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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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, NJ Voters

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