On Wednesday we released our latest numbers on the presidential race in New Jersey, and that story is one of relatively little change, though perhaps increased voting likelihood among some Democratic leaning voters leading to a slight increase for Obama. In applying our likely voter screen – the same screen we started using last month, which includes vote intent, campaign interest, attention to politics, and 2010 turnout – we found a slight increase in Democratic turnout, stability among Republicans, and a decline among self-described independents. On top of that, we found more Democrats in our registered voter sample than the previous month. Does that mean our sample was skewed? We don’t think so, since our sampling methods did not change. But Democrats were more energized after the conventions. As a party is doing better in how people perceive it, it tends to gain among voters, since partisanship is not a fixed characteristic, but instead a sense of affiliation.
In any case, today we release additional numbers on two ballot issues facing New Jersey voters this fall. One is on a $750 million bond issue for higher education facilities. The other is a state constitutional amendment that, if passed, will allow the legislature to require state judges to pay more for their benefits (as other state workers have had to) without it being considered a reduction in compensation.
This is the first time we’ve asked about the judge’s benefits, but we asked about the bond twice before, once back in February when it wasn’t certain it would be on the ballot, and again last month. We see significantly more support for the bond this month, suggesting it has a good chance of passing. As for the judges, they will almost certainly be paying more for the benefits after the election.
Full text of the release is below. For a PDF of the release with questions and tables, click here.
RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEY VOTERS SUPPORT EDUCATION BOND, INCREASING COST OF BENEFITS FOR JUDGES
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Large majorities of likely New Jersey voters support each of two key issues that will be on the November ballot, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. A proposed $750 million higher education bond issue garners 62 percent support, up from 56 percent a month ago. Only 27 percent of voters oppose the bond, while 11 percent are unsure.
Even more voters – 70 percent – support a state constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to require judges to pay more for their benefits. On this issue, just 18 percent of voters are opposed, while 12 percent have not made up their minds.
The higher education bond designates the money for new academic buildings and technological upgrades at New Jersey colleges and universities. The judges’ benefits amendment was placed on the ballot after a heated battle between the Legislature and state Supreme Court over whether the former could require judges to pay more toward their pensions and health insurance.
“As we get closer to the election, support for the higher education bond seems to be solidifying, reflecting the lack of vocal opposition so far,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “The benefits amendment is even more popular, most likely reflecting a sense that judges, too, should be subject to the same increases in costs that all other state workers have endured.”
Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from September 27-30. Within this sample, 619 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.
Bond support continues to climb
Support for the higher education bond issue has climbed steadily during the year, including a six-point jump since late August, as more independents have come on board while opposition has remained steady. Voters were much more divided – 48 percent for, 45 percent against – when the potential bond issue was thought to be more than $1 billion in early 2012. The reduction to $750 million appears to have made it much more palatable, Redlawsk noted.
Likely Democratic voters remain the strongest supporters (76 percent). Independent (57 percent) and Republican (46 percent) support has increased since August.
By 93 percent to 54 percent, blacks are stronger supporters of the bond issue than whites. Moreover, black support since August has increased 19 points while white support grew by only 3 points. The disparity is most likely due to a significant drop in blacks who say they are unsure (by 18 percentage points), while the number of whites who are uncertain has dropped by only six points.
“As black voters have become more aware of the bond issue, they’ve become stronger supporters,” said Redlawsk. “White voters are much less likely to support the bond, but their support at least has held steady.”
Though a majority of voters at all education levels support the new higher education funding, support increases with level of education attained. Voters who attended one of the Rutgers campuses are more likely than other college graduates to support the plan, at 69 percent. In addition, younger voters are much more positive – 81 percent of those ages 18 to 34 plan to vote yes, compared to 57 percent of those 65 or older. Support from younger voters is up 11 points since August, and up eight points among seniors.
Regionally, support among shore residents increased 16 points since August while support among voters in exurban areas declined by 6 points.
Voters want judges to contribute more
The amendment to have judges contribute more to the cost of their benefits has widespread support across nearly all groups. Overwhelming majorities of likely GOP (75 percent) and independent (73 percent) voters favor the amendment, as do two-thirds of Democrats.
Men are stronger supporters of the amendment than women: 74 percent to 67 percent. Whites are also more likely to support it than blacks, 72 percent to 66 percent. The differences are small and support is well above a majority in key demographic groups, Redlawsk observed.
“It is hard to imagine the judges’ benefits amendment failing to pass,” said Redlawsk. “For most voters, it seems like the right thing to do, even if the judges themselves argue it amounts to a reduction in pay. Voters don’t seem swayed by the argument that judge’s pay is related to judicial independence and therefore sacrosanct.”