Monthly Archives: April 2013

Superstorm Sandy and Global Climate Change Beliefs

Full text of today’s release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text with all tables and questions.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following two years of storms like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and the 2011 Halloween blizzard, nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans see global climate change as the likely culprit, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 29 percent see the storms as isolated weather events. A majority says they are more likely to believe in global climate change as a result of the storms that hit New Jersey in 2011 and 2012.

Nearly half believe it is at least somewhat likely that global climate change will cause another natural disaster like Sandy in their own community within the next year, while 47 percent disagree. But three-quarters of Garden Staters say it is at least somewhat likely climate change will cause a natural disaster somewhere in the U.S. during that time, while only 20 percent consider it unlikely.

Residents also overwhelmingly expect that consumer costs will rise due to disasters from climate change, and they believe the federal government will have to spend more for recovery from storms made worse by global climate change.

Across all of the questions asked, those not affected by Sandy were not significantly different in their responses from those who were.

“The disaster trifecta New Jersey faced in 2011 and 2012 has residents feeling gloomy about weather prospects for the future, even if Sandy did not hit them directly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Even those who don’t expect their own community to suffer again this year think climate change all but ensures another calamity somewhere in the country.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The margin of error is +/-3.2 percentage points.

Sharp partisan divide on climate change

The effects of recent weather disasters has large numbers of Democrats and independents convinced that climate change is to blame, but Republicans generally maintain that the storms are isolated events. More than 80 percent of Democrats see climate change causing recent disasters, as do 60 percent of independents. But only about 33 percent of Republicans agree, while 61 percent think the storms were not climate change driven.

While about a third of Republicans say the storms have made them more likely to believe in global climate change, a clear majority of GOP backers say their opinion remains unchanged, despite the storms. But two-thirds of Democrats say they are more likely to believe in climate change now, as do half of independents.

“Global climate change remains a contentious political issue, regardless of the apparent effects or the scientific data,” noted Redlawsk. “New Jersey’s Republicans, like Republicans nationally, do not view changing weather patterns as a result of global climate change. The gulf between them and Democrats remains as wide as ever.”

Women are nine points more likely than men to believe storms like Irene and Sandy result from climate change (69 percent to 60 percent). South Jersey and shore county residents (55 percent and 57 percent, respectively) are less likely to see these storms as due to climate change. About seven-in-10 urban and suburban residents think differently.

Nearly three-quarters of those who blame recent storms on climate change also say those storms made them more likely to believe climate change is real. The same percentage of residents who see Sandy and Irene as isolated weather events say there has been no change in their views on climate change. Women are 11 points more likely than men to say the storms made them believe in climate change. Regionally, 63 percent of suburban residents say they are more likely to believe climate change post-Sandy, while only 39 percent of those in the exurban counties of northwestern New Jersey feel the same.

Most expect more climate change-driven storms

While about half of respondents think it is at least somewhat likely that a global climate change-caused disaster will hit their community in the next year, only 19 percent think it is very likely. But a majority thinks it is very likely that a natural disaster caused by climate change will strike somewhere in the United States. An additional 25 percent says such a disaster is somewhat likely, meaning more than 75 percent sees some chance of another Sandy-like disaster in the U.S. in the near future.

“Residents do not think Sandy is the end of it, as far as New Jersey or the country is concerned,” said Redlawsk. “Given the belief of most residents that climate change is responsible for Sandy, Garden Staters are realistic about the chances of it happening again, here or elsewhere.”

As with belief that climate change drove Sandy, partisanship again divides opinions. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats say another Sandy-like storm driven by climate change is likely to strike their own community in the next year; only 9 percent of Republicans feel likewise. About twice as many Democrats as Republicans think such a storm is very likely in the U.S. in the near term.

“It is not surprising that Republicans, who don’t think recent storms were driven by climate change, are unlikely to think it will cause future storms,” said Redlawsk. “But clearly, most other New Jerseyans do see a role for global climate change.”

Those personally affected by Sandy are six points more likely than those who were not to say a climate change-driven natural disaster is very likely in their own community in the next year, but this difference vanishes when asked about the country as a whole. More millennials (those under 30) say a disaster in the next year is very likely either near them (39 percent) or somewhere in the U.S. (55 percent) than are other residents.

More disasters, more cost

Residents overwhelmingly believe that both the federal government and individuals will have to pay more due to consequences of climate change. Eighty-two percent say it is at least somewhat likely that the federal government will be required to increase disaster funding, and 8 in 10 also think it is at least somewhat likely they will personally have to pay more for consumer goods and services due to the impact of climate change on businesses in the next year.

Those more likely to believe in climate change post-Sandy are also more likely to believe that government funding will need to be increased – 72 percent say very likely. Likewise, three-quarters of those who believe recent storms have been caused by climate change feel the same, compared to only 30 percent of those who say the storms are isolated events.

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans (74 percent to 34 percent) to say it is very likely federal disaster funding will need to increase; 53 percent of independents feel the same.  More women (63 percent), those 18 to 29 (67 percent) and urban residents (67 percent) say it is very likely that federal costs will increase due to natural disasters caused by climate change.

Democrats are also much more likely than Republicans to expect financial costs of climate change to affect them personally. Sixty-two percent of Democrats say increased costs for goods and services due to climate change are very likely compared to 51 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans.

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NJ Residents Expect Return to “Normal” to Take a While

Today we have some additional questions on Sandy recovery from our latest poll. We look at the recovery effort, and in particular, measures that should be taken in dealing with storm damaged areas. Most NJ residents expect recovery will take a while – few think we’ll be done in the next year.

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

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds nearly all support changes to flood-prone areas

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Nearly three-quarters of New Jerseyans say life is not yet “back to normal” after Superstorm Sandy, and most of those think it will be years before that happens, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While 15 percent of those who say normalcy has not returned are optimistic that it will return within one year, 64 percent see a one to five year horizon before the state returns to pre-Sandy conditions. Nearly 20 percent are more pessimistic: 11 percent think a return to normal will take five to 10 years, 2 percent see it taking more than a decade and 7 percent say the state will never get back to normal.

As New Jersey begins to address concerns about the future of coastal areas prone to storm-surge flooding, large majorities of residents support a range of preventative measures proposed to limit future damage.

Nearly 90 percent either strongly or somewhat favor the mandatory use of pilings to elevate buildings in flood-prone areas and requiring the building of sand dunes or seawalls. More than 80 percent want to encourage rebuilding of homes and businesses further from the waterfront. About 70 percent are at least somewhat supportive of converting formerly developed land into public beaches, parks or wetlands and nearly the same percentage supports using public funds to replenish sand and create wider beaches.

New Jerseyans are all but evenly split – 48 percent favoring, 47 percent opposing – on whether shorefront development should simply be repaired to its pre-Sandy state without significant changes. Just over half give some support to abandoning parts of waterfront towns if repairs are seen to cost “too much in government funds,” but others would rebuild regardless of cost.

“Most residents recognize Sandy recovery is a long-term process, and know it will be quite some time before we have recovered,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “In addition they support efforts to ensure damage of this magnitude is less likely in the future, even if it means implementing such costly measures as dune construction and elevated buildings.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The margin of error is +/-3.2 percentage points.

Impact of Sandy not going away soon

About half the state’s residents were personally affected by the storm and its aftermath: 10 percent seriously, 39 percent moderately and 51 percent a little. Sixty-three percent in northwest exurban counties and 59 percent in shore counties were personally affected. Only 22 percent of south Jersey/Philadelphia area residents say they were affected by Sandy. More than half of urban and suburban residents say they felt Sandy’s impact personally.

Seventy-four percent say the state is not back to normal post-Sandy, while 21 percent say it is, and 5 percent are unsure. Those personally affected by the storm are five points more likely to say life is not yet back to normal (76 percent to 71 percent). Not surprisingly, those in the hardest hit exurban (78 percent) and shore regions (83 percent) are most likely to think things are not back to normal compared to other areas of the state.

While more than 20 percent of residents believe New Jersey has returned to normalcy, the rest are not overly optimistic about how long it will take to recover, and see rebuilding taking from one to five years. Younger residents are more optimistic: those under age 30 are three times more likely to think things are already back to normal, compared to those 50 and over. Among younger residents who still think the state is not back to normal, nearly 20 percent think a return to normalcy will happen within the next year, compared to only 11 percent of senior citizens.

Lower- income residents are also more optimistic; nearly a quarter say recovery will take less than a year. But only 5 percent of those with the highest incomes agree.

“For the most part, New Jerseyans seem realistic about the challenges facing the state,” said Redlawsk. “While some see things as already back to normal, most recognize the recovery effort is a long-term event. While people hope it will all go well, they recognize it’s a long slog.”

Support for strong precautionary measures in flood zones

Given an assortment of proposals for rebuilding areas most prone to storm-surge flooding, most New Jerseyans support a range of precautionary actions, but fewer support abandoning the land or leaving it unchanged. Sixty-four percent strongly support building sand dunes or seawalls, and another 23 percent offer some support. Those personally affected by Sandy are about seven points more likely than others to strongly support requiring dunes and seawalls.

Seven in 10 residents with incomes under $50,000 strongly support this proposal, compared to 57 percent with incomes over $150,000. Even 61 percent of shore resident strongly support dunes and seawalls, though support is even greater in other parts of the state, except for exurban counties where it drops to 57 percent.

Similarly, across the state, 64 percent strongly and 23 percent somewhat support elevating buildings on pilings to lessen future flood damage. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to strongly support this preventive measure, 71 percent to 58 percent. Lower-income and younger residents also are stronger supporters than others on average.

Fewer residents, 57 percent, strongly support moving development further from the waterfront, while another 27 percent somewhat support it. Democrats are once again more likely to strongly support this option (61 percent), as are seniors (72 percent), those in the lowest income bracket (64 percent) and those living in suburban and exurban areas (both at 62 percent).

In contrast, plans that include either abandonment or takeover of property or weaker precautionary measures are not viewed as favorably. Only 36 percent strongly support converting formerly developed land into public open spaces, while 35 percent offer some support. Men are much more likely to offer strong support for this plan than women (43 percent to 29 percent). Residents of exurban counties (46 percent) are the strongest supporters in the state.

Thirty-seven percent strongly support, and 34 percent somewhat support, simply replenishing and widening beaches as a precautionary measure. Residents personally affected by Sandy (42 percent versus 22 percent not affected) and those who live in shore counties (47 percent) are more likely to strongly support this proposal.

Residents show the least support for proposals to abandon parts of a waterfront town if repairs cost too much government money, or to simply rebuild as things were. Thirty percent strongly support and 25 percent somewhat support abandoning damaged properties altogether if repair costs will be too high. Older residents are more likely to strongly support this approach (38 percent), as are men (39 percent). Only 20 percent of urban residents strongly favor this option, but 34 percent of shore and suburban residents are strong supporters.

Only 24 percent strongly support and another 24 percent somewhat support returning damaged areas to their pre-Sandy condition with no significant changes. Those not affected by Sandy are five points more likely than those who were affected to strongly support this proposal, but the proposal, nevertheless, gets limited support compared to other options.

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Looking at NJ and NY on Sandy rebuilding

Today we’re starting to look some more at the aftermath of Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy. We worked with the Siena Resesarch Institute on a joint effort to understand how residents of both NY and NJ react to two proposals put forward on Sandy recovery. One, primarily espoused by NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is to buy out storm damaged properties, raze the buildings, and make them permanent open space. The other, which NJ Gov. Chris Christie initially supported in February of this year, is to pay residents $10,000 to remain in place, and to rebuild where they are. The idea of this was to ensure that the Jersey Shore, in particular, remains the attraction it has always been. Since February however, Christie has also suggested putting federal funds to buyouts, so in some sense he has supported both approaches.

As it turns out, NY residents pretty clearly support the original Christie approach – rebuild in place. NJ residents, however, are evenly split, with 43% supporting buyouts and 43% supporting rebuilding in place. An interesting difference.

Details are in the text below. Click here for a PDF of the release with Tables and Questions.

NY  Says, “Give Sandy Victims $10K to Rebuild”, 48% to 33%; But NJ  Split: 43% Prefer Tear Down

 Loudonville, NY & New Brunswick, NJ – A 15-point plurality of New Yorkers (48% to 33%) would rather see some of the federal money being allocated to the state for Sandy relief used to provide homeowners with $10,000 to rebuild rather than to have damaged properties bought from willing owners, torn down and turned into open space.

In New Jersey, voters are evenly divided with 43 percent preferring using federal relief to buy damaged properties and turn them into open space while an identical percentage favors partially funding victims rebuilding as long as they stay where they are for at least two years.

Results are from the Siena College (SRI) and Rutgers-Eagleton polls based upon responses the two centers separately garnered from respondents in the two states.

“Jersey Shore residents are just as evenly split as most of the state on the best way to use these Sandy relief funds,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But those living in the northwest exurban counties do have a preference: there 56 percent prefer buying damaged properties and tearing them down. Garden Staters under 30 strongly support rebuilding, while middle-aged and older residents strongly support buyouts.  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s popularity does not seem to make any difference, perhaps because while he initially focused entirely on rebuilding, more recently he has also supported using federal funds for buyouts. ”

“In New York, every demographic group, Republicans, Democrats, New York City residents, Suburban and especially Upstaters, would rather see the money go to support committed homeowners rebuild than to tear down the properties and turn them into public lands despite New York’s popular Governor, Andrew Cuomo, having expressed support for buying, tearing down and making public the damaged and threatened properties,” according to Dr. Don Levy, SRI’s Director.

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About every 5 or 6 months we ask a fairly lengthy battery of questions about what positive and negative traits people ascribe to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. We’ve been doing this for two years now, and today we release the latest numbers.

As with his general approval ratings post-Hurricane Sandy, Voters’ perceptions of positive traits for Christie soared in November, the last time we asked. Not surprisingly, the use of negative traits dropped, even among Democrats.

Now, five months later, we see little change among most positive traits, and small tick up in negative traits. Interestingly, the single trait that increased the most is “Stubborn” with voters six points more likely to say the word fits Christie “very well.”

The text of the release follows. Click here for full text along with questions and tables.

(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – A clear majority of New Jersey’s registered voters continue to see Gov. Chris Christie as “smart” and a “strong leader” despite a six-point decline in overall favorability, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, Christie’s image as a smart leader soared by nearly 15 points, where it remains nearly six months later.

Nearly two-thirds of voters describe Christie as “smart” and a “strong leader. More than half think “effective” and “independent” are among his key traits and 45 percent say “trustworthy” fits Christie very well. Only 38 percent of voters say “fair” fits the governor very well. The positive trait least used is “reformer” at 34 percent.

At the same time, 60 percent of voters say “stubborn” applies very well to the governor, a rebound to pre-Sandy levels. This trait shows the largest increase since November 2012, when only 54 percent thought the description was very apt.

Voters say other negative terms are less descriptive of Christie, continuing a post-Sandy trend: 45 percent and 34 percent, respectively, say “arrogant” and “bully” describe him very well. Thirty-five percent see the governor as “self-centered,” while 34 percent say “impulsive” applies very well.

More than half of voters say Christie makes them “proud” and “enthusiastic,” maintaining large gains in the aftermath of Sandy, with enthusiasm ticking up four points since November. In contrast, “angry” and “worried” show two- and three-point drops, respectively, to 27 percent angry and 30 percent worried, following double-digit declines in both emotions after Sandy hit.

“These questions allow us to better understand why people do or do not support Governor Christie,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Leadership is clearly a key element for most voters and perceptions of Christie as a leader were greatly enhanced by his handling of Sandy. That impression continues strong, and probably accounts for much support from his pre-Sandy opponents.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The sample includes 819 registered voters reported on here, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Christie’s positives


Trend: Trait fits Christie “Very Well”

The governor continues to ride high from his handling of Sandy’s aftermath, although his favorability, job approval, and re-election numbers have shown some decline since the hurricane. Eighty-eight percent say his strong leadership describes Christie at least somewhat well. Only 11 percent say leader does not describe him at all.

“Smart” is applied as often: 63 percent say the word fits Christie very well and 27 percent say somewhat well. This is followed by “independent” (55 percent very well), “effective” (51 percent), “trustworthy” (45 percent), “fair” (38 percent) and “reformer” (34 percent). Among these positive traits, “fair” is the only positive trait to decline since the last time the questions were asked in November, down four points.

Women continue to be much more positive than they were before Sandy hit, and there are few visible differences between men and women across positive traits. Two stand out: women are five points more likely to say that “independent” describes Christie very well (57 percent to 52 percent). On the other hand, female voters are five points less likely than men to think the governor is “trustworthy.” Otherwise, no significant gender differences appear.

One of Christie’s strengths has been in in the positive assessments he gets from Democrats. About half of Democrats call Christie a strong leader and smart. Only 19 percent say Christie is not a strong leader and 10 percent say he is not at all smart. While little change has occurred among Democrats who see the governor as smart, there has been a noticeable five-point drop in those who describe the governor as a strong leader.

“This drop in leadership attributions by Democrats comes as many are now more likely to support Christie’s election opponent, state Senator Barbara Buono,” noted Redlawsk. “This suggests that perceptions of Christie as a leader are key to his re-election, compared to most other traits.”

Positive trait evaluations are extremely high among voters with a favorable impression of Christie and among those who plan to vote for him in the fall. Eighty-five percent of voters who like Christie call him a strong leader and 78 percent call him smart. Similarly, among those who say they will vote to re-elect Christie, 87 percent say strong leader and 80 percent say smart fit him very well.

Governor’s detractors: Christie is stubborn and arrogant


Trend: Trait fits Christie “Very Well”

Sixty percent of voters say stubborn describes Christie very well. Another 27 percent call the description somewhat well and 11 percent say the description does not fit. In a distant second place, 45 percent of voters call the governor arrogant followed by self-centered (35 percent applies very well), impulsive (34 percent) and bully (34 percent). Most of these show small increases since November, though stubborn is up the most, with a six-point increase among all voters.

Men are more likely than women to characterize Christie as stubborn with 62 percent of men and 58 percent of women saying the term applies very well), self-centered (38 percent to 32 percent) and impulsive (37 percent to 30 percent.) Among voters who feel unfavorable toward Christie, and among Buono voters, Christie is overwhelmingly seen as stubborn (81 percent and 77 percent) and arrogant (77 percent and 75 percent).

“With the exception of stubborn – which even many supporters of Christie say is the case – voters are more likely to apply positive than negative traits to the governor, consistent with his high ratings,” said Redlawsk. “But the slight uptick in most negative traits, combined with static positive traits suggests some small movement, confirming the slight declines in his overall ratings.”

More Democrats now think stubborn applies very well to Christie – up six points to 69 percent. They are also slightly more likely to describe him as arrogant – an increase of three points to 59 percent and self-centered (also up 3 points to 48 percent). Forty-seven percent of Democrats apply the term “bully” to Christie.

Fifty-seven percent of independents label the governor stubborn, while only 39 percent see him as arrogant and 29 percent as a “bully.” Even 47 percent of Republicans say that stubborn describes the governor very well. Only a quarter say the same for arrogant and 16 percent for bully.

Christie continues to evoke more pride, less anger

Voters’ emotional responses to Christie also reflect a trend that started in November with positive emotions outweighing negative ones. While majorities feel pride (52 percent) and enthusiasm (51 percent), when hearing or reading about Christie, only 30 percent feel worried, and 27 percent angry.

Women continue to be more likely than men to say they are proud of the governor – 55 percent compared to 50 percent, both up slightly from November. At the same time, women are also more likely to feel angry (29 percent) than men (25 percent), as well as worried (33 percent to 27 percent). But gender differences flip for enthusiasm (with men at 54 percent; women 48 percent).

About three-quarters of those favorable toward Christie feel both proud and enthusiastic about him, with only 13 percent angry and 14 percent worried. The numbers reverse for voters with an unfavorable impression, and intensity is much lower: 59 percent who dislike Christie say they feel angry, and 65 percent are worried. The magnitude of positive emotions by Christie voters outweighs the extent of negative feelings by Buono voters.

Pride and enthusiasm for the governor among Democrats has increased four points since November to 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Democrats also record a drop in anger – down five points to 38 percent – and worry, down seven points to 42 percent. Independents (53 percent and 55 percent, respectively) and especially Republicans (81 percent and 82 percent, respectively) are proud and enthusiastic about the governor. A quarter or fewer independents feel angry or worried, as do about half as many Republicans.

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Strong Support in NJ for Minimum Wage Increase and Same Sex Marriage; Dems Lead in Generic Legislative Ballot

Today we release more from our April 3-7 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. We focus on an issue that will be on the fall ballot — a minimum wage increase — and an issue that Gov. Chris Christie has called on the legislature to place on the ballot: same-sex marriage. We find that NJ voters strongly support both a $1.00 increase in the state’s minimum wage and joining the list of states that have approved same-sex marriage. Inf act, we have 62 percent saying they would vote for same-sex marriage if it were on the ballot. This is the strongest support we have ever recorded on this issue.

And despite the fact that Gov. Christie continues to lead in his re-election effort by a large margin, voters seem ready to split their ballots, since a generic ballot test puts Democrats well ahead of Republicans for the legislative races statewide. Now it is important to recognize that this is NOT the same as polling individual legislative races in all 80 districts. We simply cannot afford to do that since each one would require at least 400 respondents to do it justice – a total of 32,000 respondents statewide, far more than the typical 800-900 of a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. But history tells us that the generic statewide ballot test is a pretty good indicator of who is likely to control the state legislature in the next session.  While some individual races will be close, and some seats could flip, it will take a closing of the gap for control of the legislature to return to the Republicans. Still it is very early, and a lot can happen in the next six months.

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

(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – New Jersey’s registered voters strongly support a constitutional amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage by one dollar and index it to inflation, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The increase from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour will be on the November ballot and is supported by 76 percent of voters. Only 20 percent express opposition. Support is wide, and includes a majority of Republicans who plan to vote for the increase, despite Gov. Chris Christie’s earlier veto of a similar measure.

“Voters here appear sympathetic to low-wage workers,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Everyone feels the high cost of living. That likely means most recognize the difficulty of living on minimum wage. The willingness to increase the minimum cuts across all political boundaries.”

A proposal to place the question of same-sex marriage on the fall ballot also gets broad support; voters want a chance to decide by a 68 percent to 25 percent margin. Given a chance, New Jersey seems likely to become the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage: 62 percent would vote yes on the question, 30 percent would vote no, while 8 percent are unsure. This represents the highest level of support for gay marriage ever recorded in a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Asked about the upcoming legislative races, voters are at least 15 points more likely to support Democrats than Republicans for the General Assembly and state Senate. This is despite Christie’s popularity and huge re-election lead over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono. Results of this ballot test have changed little since the last Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, taken in February.

About six months from Election Day, Democratic support for the Assembly is stronger than GOP support, 38 percent to 23 percent, and for the Senate, 43 percent to 26 percent. Twenty-six percent are unsure of their Assembly vote and 22 percent are not certain about the Senate.

Of those with an opinion, twice as many voters view the Democratic-controlled Legislature favorably as unfavorably (41 percent to 20 percent). Nearly 40 percent have no opinion.

“Governor Christie’s 30-point lead over Sen. Buono is not trickling down to preferences for the Legislature,” said Redlawsk. “Statewide, voters seem quite willing to split their ballot. But we have not polled individual races, so although Democrats hold a large overall lead, some specific races are likely to be more competitive.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The sample includes 819 registered voters reported on here, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Support for higher minimum wage crosses typical dividing lines

Earlier this year, the Legislature placed a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot to increase the minimum wage. The amendment receives majority support from all demographic groups except conservatives, who are split at 47 percent. More than seven in 10 Christie supporters favor the proposed amendment despite the governor’s opposition to this specific proposal. More than nine in 10 Buono backers favor the increase. Majority support for the amendment crosses party lines: 91 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans are in favor. More than 70 percent of independents also support the measure.

Though majorities of both men and women favor the amendment, a double-digit gender gap appears: 83 percent of women are in favor versus 69 percent of men. Support falls as income rises. Eighty-two percent in the lowest income bracket would vote for the amendment, compared to 69 percent in the highest income bracket.

“Unless strong opposition emerges, this amendment is highly likely to pass,” said Redlawsk. “Given the economic dislocation of the last four years, large numbers of New Jerseyans have been touched by joblessness and financial challenges. Most seem to think those at the lower end of the ladder deserve a chance to do better.”

Most would vote for same-sex marriage

As the Legislature considers putting same-sex marriage on the ballot, 69 percent of voters want to vote on it, while 25 percent do not and 6 percent are uncertain. Although Christie initially called for a vote, which Democrats in Trenton opposed, liking or disliking the governor makes no difference to support for putting the question on the ballot.

Likewise, 68 percent of both Democrats and Republicans support a ballot measure. Black voters are 11 points less likely than whites to want voters to decide – 62 percent to 73 percent. But 82 percent of voters under 30 want the chance to vote on same-sex marriage.

If the issue reaches the ballot, voters seem overwhelmingly in favor of adoption. Support for same-sex marriage is at its highest level ever recorded in a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll (62 percent in favor, 30 percent opposed). Seventy-five percent who support a ballot question favor same-sex marriage. Twenty percent would veto the measure.

Three-quarters of those who want the issue on the ballot would vote in favor, while 20 percent would oppose legalization. A majority (59 percent) of those opposed to allowing voters decide the matter also oppose legalization while 34 percent support it. “Many of those who oppose same-sex marriage appear to recognize it is likely to pass if on the ballot,” noted Redlawsk. “Thus they would prefer to keep it off the ballot in the first place.”

Large majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (63 percent) favor same-sex marriage compared to 40 percent of Republicans. Only 31 percent of conservatives would vote yes, but same-sex marriage legalization has gained majority support across virtually all other groups.

“While Democratic leaders have called same-sex marriage a civil right that should not be subject to a vote, the evidence is that voters would readily align New Jersey with other states that have already legalized same-sex marriage,” Redlawsk said. “It may simply be time to move that way for those who want the issue resolved.”

Will Christie’s coattails matter in November?

Democrats continue to lead Republicans by double-digits in a test pitting the two parties in November’s state Senate and Assembly races. Among the two-thirds of voters who feel favorably toward Christie, 32 percent will vote GOP for the Assembly, but 25 percent will vote Democratic. Among those who dislike Christie, 67 percent say they will vote for Democrats, and only 4 percent will support Republicans.

Voters’ partisanship hurts the GOP’s chances, since few say they will cross party lines: 74 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans will vote for their own parties in the Assembly. Independents, however, are nearly evenly split, with 20 percent preferring Democrats, 19 percent favoring Republicans and 44 percent undecided, very different from the strong independent support Christie enjoys in his own re-election effort. Also, Republicans do not get pluralities from their typical groups, except conservatives (60 percent support) and a one point edge in exurban counties.

“This says little about individual races,” noted Redlawsk, “but this statewide ballot test has usually been a good indicator of which party will control the Legislature. Two years ago, voters wanted Democrats to remain in control by nine points, and of course they did retain control.”

Similar results are seen for the state Senate, where Christie backers are six points more likely to vote Republican (36 percent to 30 percent.) But 70 percent of voters who are Christie detractors prefer a Democrat versus 5 percent who will vote GOP. Democrat Buono pulls more supporters from her party: 79 percent of Buono voters will vote for Democrats for state Senate (and 75 percent for Assembly Democrats), compared to only 43 percent of Christie voters who will vote for a Republican state senator and 37 percent who will vote Republican in the Assembly races.

As with the Assembly, most partisans will vote their party for state Senate. Independents are evenly split at 25 percent each, with 39 percent unsure. Republicans in the state Senate do no better with winning over demographic groups than does the GOP in the Assembly.

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Head-to-Head with Buono, Christie Continues a Strong Lead, But…

Following up on Wednesday’s release on ratings for Gov. Chris Christie, today we look more closely at this year’s election for governor. NJ state Sen. Barbara Buono is the presumed Democratic challenger, so we look at head-to-head matches between her and Christie. We also asked voters to name the most important problem facing the state and to tell us how closely they are following the race.
Bottom line is that Christie continues to hold a very large lead – 30 points – over the nearly unknown Buono. But, this lead is down from 42 points in February, as Democrats have begun to shift to Buono after flirting with Christe, post-Hurricane Sandy. Still, unless Buono can do more than bring the Democratic base home, Christie is in good shape. But there is a lot of time until election day in November.

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

(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – N.J. Governor Chris Christie maintains a dominating, yet shrinking, lead over presumed Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Senator Barbara Buono, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie now holds a 30 point lead among registered voters, 57 percent to 27 percent, down from his 42 point lead in a February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s support has dropped six points, while Buono has picked up six points over the past two months, the new poll shows.

Regardless of which candidate they prefer, 8 in 10 voters believe Christie will win a second term. Even 61 percent of Buono supporters expect her to lose.

While Christie’s favorability rating has declined six points since February, Buono continues to struggle with name recognition. Just 18 percent have a favorable impression of Buono, 12 percent are unfavorable, and 70 percent have no opinion.

Nonetheless Buono has made significant inroads, but only because she is finally leading among Democratic voters along with some key constituent groups that usually lean Democratic. Independents remain overwhelmingly in Christie’s camp.

“While Christie maintains a large lead, some tightening is all but inevitable, since we expect most Democrats to vote the party line in November,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But unless Buono can make gains among independents and also get Democrats energized, she is going to have a long road ahead.”

Voters say taxes and jobs are the most important problems facing New Jersey. While Christie’s overall job approval is high at 68 percent, voters are much less positive about his performance on the economy and jobs (42 percent approval) and taxes (37 percent approval). Nonetheless, Christie overwhelms Buono, even among those who are unhappy with these parts of his performance.

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The sample includes 819 registered voters reported on here, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

More Democrats now backing Buono, but more than a quarter in Christie’s camp

In February Christie led Buono by four points among Democratic voters. Two months later Buono has an 18 point lead with Democrats, 49 percent to 31 percent. But nearly 20 percent of Democrats remain unsure of whom they will vote for. Buono now also holds leads among some parts of the Democratic coalition including liberals (50 percent for Buono), blacks (45 percent) and voters under 30 years old (43 percent). And while she wins a majority of voters who supported former Governor Jon Corzine , more than a quarter of them say they plan to vote for Christie.

Christie has lost few of his 2009 voters, with only about 10 percent either planning to vote for Buono or unsure. He maintains large leads among voters at all income and education levels, and even has a 53 percent to 29 percent lead among women. His margin among men is even larger at 60 percent to 24 percent. Christie’s support is also statewide, with large majorities in every region except urban counties, where voters are almost evenly split, giving Christie a small four point lead. One key to Christie’s continuing support is the 65 to 16 percent lead he holds among independent voters.

“While Buono has made some very noticeable gains among her base, many of the voters Democrats usually count on continue to support Christie,” said Redlawsk. “She can’t afford to give Christie a quarter of black voters, a majority of women, and even a third of liberals, as she does right now.”

At this still-early stage of election season, about half of voters say they are following the election either “Very closely” (12 percent) or “Somewhat closely” (36 percent.) But another third are not following the campaign closely, and 19 percent are not following it at all. Christie’s lead over Buono is just as strong among those paying careful attention as those who admit they are paying little attention.

Regardless of whom they support, most think that Christie will get a second term.  Even most Democrats (70 percent), those unfavorable toward Christie (64 percent), those favorable toward Buono (75 percent), and those who plan to vote for Buono (61 percent) think that the governor will win in November.

Christie’s ratings drop, but Buono sees no increase in recognition

As reported earlier this week, Christie’s favorability rating is down 6 points from February, while his overall job performance approval dropped 5 points. Nonetheless, about two-thirds of voters respond positively to the Governor, and few have no opinion.

Buono, however, remains largely unknown statewide and has seen no increase in recognition or favorability since February. Even 63 percent of Democratic voters report no impression of her. Three in ten Democrats are favorable, while only seven percent have an unfavorable impression of the Democratic candidate.

Three-quarters of independents have no opinion of Buono, while 12 percent view her favorably, and 13 percent are unfavorable. Buono also remains all but unknown to 72 percent of Republicans, with just 4 percent favorable and 24 percent unfavorable. Even most typical Democratic supporters such as women (74 percent), black voters (68 percent) and voters belonging to public union households (66 percent) have no impression of Buono.

“Until voters know more about her, it is unlikely that Buono will make much more progress,” said Redlawsk. “While some will vote against Christie no matter who his opponent is, challengers generally need to develop good name recognition to unseat an incumbent.”

Taxes and jobs top concerns

Asked to name New Jersey’s most important problem in their own words, 26 percent of voters identify taxes. Mentions of lack of jobs and unemployment follow closely behind at 24 percent. Ten percent name the economy in general, and another ten percent say education is the most important problem. The list is rounded out with crime and drugs at eight percent and government spending, waste, and corruption at six percent.

Word Cloud for “In just one or two words, please tell me what the most important problem is in New Jersey  today.” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Word Cloud for “In just one or two words, please tell me what the most important problem is in New Jersey today.” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Democrats are more likely to say unemployment and jobs are most important (26 percent), followed by education and taxes, which tie for second at 16 percent. For independents, taxes are the top concern, with one-third expressing frustration with high taxes. Unemployment and jobs follows at 20 percent. Just over a third of Republicans also says taxes are most important, with another 24 percent calling jobs and unemployment the top problem.

Sixty-one percent of voters who name taxes as the most important problem believe Christie is spending too little time on the problem. Similarly, 59 percent of voters who say jobs are the key problem, express the same concern. Moreover, only a minority of all voters approve of the Governor’s performance in either of these areas. Despite this, Christie easily beats Buono among voters naming taxes or jobs as their top problem; illuminating the problem she faces in trying to unseat the Governor.

“Buono has clearly made progress, but so far she’s only convinced the voters who were always likely to vote against Christie,” said Redlawsk. “Even if many Democrats come home to their party, Buono has to do more to convince voters who disapprove Christie’s performance on the key problems to give her a chance. Otherwise Gov. Christie may coast to re-election on the strength of his overall job approval and favorability, even if the race gets a little closer.”


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters

Latest on Gov. Chris Christie’s Ratings

Today we begin our next series of press releases from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The latest poll was in the field from April 3-7, and has a total of 923 NJ adult respondents, along with 819 registered voters. Our first focus is on our governor. We continue to see very high ratings for Gov. Christie both in terms of his favorability and his job performance.  But, five months after Hurricane Sandy we also see our first significant downward tick in his ratings. It appears most of it is due to Democrats who are starting to moderate their opinion of the governor. As we would expect, before Sandy Democrats on the whole were quite negative. Since Sandy hit, they have been uncharacteristically positive. Now we see that softening a bit. But, at the same time Christie’s support is holding up well with independents, and of course Republicans are solidly in his camp as they mostly were before the storm.

This time around we gave voters a chance to tell us in their own words why they are favorable or unfavorable toward Christie. Hurricane Sandy is a big reason for his support, especially for Democrats. Interestingly, virtually no Republicans named Sandy as their reason for liking Christie. On the other hand, for those who feel unfavorable, we find words like “bully” and reactions to his education reforms and battles with the teachers’ union leading the way.

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

(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Five months after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey voters continue to give Gov. Chris Christie high marks for his job performance, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. However, weak spots have emerged and in general, Christie’s ratings have dropped slightly since February.

While overwhelmingly approving (87 percent) Christie’s post-Sandy recovery efforts, only 42 percent of voters approve of his handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs and only 37 percent approve of his tax policy. About 50 percent approve of Christie’s efforts on education, the budget, and crime.

Christie’s work on Sandy recovery drives up his general approval ratings despite unhappiness about economic issues: 68 percent approve his overall job performance, 64 percent have a favorable impression, and 60 percent grade Christie A or B.

Polling has shown Christie all but invincible in the gubernatorial race, but there is some evidence his ratings are coming down from his record highs. Overall job performance is down five points and favorability is down six points from a February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s approval on both the economy and taxes has fallen three points.

“Christie still has ratings any governor would love, but all-time highs generally come back toward earth over time,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “With Sandy recovery helping drive overall approval and voters all but ecstatic at his efforts there, Christie remains in great political shape.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. A subsample of 819 registered voters reported on here has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Christie’s “character”

Twenty-six percent of voters maintain an unfavorable impression of Christie, up 6 points from February, while 64 percent of voters have a favorable impression. Democrats are most responsible for the overall decline, showing a 14-point drop to 45 percent. Independents (71 percent favorable) and Republicans (90 percent) show no significant change.

Favorability among men declined from 74 percent in February to 65 percent, while women’s admiration decreased by four points to 62 percent. Christie continues to receive very high favorability ratings from areas hardest hit by Sandy – northwest exurban (72 percent) and shore (75 percent) counties.

Among those viewing the governor favorably, one quarter use a range of character terms such as honest, integrity, and frankness to explain why they like him. Many mention how Christie “speaks his mind,” is a “straight shooter,” and “sticks to his beliefs.” But the single most named reason (18 percent) for liking Christie is his post-Sandy recovery work. Another 10 percent mention his governing and policy decisions.


Word Cloud for “In just a word or two can you tell me why you have a favorable impression of Gov. Christie?” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Among the 26 percent who dislike Christie, 30 percent name similar traits as supporters: but they question his character, honesty, and integrity, with many calling him a bully. The single most often named issue focuses on teachers and education (18 percent). Sixteen percent say Christie is uncaring, has the wrong priorities and is hurting the state and its citizens, and 10 percent cite his handling of such economic matters as the budget, taxes and fiscal responsibility.


Word Cloud for “In just a word or two can you tell me why you have an unfavorable impression of Gov. Christie?” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Democratic Christie supporters are mostly driven by Sandy (35 percent) and by perceptions of the governor’s honesty and integrity (20 percent).  But only 3 percent of Republicans cite Sandy as their primary reason. For GOP voters, honesty and integrity drive support at 28 percent, followed by Christie’s leadership (14 percent) and policy positions (12 percent). Among independents, 27 percent name honesty as their top reason for liking Christie, followed by Sandy recovery work at 16 percent.

Democrats’ unfavorable views of the governor are driven mostly by dislike of his education policies (18 percent) and impressions of Christie as confrontational (14 percent). Another 14 percent believe the governor does not care about New Jersey’s citizens.

“Christie’s natural Republican constituency likes his attitude and policies and sees him as a strong leader,” said Redlawsk. “Sandy doesn’t matter much to them. But for Democrats, we see clear evidence that the Sandy recovery is critical to support and probably also contributes to their sense of his integrity and honesty. Without those Democrats, Christie’s ratings would be much closer to where they were before Sandy hit.”

Christie job approval still high but dropping among Democrats

Almost six-in-10 voters (58 percent) continue to think New Jersey is headed in the right direction. Just over one-in-three (35 percent) continue to say the state is on the wrong track. Even so, the respondents’ approval of Christie’s overall job performance has dropped five points to 68 percent, while disapproval has risen slightly to 26 percent.

Democrats are clearly responsible for the decline; their approval has dropped 11 points since February to 51 percent. Three-quarters of independents and 93 percent of Republicans remain steady in their approval.

“This decline among Democrats is not surprising as we enter an election season,” noted Redlawsk. “As long as independents are strongly on Christie’s side he will continue to draw very positive ratings. If they move away, things could get interesting.”

While strongly backing Christie’s response to Sandy, more voters disapprove than favor his performance on the economy and jobs, 49 percent to 42 percent. More men (46 percent) than women (39 percent) like Christie’s economic performance. His highest approval on the economy comes from the exurban (54 percent) and Jersey Shore (47 percent) regions of the state.

Voters’ views on taxes show a similar, but more negative pattern. Overall, just 37 percent approve of the job Christie is doing on taxes while 56 percent disapprove. Sixty percent of women disapprove of Christie’s handling of taxes, and men are now more likely to disapprove (51 percent) than approve (42 percent).

Approval of the governor’s performance on education, an area of strength in February, is now more tenuous; 49 percent approve (down five points) and 44 percent who disapprove (up five points). Christie does better on the state budget, with 50 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving of his performance – appraisals that have remained steady over the past two months. Voters are much more positive on crime: 55 percent approve and 29 percent disapprove of his performance on this issue.

Christie continues strong in Hurricane Sandy approval ratings – 87 percent approve compared to only 9 percent who disapprove and 4 percent who are unsure. He continues to gets high marks from many of his usual detractors: those who view him unfavorably (75 percent approval), Democrats (87 percent), women (87 percent), black voters (82 percent), Hispanic voters (87 percent) and public union households (87 percent).

When asked to grade Christie’s efforts, 21 percent award an A, while another 39 percent give a B. Democrats have become their most critical graders since Sandy – 43 percent grade him A or B,  down from 52 percent in February. Independents have held steady with 64 percent awarding A or B, while 88 percent of Republicans (the same percentage as in November 2012) assign top grades, an increase of 8 points. Christie continues to get his highest marks from storm-battered exurban and shore regions, though down six and seven points respectively from the last poll.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters, Superstorm Sandy, Taxes