Monthly Archives: November 2013

NEW JERSEYANS BELIEVE SHORE RECOVERY STILL A LONG WAY OFF

Today we issue another report in our ongoing attempts to assess attitudes toward recovery from Superstorm Sandy, which hit NJ and the east coast just over a year ago.  We asked just a few questions this time, focused on how people think the recovery is going. Two of these questions we last asked in April (Are we back to normal; how long will it take) and two of the others we asked in June. (Rating recovery for the state overall and for the Shore on a 1-10 scale.)

New Jersey voters appear to be less positive about recovery than they were a few months ago. While more now think we’re already back to normal, the large majority does not and they think it will be a while. And recovery ratings have definitely slipped for both the Shore and the state overall. We added a few other targets for the question this time, including whether businesses, homeowners with damage, and tourism are recovered. Assessments of the Shore recovery are the worst of the group, and are noticeably lower than they were in June.

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

NEW JERSEYANS BELIEVE SHORE RECOVERY STILL A LONG WAY OFF

Two in three residents say state is not yet ‘back to normal,’ Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jerseyans are still feeling the effects of Sandy one year after the hurricane pounded the Garden State, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of registered voters, with two-thirds saying the state is not yet “back to normal.” The results represent some improvement since April 2013, when 78 percent said life here was not yet normal. Most still think it will be years before normalcy returns.

Just 12 percent of respondents who think things are not normal are optimistic pre-Sandy conditions will return within another year. Sixty-one percent expect a return to normalcy might take up to five years, and 13 percent think it will take up to a decade. Three percent see recovery taking more than a decade, and 6 percent say pre-Sandy normalcy will never return. Another six percent are uncertain.

“While slightly more Garden Staters think we are back, many are no more optimistic about the length of recovery than they were back in April,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “At that time, 78 percent saw a return to normalcy taking as long as five years. That number has declined only five points. Clearly, New Jerseyans continue to see a long haul ahead.”

Despite the modest improvement in outlook, most respondents give low to mediocre ratings to progress of the recovery. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning “not at all recovered” and 10 meaning “fully recovered,” voters score the state’s overall recovery at 6.1. Asked about specifics, ratings are lower. Recovery of the Shore region is rated at 4.7, while voters score recovery for homeowners with sustained damage, at 4.8. Assessments of tourism (5.7) and business (5.9) are somewhat more favorable.

In a June poll, voters gave Shore recovery a mark of 6.2. The state’s overall recovery mark also has dropped, from 6.9 in the last poll.

“Since summer, we have seen the Seaside Park boardwalk fire and an increase in media attention to those who have not yet recovered from the storm,” said Redlawsk. “Moreover, there were reports of disappointing summer tourism. It is not surprising people feel less positive about the recovery.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 28 – Nov 2.

Sandy’s impact and partisanship influence assessment

Even though ratings are down from April, Voters’ assessment of the recovery of New Jersey as a whole is significantly better than perceptions of its individual aspects. Voters most often give the state’s recovery a 7, chosen by 24 percent, with another quarter rating the overall recovery from 8 to 10. Voters who supported Gov. Chris Christie are much more positive than voters in state Sen. Barbara Buono’s camp, with an average rating of 6.4, compared to 5.7. Those who approve of Christie’s job on Sandy give an average rating that is a point and a half higher than those who disapprove of his efforts.

Assessments of the state’s overall recovery are significantly higher than those specifically focused on the Jersey Shore. Among all voters, the most frequent rating for the region’s recovery is 5, given by just under one-quarter of voters. Another quarter rate Shore recovery at 6 or 7, but almost as many rate it at 3 or 4. The majority of New Jerseyans, 64 percent, rate Shore recovery at 5 or lower.

Those personally affected by Sandy rate progress at the Shore lower, at 4.5, compared to those who were not personally impacted, who rate it a 4.9. Those who live in Shore counties, however, give recovery slightly higher rating on average (4.8) compared to the 4.6 awarded by urban voters, the 4.4 by those living in suburban counties, and exurban resident’s average rating of 4.5.

Recovery ratings for the Shore are also fueled by partisan allegiances and feelings towards Christie. Republicans give a higher average rating (5.0) than either independents (4.6) or Democrats (4.7). Similar patterns occur based on vote preference: Christie voters see Shore recovery at 4.9, while Buono voters give it a 4.3 rating.

“While damage occurred throughout much of the state, most of the focus on recovery has been aimed at the Jersey Shore, since that region is so iconic,” noted Redlawsk. “This has convinced many that the region’s recovery lags the state’s. Even the governor’s supporters see a big gap between the overall state recovery and the Shore’s.”

Assessments of recovery for homeowners who sustained damage from Sandy are similar to those for the Shore. Voters statewide are most likely to give progress on this matter a 5, with the majority – 65 percent – scoring homeowner recovery at 5 or lower.

Shore residents are most negative about how those who suffered damage are doing, giving a 4.6 rating, lower than they give the region’s recovery generally. But statewide, voters personally affected by Sandy score homeowner recovery slightly higher than those who were not directly affected, 4.8 to 4.6. As with Shore recovery, Republicans on average give a 5.2 rating to homeowner recovery, higher than independents (4.7) and Democrats (4.5).

Business and tourism recovery seen slightly better

Voters are slightly more positive about progress with New Jersey tourism and businesses in general, than about the Shore, rating recovery in these areas at 5.7 and 5.9, respectively. Voters are most likely to rate tourism, 5, and all businesses, 7.  Almost three-quarters of voters give tourism a 5 or higher, as do 80 percent for businesses overall.

While tourism recovery is rated slightly higher by voters living down the Shore (5.8) than in most other regions, voters personally affected by Sandy give lower ratings than those who were not (5.6 versus 5.8). Republicans and those favorable toward Christie rate tourism higher than do Democrats and independents, and those who approve of Christie’s handling of Sandy specifically rate tourism more than a point higher than those who do not.

As for businesses in general, those living down the Shore give the lowest rating (5.6) compared to other regions, as do those in the lowest income bracket (5.5). Voters who were personally affected by the storm show little difference from those who were not (5.9 versus 6.0.)  As with other areas, those in Christie’s corner once again give higher ratings than those who are not.

Impact of Sandy lingers

Sixty-seven percent say post-Sandy New Jersey is not back to normal, while 28 percent say it is, and 6 percent are unsure. Not surprisingly, 76 percent of those in the hardest hit Shore areas say things are not back to normal, higher than in other regions of the state.

While more than a quarter of voters say New Jersey has returned to normalcy, the rest are not overly optimistic, expecting rebuilding to still take another one to five years. Those in the Shore region are least hopeful. Among shore residents awaiting normalcy, only 9 percent see recovery happening within the next year and another 58 percent say one to five years. But 18 percent say it will take five to 10 years, 5 percent say 10 or more years, and 7 percent say the state will never return to pre-Sandy normalcy.

Partisanship colors optimism, with Republicans more than twice as likely as independents and Democrats to say the state will return to normal in a year; they are also much less likely to say it will take much longer or will never fully return to normal. Those favorable toward Christie and those who approve of his handling of Sandy show similar patterns.

About half the state’s residents say they were personally affected by Sandy and its aftermath.

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NEW JERSEY VOTERS EXPECT CHRISTIE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT; THINK HIS TOUGH TALK WORKS HERE, BUT MAY NOT ‘PLAY IN PEORIA’

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

NEW JERSEY VOTERS EXPECT CHRISTIE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT; THINK HIS TOUGH TALK WORKS HERE, BUT MAY NOT ‘PLAY IN PEORIA’

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A clear majority of New Jersey’s registered voters expect Gov. Chris Christie to run for president in 2016, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. As voters geared up for last week’s gubernatorial election, 59 percent said Christie would run, while 19 percent thought he would not. Twenty-two percent were unsure.

Forty-five percent of voters thought Christie will resign to run, and 33 percent expected him to finish his term, including those who said he would run without resigning. Twenty-three percent were uncertain whether the governor will complete his second term.

Yet in last week’s election, very few voters were influenced by these expectations: more than three-quarters said Christie’s future plans would have no impact on their vote. Only 8 percent said an anticipated run made them more likely to vote for Christie, while slightly more –13 percent – said his presidential ambitions made them less likely to vote for him.

“Here is the most direct evidence yet that Sen. Barbara Buono’s attack on Christie’s apparent presidential ambitions was misguided,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Voters think he is going to run, but most didn’t see that as a reason to oppose him, even while many expect him to resign before the end of his term.”

Most voters see no conflict between Christie considering a presidential run and New Jersey’s needs. A plurality (44 percent) views Christie’s stance on issues and extensive nationwide travel as “doing what’s best for New Jersey.” But a third thinks Christie is more focused on running for president. Another 10 percent say Christie has been doing a bit of both, while 13 percent are undecided.

“Many voters agree with Christie’s assertion that, when it comes to governing New Jersey while considering a 2016 presidential run, he can ‘walk and chew gum at the same time,’” said Redlawsk.

As for Christie’s famously confrontational style, voters agree with the governor, by a 2 to 1 margin, that it shows leadership and helps him get things done at home. Only 30 percent say it is disrespectful and hurts his ability to lead in the state.

At the same time, voters are much less sure that the tough-guy attitude will go over well on the national stage. Thirty-six percent think it will, but 46 percent say voters across the country will not like his attitude.  Just 4 percent say it will not make a difference, and another 14 percent are unsure.

Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 28 – Nov 2.

Tough talk and the electorate

While Christie’s tough talk approach to politics was often questioned by his opponent and the media, most voters think it reflects leadership and helps him get things done. However, Democrats are not so sure. They are slightly more likely to think Christie’s style is disrespectful and hurts his ability to lead, by a 47 percent to 42 percent margin. On the other hand, 76 percent of Republicans stand by the governor’s tough style; only 15 percent believe it hurts his ability to lead.

Independents also like Christie’s approach, and 64 percent say his blunt style works in the Garden State, while 23 percent dissent. Christie supporters overwhelmingly think his attitude helps him govern (78 percent), while 61 percent of Buono voters say the opposite.

But a tough-guy attitude may take the governor only so far, at least in the eyes of many New Jerseyans, 46 percent of who are dubious that the rest of the country will like Christie’s style.

Republicans are the most positive on this score. Just over half think Christie’s approach will go over well, but a third disagrees. Independents are evenly split on the matter, with 40 percent on either side. Democrats do not think Christie’s brashness is well suited for the national stage; 62 percent think the rest of the nation will not appreciate his approach, while 22 percent think others will accept it. Even 36 percent of the governor’s supporters think his attitude will not play out well on the national stage.

Also, beliefs about Christie’s tough-guy approach bring out a gender gap. Women are five points less likely to say Christie’s confrontational style helps him govern and are 10 points less likely to think his style will serve him well on the national stage.

Partisanship prevails on consequences

Majorities of registered voters of every political persuasion expect Christie to run for president, including just over 60 percent of both Christie and Buono voters, and about the same share of those with either favorable or unfavorable views of the governor.

Eighty percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents reported that a potential Christie run would have no effect on their vote on Election Day. Twelve percent of Republicans and 10 percent of independents saw his presidential ambitions as a reason to vote for Christie. Democrats, however, were more negative: although 73 percent said a possible run did not matter, 20 percent said the talk was making them less likely to choose the governor. Of those who planned to vote for Buono, 28 percent said the potential presidential run made them less likely to support Christie.

“Buono’s message did not resonate with many voters, but among her supporters, some were drawn by the expectation Christie will leave the state,” noted Redlawsk. “But, for the most part, this attack made little difference.”

A majority of Democrats expect Christie to resign to run for president; just 28 percent think he will finish his new term. Forty-three percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents also expect a resignation at some point, while about one-third of each group says Christie will stay in office. Christie voters give a slight edge to finishing over resigning, 38 percent to 36 percent.

By more than a 2 to 1 margin, voters who think Christie is already running for president say he will leave Trenton. Buono voters also expect him to step down.

Partisanship is clearly evident about whether Christie’s travel and actions in office have been in New Jersey’s best interests. Sixty-three percent of Republicans believe the governor is more focused on the good of the state, while 14 percent see him as more focused on running for president. Independents are more divided; 44 percent think Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey, and 32 percent think he is more focused on holding higher office.

A plurality of Democrats (45 percent) say Christie is preoccupied with presidential aspirations, while 32 percent see him focused primarily on what is best for New Jersey. Sixty-three percent of Christie voters say the governor is doing what’s best for the state, while 70 percent of Buono backers disagree.

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Election Wrapup: Christie Victory Driven by a Year of High Personal Ratings Post-Sandy

Today we have some favorability numbers on Gov. Christie and analysis of those numbers as they relate to the election. These were colleced immediately pre-election and give us a sense of how all registered voters were viewing the governor. Of course, in the end, it looks like only about 38% of registered voters actually voted this year, perahps the lowest turnout in a very long time (if not ever) for a gubernatorial election that included the entire legislature. Perhaps the October special election had something to do with it, or maybe the simple fact that the election was relatively non-competitive not just for governor, but for almost all legislative seats, with just a few exceptions.

Click here for a PDF of the full release with questions and tables

CHRISTIE’S RE-ELECTION A PERSONAL VICTORY DRIVEN BY YEAR OF HIGH RATINGS POST-SANDY

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As voters headed to the polls Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election bid was buoyed by some of his highest favorability ratings – 65 percent – since February 2013, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 27 percent of registered voters held an unfavorable impression of the governor. Similarly, 68 percent approved of the incumbent’s job performance and 59 percent said his work deserved at least a “B” grade.

Christie’s new ratings were nearly as high as they were right after Sandy, when 67 percent of respondents had a favorable impression and 61 percent awarded him at least a B. As he concludes his first term, Christie’s favorability rating is more than 20 points higher than it was just weeks after his inauguration in January 2010.

Despite Christie’s overall consistently high ratings, voters continued to question his performance on important issues. Near the campaign’s end, voters remained less than happy with his performance on taxes (42 percent) and the economy (45 percent). Voters were more taken with Christie’s Sandy recovery effort (80 percent approving), which kept his overall ratings high throughout the year.

“Governors and presidents regularly see downward trends in ratings over their term in office,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governor Christie, however, managed to counter that, to his benefit in the re-election campaign. The cause is clearly his leadership in response to Sandy, which overrode other concerns voters might have had. His victory Tuesday was highly personal, not driven by issues.”

Christie’s re-election also was aided by challenger Barbara Buono’s inability to become well known by voters. Immediately before the election, 39 percent still had no real impression of the Democratic state senator. What voters did learn about Buono seemed likely to be more driven by the Christie campaign’s efforts to define her; negative impressions of Buono edged out positive impressions, 32 percent to 28 percent.

Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct 28 – Nov 2.

High overall ratings spur Christie victory

Following Sandy, Christie maintained exceptionally high ratings among his own base as well as from his otherwise usual detractors. While 92 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of independents held a favorable impression,
Democrats reported a seven-point more positive assessment compared to early October. Forty-five percent of Democrats viewed the governor favorably right before Election Day, compared to only 22 percent before Sandy struck.

“As much as she tried, Barbara Buono clearly was unable to make a dent in the goodwill the governor built up following Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “That Democrats became even more positive toward Christie as the campaign wore on testifies to how difficult a task she faced.”

Fifty-one percent of Democrats gave Christie credit for his job performance. They were joined by 93 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of independents. As for assigning a grade, 86 percent of GOP voters, 59 percent of independents, and 43 percent of Democrats awarded at least a B.

Christie’s overall ratings hid a great deal of unrealized discontent on specific issues, something Buono was unable to tap despite her efforts. As the election neared, voters remained more negative than positive on Christie’s handling of taxes (42 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved). Voters were split on the economy, with 45 percent approving Christie’s performance and 44 percent disapproving. The two issues were by far seen as the most important: one-third named the economy and jobs and 25 percent called taxes the biggest problem facing the state.

But Sandy recovery was a different story. A year after the storm, approval of Christie’s Sandy efforts continued to be widespread and untarnished by Buono’s attacks. Even her strongest supporters approved Christie’s work on recovery.

“New Jersey voters did not necessarily buy Christie’s claims about the economy and taxes, but they also didn’t think Buono would do better,” said Redlawsk. “And though voters consistently said these two issues were top concerns, it’s clear that in the voting booth, positive impressions of Christie overrode any focus on issues.”

Even among those who disapproved of Christie on taxes, 47 percent retained a favorable impression of the governor, and 44 percent said they would vote for him. Disapproval on other issues did not lead invariably to dislike, either. On each issue about one-third of those disapproving remained favorable toward Christie.

Approval of Christie’s stance on education increased in the final month, from 48 percent to 54 percent. More than half also approved Christie’s work on the state budget, and crime and drugs.

Christie’s popularity helped shape opinions on New Jersey’s overall well-being: 59 percent said the state was headed in the right direction, while 34 percent said it was off on the wrong track. While Republicans and independents overwhelmingly felt more positive about New Jersey, even a plurality of Democrats (48 percent) said the state was going in the right direction.

One consequence of Christie’s personal star power was that his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, remained virtually unknown. Two-thirds of voters continued to have no impression of her, while only 21 percent said they felt favorable and 12 percent felt unfavorable.

Buono remained mostly unknown

Buono’s struggle to gain name recognition did not improve in the final days of the race. More registered voters had no impression of her than had a favorable impression. Only 48 percent of Democrats had a favorable impression of their candidate, while 39 percent had no impression at all.

Even more independents (42 percent) had no impression of the challenger, with just 21 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable. Republicans were most likely to know something about Buono, but it was all bad, as 59 percent of GOP registered voters had a negative impression, while only 10 percent were positive.

Buono’s running mate, Milly Silva, fared only a little worse than Guadagno in terms of recognition: 72 percent had no impression of Silva as Election Day approached.

Voter contact favored Christie, but TV was the best messenger

While noticing the ubiquitous Christie for Governor TV ads, most registered voters did not recall receiving any direct contact from either gubernatorial campaign or from political parties or other groups. Just 26 percent reported some kind of campaign contact.

Among contacted voters, 54 percent said they heard from the Christie campaign, while 41 percent reported a Buono contact. One-third reported a Republican Party contact, and 27 percent said they heard from the Democratic Party.

Fewer than 10 percent heard from other candidates, non-campaign organizations, or other entities.

Christie’s outreach reflected his efforts to paint himself as a bipartisan candidate. Republicans, independents and Democrats were all equally likely to report a Christie contact. But Buono’s need to keep her own base is reflected in the fact that Democrats were seven points more likely than independents and 18 points more likely than Republicans to say they were contacted by Buono.

Traditional media sources continued to be where voters got information about the governor’s race. Eighty-two percent got their news from television, and 58 percent from newspapers. Internet and radio were nearly as popular, however, with 52 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Television campaign commercials still reached the largest share of voters: more than three-quarters reported that they saw or heard a campaign ad from one of the candidates, with voters eight points more likely to report seeing a Christie ad than a Buono ad.

“While the internet has become an important information source, voters still reported that television is where they learned most about the campaign, which was covered extensively by national TV news, even if New Jersey has no real local television,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time it is likely that the wall-to-wall Christie ads in particular are part of what voters were responding to when they said TV was an information source. Those ads were pretty hard to miss.”

Some partisan differences in news preferences appeared. While television and newspaper usage was quite even across all partisans, Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to use the internet and radio. Radio was also more popular with Christie voters but the internet was more popular with Buono voters.

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Well, we overstated this one too.

Results are mostly in and Gov. Chris Christie appears to have won by about 22 points or so. That’s a huge win, of course, especially for a Republican in a “blue” state. But it is somewhat below Quinnipiac’s final 28 point lead and our whopping 36 point lead. Monmouth again was closest.

While we’re of course not happy about being so far off, we’re also sitting here scratching our heads a bit. When we look at our likely voters screens as well as our raw numbers in terms of registered voters, it’s hard to see what went wrong. It is the case we did not have enough Democrats, if the CNN exit polls as of right now (10:45pm on Tuesday) are right, about 40% of voters were Democrats, and we had it at 36%.  But the more direct “cause” is that 38% of Democrats we talked to told us they were voting for Christie, as did 70% of independents. CNN says 32% of Democrats went for Christie, and 66% of Independents. Combined these folks make up 72% of the electorate, and we overstated Christie support in both groups.

The fact is, however, this is what our data show. And at a basic level our sample is well representative of the state both in terms of demographics, as well distribution throughout the state, and we talk to people on both landlines and cell phones. So the skew isn’t coming there in any serious way, and the skew is not an obvious partisan one since we overstated both a Democrat (Booker) and a Republican (Christie). And more interesting, perhaps, is that many of our other numbers fit with what we and other polls have consistently found in terms of Christie approval ratings and other measures that can be compared. And in October, using the same methodology, we came up with numbers (Christie +26) that were basically where Monmouth was (+24) and well below Quinnipiac (+33).

So we have to look at the possibility that something about our live caller operation is creating a “winner” effect at the very end – overstating results for the leading candidate through the interaction of our callers and the respondents in some way unique to our operation. We have begun to analyze what happened with our overstating of Booker’s win, and that may be something different – we are seeing some serious possibility of a “race of interviewer” effect where our white interviewers were far less likely to be told the respondent was voting for Booker than were our non-white interviewers. (We will have more on this when we complete the analysis and we will report the details here.) But that isn’t the issue here at all.

We also have to look at the nature of our questionnaires. Given that we can only poll a limited number of times in any given year, and we have a lot of questions we like to ask in any given poll. Maybe adding other questions to a pre-election poll (that is questions beside the basic voting stuff) is a potential problem. In this case, we stuck with our usual mode of asking our battery of favorability and approval ratings before we went on to the voter turnout questions and the actual vote. It is certainly possible that we skewed things toward Christie by first asking a fairly detailed battery of favorability and approval questions, most of which were about Christie (only one – favorability) was about Buono.

There are no doubt other things we will look at as well as we try to improve our operations.

In any case, we suppose there is small comfort in getting the winners right, but it is very small. At least it isn’t 1993 when the then Star-Ledger Eagleton Poll not only consistently gave Jim Florio clear leads, but in the final poll that year put him up 9 points. Of course, Christie Whitman eked out that win, making the poll about 10+ points off, and picking the wrong winner to boot. Our error is in the same ballpark 20 years later, but thanks to Christie’s overwhelming win, we at least didn’t get the winner wrong!

 

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CHRISTIE MAY BE GAINING ‘COATTAILS’ AS BUONO’S BASE ABANDONS HER

Well, once again there are widely varying polls in the last days of an election. And once again we’re at the high end, though this time we are more Republican than some others. Today while we show Gov. Christie with a massive 36 point lead, Monmouth puts the race at 20 points. But this time we’re not alone since a few days ago Quinnipiac gave Christie a 33 point lead and today they say 28 points.

A quick look at Monmouth shows the big difference is due in large part to the reported partisan vote. They have Buono winning 70% of Democrats. In our poll only 59% of Democrats said they are sticking with Buono while 38% support Christie. This alone accounts for some 2/3 of the difference between the polls. The new Quinnipiac Poll today splits the difference here as it does overall – they have Buono winning 64% of Democrats, halfway between us and Monmouth.

Our differences with Quinnipiac are relatively trivial, and within our respective margins of margins of error. But Monmouth definitely tells a different story.

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

CHRISTIE MAY BE GAINING ‘COATTAILS’ AS BUONO’S BASE ABANDONS HER

Governor holds better than 2-1 lead over challenger

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In the final hours before New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Gov. Chris Christie’s lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono has grown to 36 points among likely voters, up 10 points in the last month, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s 66 percent to 30 percent margin may also be helping Republican Assembly and Senate candidates, as voters prefer Democrats keep control of the Legislature by only seven points, down from 12 points in early September.

Christie’s increasing home stretch lead reflects a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Buono, leading to decreased levels of attention to the race and a lower likelihood of voting. While 95 percent of Republicans support Christie, only 59 percent of Democrats plan to vote for Buono.

“Over the past month, Christie’s campaign appears to have convinced more Democrats to abandon Buono,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Whether Democrats are switching to Christie or just planning to stay home, the small gains Buono had made with her party base over previous months have been reversed. The risk is great for Democrats up and down the ballot if uninspired party faithful fail to turn out.”

In a generic statewide ballot test, likely voters give Assembly Democrats just a six-point margin, 42 percent to 36 percent, nearly erasing what was a 17-point Democratic lead in early September. The state Senate vote is similar: 44 percent plan to vote for Democrats, while 38 percent will support the GOP. Overall, 47 percent of likely voters still want Democrats in control of the Legislature while 40 percent hope for a Republican takeover, down from 50 percent to 38 percent two months ago.

“The real story tomorrow could be that Republicans make unexpected legislative gains,” said Redlawsk. “While the gerrymandered nature of legislative districts – mostly drawn to favor one party over the other – argues against a Republican takeover, Christie’s huge margin may make a difference.”

Voters continue to favor overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour, 68 percent to 30 percent.

Results are from a sample of 535 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points, drawn from 804 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie makes more inroads into Buono’s base

Christie’s already large lead has grown within almost every group of voters. The governor wins 95 percent of his own party members, up two points since October. Likewise, 73 percent of independents now support Christie, up five points. Buono gets support from just 20 percent of independents. Democrats have especially taken to Christie in the final week; 38 percent now say they support him, up from 25 percent four weeks ago. Buono garners only 59 percent among Democrats.

Nonwhite voters also have moved into Christie’s column, 55 percent to 40 percent for Buono, a reversal from early September. Her other stronghold, public union households, now gives Buono just a three-point lead, 48 percent to 45 percent, down from nine points.

“There is simply no good news for Buono in any of our numbers,” said Redlawsk. “To top it off, Christie’s efforts to court black and Hispanic voters seem to be paying off much better than might have been expected.”

Christie continues to win big across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though his margin is somewhat smaller among the most educated. Among voters in households with incomes under $50,000 that usually lean Democratic, Christie’s lead has doubled and is now 70 percent to 27 percent. Christie also holds massive leads in every region of the state.

There is only a limited gender gap in support for the governor. Christie has a 2-1 lead among women (63 percent to 32 percent), while men are five points more likely to back him.

Christie coattails may be in play

Democrats have held a wide lead over Republicans in statewide generic tests of Assembly and Senate races all year. But the combination of a huge Christie margin and possible demobilization of Democrats may be having an impact on down-ballot races, as the previous lead has all but disappeared.

After giving Democrats an 18-point margin in early September, likely voters now favor Democrats by single digits statewide in both Assembly and Senate races. Christie’s success is rubbing off, especially among fellow partisans. Among the increasing number of Christie supporters, Republican Assembly candidates lead, 53 percent to 22 percent. In the Senate, Republicans lead 55 percent to 25 percent among these voters. While more than eight in 10 Buono voters choose legislative Democrats, the smaller share of her supporters means statewide Democrats are in worse shape than two months ago.

Democrats maintain a small lead because most partisan voters still plan to vote for their party in both Assembly and Senate races. However, increasing solidarity among likely Republican voters contributes to Republican gains. In Assembly races, 89 percent of GOP voters are now staying with the party line, up 13 points from September. Eighty-two percent of Democrats plan to vote for legislative Democrats, even as many are defecting to Christie at the top of the ticket. Senate races look similar.

Christie’s coattails are not as strong with independents, but Assembly Republicans eke out a 4- point lead, 32 percent to 28 percent, while independents favor Senate GOPers, 37 percent to 31 percent.

“As always, these statewide tests do not tell us about individual districts, and they are highly contingent on who actually chooses to vote in these races,” noted Redlawsk. “But as the statewide margin closes, some Democratic seats may be more at risk than they were before.”

Democrats lack enthusiasm

Two-thirds of all registered voters say they have followed the election very or fairly closely, and 31 percent are very enthusiastic about their vote choices. Another 52 percent are somewhat enthusiastic.

But Democrats are not nearly as engaged in the race as Republicans. Registered Democrats are five points less likely to say they are paying very close attention to the election, and they are seven points less apt to say they are very likely to turn out to vote. More importantly, enthusiasm for their gubernatorial candidate reveals an even larger gap. Only 22 percent of registered Democrats are very enthusiastic about voting for Buono, compared to half of Republicans who feel that way about re-electing Christie.

“We would expect Democrats remaining with Buono to be more enthusiastic about her compared to defecting Democrats, who might be somewhat reluctantly favoring Christie, but that’s not the case,” said Redlawsk. “Democrats voting for Christie are just as enthusiastic about crossing over as those remaining with Buono feel about her. Across the board, Republicans are excited. Democrats are not.”

Christie voters are much more motivated by support for their candidate than by opposition to Buono. While 60 percent of Buono’s likely voters are primarily voting against Christie, 84 percent of Christie’s voters are marking their ballot in support of him, rather than in opposition to Buono.

Few voters remain unsettled in their choices; only about 10 percent say they might consider changing by Nov. 5. But Buono loses our here as well: 14 percent of her supporters might change their minds versus only 8 percent of Christie voters.

Minimum wage continues to win, but loses some GOP backing

Support for the minimum wage constitutional amendment has fallen eight points since September, to 68 percent, mostly due to an increasingly strong Republican turnout. For the first time, Republicans are now more likely to oppose it: 52 percent are against the increase, versus 45 percent who support it.  Support is also down seven points among independents, though 60 percent still are still in favor. Ninety-one percent of Democrats are behind the minimum wage increase.

Fifty-six percent of Christie voters favor the amendment despite the governor’s opposition –down six points since September. Ninety-one percent of Buono’s backers favor the increase. Women are stronger supporters at 72 percent versus 63 percent for men. A 12-point gap in support exists between the lowest and highest income brackets, though 59 percent in the highest income bracket still support the measure.

“It seems that despite the lack of enthusiasm by Democrats for voting in this election, the minimum wage amendment will pass,” said Redlawsk. “Almost all Democrats will support it, and enough independents agree to likely put it over the top.”

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