Full text of this release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.
MOST NEW JERSEYANS SUPPORT CHRISTIE’S APPEARANCE IN STORM ADS, BUT THINK COMMERCIALS’ CREATORS CHOSEN FOR POLITICAL REASONS
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While state Sen. Barbara Buono continues to criticize Gov. Chris Christie’s involvement with New Jersey’s “Stronger than the Storm” ad campaign, 54 percent of registered voters side with the incumbent, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The majority say Christie’s appearance in the commercials was focused on promoting confidence in the shore’s recovery, while 34 percent say the appearances were mostly about gaining publicity for his re-election campaign. Another 11 percent are unsure.
Views are more mixed over the appropriateness of the choice of MWW, the company the state used to create the ad campaign. Democrats criticized the firm in recent months for its supposed close ties to Christie, and a price tag reportedly $2 million higher than its competitors. By a 2 to 1 margin, voters believe MWW was chosen primarily for political reasons. A noteworthy 37 percent are uncertain about where why the firm was chosen.
“While voters see Christie’s appearance as part of his job to promote the state’s recovery, many are cynical about why MWW was chosen,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “We specifically tested Senator Buono’s criticism to see if it resonates, finding that many view the award of the project as political. But that perspective does not change the positive view of the governor’s role in the ad campaign.”
The “Stronger than the Storm” campaign generated high levels of awareness, as 80 percent of voters saw or heard the ads promoting Jersey shore tourism this summer.
Results are from a poll of 925 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sept 3-9. The subsample of 814 registered voters reported on here has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.
Partisanship for sure at the shore
While a majority of respondents approve of Christie’s role in the ads, the level of support varies, with those typically in Christie’s corner more favorable. More than 70 percent of those planning to vote for Christie support his appearance in the ads. Just over a quarter of Buono voters feel the same. Republicans are the strongest backers on the issue, at 73 percent compared to 56 percent of independents. Democrats are evenly split – 44 percent support Christie’s appearance, but 43 percent think it is about personal publicity. Thirty-three percent of independents and 17 percent of Republicans view the campaign as mostly about publicity for the governor.
Personal experience with Hurricane Sandy and awareness of the ads also affect opinion about Christie’s starring role. Those personally affected by the super storm are slightly more likely to say Christie was promoting recovery, 58 percent versus 53 percent of those not affected. Respondents from the hardest hit parts of the state agree more strongly than others that Christie’s appearance was nonpolitical – more than 70 percent from the shore and 59 percent from northwestern exurban counties.
Those who actually have seen or heard the commercials support Christie’s role as the shore recovery spokesperson by a nearly 2 to 1 margin – 60 percent to the 33 percent who think he appeared primarily for re-election publicity. Those who have not seen the ads are much more split: 35 percent side with Christie, 39 percent side with Buono’s criticism and 26 percent are uncertain.
“Seeing the ads clearly made voters think of Christie as promoting recovery, something that we all expect a governor to do,” said Redlawsk. “For those who did not see the ads, there is a much more willingness to simply see this as just another part of Christie’s re-election campaign.”
Voters assume politics in choice of campaign’s creators
Voters are more likely to side with Democrats when it comes to the controversy about MWW’s selection. Even Christie voters are divided, with 34 percent saying the company was the best choice for the job, 27 percent believing the choice as political and another 39 percent are unsure. Those voting for Buono are more united in their belief that politics was at play: 66 percent call the choice of MWW politics, and 28 percent are unsure. Only 6 percent believe the company was the best choice.
Aside from Christie voters, the partisan divide is strong. But Republicans are more likely to express uncertainty than to support MWW. Thirty percent say the pick was for political reasons, while another 34 percent support the choice, and 37 percent are unsure. A plurality of Democrats and independents feels political motives were behind the selection, though over a third of each group remains uncertain. Just 14 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of independents support the choice as fair and square.
Even those who have seen or heard the ads are most likely to feel that the selection was political – 42 percent of viewers compared to 22 percent who support MWW. Thirty-six percent are uncertain. Those personally affected by Sandy are just as likely as those not affected to believe the company was chosen based on politics instead of who was best for the job.
“Of course, voters have relatively little information on this issue,” noted Redlawsk. “Thus, for the most part, the responses of those opposed to Christie are not surprising. What is surprising is that the governor’s supporters are more divided, suggesting that cynicism about the decisions politicians make exists even when the decision is made by your own team.”
‘Stronger than the storm’ widely viewed
Eighty percent of New Jersey voters saw or heard the state’s “Stronger than the Storm” advertising campaign and only 18 percent have not. Shore residents (85 percent) and exurbanites (88 percent) are especially familiar with it, though about three-quarters of voters in every other region encountered the ads as well.