Monthly Archives: October 2013


Full text of the release of 10/25/13 follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While opponents often try to label Gov. Chris Christie a “bully,” most of New Jersey’s registered voters have a different take. By more than a 2 to 1 margin (72 percent to 34 percent), respondents in the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll agree that the governor’s self-description as a “fighter,” fits “very well” and is more apt than bully.

“Whether or not they all mean it in the same way, ‘fighter’ is the single word most applied to Christie by New Jersey voters,” said David Redlawsk, director of the poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. He added that since he started polling about the governor’s character traits in 2010, this is the first time fighter has been included in the list of descriptors.

The latest survey also shows that about two-thirds of registered voters see Christie as a “smart,” “strong leader.” Voters started to identify those traits more frequently following Superstorm Sandy’s assault on the state a year ago. “This perception of Christie as a strong leader has not only driven his high overall ratings, but has sustained their heights much longer than expected,” Redlawsk said.

About half of voters also ascribe “effective” and “independent” as key Christie characteristics, saying they fit him very well; 43 percent say “trustworthy,” 40 percent “fair” and 30 percent “reformer.”

Strong leader shows a slight uptick since polled in April, while a key negative has declined: 54 percent now say “stubborn” applies very well, a drop of six points. Other negatives have changed little: 46 percent say “arrogant” applies, 36 percent call him “self-centered” and 34 percent say “impulsive.”

Voters still assign many positive traits to Christie, but they are slightly less upbeat in emotional responses to him. Just under half are proud or enthusiastic, a drop of five and six points, respectively, since April. But Christie does not generate noticeably more anger (28 percent) or worry (31 percent).

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

A fighter, not a bully

In a CBS Sunday Morning interview in late September, Christie rejected the idea that he is a bully, saying, “No, I am not a bully. But what I am is a fighter.” New Jersey voters appear to agree, with 72 percent saying fighter is a word that describes him “very well” while only 34 percent say the same about “bully.”

Whether interpreting fighter positively or negatively, respondents overwhelmingly agree with the governor’s own self-assessment. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 89 percent of Republicans say fighter fits very well. There is much less agreement about bully. Forty-nine percent of Democrats, 29 percent of independents and 19 percent of Republicans see Christie this way.

Both men (69 percent) and women (74 percent) agree Christie is a fighter, as do more than 80 percent of Christie supporters and more than 50 percent of supporters of Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono. Forty-four percent of Christie voters reject the term bully, with its much more negative connotation, but 16 percent still say it applies very well.

For Buono voters, the opposite is true. More than two-thirds (69 percent) call Christie a bully, while just 9 percent completely reject the description. About one-third of men and women say bully describes Christie very well, but another 30 percent of both gender say it applies only “Somewhat well.”

Christie’s positives

The governor continues to ride high from his handling of Sandy’s aftermath, with very high favorability, job approval and re-election numbers. The core reason may be that 88 percent of all voters say strong leader applies at least “somewhat well” to Christie, while only 8 percent say the term does not apply. More than nine in 10 voters say smart fits Christie at least somewhat well. Only 6 percent deny that Christie is smart.

Gender differences continue. Women remain much more positive about Christie than before Sandy hit, but are not as upbeat as men have become since April. Women are eight points more likely to say that independent describes Christie very well (53 percent to 45 percent), but they are seven points less likely to think of the governor as a strong leader, eight points less likely to think he is a reformer and six points less likely to think he is effective.

While Christie receives positive assessments from overwhelming numbers of independents and Republicans, his numbers have slipped among Democrats as the election draws near. Just over 40 percent of Democrats call Christie smart, down 9 points from April. Forty-four percent say strong leader applies very well, down 3 points. Just 16 percent now see him as a reformer, down 12 points.

Among Christie voters, 87 percent say strong leader applies very well and 79 percent identify him as smart. Even 34 percent of Buono voters say strong leader describes her opponent very well, and 36 percent say the same about smart. Still, while almost no Christie voters deny that he is smart or a strong leader, a quarter of Buono voters say he is no leader, and 15 percent say smart does not apply.

Christie’s negatives

Despite mostly positive responses, many voters continue to apply negative traits to Christie: 54 percent say “stubborn” describes the governor very well, and another 31 percent say it fits somewhat well. Arrogant (46 percent applies very well), self-centered and impulsive (each about one-third) are other frequently used descriptions. Voters have mostly maintained their level of negativity since April, but stubbornness responses have fallen six points, returning to levels found immediately after Sandy.

Democrats now are less likely to say the governor is stubborn than in April (a 10-point decline to 59 percent very well) but are marginally more likely to describe him as arrogant (a two-point rise to 61 percent). Fifty-six percent of independents label the governor stubborn, and 40 percent think him arrogant. Forty-one percent of Republicans say that stubborn describes the governor very well, with 31 percent saying the same for arrogant.

Almost half of Democrats call Christie self-centered and 40 percent say he is impulsive. A third of independents feel the same, as do fewer than a quarter of Republicans.

Women are slightly more likely to characterize Christie as arrogant (49 percent to 42 percent) but little to no gender differences exist with other negative traits. Among Buono voters, Christie is overwhelmingly seen as stubborn and arrogant (77 percent and 81 percent very well, respectively).

Christie evokes more pride, less anger

Voters’ emotional reactions to Christie also reflect the post-Sandy trend, with positives still outweighing negatives, though results are inching back toward pre-Sandy numbers. Forty-seven percent of voters say they are proud (down five points since April) and 45 percent say they feel enthusiastic (down six points) when hearing or reading about Christie. Those who say they feel worried or angry remain unchanged at 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Women are slightly more likely to say they are proud of Christie, 49 percent to 45 percent, but both figures are lower than in April. At the same time, some gender gaps have widened. Women are 10 points more likely to feel anger or worry. Enthusiasm by both sexes stands at 45 percent.

About 70 percent of respondents who feel favorably toward Christie feel both proud and enthusiastic about him, with only 11 percent angry and 13 percent worried. The numbers reverse for voters with an unfavorable impression, and intensity has grown since April: 70 percent who dislike Christie say they feel angry, and 76 percent are worried.

Positive emotions for the governor among Democrats are down since April – 10 points to 28 percent for pride and seven points to 25 percent for enthusiasm. Democrats have also increased in anger – up seven points to 45 percent – and worry, up seven points to 49 percent. Nearly half of independents are proud (49 percent) and enthusiastic (45 percent) about the governor, and Republicans are even more so (78 percent and 82 percent, respectively). Only about one in five independents and about one in 10 Republicans feel angry or worried.

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We’ve already reported that Gov. Chris Christie is up 26 points over Barbara Buono in our latest polling. Today we report more details, focusing on how registered voters as a whole (not just likely voters) feel about Christie and view the governor’s job performance.

We have multiple measures, which may at times seem confusing. We start by asking a “Favorability” question. This is a general question: “I’d like to ask about some people and groups. Please tell me if your general impression of each one is favorable or unfavorable, or if you do not have an opinion.” Both Christie and Buono’s names are given, along with others, in random order.The idea is that this question taps an overall feeling for the person or group, and also gives us a sense of awareness.

Our second question asks people to assign a letter grade to the governor’s performance. We do this because report cards are easy for people to understand and it gives respondents a way to differentiate their assessment of how Christie is doing. Rutgers-Eagleton has been using a report card for several years now.

Our third questions asks for general approval or disapproval of the governor’s job performance – we added this because it was very unclear whether or not some people considered a “C” grade to be “good enough”. The answer is apparently some do, since overall job approval is generally higher than the number of A and B grades.

Finally, we recently added approval questions for specific issues that New Jerseyans continue to tell us are very important to them. As you will see below, this turns out to be interesting. There are major disconnects between the overall approval voters feel for Christie and their disapproval of his work on the economy and jobs as well as taxes.

Text of the release follows. Click here for full text plus questions and tables.


Buono still largely unknown just weeks before the election

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Election Day approaches, New Jersey’s registered voters continue to give incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie high overall ratings, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s favorability remains steady at 61 percent. He is viewed unfavorably by 28 percent of voters. Similarly, his overall job grade and approval are strong: 60 percent grade the governor B or higher and 67 percent approve of the overall job he is doing.

Voters remain persistently negative toward Christie’s efforts on what they perceive as the two most important issues facing the state, the economy and taxes. Only 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy and jobs, which more than a third say is the biggest problem facing New Jersey. Similarly, 38 percent approve of his performance on taxes, the top problem for 25 percent. But, as earlier polls have found, Christie’s overall support is not hurt by disapproval on specific issues.

Christie continues to benefit from Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono’s lack of a statewide profile – 43 percent of respondents have no real impression of her. Among those with an impression, negative views now outweigh positive: 29 percent to 28 percent, a seven-point increase in negative ratings since early September. This slippage reflects Christie’s continued and mostly unanswered TV ads attacking his opponent.

“For a major party challenger, Sen. Buono has had very low visibility throughout this campaign,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Her lack of resources and unwillingness of many Democratic leaders to promote her have hampered her messaging. Christie could have been vulnerable on the issues voters care about, but not without the presence of a visible, viable alternative.”

Voters also have difficultly placing Buono’s ideology: 19 percent say she is very liberal and 25 percent say somewhat liberal. Fifty percent are evenly split between moderate and unsure. Seven percent call her conservative. “This pattern of responses seems more like guessing than a clear recognition of Sen. Buono’s stances,” noted Redlawsk.

By way of contrast, 58 percent mostly see Christie as a moderate (58 percent) or somewhat conservative (22 percent), suggesting he has effectively positioned himself in the middle of the road. Only five percent of registered voters are unable to assess Christie’s ideology.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Democrats increasingly less favorable toward Christie

Ninety percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents fuel Christie’s high favorability. However, as the campaign winds on, Democrats are increasingly negative: the governor’s favorability dropped five points in a month to 38 percent while his unfavorability rose two points to 49 percent.

Also, Democrats’ disapproval of the incumbent’s overall job performance fell three points to 46 percent. Independents, however, are increasingly approving, showing a four-point rise to 74 percent. Nearly all Republicans – 91 percent – approve generally of the job he is doing, and his job grade is slightly higher.

“Democrats have become less enamored of the governor as is to be expected during a campaign.” said Redlawsk. “But between the increasing support of independents and the fact that many Democrats remain on his side, Christie’s favorability and job ratings continue to fly high.”

Sandy still drives ratings

As the one-year anniversary of SuperStorm Sandy approaches, that fact that 85 percent approve of Christie’s post-disaster work drives his overall approval. Approval cuts across party lines.

The governor’s performance on many other issues, however, fails to top 50 percent approval, and partisans are deeply divided. This is especially true on the economy and taxes. Thirty-seven percent call the economy and jobs the most important problem facing the state, while another 23 percent name taxes, followed by education at 12 percent.

Across all registered voters, 42 percent approve of Christie’s performance on the economy and jobs, 38 percent on taxes, and 48 percent on education. But partisan divides are clear. Seventy-five percent of Republicans approve Christie’s work on the economy and jobs, but 65 percent of Democrats disapprove. Even independents, who strongly favor Christie overall, show just 43 percent approval on the economy, while 44 percent disapprove.

On taxes, two-thirds of Republicans approve the governor’s work, while 69 percent of Democrats disapprove. Independents are also more likely to disapprove, 49 percent to 42 percent. Christie does better with independents on education: 53 percent approve versus 39 percent who don’t.

But only 30 percent of respondents who call the economy/jobs the state’s most important problem approve of Christie’s performance on the issue. Another 58 percent disapprove.

The same trend is observed among those most concerned about taxes; 38 percent approve of Christie’s handling of the issue while 53 percent disapprove. And among the 12 percent of voters calling education the state’s most pressing problem, 77 percent disapprove of Christie’s performance and only 19 percent are positive.

The governor does better on crime and drugs by a 2 to 1 margin, 52 percent to 26 percent. Twenty-two percent are unsure. Democrats are split on this issue, 39 percent approving and 37 percent disapproving. About three-quarters of Republicans and half of independents approve. About half approve of his performance on the budget, compared to 37 percent who disapprove and 14 percent who are unsure. Republicans are much more likely to back Christie’s work – 76 percent to 17 percent – compared to 26 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents.

Voters lack clarity on Buono

The Democratic challenger has gained little additional awareness with voters in the final weeks of the campaign. More registered voters have no impression of Buono than have a favorable impression. Moreover, while her favorability has not grown stronger in the last month, her unfavorability has increased by seven points. Importantly, four in 10 Democrats still don’t know or have no opinion of the candidate. Among all Democrats, just 46 percent are favorable, and 13 percent are unfavorable.

Even more independent voters (51 percent) have no impression of the challenger, with just 18 percent unfavorable and 30 percent unfavorable. More Republicans than Democrats or independents have an opinion: 55 percent of all GOP voters are unfavorable, while only 11 percent have a favorable impression of Buono.

“Results from all registered voters reflect those for likely voters,” said Redlawsk. “Buono has not made enough impact to get voters excited. If people don’t know her, they generally won’t vote for her.”

Voters, including Democrats, are unsure about Buono’s ideology. Thirty-six percent of Democrats see her as somewhat or very liberal, but another 35 percent say she is somewhere in between. Twenty-two percent remain uncertain. Seven percent of Democrats even say she is conservative.

Independents and Republicans are even more likely to say they do not know where Buono stands – 28 percent and 24 percent, respectively – and they also both place her as more liberal than moderate on the scale. Forty-three percent of independents say Buono is liberal (20 percent saying very liberal), while 62 percent of Republicans say the same (with 37 percent saying very liberal). Only one in five independents and one in 10 Republicans label Buono a moderate.

“Not all registered voters will actually show up on Election Day,” noted Redlawsk. “But as we previously reported, things are little better for Buono among those most likely to do so. Christie has positioned himself in the ‘sweet spot’ as a moderate, and most voters agree. But for Buono, voters are all over the place, reflecting their lack of awareness of the challenger.”

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As the news breaks that Gov. Chris Christie has dropped the state’s appeal of the court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey, we have new numbers on the issue, including results showing that a majority of NJ voters did NOT want an appeal of the decision, and more than 60 percent support same-sex marriage.

Attitudes toward same-sex marriage (often asked as “gay marriage”) in New Jersey have been tracked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll for more than a decade.  The chart below shows the dramatic change in recent year.

SSM over Time

The text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As wedding bells ring for the first same-sex marriages in the Garden State, a majority of New Jersey voters agrees with today’s decision by Gov. Chris Christie to drop the state’s appeal of the ruling that made New Jersey the 14th state to adopt marriage equality, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Reflecting continuing changes in public opinion, support for legalizing same-sex marriage is now at 61 percent, versus 27 percent who oppose and 12 percent who are unsure. For the first time, a plurality of Republicans supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Opinion on the appeal is somewhat less lopsided; 53 percent say the state should accept the decision, while 40 percent wanted it appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“Beliefs about same-sex marriage have shifted rapidly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Fully one-quarter of today’s supporters tell us they were previously opposed. Not long ago, a ruling like this would have created a significant backlash. Now most voters agree with it.”

Even as they concur with the decision and Christie’s decision to drop the appeal, a large majority of voters would still prefer to be the final decision makers. Sixty-two percent say voters should get to weigh in, compared to 23 percent who believe the decision should lie with the courts and 10 percent who want to give the Legislature final say.

“This apparent contradiction occurs partly because 81 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage want it left to voters, while proponents are far less likely to say voters need to make the decision,” noted Redlawsk. “A majority may like the outcome of the court ruling, but any time voters are asked if they should get a chance to decide an issue, they are very likely to say yes.”

New Jersey voters are split on whether same-sex marriage should be decided by individual states (44 percent) or by the federal government (47 per cent). Ten percent are unsure. Supporters prefer a federal role, while opponents say the issue should be decided state by state.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Most voters did not want appeal to go forward

Nearly six in 10 voters agree with Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage to start today. One-third oppose the ruling, and 8 percent are undecided.

Support is widespread. Half of Christie’s re-election supporters favor the ruling, while 79 percent of state Sen. Barbara Buono’s voters back the decision. But while a 49 percent to 37 percent plurality of Republicans now supports marriage equality, only 41 percent agree with this particular court ruling. Besides self-identified conservative Republicans and evangelical and other highly religious New Jerseyans, other demographic groups support the court decision.

Slightly fewer (but still a majority) wanted Christie to abandon any appeal of the court’s ruling as he has now done. The state’s appeal garnered support only from those generally opposed to same-sex marriage – including Republicans, conservatives, born-again Christians and those who most frequently attend religious services. Older voters and shore county residents also wanted the appeal to continue. Still, half of Christie voters opposed the appeal.

“Many voters who wanted the appeal held out some hope that the judge would be overruled,” said Redlawsk. “But others see the Supreme Court as the final arbiter and, although happy with the judge’s ruling, wanted an appeal to affirm it. Gov. Christie obviously saw the writing on the wall in withdrawing the appeal; there was little chance he would win.”

Voters still want to make the decision

Voters seem to be contradictory. Although supporting the court ruling, voters also widely agree with the governor that they should decide on same-sex marriage. Virtually every group wants voters to make the decision, including more than half of the new law’s supporters and 70 percent of Christie voters. Even large majorities of those with a gay or lesbian family member, friend or co-worker want voters to decide.

Sixty percent of minority voters want the issue decided by voters, a clear disconnect from the marriage as a civil right not subject to vote position urged by many minority leaders.

Democrats and liberals are among the relatively few groups split on the question: 46 percent of Democrats want voters to decide, 32 percent favor a court decision and 16 percent prefer legislation. Liberals show a similar pattern, with 42 percent calling for a vote. The most educated respondents show less support for voting compared to other groups: 47 percent say voters should decide, 37 percent want a court decision and 12 percent prefer legislative action.

“Voters aren’t purposely contradictory,” said Redlawsk. “Perhaps, those who support same-sex marriage assume it would pass, which would reinforce other positive decisions. Opponents probably see voters as the only hope, since they have lost in the courts and Legislature. No matter what side they are on, an appeal to voters may seem like the best bet.”

For voters, same-sex marriage not a top issue

The new poll is mostly consistent with earlier polling on the issue. Last spring, a large majority of respondents wanted same-sex marriage on the ballot. Now, a plurality of Republicans supports the issue for the first time, 49 percent to 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Conservatives, however, oppose same-sex marriage by a 19-point margin. Democrats are strong supporters at 71 percent, while 58 percent of independents agree.

Most voters with a position on the issue have not changed their minds, but 20 percent have revised their opinion over time; 90 percent of those have become supporters.

Seventy-four percent of marriage equality supporters have “always” held that view, but a quarter of those have strengthened their position. This shift is especially apparent among Republicans and older voters, of whom over a third say they have changed their minds in support of same-sex marriage.

The vast majority of opponents – 91 percent – say they always have been against same-sex marriage, while only 7 percent say they have changed their minds and become opponents.

Most voters know someone who is gay or lesbian but same-sex marriage is not seen as a top priority. One quarter call it among their most important issues. Thirty-six percent see the issue as only somewhat important, while 37 percent say it is not important at all.

A large majority of same-sex marriage supporters say the issue is not that important: just 31 percent say it is among the top issues to them personally. Opponents are even less likely to see the issue as very important. Only 24 percent put it anywhere near the top.  Those with a gay or lesbian family member (36 percent) or friend (31 percent) are more likely than most to say same-sex marriage is one of their most important issues.

Who decides, states or federal government?

Voters are split on whether states should decide individually on same-sex marriage or the federal government should decide for all states.  Sixty-one percent of marriage-equality supporters prefer the federal government, while 68 percent of opponents want the issue settled state-by-state.

More than 60 percent of Democrats and liberals favor a federal decision. About half of women, middle-aged voters, the best-educated and more secular voters, and those who have a gay or lesbian family member, friend, or co-worker feel the same.

Republicans and conservatives strongly support individual state decisions, as do more than half of male voters. Independents favor letting states decide, 48 percent to 40 percent. Younger voters also lean this way, as do Catholics, Protestants and those who attend religious services more frequently.

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Click here for a PDF of the full text, questions and tables for this release.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With New Jersey’s gubernatorial election now less than three weeks away, Gov. Chris Christie commands a 26-point lead over Democrat state Sen. Barbara Buono among likely voters, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie now leads Buono, 59 percent to 33 percent – a 6-point increase in the margin since last month.

These gains come despite likely voters consistently disapproving of Christie’s performance on the state’s taxes and the economy. With the exception of same-sex marriage, however, they still think the governor would do a better job than his challenger on most other issues.

“Barbara Buono is not making any new gains, even among those who should gravitate to her,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Chris Christie simply seems to be a force of nature all but unstoppable in this particular election.” Redlawsk added that most voters – about 90 percent – say they are unlikely to change their mind between now and Election Day.

“As has been the case all season, most think Christie will win,” Redlawsk said. “Even 73 percent of Buono backers do not expect her to win.”

Nearly all Christie voters (87 percent) say their vote is to support the incumbent, rather than to oppose the Democrat. That’s not the case among Buono’s backers. Two-thirds of her supporters are motivated by their opposition to the governor. Only 32 percent are primarily voting in support of her.

“For the last several months we have reported that voters disapprove of Christie’s performance in key areas,” said Redlawsk. “The problem for Buono is that she has not convinced them she would do any better. Voters would rather stay with what they know, than to turn over the reins to someone who has not been able to make an effective case for change.”

Results are from a sample of 562 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points, drawn from 799 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 7-13, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie betters Buono on most issues

Likely voters say Christie would do a better job than Buono on a wide range of issues, including New Jersey’s economy and jobs (59 percent to 28 percent) and taxes (56 percent to 30 percent). As is expected, Democrats are more likely to say Buono would do better on the economy and jobs, but only by 19 points; nearly a third of Buono’s partisans say Christie would do the better job. Republicans are more unified: 88 percent say Christie is better on the economy and jobs, while only 6 percent choose Buono. Similarly on taxes, 55 percent of Democrats pick Buono, while 27 percent choose Christie. Among Republicans, Christie’s Republican margin is 84 percent to 7 percent.

Independent voters also believe Christie will do the better job on the economy and on taxes, by margins of 41 points and 40 points, respectively.

The governor is also preferred on the issue of crime and drugs (by 43 points), and the state budget (by 38 points). Christie even does better than the challenger on two core Democratic issues on which Buono has campaigned – health care (10 points better) and education (11 points better).

Buono’s only advantage is on same-sex marriage, where previous Rutgers-Eagleton Polls have shown majority support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in New Jersey. Fifty-eight percent of likely voters say Buono would do a better job on this issue, compared to 26 percent who pick Christie. Majorities of Democrats and independents say Buono would do best on same-sex marriage, while Republicans are split on their choice, 43 percent to 42 percent in favor of Christie.

“Ultimately, voters like Chris Christie personally, and they are not convinced Buono will do better on the issues they care about,” said Redlawsk. “While she does well on marriage equality, the fact is this is relatively low on most voters’ list of issues.”

Christie voters like his non-nonsense governing style

Christie’s performance in office and his candid, no-nonsense style are the biggest reasons 87 percent of his voters say they are more in support of him than opposing Buono. Thirty percent of these voters cite his governing style, including statements such as Christie is “a great governor for the state,” and he is moving the state “in the right direction.” Another 12 percent name policy stances, while 11 percent talk about the governor’s infamous brand of straight-talk, calling him a “man of his word,” a “straight shooter [who] doesn’t pull punches,” “outspoken and honest,” “refreshing,” and a true “Jersey guy [who] tells it like it is.” And Superstorm Sandy still matters: seven percent still say his leadership before, during, and after the storm is the reason why they plan to vote in support of the governor.

Only about a third of Buono voters say their vote is in support of her, rather than in opposition to Christie. Most of these voters (30 percent) prefer her stances on education, same-sex marriage, and minimum wage. Another 10 percent say they favor her because she’s a Democrat. The fact that Buono is a woman is also cited by 10 percent of her supporters, who say “a woman will be more responsible” and who express desire for a “woman governor.”

Few Christie voters are choosing him simply because they oppose Buono, but two-thirds of Buono voters are voting more against Christie than for her. These voters are opposing Christie mostly because they disagress with the governor’s policies generally, his handling of education, schools, and teachers’ unions specifically, and his “bully[ish]” and “arrogant” personality and attitude.

Christie maintains wide leads among all except Buono’s base

Christie’s double-digit lead spans almost every group, including Republicans and those not usually in his corner. The governor wins 93 of his own party members, as well as 68 percent of independents. Buono gets support from 22 percent of independents.

Although a sizeable gender gap exists, Christie has a 20-point lead among women. Even so, men are still 7 points more likely to back the governor than are women.

Christie also leads across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though the margin is smaller among the most educated voters, at 10-points. His lead has increased among voters in lower income households that would usually vote Democratic; they now favor Christie, 55 to 38 percent. He also leads in every region of the state by a minimum of 9 points.

Buono’s only significant leads continue to be among likely Democratic voters (65 percent to 25 percent) and voters in public union households (52 percent to 43 percent). She also holds a 9-point edge among nonwhite voters, 50 percent to 41 percent. Not surprisingly, 85 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie support her, as do 81 percent of those with a favorable impression of the challenger.

Regardless of their personal choice, large majorities of voters of every stripe say Christie will win again – including Buono supporters, those who view her favorably, voters with a negative opinion of Christie and Democrats in general.

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Well, Booker won, but we were pretty far off…

While not all the final numbers are in as this gets written, it looks like Cory Booker has won the Senate race by between 11 and 12 points. Our final poll, which ended last Sunday, had him up 22 points in our likely voter sample. That’s pretty far off. Monmouth and Quinnipiac were essentially right on the mark.

We’ll try to figure out why we missed it this far over the next weeks. After all, while we’d like to get it “right” we always stand by two points: 1. Polling is NOT a prediction, no matter how much we sometimes act and talk as if it is. It provides an estimate at the point in which the poll is done. It does not foretell the future. 2. We are an academic operation, and even when we get what seem to be out-of-the-norm results, we look for the learning opportunities for ourselves and for others in what we find.

What’s interesting to us is that our other numbers in the same poll make “sense” – for example, our favorability ratings for Booker are in the same range as other polls that have reported them.  And as our releases over the next week will show, other numbers from the same sample also seem reasonable. So something is odd specifically in what we recorded for the Booker-Lonegan vote question. It doesn’t look like a technical problem; we’ve checked that. We recorded what people told us. And the sample doesn’t seem demographically odd as a whole. Given these two points, no matter how we thought about likely voters in our modeling, we kept showing Booker +20 or so.

On obvious problem, then, is that we failed to get a good “likely voter” screen as much as we tried.  Our likely voter calculation did screen out more unlikely Booker supporters than it did unlikely Lonegan supporters, which suggested Lonegan’s supporters would turn out at a higher ratio than would Booker’s.

And in a very quick look, that is be exactly what happened, but even more than we expected.

Last year Republican Joe Kyrillos lost to Sen. Bob Menendez by a 17-point margin. Kyrillos won 7 counties, Menendez won 14 counties. This time around, Lonegan appears to have won the same 7 counties plus another two. More interestingly, Lonegan overperformed Kyrillos in 18 of 21 counties – that is, he did better as a percentage of the vote than did last year’s GOP candidate throughout the state.

Booker overperformed in exactly zero counties as this is written, instead getting the same percentage in 3 counties that Menendez did last year. So it does look like Lonegan supporters were much more likely to turn out than we were seeing in our data.

Another indicator is that in the 7 counties Kyrillos won last year, turnout was just under half of what it was in 2012 (about 46% of last year’s total at the moment).

But in the counties Menendez won last year (and Booker won all but two this year) turnout appears to only be about 40% of the number that voted last year.  Again, Booker not only underperformed Menendez, but also had lower turnout in his winning counties.

Finally,  there are real regional differences: Lonegan’s “best” over-performance came in:

Cumberland +13 points over Kyrillos’ results
Salem +11
Warren +9
Atlantic +8
Ocean +8
Gloucester +8
Cape May +7
Sussex +7
Camden +5

Except for Sussex and Warren, these are southern and shore counties.
Booker’s least worst counties were:

Essex +0 points versus Menendez’s results
Bergen +0
Monmouth +0
Hudson -1
Mercer -1
Morris -1

Nothing South Jersey in this list, though Booker held even in a couple Republican counties.

This leads us to wonder if the fact that Booker is African-American played any role. If it did for us, why not for other pollsters? We have some thoughts on this point we will be investigating, and we’ll come back and talk about that once we’ve done so.

These are not final numbers at this point, so there may be a percentage point shift here and there. But one part of the story seems clear. We assumed better turnout in Democratic counties than actually occurred and we underestimated Republican turnout. And,  Booker underperformed compared to Lonegan all over the state, if we use 2012 as a baseline, which we did not see coming in what people were telling us last week.

It might be worth noting that in most places a 11-12 point win is pretty much a landslide. But given the low initial expectations for Steve Lonegan, it probably seems disappointing to Booker forces. But give Lonegan lots of credit. he ran an impressive attention-getting campaign, for better or worse, and probably can count this as a moral victory if nothing else.

As for us, well we do have another election on which to focus!

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election


Click here for PDF of full text, questions, and tables.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As the government shutdown enters its third week, New Jersey’s registered voters reflect the rest of the nation’s disapproval and assign blame to the Republican Party, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Just one quarter think congressional Republicans did the right thing by insisting to defund Obamacare. As a result, Republicans are suffering the brunt of the blame: more than half of Garden State voters say the shutdown is the GOP’s fault, while 19 percent blame President Obama. Only 5 percent blame on Democrats in Congress, although 20 percent say there is blame enough for everyone.

The shutdown has personally affected about one in five respondents, the poll finds. The biggest impact is on jobs – a quarter of those hurt say either they or a family member were furloughed, or their business has been affected. Also, many New Jerseyans are reporting problems accessing personal benefits or government-funded programs and that the shutdown has been exacting an emotional toll.

Despite the shutdown, Obama’s personal ratings remain unchanged since an early September poll and are still very positive. Fifty-nine percent of voters are favorably disposed toward him, while 34 percent are not and another 7 percent are unsure. Similarly, 50 percent of voters grade Obama’s job performance as B or higher.

Conversely, feelings about the Tea Party are mostly negative; 21 percent of voters have a favorable impression, while 55 percent are unfavorable and 24 percent have no opinion. When the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last asked about the Tea Party, in November 2011, the movement drew favorable ratings from 21 percent of respondents, but 48 percent were unfavorable.

“The federal government shutdown is not playing any better in New Jersey than elsewhere,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Those directly affected are very frustrated, and even those not seeing direct effects say the shutdown was the wrong way to go. While Obama’s ratings have not been affected, reactions to the Tea Party movement have become more negative.”

Results are from a poll of 799 registered New Jersey voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Shutdown directly affects many Garden Staters

Twenty-one percent of registered voters report they have noticed a difference in their personal lives because of the shutdown. Women, minority voters and those in lower income brackets have been especially impacted, as have those living in exurban areas and Philadelphia’s South Jersey suburbs.

Asked to describe the personal effects of the partial shutdown, many offered economic examples, including that they or a family member was furloughed from a job or receiving less pay. Others report difficulties gaining access to personal benefits and government-funded programs, including challenges to getting information about social security, Medicare and food stamps.

Some voters say they have been emotionally affected and called themselves “worried,” “concerned,” “depressed” or “angry.” Respondents also worry over the shutdown’s effects on the stock market and economy, the closing of national parks and monuments, and the impact on personal finances and spending.

ShutdownWordle5Word Cloud for question:
“In just a couple of words, can you tell me how the shutdown has affected you personally?”
Credit: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Release, October 16, 2013

Opinions on shutdown are deeply partisan

While majorities of voters say the government should have been kept open and that Republicans are to blame for the shutdown, Democrats and Republicans hold starkly opposing views of the situation. Eighty-five percent of Democrats say the government should have been kept open without defunding Obamacare, while 7 percent say shutting the government down over Obamacare was the right thing to do. Republicans are more split. Fifty-eight percent say the shutdown was the proper course of action but a significant 34 percent say the government should have been kept open.

Independents lean much closer to Democrats on the shutdown. Just 25 percent support shutting down the government over Obamacare defunding, but 66 percent believe this was the wrong thing to do. As for the Tea party, only 21 percent of all voters and 42 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of the movement. Supporters reflect overall Republican preferences, with 56 percent favoring the shutdown move and 35 percent opposing it.

“New Jersey’s Tea Party supporters do not favor the shutdown over defunding Obamacare any more than other Republicans,” noted Redlawsk. “This is partly because many Republicans feel favorably toward the Tea Party and partly because one in six Tea Party supporters has personally felt the shutdown’s impact. Personal impact can make a difference in attitudes.”

Blame for the shutdown follows similar patterns. Large majorities of Democrats, Obama supporters, and those personally affected by the shutdown, blame Republicans in Congress. Conversely, Republican voters, Tea Party supporters and shutdown advocates all blame the president in large numbers.

Nearly half (46 percent) of Republicans blame Obama, while 14 percent say their own party is to blame. But 87 percent of Democrats put the blame squarely on congressional Republicans. Independent voters see Republicans to blame by a 2-to-1 margin over Obama.

“The fact that independents are far more likely to blame Republicans than Obama or Democrats in Congress is one indicator of the harm this is doing to the Republican brand,” said Redlawsk. “But Democrats do not get off free – more than a third of independents say everyone is to blame.”

Voters’ preferences for U.S. Senate in today’s special election likewise reflects opinions on the shutdown: 87 percent of Booker voters disagree with it, while 63 percent of Lonegan voters say the shutdown was the right thing to do. Gender and racial gaps also exist, with women and minority voters much less likely to believe the shutdown was proper.

Three-quarters of Booker voters place blame for the standoff on the GOP, but six in 10 Lonegan voters blame Obama or the Democrats. While there is no gender gap in placing blame, minority voters are 22-points more likely to blame Republicans than white voters.

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Filed under NJ Voters, Obama NJ Rating

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: Booker Lead Greater than Expected

CLICK HERE FOR THE TEXT OF THE 10/14 BOOKER-LONEGAN RELEASE FROM THE RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL. Alternatively, the full text of the release follows a somewhat lengthy speculation on why this poll differs from a brand new Monmouth poll showing a much smaller margin for Booker.

The following analysis is by Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk  [EDITS as noted 6:40pm EDT, 10/14/13].

Well, these are the times that pollsters hate. I think I know how the Gallup people must have felt when their 2012 vote models showed Romney ahead in the waning days of last year’s election, something that was clearly not true.

Why, you ask? Because today’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll puts Cory Booker up 22-points on Steve Lonegan, a far larger margin than any other recent poll, and, in particular well above Monmouth’s 10-point lead for Booker, also out today. Monmouth’s polling dates fall within the dates we polled as well – though we were in the field longer. However, looking at our daily numbers we don’t think the longer fielding time is the issue, though we do see movement more toward than away from Booker over the last week, especially on our last day of polling, Oct 13, the day after Monmouth ended their poll. In fact, of our week of polling, the two days with the best Lonegan performance are the 10th and 12th, two of the three days Monmouth polled.

Still, I am puzzled, to be quite honest. I understood our large margin for Booker right after the primary – at that time Lonegan had gotten nothing but bad press and Booker had just come off a huge primary victory. But here it is harder to see what’s happening.

What’s especially odd from our perspective is that numbers other than the vote – for example, favorability – are very similar between the two polls.

So, anyway, which is it: Booker up 10, or Booker up 22?

We’ve looked at our data over and over. We’ve looked at other indicators besides the Booker-Lonegan race and those numbers seem quite reasonable, as we’ll report later. We looked at our weighted partisan breakdown for likely voters, and that’s not substantially different either. What is different between us and Monmouth today? We see a few key areas:

Gender questions

No, we don’t mean the Lonegan campaign’s attacks on Booker’s masculinity. That’s irrelevant.  But the difference between how men and women plan to vote does matter.

Monmouth shows essentially NO gender gap – in their poll 53% of men and 51% of women support Booker. We show a huge gender gap: 51% of men support Booker (basically the same as Monmouth) but we have 67% of women on his side (versus only 27% voting for Lonegan.) This alone could account for much of the difference. Interestingly, other polls have also shown a gender gap, most notably a recent Quinnipiac poll which had women going for Booker 62%-31%, although they showed men supporting Lonegan 51%-44% .


We have independent voters supporting Booker over Lonegan by a margin of 49% to 41%. But Monmouth’s poll has it the opposite: independents are 48% Lonegan and 43% Booker. we also have more Democrats (96%) supporting Booker and fewer Republicans (74%) supporting Lonegan. For Monmouth the number are 90% and 86% respectively.

Is it the Old Folks?

In our poll, voters 65 and over favor Booker 53%-43% over Lonegan.  Monmouth does not report an age crosstabulation so we do not know how different we are. However, we do know that Monmouth has a lot more senior citizens in its Likely Voter sample, at 36% of all voters, where we have just 30% of likely voters 65 and over. Since older people are more likely to support Lonegan, that could be a factor.

METHODOLOGY!  [EDIT, 6:40PM, 10/13: Huffpost Pollster talks about this point this evening…]

So here’s an interesting issue – Monmouth is using IVR for part of their polling. IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response – or in other words, robo-polling. In this method, computers dial landline numbers and respondents answer computer generated questions by keying responses on their phone keypad. With IVR the pollster has no idea who they are actually talking to – it could be anyone who picks up the phone. There is no human interaction. For the most part people who respond to IVR polls are often quite different from those who respond to live callers. Monmouth knows this so they supplement the IVR with live caller cellphones and some live landlines.  But more than half their sample is from IVR. It would be very interesting to see what the numbers say just for the IVR sample, compared to their live callers. However, they do not report this. Maybe they see no difference. [EDIT: Patrick Murray at Monmouth tells Huffpost that they did in fact see no difference. But since that was NOT disclosed in their press release or their methodology statement, it was impossible to know that when writing this post. I will note we don’t actually know what “no difference” means. Is in no difference in the marginals? Or no difference in the makeup of the samples? Pre or post-weighting?]

My guess is that IVR brings the older sample, and also results in the lack of a gender gap. But that’s only a guess right now. [EDIT, 6:40PM, 10/14: And apparently Patrick Murray suggests the same gender result in both IVR and live landlines, but again he isn’t completely clear on this.]


This leads to one other interesting possibility. With IVR respondents don’t have to talk to anyone. This lessens what we call “social desireabilty” which has been shown to matter when race and ethnicity are a factor in preferences. People know it is “wrong” to express overtly racist attitudes. Likewise, there has been evidence in the past that voters may over report support for a non-white candidate in a live-caller poll. IVR does not have this problem – people can be honest without anyone knowing except the computer. Is it a factor here? I’m really not sure how deeply race comes into this election. If it does, then we may well get more supporters for Booker in our live calling than he will get in the privacy of the voting booth.

Finally, it’s also about likely voters and sampling

Both Rutgers-Eagleton and Monmouth try to identify likely voters. From what Monmouth says in their release, they used a listed registered voter sample and consider people who voted in two of the last four general elections to be likely voters. If they asked any other questions to determine this, they did not say in their release so we assume they did not. [EDIT 6:40PM, 10/14: Apparently, according to Huffpost, Monmouth did ask two additional screening questions. But again this was not made clear in the Monmouth release or methodology statement.]

We use Random Digit Dialing (RDD), not a listed sample. The disadvantage is we do not know voting history, and we have to screen for registered voters – and people may lie about this. The advantage is that we can hear people talk, and can get to the right person. We also theoretically have better coverage in that many people do not provide phone numbers when they register or provide incorrect numbers. With RDD theoretically anyone can get a call.

We ask a series of questions to determine likely voters – including awareness of the election date, attention to the campaign, a direct “will you vote question”, and a vote history question. Combining these gives us a model for likely voters that has fewer older people, and slightly more white people, but about the same share of each party as Monmouth. So the likely voter screen does not seem to be a huge source of the difference, at least in terms of  partisan breakdown.

[EDIT 6:40PM, 10/14: We also checked different levels of screening that were more or less strict, based on different cutoffs on our questions. The results did not vary by more than a couple points.]


The upshot is that we report numbers quite different from other recent polls. Are we certain about them? Of course not – there are many reasons we could be way off. But we could also be within the ballpark.  In the end, every poll is an estimate and some will be on the mark and some will be off. Take each one with a grain of salt. Looking across all polls, if I had to guess (as opposed to poll), I think Booker will win with a margin in the mid-teens.

Still, a lot depends on who remembers to vote on Wednesday, October 16 and how effective the campaigns are a getting out their supporters.  If we’re wrong, we’ll try to figure out what happened. If we’re right, well, you heard it here first!

Finally, we could have simply not released this poll, but we might as well put it out there and see if others can see a problem that we are missing.



NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – With just two days to go until the Oct. 16 special U.S. Senate election, Newark Mayor Cory Booker holds a 58 percent to 36 percent lead over former Republican Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan among likely voters, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. Another 3 percent prefer someone else, and about 3 percent remain undecided. While the Democrat’s lead is less than he enjoyed following the August primary, compared to other polls this latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll suggests Booker has recently gained in his bid to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg.

The debates between Booker and Lonegan, which highlighted the stark policy differences between them, may have played an important role in Booker’s current performance. While 43 percent of all likely voters paid some attention to a debate, independent voters who followed the debates strongly favor Booker, 59 percent to 37 percent. But independents ignoring the debates prefer Lonegan by a 45 percent to 42 percent margin.

For partisans, attention to the debate reinforced support for their own party’s candidate. At this point, Booker does much better than Lonegan within his party: 96 percent of likely Democrats are in Booker’s corner, while Lonegan wins only 74 percent of Republicans. GOP backers are less likely to have followed the debates: 36 percent compared to 49 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of likely independent voters.

“Other recent polls showed a narrower lead for Booker, but voters we talked to seem to have moved back in his direction,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “The debates presented a stark picture of the differences between the candidates, which appears to have led independents to prefer Booker. While both candidates came out swinging, Lonegan’s attacks bordered on the taboo, with his ‘floating dead bodies’ and ‘big black hole’ comments about Newark – reminiscent of the rhetoric that got him into hot water early in the campaign. Independents in particular dislike these kinds of attack.”

Results are from a sample of 513 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points. These likely voters are part of a sample of 798 registered voters polled statewide using live callers to both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13.

Voters paying some attention

The uniqueness of the special Senate election makes estimates of turnout difficult and suggests that the final result will be unusually dependent on the candidates’ abilities to motivate their supporters. There is some evidence that voters are paying attention. More than half of registered voters know there is an election in October, and 45 percent know it will be held Oct. 16. Just over half are following the election at least fairly closely, with about one in five paying very close attention. Sixty percent of registered voters claim they are very likely to vote Wednesday.

Booker holds a commanding lead with minority voters, urbanites and voters in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region. Lonegan leads among voters in shore counties, 46 percent to 44 percent, while losing northwestern exurban voters, 51 percent to 41 percent, a better performance than his statewide margin.

“Here’s the key: if the Booker campaign can turn out urban voters and Democrats who say they will vote, he will be in the range we estimate,” said Redlawsk. “If Lonegan’s turnout operation is stronger and Booker’s base stays home thinking it is all wrapped up, then all bets are off.”

Booker ratings down slightly on Lonegan attacks

Lonegan’s attacks throughout the campaign appear to have had some impact. While Booker receives positive ratings from 54 percent of likely voters, this is a nine-point drop from an early September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Concurrently, his unfavorability has almost doubled to 32 percent.  Still, asked to rate the Democrat on a scale of 0 to 100 degrees, voters remain warm toward Booker with an average score of 56 degrees. The overriding emotional response to Booker is “hope,” with 48 percent saying his campaign makes them feel hopeful and 33 percent proud. In contrast, only 12 percent are angered and 19 percent worried by Booker.

Lonegan, however, continues to leave either a negative impression or none at all on most likely voters. While favorable impressions of the Republican have risen eight points to 30 percent, the share of voters who hold unfavorable impressions climbed to 34 percent. Over one third have no opinion on the GOP candidate. In general, likely voters are quite cool toward Lonegan; he averages only 41 degrees on the poll’s thermometer. Voters feel more negative about Lonegan than Booker: 37 percent are worried, and 30 percent angered by his campaign. Thirty percent are hopeful and 16 percent are proud of the candidate.

Many voters see Booker as a self-promoter

Booker is not without weaknesses. A third of likely voters say Booker is more about self-promotion and that life in Newark has improved little under this watch. While Lonegan has gained some support though this line of attack, a plurality (47 percent) continues to believe Booker has made real improvement in Newark.

Booker’s position on issues is seen as “about right” for 42 percent of likely voters, but 44 percent think he is too liberal, even for blue New Jersey. Lonegan, however, is thought too conservative by a large majority of likely voters; 60 percent say he is further to the right than most of the state, while only 18 percent say his views are right on par with the preferences of New Jerseyans.

“By all measures, voters see Booker as somewhat more in tune with New Jersey and see Lonegan as less so,” said Redlawsk. “Although Lonegan has tarnished Booker’s image, Booker remains the clear preference of voters, generating warmer feelings and a strongly positive impression, and taking positions more in line with what voters want.”

The party base, women and independents support Booker

Booker’s advantage over Lonegan is driven by overwhelming support from his own party base and a winning margin with independents. Ninety-six percent of likely Democratic voters back Booker, compared to only 74 percent of likely Republican voters who support Lonegan.  Independents also are in Booker’s corner, 49 percent to 41 percent for Lonegan. Newark’s mayor captures 16 percent of the Republican vote, while Lonegan peels off only 2 percent of Democrats.

Booker leads across virtually all demographic groups. While both men and women go for Booker, women are 13 points more likely than men to say they will vote for the Democrat and 18 points less likely than men to say they will vote for his opponent, evidencing a wide gender gap.

Booker also gets support from almost 9 in 10 likely voters who say he has made a real difference in Newark, but among those who think Booker is too much about his own self-promotion, only one in five say they will vote for him.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, Steve Lonegan

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff: Millennial Voters and Governor Christie’s Job Approval on the Economy

Rene Polanco III and Alexa Marzocca are Rutgers undergraduates and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling public relations/social media interns. Following is their analysis of younger voters and support for Gov. Chris Christie.

The other week, our results showed Governor Chris Christie still riding high in terms of favorability and job approval. Sixty percent of all New Jersey registered voters favor the governor and 66 percent approve of the job he is doing.

Taking a closer look by age shows some interesting – and perhaps even unexpected – patterns.  Among 18-39 year-olds, 68 percent approve of the job Christie is doing overall.  More than half of these younger voters (52 percent) also specifically approve of Christie’s handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs, which they rank as the most important issue facing New Jersey.  Both 40-64 year-olds and those older than 65 also say the economy and jobs is the top problem facing the state, but approval of Christie within this issue area is not as high among these older voters.  Only 38 percent of each older group approve of how the governor is handling this issue.

Despite the high approval rating from younger voters, New Jersey’s economy has continued to struggle.  A recent CNN article reported that New Jersey has the 7th worst unemployment rate in the country at 8.6 percent.  The state’s poverty rate has reached a 52-year high, with nearly 25 percent of residents living under the poverty level.  In some counties, more than 30 percent of the populations are living under the poverty line.

Given New Jersey’s reputation as a “blue state” and its high unemployment rate, it is interesting to note how these age groups view this issue differently and how some of the most positive ratings for it are coming from younger voters.  Are younger voters doing better in New Jersey’s job market than older voters?  Is it because some of them are more likely to still be in school or not as likely to have a family to support yet?  Or perhaps it is because these younger voters are more influenced by name recognition and the amount of media coverage the governor receives.

After all, younger voters show the lowest favorable ratings for Buono among all age groups (23 percent), but they also are more likely than others to have no opinion on the Democratic candidate or to be unfamiliar with her (59 percent).  With 18 percent unfavorable, there is no groundswell against Buono, just a lack of awareness.

But six in ten younger voters are favorable toward Christie, on the other hand, with just about 10 percent saying they have no opinion on the governor. As a result many more are negative about him than Buono as well as positive. The governor is visible to these voters but Buono is not. This may account as much as anything for their attitude toward Chris Christie.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff: The Jersey Shore and Christie’s Tremendous Favorability

Ian McGeown, Liz Kantor, and Max Mescall are Rutgers undergraduate students who work as interns for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following is their analysis of continuing  support for Gov. Chris Christie in the Shore region of New Jersey.

In the months following Hurricane Sandy, Governor Chris Christie’s re-election numbers have been consistently high.  Our most recent poll shows that Christie has a 20 point lead with likely voters over State Senator Barbara Buono, 55 percent to 35 percent.  As you might expect, Christie’s numbers are even higher along the Jersey Shore, the area most directly affected by the Governor’s recovery efforts; we find that an overwhelming 70 percent of voters living in the shore region would vote for Governor Christie if the election were held today. While Christie’s favorable re-election prospects are often attributed to his leadership on Hurricane Sandy, especially within those areas hardest hit by the superstorm, this may not be the whole story.

The Jersey Shore has a history of voting Republican in general elections. In fact, for this upcoming election, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by more than 30,000 in Ocean County and are just 4,000 registered voters shy of an outright majority in Monmouth County.  These areas have long supported Republican candidates, as affiliation with the Republican Party has been stronger there than much of the state over the years,  as these data from 1998 show.  The numerical advantage that the Republicans have in these counties gives the GOP a rare stronghold in an otherwise pretty Democratic state.

We found that this holds true in our own numbers.  Looking at the breakdown of party identification for our latest poll, there is noticeable disparity among regions.  About 29 percent of likely voters along the shore are Republicans, second only to voters in exurban areas, where 32 percent affiliate with the Republican Party.  This is around double the rate of urban areas, where only 15 percent of likely voters identify with the GOP.  These differences in partisan breakdown by region are statistically significant at the .01 level, indicating a very low likelihood that these disparities are just by chance.

While it makes sense to attribute Christie’s high re-election numbers to recent events like Sandy, especially in the regions that suffered the most from the storm, it is just as important to consider the way that historical voting patterns continue to affect elections. Traditional Republican ties along the Jersey Shore have certainly had some influence on the higher-than-usual re-election numbers that Christie is hoping will carry him to a landslide victory in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie