taxes, how things are looking for the 2012 election in this state, and a fun release about New Year’s resolutions. So stay tuned!

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


But most would prefer property tax cut first

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give his annual budget address, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows a majority of registered voters support his proposed 10 percent income tax cut. But even though 52 percent say they support the governor’s signature budget proposal, fully three-quarters would prefer to see a property tax cut come first.

Moreover, voters significantly overestimate how much money they would actually receive from an income tax cut. A New Jersey taxpayer making $50,000 would save a little less than $100 per year from a 10 percent income tax cut, and those making $100,000 would save about $275. Voters anticipate a median savings of nearly $750.

“People are eager for tax relief,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Yet for most New Jerseyans the burden they feel comes from property taxes, more than from income taxes. A majority would certainly take an income tax cut over nothing, but large numbers have no idea how much they would save from Christie’s proposal.”

While there are strong partisan differences in support for an income tax cut – 72 percent of Republicans want it, while only 38 percent of Democrats offer support – everyone agrees that a property tax cut is preferred. Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans and Democrats say cut property taxes first, and 73 percent of independents agree.

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Income tax cut popular among Republicans, voters with higher incomes

Predictably, nearly three-quarters of Republicans favor the proposed income tax cut, with only 21 percent opposed. Independents support the proposal, 54 percent to 32 percent. Democrats statewide are dubious about this plan, with half opposed and only 38 percent in favor. These figures lead to an expected outcome: 71 percent of voters with positive feelings about Christie support an income tax cut. A majority (55 percent) who feel unfavorable toward Christie oppose his plan.

Household income makes little difference in support for the proposed tax cut: 58 percent who earn more than $150,000 annually and 53 percent who earn less favor the proposal. Gender also makes little difference: 54 percent of men and 50 percent of women say they favor the tax cut.

“While those at higher income benefit more in terms of dollars, that doesn’t seem to make much difference,” said Redlawsk. “Support for the proposed income tax cut remains consistent across all income levels.”

Christie’s income tax relief is less popular among the more educated; only 43 percent of voters with post-graduate education favor the proposal, while more than half of those with less education say they like the idea. Support for the income tax cut is slightly higher among whites (54 percent) than among blacks (49 percent). More retired voters (55 percent) favor the savings than full-time workers (52 percent) or part-timers (50 percent).  Fewer than half of the unemployed support the proposed tax cut.

Voters overestimate value of income tax cut

Thirty-five percent of registered voters think a 10 percent tax cut would save them more than $500 per year, but reports suggest that a household would have to earn more than $150,000 in taxable income to save just over $500 in state taxes. Another 32 percent say they are unsure about their savings. Only 22 percent estimated their savings at $200 or less.

Support for the tax cut is greatly influenced by inaccurate perceptions of how much will be saved. Among the 31 percent who think they will save $750 per year or more, nearly two-thirds support the tax cut. Among those who expect to save less, support runs from 44 to 48 percent.

“Only 14 percent of voters report household incomes over $150,000,” noted Redlawsk. “These respondents can expect savings above $500 from the proposed cut. But more than twice as many say they expect to save that much. People really do not have a good sense of how much they pay in state income tax and what a 10 percent savings means. This leads them to overestimate their own gain, which may affect their support for the proposal.” –

Voters in households with lower incomes give the lowest estimate of their savings, though they still over estimate badly. About a quarter of those earning under $50,000 believe their tax savings would be more than  $200, far higher than the $80 savings likely at $50,000 income. Moreover, 10 percent of those earning less than $50,000 and 15 percent of earners between $50,000 and $100,000 anticipate tax savings of more than $2,000.

“There is a great deal of misinformation about how much can be saved in state income taxes,” said Redlawsk. “Most voters appear to be guessing at best, and are guessing very high. One-third won’t even make a guess.”

Strong preference for property tax reduction

Although the governor’s proposed income tax cut is popular across the state, an overwhelming majority of voters (76 percent) would prefer a property tax reduction. Given a choice between the two taxes, Republicans, Democrats and independents all agree that property taxes should be reduced first. Voters’ opinions of the governor do not seem to affect preference for property tax reduction. Those with a favorable opinion (80 percent) and an unfavorable opinion (74 percent) strongly prefer a property tax cut come first. Even eight-in-10 of the highest earning Garden Staters – who would benefit most from an income tax cut – prefer to see their property taxes cut before income taxes.

“Everyone likes lower taxes” said Redlawsk. “But property tax cuts are what New Jerseyans seem to want. While recent changes pushed by Gov. Christie have placed stronger caps on property tax increases, voters still want to see those taxes actually reduced. It’s one thing nearly everyone agrees on.”



Filed under Chris Christie, Taxes


For full text of this release including questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – President Obama’s popularity and job performance grade continue to improve in New Jersey, extending a trend that began in October, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Sixty percent of respondents now view the president favorably, an increase of 10 points since an October 2011 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The president’s favorability rating among New Jerseyans is at its highest point in more than 18 months. Only 33 percent of voters say they hold an unfavorable impression of him.

New Jerseyans also give the president higher grades on job performance. Nearly half (48 percent) give him an A or B, compared to 38 percent in October. Negative grades (D or F) have remained static at 30 percent, unchanged from 31 percent four months ago. Those in the middle, giving Obama a C, have declined by 10 points to 22 percent.

“We have seen a continual increase in positive ratings for the president since he bottomed out in New Jersey in August,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “And while voters continue to like him personally better than they like the job he is doing, that gap has been closing.”

In contrast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s favorability and job performance numbers remain virtually unchanged. Forty-seven percent rate the governor favorably, virtually no change over the past two years. Forty-three percent grade the governor A or B, and 32 percent assign a D or F. Both numbers are essentially unchanged from October 2011, though improved since August last year. Another 24 percent give him a C.

“Governor Christie’s favorability ratings in our polls have stayed within a very small range, between 44 percent and 49 percent, since he was inaugurated,” said Redlawsk. “His job performance grade bounces around a bit more, depending on how voters view the particular issues of the day. But where voters prefer Obama personally to his job performance, the two measures are closely tied in the case of the governor.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Rating Obama: independents now very favorable,

One key to Obama’s rising fortunes in the state is that independent voters are now strongly positive in their personal assessments of the president, with 55 percent reporting a favorable impression, up 14 percent since last October, while 37 percent are unfavorable, down from 47 percent. Even Republicans have shown a softening: 17 percent now view the president with favor, double the October number. Even so, 76 percent remain negative.

“Independent and moderate voters are the key to winning re-election in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “If Obama’s numbers continue to tick up among these groups, he will be in good shape in November. It appears that his latest moves to be more assertive against the Republican Congress and to take on his opponents more directly may be paying off, as least here.”

Obama’s job performance grade is also up across all voters: 16 percent say he deserves an A (up six points from October), and 32 percent give him a B (up from 28 percent).

Among the 60 percent of voters who rate the president favorably, 25 percent say he should get an A for his job performance, 50 percent say he deserves a B, and 21 percent say a C reflects his performance most accurately. This is an improvement over the past few months when even those who liked the president rated him less positively on his job performance. Last October, 50 percent of registered voters had a favorable impression of Obama, yet only 19 percent gave his job performance an A while 48 percent graded it B. Thirty percent of those who liked him said his stewardship merited only a C four months ago.

“The important point here is that not only is the president’s favorability and job performance grade improved, but those who like him are now much more likely to like the job he is doing,” said Redlawsk.

Rating Christie: Not much change

While Obama is on the uptick in New Jersey, Christie’s favorability and job performance ratings remain relatively unchanged from October. Looking further back, Christie was viewed favorably by 45 percent of voters in February 2010; today that number is 47 percent. Likewise, job performance numbers have changed little overall, with 16 percent giving him an A and 27 percent a B. On the other side, 14 percent give the governor a D and 18 percent fail him. About one-quarter of voters are right in the middle, grading his job performance as a C.

“When it comes to job performance, Obama and Christie are viewed pretty much the same by voters,” said Redlawsk. “But compared with the President, Christie’s job performance and personal likeability remain much more closely linked.”

Comparing job performance as rated by one’s own supporters, Christie does slightly better than Obama. The governor’s performance is given an A or B by 80 percent of his supporters, compared to the 75 percent of Obama supporters who give him these high marks. In this measure, Obama is catching up to Christie, since the gap was larger a few months ago.

At the same time, Christie no longer outperforms Obama among independents. Unaffiliated registered voters rate the governor’s performance favorably: 41 percent grade him A or B and 32 percent D or F. But among independents, Obama earns an A or B from 47 percent and a D or F from 24 percent.

Redlawsk summed up the findings this way: “The movement we see since our last assessment is chiefly in Obama’s improving fortunes in the Garden State.”


Filed under Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Obama NJ Rating, Uncategorized


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

We’re very busy here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Last two days it has been same-sex marriage. Today we turn to higher education in New Jersey. While we don’t have a plethora (love that word!) of questions on education this time around, we do have two related to issues in the political/policy environment. The first question we asked was about a higher education bond issue being discussed as a possibility for the November ballot. There hasn’t been a facilities bond for colleges and universities since 1988. The idea is to borrow on a bond to improve existing facilities and construct new ones across the state. Turns out NJ voters are about evenly split on it – it’s a hard question whether to borrow now to help colleges, or to worry that government has simply borrowed too much.

The second question is much more hot button. dealing with the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University, a merger supported by Gov. Chris Christie. Here there is no ambivalence. Opposition to the proposed merger is wide and deep as we detail in today’s poll release. At least so far, Garden Staters are not convinced that this is the way to go.

We should note that we are not completely innocent bystanders in either of these issues. Obviously, as an academic center at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, we potentially may be affected by either of these issues, though quite indirectly at best. However, we did our best with these questions – as we do with all others – to design balanced questions that would tap public opinion fairly. And we report the numbers as we get them. Given that the other numbers in this poll (both yesterday’s and releases to come) seem to make sense in the context of NJ, we are comfortable that our processes were appropriate for this poll overall. Whether we asked exactly the right questions is a more subjective thing, and reasonable people may disagree. More to the point, asking the same basic question in multiple ways may come up with variations in opinion. However, the reality is that when we do a statewide poll on a number of topics, we are limited as to how many questions we can ask on any one topic. But we publish the exact text of our questions, so feel free to read them by clicking on the fullt ext link below and critique away!

Full text of today’s release follows.  For PDF of full release with questions and tables, click here.


Potential higher education bond issue evenly divides voters

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – A clear majority of New Jersey’s registered voters – 57 percent – oppose the proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University, recently championed by Gov. Chris Christie, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 22 percent support the merger and 21 percent are unsure, the poll found.

Concurrently, voters are split in supporting a higher education facilities bond: 48 percent favor borrowing for improvements at the state’s colleges and universities, and 45 percent do not.

Voters in South Jersey are no more supportive of the merger of the two schools than in the rest of the state. Instead, the highest support is found in northwestern New Jersey and the Shore counties, two areas that are strong backers of Christie. Even in these regions, however, many more voters oppose the merger than support it.

“Governor Christie’s plan to merge Rowan and Rutgers-Camden may be the most unpopular idea he has put forward to date,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “Generally, he can count on support from a majority of Republicans. We might also expect voters in South Jersey to be in favor, given the benefits Christie says will come from the merger. But in reality, neither of these groups, or any other, comes close to supporting it.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Opposition to merger plan is broad and deep

While GOP voters usually support Christie’s policies, in this case they clearly do not. Though twice as likely as Democrats to support the merger, only 32 percent favor combining the two universities, while 49 percent oppose the plan. Few Democrats support the merger, with only 16 percent in favor and 67 percent opposed. Nearly 20 percent of both parties are unsure. Independent voters are 2-to-1 opposed, but nearly one-quarter of independents are unsure where they stand.

The merger plan does best among those with a favorable impression of the governor, and among the wealthiest Garden Staters, but even most of these voters are skeptical. While the plan garners 30 percent support from those who like Christie, 44 percent of his supporters oppose it. Not surprisingly, those with an unfavorable opinion of Christie are overwhelmingly opposed, at 14 percent support and 71 percent opposition.

One-third of voters with household incomes over $150,000 support the governor’s plan, while 39 percent oppose it, and 28 percent have no opinion. On the opposite end of the financial spectrum, voters in households with annual incomes under $50,000 are firmly against merging Rowan and Rutgers-Camden: 63 percent are opposed and only 16 percent in favor. About one-quarter of the remaining income groups support the plan and about 60 percent do not.

Despite the potential benefits to South Jersey, voters in the region are not convinced. Mimicking the statewide numbers, 19 percent of those living in Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties support the plan, while 71 percent oppose it. South Jersey voters are much less likely to be unsure, at only 10 percent. Residents of the Shore counties are least opposed, with 44 percent negative, the only region to have less than a majority against the merger, and 27 percent in favor. But 30 percent of these voters are unsure of their position on the issue, the highest in the state.

“The stunning thing about these numbers is simply how negative voters are about the plan,” said Redlawsk. “We thought those living in South Jersey would be more supportive than most, since the proposal is put forward as significant enhancement for the region. But the reality is this is a deeply disliked proposal.”

New Jerseyans split on education bond

While Christie is proposing to remake higher education in South Jersey, leaders of the state’s colleges and universities are considering whether the time is right to put a higher education facilities bond issue on the November ballot. If voted on today, the result would be a toss-up.

Forty-eight percent of respondents would have the state take on more debt to build and refurbish college facilities, thus creating construction jobs, but 45 percent say it is a bad time to take on more debt, and oppose the measure. Only 8 percent are not sure where they stand.

Democrats are stronger supporters of the bond issue than Republicans. Sixty-three percent of Democrats are in support of the bond issue and 27 percent oppose. Only 35 percent of Republicans are in favor, while 59 percent oppose borrowing for college facilities. Independents respond similarly to Republicans: 39 percent are in support of the bond and 53 percent oppose it.

Voters with an unfavorable opinion of Christie are more supportive of the bond: 59 percent support borrowing, while 34 percent think it is a bad time for more debt. Among those who think favorably of Christie, only 37 percent support and 56 percent oppose a bond issue.

There appears to be a limited relationship between support for the bond issue and opposition to the merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University. Half of merger opponents support a higher education bond issue, while 45 percent of supporters also favor borrowing for facilities. This small difference is likely accounted for by partisanship – Republicans are more likely to support the merger, and less likely to support the bond issue proposal.

Whites are weaker supporters of the measure than blacks. Only 45 percent of whites support the bond proposal compared to 56 percent of African-Americans. Forty-seven percent of whites and 35 percent of blacks oppose the bond. Regional differences are minimal: urban voters are more supportive, but there are no differences among other regions of the state.

“Borrowing right now is a tricky business,” said Redlawsk. “While interest rates are at historic lows making borrowing costs as low as they are ever likely to be, voters are generally dubious about governments taking on more debt. At the same time, New Jersey voters seem at least inclined to consider a bond issue, if one is put forward.”


Filed under Chris Christie, Rowan, Rutgers, Rutgers-Camden


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

Yesterday we reported that a majority of NJ Voters support same-sex marriage. Today we expand on that by also noting that a majority support’s NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a vote on the issue, while 40 percent support Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s position that the issue is one of civil rights and should not be submitted to a vote. One interesting twist though. NJ votes don’t care very much about the issue – it is not considered even very important by a large majority. BUT, those who support marriage equality are much more likely to call it an important issue than are those who oppose it. Interesting food for thought here – if there were a referendum, would supporters be more likely to get out than opponents? If so, that would be pretty much the opposite of what has happened elsewhere when the issue has been on the ballot.

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


Majority supports gay marriage but issue not that important to most

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Even with a majority of New Jersey voters supporting the legalization of gay marriage, more than half also back Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a November referendum on the question, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. At the same time, most say gay marriage is not one of their top issues.

As reported by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll yesterday, 54 percent of Garden State voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage. At the same time, 53 percent of voters support Christie’s call for a vote on the issue while 40 percent support Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s position that gay marriage is a civil rights issue that should not be decided upon by voters. Even among those who support gay marriage, a majority wants a referendum.

While the Democratic-led Legislature has made gay marriage a top priority, fewer than 25 percent of voters say gay marriage is the most important or one of a very few important issues facing New Jersey today. “It’s surprising that so many of those who support same-sex marriage are also in favor of a referendum,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers. “It may be that given several polls showing majority support among voters, supporters of same-sex marriage think it would win in November. But in the face of a likely intensive campaign from opponents, this could be wishful thinking.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Clear support for referendum across most demographic groups

While 54 percent of registered voters support legalizing gay marriage, voters also want to be able to weigh in on the issue – 53 percent of all voters support Christie’s proposal to have a referendum. This majority support for a ballot question persists across most demographic groups as well as among those who support legalization. Among gay marriage supporters, half also favor Christie’s call for a referendum, while 44 percent oppose it. Among those who oppose gay marriage, 60 percent support the referendum.

The referendum issue was raised in the context of the governor’s call for a ballot question and Booker’s stance that same-sex marriage is about civil rights and not for voters to decide. Given the framing, it is notable that voters with a favorable impression of Booker are evenly split on the call for a referendum, 47 percent for and 48 percent against. Voters with a favorable opinion of Christie clearly support a referendum, 66 percent to 29 percent.

“Despite strong favorable ratings, Mayor Booker’s position is in the minority,” said Redlawsk. “While those with an unfavorable impression of him strongly support a referendum, it is interesting that those who like the mayor are evenly split. The messenger may be liked, but the message is not resonating with most voters.”

Groups with majorities opposed to a referendum include Democrats (54 percent), those with more than a college degree (53 percent) and black voters (52 percent). Democratic voters and black voters likely oppose the referendum in part because Christie is calling for it, but also due to efforts to make a strong connection between gay marriage and civil rights, and the historical controversy surrounding putting civil rights issues on the ballot. The connection to civil rights may resonate especially with black voters despite the fact that a majority of black voters actually oppose legalizing gay marriage.

In addition, just over half of the highest income voters, just under half of liberals and half of those in a public union household also oppose the referendum

Gay marriage not a top priority for voters

As a marriage bill makes its way through the New Jersey Legislature, 40 percent of voters say gay marriage is not at all important in the context of other issues facing the state. Just over one-third believe the issue is “somewhat important” and only 22 percent call gay marriage the most important (3 percent) or “one of a few very important issues” (19 percent) that need to be addressed. This result appears across all demographic groups, with most in each group believing the issue is not important at all with only a few groups having a majority who believe it is somewhat important.

Among gay marriage supporters, about one-third think the issue is at least very important. Almost half (46 percent) think it is somewhat important and about a quarter (22 percent) think it is not important at all. A large majority of opponents (62 percent) believe the issue unimportant.

Thirty percent of Democrats, 36 percent of liberals, and 39 percent of those under 30 believe gay marriage is at least one of a few very important issues in New Jersey. Twenty-eight percent of Born Again Christians feel the same, even though they are overwhelmingly against legalization. On the other hand, Republicans and conservatives – two other groups fiercely opposed to gay marriage – are much more likely to believe the issue is not important at all.

“Supporters of same-sex marriage may have a better opportunity than in most states, if the issue were to go to referendum,” said Redlawsk. “In most places where it has been on the ballot, opponents have been the ones who were intensely concerned and mobilized by the campaign. In New Jersey, most opponents of same-sex marriage appear to not care as much about it as supporters, at least for the moment. But a strong opposition campaign could change that.”

Only about 41 percent of those who think gay marriage is very important support letting the voters decide. But more than half who believe the issue is only somewhat important or not important at all also support Christie’s proposal.

Support for gay marriage increases for many demographic groups

Support for legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey has increased across various demographic groups. Joining Democrats (63 percent) and liberals (81 percent) as supporters, a majority of independents (56 percent) and moderates (55 percent) are in favor of gay marriage. Voters of all age groups – except for those over 65 – are in support as well: 77 percent of those under 30, 57 percent of those 30-to-49-years-old, and 55 percent of those 50- to-64. For the first time, a clear majority of Catholics (52 percent) and males (52 percent) support same-sex marriage. Women (57 percent) and those of higher socioeconomic status – higher education (59 percent for college graduates and 68 percent for those who have completed graduate work) and higher income (more than half of voters in each of two highest income brackets) – continue to support legalization.

However, gay marriage still faces strong opposition from those groups who typically oppose it. Republican (58 percent) and conservative (69 percent) voters are still greatly opposed. Half of Protestants, 70 percent of evangelical Christians, and over half of those voters 65 years and older also show majorities opposed to legalization. Half of black voters are opposed as well.


Filed under Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters