Monthly Archives: August 2015

About that YouGov Survey on NJ Being the Most Disliked … A Look at NJ Pride and What Makes the Garden State Great

We end this round of press releases from our latest poll with a little bit of a tribute to the great Garden State as we approach the end of summer.  Back around this past Fourth of July, YouGov released a “State of the States” survey, which found New Jersey to be the least liked state in the nation; Americans were more likely to have an unfavorable opinion of New Jersey (at 40 percent) than a favorable one (at 30 percent) – the only state in the nation about which Americans had net negative views.

So we wanted to give New Jerseyans the chance to “respond,” tell us what life in the Garden State is really like, and say just how much Jersey pride they have and why.  New Jerseyans across the board definitely have Jersey pride, and they love all the things that make the Garden State unique – it’s location, proximity to the city, and its shoreline.

See you back in the fall!

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


Residents concerned with state’s “bum rap” but say New Jersey is a good place to live

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – From the Skylands to the tip of Cape May, residents of the Garden State are proud to live in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than three-quarters of New Jerseyans say they take pride in living here, including 56 percent who exhibit “a lot” of pride. Conversely, only 18 percent say they feel little or no pride about living in New Jersey.

This pride abounds despite concern about how New Jersey is viewed by outsiders. Fifty-seven percent of residents believe New Jersey has a negative image outside of the state, while 35 percent think the state has a positive image; 5 percent say it has a little of both.

Asked in particular about a recent YouGov survey that called New Jersey the most disliked state in the nation, residents are mixed about how much it matters: 26 percent think it matters a lot, 27 percent say some, 14 percent a little, and 33 percent not at all.

Nevertheless, six in 10 New Jerseyans see the Garden State as an excellent or good place to live while three in 10 say it is only fair, and just one in 10 say poor. Moreover, most residents believe the state is as good a place to live as any other: just 23 percent say New Jersey is a worse place to live compared to other states, while 39 percent say it is the same, and 33 percent say it is better.

“In July’s national YouGov survey, New Jersey was the only state about which the rest of America was more negative than positive,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “So we wanted to get New Jerseyans’ take on their own state and to find out how much ‘Jersey pride’ residents have and the reasons they might find New Jersey a great place to live.”

Allegiance to the Garden State stems from the features residents love most. Most important is the state’s location, convenience, and proximity to places like New York and Philadelphia, at 17 percent of New Jerseyans. Following close behind, at 16 percent, is access to the shore, beach, and ocean. Eleven percent of New Jerseyans reference the general quality of life.

“Where else can you be an hour away from two of the biggest cities in the country, as well as the shore – not to mention the variety of scenery, seasons, and culture in between?” said Koning.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Plenty of Jersey pride, praise for Jersey living

Jersey pride is widespread, though some residents show more than others. Women (60 percent), nonwhites (62 percent), senior citizens (64 percent), and those in the lowest income range (63 percent) are more likely than their counterparts to express a lot of pride. Those living in urban areas are much prouder than residents in any other region: 70 percent say they take a lot of pride in being a New Jersey resident. Those in the south near Philadelphia have the least pride by comparison, at 47 percent.

Almost all New Jerseyans who rate the state as an excellent place to live also have lots of pride. Even those concerned about the state’s image and what outsiders think are proud. Pride grows with time spent in the state: 60 percent of those who have lived here virtually their entire lives say they take a lot of pride in being a New Jerseyan, and another 26 percent take some pride.

Contentment with New Jersey as a place to live is likewise prevalent across most groups. Exurbanites, living in northwest New Jersey, are most likely to say the Garden State is an excellent place to live, at 30 percent; southern dwellers are again least likely, at 10 percent. Jersey pride also has a positive effect on rating New Jersey’s livability. Relative newcomers to the state are a bit less likely to rate New Jersey as highly as those who have lived here for a while, yet when it comes to comparing New Jersey to other states, this same group is most likely to say New Jersey is better than or about the same as other states.

Greater concern about state’s image among some groups

Despite their accolades for New Jersey, many residents are nonetheless concerned about how outsiders view the Garden State. White residents (65 percent), those 50 to 64 years old (66 percent), those in higher income brackets (70 percent) and those who have done graduate work (68 percent) are more likely to believe New Jersey is viewed negatively by outsiders.

Perception of New Jersey’s negative image also increases with years spent in state: 62 percent of those who have remained in New Jersey their entire lives believe the state is viewed negatively, while a majority of those who have been state residents the shortest feel the opposite.

Belief that New Jersey has a negative image is more common among those who take less pride in the state, as well as among those who are more negative about New Jersey as a place to live.

In general, New Jersey residents are mixed on the extent to which the views of other Americans matter. Exurbanites appear to be more concerned than those in any other area about the state’s outward appearance, with 61 percent saying it matters at least somewhat what others think. Concern grows among those with negative views on living in New Jersey. It is also concentrated most among relative newcomers to the state – interestingly enough, the group most hopeful about New Jersey’s image.

“The overall positive feelings New Jerseyans have about their home is in direct contrast with the negativity they perceive from outsiders,” noted Koning. “And this concern about what other Americans think comes from New Jerseyans of all stripes, not just those who are more negative about New Jersey themselves.”

What makes the Garden State great

New Jersey is all about “location, location, location”: residents cite the unique ability to be near the city, countryside, and shoreline all at the same time as their most favorite thing about the state. The beach and general quality of life are second and third most named.

Beyond the top three, 8 percent of all New Jerseyans mention something about the state’s diversity and variety as a reason for their positive feelings. Six percent love New Jersey for its outdoors – including its parks, farmland, open spaces and Garden State reputation. The same number say family is their favorite thing about New Jersey, as well as the weather and changing seasons. Five percent mention something about the people in the state, while another 3 percent cite their community and something positive about the state economy and job opportunities. Even a few mention not having to pump their own gas.

White residents, those with higher incomes or more education and those living in northern New Jersey are more likely than others to say something about proximity and easy access to cities than are others. Not surprisingly, shore county residents are far more likely to name the beach as why they love the state (at 40 percent) compared to elsewhere.

Nonwhite, urban and lower-income residents are more likely than others to mention the general quality of life in the Garden State. Those who rate New Jersey as better than or the same as other states are also more likely to mention this than those who say the state is comparatively worse. State pride and perceived image show similar patterns.

“Residents certainly know all that New Jersey has to offer, which is most likely a lot more than casual passersby realize when they fly over the smokestacks and congested highways,” said Koning. “New Jerseyans love all the things – including living up to its nickname – that make the Garden State wonderfully unique.”

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NJers Support Democracy Act’s Updates to NJ Voting Laws

In this final week of releases from our most recent poll, we take a bit of a break from Gov. Christie and how he’s doing both state and nationwide and instead look at some current legislation within the Garden State. The Democracy Act, a bill meant to expand voter participation within New Jersey, now awaits a signature – or, as many presume, a veto – from Gov. Christie after being passed by the state Assembly and Senate in late June. Many say the reforms are long overdue given New Jersey’s bottom-ten ranking in voter participation.

We find pretty widespread support for each of the voting measures included in the bill – and even majority support for a measure taken out during the legislative process regarding registering and voting on Election Day.

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


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jerseyans widely support the voting reforms included in the State Legislature’s recently passed Democracy Act that now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Above all, residents are most supportive of increasing early in-person voting, at 67 percent versus 26 percent who oppose. Two-thirds are also in favor of automatic registration when applying for a driver’s license and printing voting materials in more languages; three in 10 are against each of these initiatives.

Fifty-nine percent support an online voter registration system, while 38 percent do not. The same number supports being able to register and cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, a reform that was ultimately taken out of the current bill; 29 percent oppose this measure.

New Jerseyans furthermore see these changes to the state’s voting system as mostly positive: 51 percent say they will help to increase voter turnout, while 30 percent say they will actually increase voter fraud. Another 9 percent say these reforms will do a little of both, and 10 percent are unsure.

But residents are largely unaware of a major reason for these changes: New Jersey ranks among the bottom 10 states in voter participation. Sixty percent wrongly place New Jersey somewhere in the middle when it comes to voter turnout, and 14 percent even say that the state’s turnout is higher than most others. Just 15 percent correctly guess that New Jersey is lower on this measure than most other states, while another 11 percent are unsure.

“Even if Gov. Christie vetoes the Democracy Act, public opinion for the State Legislature’s side could translate into success for some form of the bill as a ballot initiative in 2016,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “And this solid support exists even though few know how poorly our state does on voter participation: a third of eligible voters turned out in 2014, and just 5 percent voted in the most recent primaries.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans less likely to support changes, more negative on their presumed affect

Democrats and Republicans take predictable sides on the increasingly partisan issue of voter registration, though a majority of GOPers support two of the five measures. Just like New Jerseyans overall, Republicans are most likely to support increased early in-person voting, at 65 percent. Sixty-four percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats feel the same.

Republicans are also largely in favor of another measure that garners significant overall support – automatic registration at the Motor Vehicles Commission. That proposal gets thumbs up from 59 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents, and 77 percent of Democrats.

Even half of Republicans back Election Day registration and provisional voting. Over half of independents agree, as do two-thirds of Democrats. Just over a third of Republicans oppose this reform, compared to three in ten independents and two in 10 Democrats.

But support among GOP members in the Garden State looks vastly different from others on online registration and increasing multi-language voting materials. Republicans are split on both of these measures: 47 percent support an online voter registration system, while 51 percent oppose it, and 44 percent support printing voter materials in more languages, compared to 55 percent who oppose it. By comparison, an online system and especially multi-language materials get solid majority support from both Democrats (69 percent and 81 percent, respectively) and independents (56 percent and 64 percent, respectively).

Looking at the impact these measures will have, Democrats are the only ones to believe firmly that they will increase voter turnout, at 61 percent. Independents are mixed, with 49 percent saying the changes will help with turnout, while 31 percent say the more likely outcome is increased fraud. Republicans are most likely to say these changes will lead to more fraud, at 43 percent, compared to 36 percent who say increased turnout.

“Voter registration has become an increasingly partisan issue over the past several election cycles, a reality reflected in these differences between partisans within New Jersey,” said Koning. “Nevertheless, Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike have a generally positive view on these reforms, and even Republicans are not wholly negative on their subsequent effect – a departure from the governor’s own stance and his presumed future veto.”

Voters vs. non-voters

While a majority of both groups supports each of these measures, those residents already registered to vote are slightly less supportive than those who are not. Voters and non-voters show the biggest disparities when it comes to an online system and printing materials in more languages. Registered voters are 10 points less likely to be in favor of registering online, 57 percent versus 67 percent of non-voters. Registered voters are 18 points less likely to support printing voter materials in even more languages, 63 percent to 81 percent among those not registered.

Voters are also more skeptical of the consequences of these changes than non-voters. Forty-nine percent of those currently registered say the reforms will increase voter turnout, while 32 percent say they will increase voter fraud. Those not currently registered are much more likely to say the changes will increase turnout, at 62 percent, with just 16 percent saying they will increase fraud.

Knowledge of New Jersey’s voter participation rate compared to that in other states does not significantly differ by current registration status.

Greatest support among those who might be helped most

Some components of the bill get the most support from those groups whose members are less likely to register and turn out to vote.

Non-white residents are more likely to support almost every measure than white residents, especially printing voter materials in more languages (78 percent, compared to 59 percent) and automatic registration when applying for a driver’s license (72 percent, compared to 63 percent). White residents are nine points more likely to believe these changes would lead to greater voter fraud.

Millennials are more likely to support each measure than any other age group, especially senior citizens. Those 18 to 34 years old are overwhelmingly in favor of Election Day registration (at 79 percent) and printing materials in more languages (at 84 percent). Senior citizens, on the other hand, do not reach majority support on Election Day registration (at 47 percent support) or an online system (at 41 percent support). This group is also slightly more likely to believe the reforms would encourage more fraud, at 31 percent, though 50 percent of senior residents say they would increase turnout.

While those in lower income brackets are less likely to register and vote, residents at all levels of income feel similarly about the reforms. T­­­hose in households making less than $50,000 annually are less likely to oppose Election Day registration than others (at 22 percent oppose) and more likely to support printing materials in more languages (75 percent support).

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NJ Voters to Christie: Resign since you’re running for President

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


Many say Christie Abandoning New Jersey; Lt. Gov. Seen as Prepared to Take Over

Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday, August 6th.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As NJ Gov. Chris Christie builds his presidential campaign, a majority of registered voters in the Garden State say he should resign as governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. But when told that Democratic state legislators want to pass a law forcing Christie – and all future governors – to resign upon making an official bid for president, voters change their tune.

Forty-five percent of voters told of the Democratic proposal say Christie should be “forced” to resign, while 52 percent say he should be allowed to remain as governor. Among those not given this additional information, 54 percent want Christie to step down, while 41 percent believe he should continue to serve.

“New Jerseyans want the governor to resign now that he is officially in the 2016 primary race – but they want him to do it on his own terms,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While those here at home show little love for Christie or his presidential run, they are nevertheless against his Democratic opposition ousting him from office.”

Support for a Christie resignation stems, at least in part, from a belief that the governor has all but abandoned New Jersey – literally and figuratively. Just 8 percent of respondents thought Christie was physically in New Jersey on the day they were surveyed; 44 percent believed he was out of state. Nearly, half, however, were unsure of Christie’s whereabouts. Even on July 30, the one day of polling when Christie was in the state according to WNYC’s “The Christie Tracker,” voters were no more likely to think he was here.

Fifty-three percent of voters think the constant out-of-state traveling hurts Christie’s ability to be an effective governor, the highest percentage ever recorded by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. However, 39 percent say it has no effect at all. Moreover, 59 percent believe Christie’s issue positions and decisions to sign or veto bills are more about his presidential run than about what is best for New Jersey; 27 percent say the opposite.

Half of voters view Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno as at least somewhat prepared to take over as governor, if necessary; just 15 percent say she is not prepared, and another 35 percent are unsure. Still, few voters have any impression of Guadagno: 15 percent are favorable, 14 percent unfavorable, and the remainder either does not recognize her name or have no impression at all.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Context alters attitudes toward Christie resignation

One-half of poll respondents were asked the straightforward resignation question without any context: should Christie resign now that he is running for president. The others received additional information about the Democrats’ proposed legislation that would “force” Christie into resignation.

While a majority of those getting the question without context says Christie should quit now, voters who were told the Democrats want to force him from office are nine points less likely to support Christie leaving and 11 points more likely to support him staying.

Partisans of all stripes are less likely to say Christie should be “forced” to resign, though to varying degrees: Democrats are seven points less likely (at 61 percent resign when given additional information), independents six points less likely (at 45 percent), and Republicans 13 points less likely (at 22 percent).

A majority of Republicans agrees Christie should continue to serve in both versions but are much more likely to say so when told about the Democrats’ bill – 62 percent compared to 76 percent in the latter scenario. Just over half of independents stand by Christie continuing as governor in the Democratic legislation version, 52 percent compared to 43 percent without the context. Even Democrats show a nine-point spike in support for Christie between the two versions: 26 percent say he should not resign in the straightforward question, while 35 percent say he should not when presented additional information.

“Identifying Democrats as the bill’s authors and its provision to “force” Christie to resign causes independents to completely switch sides and boosts support among Republicans for Christie to remain as governor,” said Koning. “It even suppresses support for resignation among Democrats.”

Voters see Candidate Christie as putting New Jersey second

Christie receives a slight post-presidential announcement boost in views about whether he is putting New Jersey ahead of his presidential run. Voters are five points more likely to say he is focused on New Jersey than they were last February, but a clear majority still says the governor is more focused on his campaign. Christie’s own GOP base remains split over his priorities. Forty-four percent of Republicans say his words and deeds have been about what is best for the Garden State, down 13 points over the past eight months, while 40 percent think Christie is making decisions that would benefit his presidential run, up 13 points.

Just 16 percent of Democrats believe Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey; 72 percent do not. Independents’ views of Christie’s motivations are also negative: 28 percent think he’s acting for the state, versus 60 percent who say decisions are about a presidential run.

Voters also increasingly feel that Christie’s travels – whether for the Republican Governor’s Association last year or for his lead up to and eventual run for president this year – negatively impact his ability to govern here. This number has now surpassed the 50-percent mark for the first time since initially being asked in November 2013.

Republican voters still give Christie the benefit of the doubt: 59 percent say his frequent trips have no impact, while 36 percent now saying they hurt his ability to govern effectively.

But independents and Democrats see things differently: 52 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats say his travels hurt his governorship.

“Governor” Guadagno?

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno continues to remain mostly unknown, even among Republicans: while only 9 percent of her base has an unfavorable opinion of her, just 23 percent has a favorable one. Sixty-eight percent either has no opinion or does not know who she is. About seven in ten Democrats and independents are unaware of or uncertain about the lieutenant governor.

This does not stop half of New Jersey voters, however, from believing she is at least somewhat prepared to take Christie’s place as governor if it were necessary. Guadagno garners the most support from GOP voters: 16 percent think she is very prepared to take over, and another 40 percent say somewhat prepared. Democrats and independents give her similar credit for her experience; 46 percent of the former and 50 percent of the latter say she would be at least somewhat ready for the job. A large percentage of Republicans (30 percent), Democrats (39 percent), and independents (35 percent) remain unsure.

Those who know and like Guadagno definitely see her as ready: 34 percent say she is very prepared and 52 percent say somewhat prepared. Those with a negative opinion of the lieutenant governor are more split, with 39 percent seeing her as prepared, 38 percent seeing her as not prepared, and 23 percent unsure. Those with no opinion or awareness of Guadagno are most likely to say they are uncertain of her preparedness to take over, at 44 percent, but another 35 percent of this group say she is somewhat prepared and 8 percent say very.

“While Christie assures he is still in charge while out of state, the State Constitution makes Guadagno ‘acting governor’ whenever he is away,” noted Koning. “Since Christie has been gone 55 percent of the time this year, maybe voters feel she can handle the job simply because she has already been doing it.”

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No “Announcement Bump” for Christie’s Character: NJ Voters Still Don’t See Him as Presidential … Instead, More Arrogant, Self-Centered, and a Bully

We continue with our numbers on Gov. Chris Christie this week – this time once again polling several questions on his character traits and how he makes NJ voters feel. We have been asking these questions since right around when the governor first took office. The ups and downs of these numbers are pretty remarkable: positivity about the governor’s character skyrocketed between Sandy through his 2013 re-election, peaking to the highest numbers ever recorded, but starting in January 2014, this came to an abrupt end in the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge Scandal. Voters in the Garden State have had an increasingly negative outlook on the governor’s character and how he makes them feel ever since then, with double-digit shifts (all turns for the worse) in all categories between his re-election and now.

Christie actually fares the worst on our newest trait – “presidential.” Up just four points from April, only 14 percent of NJ voters now think this attribute suits Christie very well. Only time will tell if the debate has changed this perception.

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


Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday, August 6th.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Over a month into Gov. Chris Christie’s official 2016 run, voters back home still do not see him as presidential material, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie at all, versus 29 percent who think it describes the governor somewhat well and just 14 percent who say “very well.” These numbers are little changed since April, as have other positive traits that would be considered important to his presidential run.

About half still believe “smart” describes him very well; another third, somewhat. Four in 10 say “strong leader” is very apt (another quarter, somewhat). “Effective” and “trustworthy” continue to suffer post-Bridgegate: 27 percent now feel the former describes him very well (40 percent, somewhat), and 21 percent say the same about the latter (31 percent, somewhat).

Negative perceptions of Christie continue to inch up, with “arrogant” (58 percent very, 25 percent somewhat), “self-centered” (52 percent very, 24 percent somewhat), and “bully” (49 percent very, 25 percent somewhat) reaching new highs. Two-thirds continue to describe Christie as very “stubborn,” (another 22 percent, somewhat). Forty-four percent think “impulsive” is very fitting; 28 percent say somewhat.

“Views on Christie’s character go hand-in-hand with his falling ratings here in the Garden State and are undoubtedly, at least in part, an expression of New Jerseyans’ feelings about his presidential run,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Christie receives no character boost from his official 2016 announcement over a month ago and has yet to recover from post-Bridgegate fallout, which has spurred double-digit shifts in perceptions of him since the overwhelmingly positive responses he drew between Sandy and his re-election in 2013.”

Voters continue to feel “angry” about Christie (now at 43 percent), while almost half are “worried,” and a third even feel “contempt.” About three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic,” but both are down by double digits since Christie’s re-election in 2013, each a six-point drop since Bridgegate alone.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Differences across, within partisanship on positive traits

Christie gets virtually no “announcement bump” from Democrats, independents, or Republicans in being perceived as presidential. Just 6 percent of Democrats continue to say this trait suits him very well, as do 12 percent of independents; a majority of both groups say it does not fit him at all (73 percent and 52 percent, respectively). Twenty-eight percent of Republicans think “presidential” is a very apt descriptor for Christie, on the other hand, while another 42 percent say somewhat and 28 percent say not at all – little changed since measured pre-announcement in April.

Other positive trait perceptions of Christie overall seem to have stabilized for now after 18 months of consistent declines, but some partisan fluctuation continues. Democrats’ positive outlook continues to drop: just 22 percent say strong leader fits Christie very well, down nine points since April, and 34 percent say the same for smart, down six points. Democrats remain virtually steady in their ratings of Christie’s effectiveness (now 15 percent) and trustworthiness (now 7 percent).

Independents, on the other hand, are more likely to ascribe positive qualities to Christie since April: up eight points on both smart (to 54 percent) and leader (to 43 percent) and eight points on trustworthy (to 23 percent). This group remains about the same in saying effective fits Christie very well, at 24 percent.

After helping drive declines in positive perceptions of Christie in April, Republicans now have a somewhat improved outlook on the governor. Among GOP voters, 64 percent say strong leader fits Christie very well, up four points, and 54 percent say the same for effective, up nine points. Republicans are stable in their views of Christie as very smart (71 percent) and trustworthy (38 percent).

“This reprieve from Christie’s free fall on positive characteristics benefits the governor – especially as he gains back some positivity from independents and Republicans,” said Koning. “But Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike continue to budge little in their lackluster views on Christie as presidential. Only time will tell if his debate participation and continued campaigning will alter this perception, but as of now, not even the governor’s home state seems to think he’s right for the Oval Office.”

Independents spur new negative trait highs

In April, Christie’s own party base was a major reason for increasingly negative perceptions about the governor, but this time around, independent voters are mainly the culprits.

On arrogance – now at its highest point ever – just over seven in 10 Democrats still say the trait describes Christie very well; Republicans actually show a nine-point decline in the trait’s aptness, now at 33 percent. The trait jumps with independents to 60 percent, up eight points from a few months ago.

Independents once again show the largest increase in calling Christie very self-centered, up 10 points to 55 percent. But Democrats and Republicans show small increases on this trait as well, the former up five points to 65 percent and the latter up three points to 29 percent.

Independents also take a double-digit leap on their application of bully – up 11 points to 51 percent. Democrats, on the other hand, hold steady at 63 percent, saying bully fits Christie very well, while 25 percent of Republicans feel the same.

These patterns continue for both stubborn and impulsive. Three-quarters of Democrats think stubborn fits Christie very well, compared to about half of Republicans. Sixty-seven percent of independents view the governor as stubborn, a six-point jump since April.

Independents are slightly more likely to now believe Christie is more impulsive as well. Forty-six percent of that group now says this describes Christie very well, up five points. Democrats actually show a small decrease here, down five points to 48 percent. A third of Republicans continue to think impulsive is very fitting.

“This increase in independents’ application of negative traits is troubling for the governor, especially as a presidential candidate who prides himself on his across-the-aisle appeal and hopes to win New Hampshire,” said Koning. “And while Christie certainly had a solid debate performance last Thursday, his spat with Rand Paul, his constant campaigning out of state, and his recent remarks about wanting to punch teachers in the face will not diminish perceptions of him as arrogant and a bully – at least not in New Jersey.”

Partisanship drives emotions

While emotional responses to reading or hearing about Christie have moved only slightly overall, Democrats show noticeable changes since April. Just 11 percent now say Christie makes them proud, down nine points since a few months ago; 30 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans feel the same. Democrats show a 6-point decline in enthusiasm, now 14 percent; 28 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic. Democrats are also six points angrier than they were in April – now 60 percent. Twenty percent of Republicans and 40 percent of independents feel similarly.

It is only on worry and contempt that Democrats have remained steady – now at 63 percent for the former and 39 percent for the latter. Worry has increased 10 points among independents, to 47 percent. Yet it has subsided a bit for Republicans, now at 22 percent (down six points). Independents feel about the same amount of contempt as in April (34 percent), while Republicans have significantly cooled on this feeling as well, down 12 points to 23 percent.

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Increasingly Positive Views on Immigration in New Jersey, but Some Division Still Exists

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


2016 effect? Views colored by partisanship, Trump support

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the immigration debate rages on in the race to 2016, New Jerseyans increasingly support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently working in the United States, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Sixty-four percent of residents now believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for U.S. citizenship, an increase of 12 points since last asked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in 2012. Another 15 percent say they should be allowed to stay as temporary guest workers but not be able to apply, down seven points. Eighteen percent think they should be required to leave the country, a decline of four points.

“Last night, Donald Trump claimed no one was talking about immigration until he did, but here in New Jersey, immigration – both legal and not – has been a hot topic for years,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “In Rutgers-Eagleton polls in the past two decades, New Jerseyans have solidly supported legal status and then citizenship for immigrants. This is not surprising, given that New Jersey is one of the most diverse states and that one in five residents is an immigrant.”

The personal importance of immigration to New Jerseyans has increased over time as well: 14 percent now say it is the most important issue to them, up nine points since 2012, and another 29 percent say it is one of a few very important issues. Thirty-nine percent say it is somewhat important (down seven points), and 17 percent say it is not important to them at all (down three points).

More New Jersey residents also have a positive opinion of immigrants’ impact on everyday life today than they did in 2012.

But even with these increases, 41 percent say the number of immigrants in the Garden State is too high, up five points since 2012; another 44 percent say it is just right. Moreover, immigration remains a partisan issue, with notable differences between the two parties and even within Republicans, specifically among Donald Trump supporters compared to the GOP as a whole.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Importance of citizenship influenced by demographics

Immigration is an especially personal issue within certain demographics. Three-quarters of residents who identify as Hispanic support citizenship, compared to 61 percent of non-Hispanics. Similar patterns exist for those not born in the United States and those whose parents immigrated to this country.

These same groups are also more likely, by double digits, to say immigration is personally important to them: 40 percent of Hispanics, 30 percent of foreign-born residents, and 21 percent of those with foreign-born parents say it is the most important issue, with the majority of each group saying the issue is at least one of a few of their top concerns.

Interaction with immigrants in daily life also has an impact: support for citizenship and personal importance increases along with frequency of interaction. Over seven in 10 who say immigrants make their neighborhood, workplace, or the state a better place also favor citizenship.

Younger generations are much more supportive of citizenship – though not more likely to say the issue is important – than older ones, as support steadily declines with age.

Importance of immigration does not necessarily imply support of citizenship, however. Among supporters, 15 percent say it is the most important issue for them, and another 25 percent say it is one of few. But those who favor deportation also feel strongly about it, with 16 percent saying immigration is their top issue and another 38 percent saying it is one of the most important.

Republicans now support citizenship, but dividing lines persist

Partisans of all stripes support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, though to varying degrees: Democrats at 78 percent, independents at 57 percent, and even Republicans at 51 percent. But Republicans and independents are also more likely to say undocumented immigrants should be forced to leave the country, at 28 percent and 21 percent respectively, while just 10 percent of Democrats say the same.

Those favorable toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resemble Democrats in general, with 72 percent supporting citizenship. Those who like Gov. Chris Christie likewise resemble Republicans in general. But Donald Trump supporters are notably more negative about welcoming immigrants: 46 percent favor citizenship, 17 percent prefer legal status, and 35 percent choose deportation – the highest of any demographic.

“Republicans as a whole have come a long way on the issue since we last polled this in 2012, when they were mostly split over citizenship, with 37 percent expressing support and another 33 percent favoring deportation,” said Koning. “The double-digit increase to majority support in two years is remarkable. But of course, there are many different views about immigration reform on the national stage right now – especially among contenders on the Republican side like Donald Trump. And we see these differences play out when we specifically look at Trump supporters’ attitudes on citizenship, which are more conservative than the rest of the party.”

Republicans are slightly more negative regarding other aspects of the immigration issue. While there are minimal party differences in personal importance, just over half of Republicans feel the number of immigrants in the Garden State is too high, compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents. Those in Trump’s corner are especially likely to say the number of immigrants in the state is too high, at 58 percent, compared to Christie supporters or the GOP as a whole.

Republicans are also less likely to say that immigrants have a positive impact on different parts of daily life. Nineteen percent say immigrants make their neighborhood better, compared to 39 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents. GOPers feel somewhat similarly about the workplace, with about a quarter believing immigrants make it better, versus almost four in ten of other partisans. As for New Jersey itself, 29 percent of Republicans view immigrants’ influence positively, compared to 40 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats. Republicans say they interact with immigrants on a daily basis to a lesser extent than other partisans – at 52 percent, versus 59 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents.

Increased interaction and perceptions of immigrants’ positive effects

The overall increase in support for immigration and importance of the issue among New Jerseyans may stem from their frequent interaction with immigrants and their increased belief that immigrants have a positive effect on society. Six in 10 say they interact with someone from another country every day; another two in 10 say a few times a week. The remaining two in 10 interact with immigrants a few times a month or less.

Thirty-two percent feel people born outside the U.S. have made the quality of life in their neighborhoods better (up six points), while 49 percent say immigrants have not had much of an impact (down 12 points); another 13 percent say immigrants have actually made their neighborhoods worse (up three points). New Jerseyans feel similarly about their place of work, with 36 percent saying immigrants have made it better, a 10-point increase since 2012. Another 43 percent say they have had no effect here (down 11 points), and just nine percent say they have made the workplace worse.

Forty-one percent of residents believe immigrants have made New Jersey as a whole better, a nine-point increase. Twenty-nine percent say they do not have an impact on the state (down 6 points), and 21 percent say immigrants make the state worse, a drop of four points.

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Gov. Christie’s Ratings Continue to Fall

Tuesday evening we learned that NJ Gov Chris Chrisite made it into tonight’s primetime debate sponsored by Fox News. It was somewhat touch and go; Christie was in 9th place in the poll averaged used by Fox, and thus he made the top 10. As we reported on Monday, New Jerseyans expected him to make the debate and anticipate he will be able to hold his own. But as today’s release shows, the governor’s ratings among New Jersey voters continue to drop; his favorability rating is down 8 points since our last poll in April to just 30 percent. That puts him below former Gov. John Corzine right before Christie beat the incumbent in 2009, who recorded 33% favorability in our October 2009 poll.

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



 Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate this Thursday, August 6th.

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie campaigns to win over voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, voters back home are more dissatisfied with him than ever, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 30 percent of New Jersey registered voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, an eight-point drop since April and less than half his favorable rating following his November 2013 re-election; 59 percent are now unfavorable, an 11-point increase since April. Christie’s favorability has mostly been on a downward spiral since August 2014.

“Governor Christie has not experienced any kind of 2016 announcement ‘bump’ in ratings from voters back home – in fact, quite the opposite,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While he has yet to challenge the record low job approval of 17 percent logged by Brendan Byrne in April 1977, he is edging toward the lowest ratings recorded for any New Jersey governor over 45 years of Rutgers-Eagleton Polls.”

Voter dislike for Christie stems from defining traits that have proved both a blessing and a curse for him since taking office. Asked to justify their negative assessments, 18 percent cite his character, attitude, and image as reasons for their unfavorable feelings; another 10 percent use such terms as untrustworthy, deceitful, and liar. Among the 30 percent who are favorable, 28 percent point to his honesty and straightforwardness, 15 percent like his overall governing style and performance, and 14 percent each cite his personality and his attempts to better New Jersey.

Christie’s overall job approval shows a similar collapse over the past year, also reaching a new low after a steady decline since August 2014. He now stands at 37 percent approve (down four points) to 59 percent disapprove (up five points).

Christie fares no better on individual issues, reaching a new low on approval for Superstorm Sandy recovery – now at 46 percent approve, far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-seven percent currently disapprove of his work in this area.

Christie also falls to new lows on education (34 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove) and crime and drugs (43 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove). He remains at his low point on the economy and jobs (31 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove), and continues to receive substantial disapproval for his efforts on taxes (28 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (30 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove), and the state pension fund situation (22 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove).

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie’s favorability drops across the board

Christie’s favorability has reached new lows in virtually every demographic, seeing declines among his usual supporters and detractors alike. His Republican base seems to be growing more weary, with just 61 percent of GOPers now having a favorable impression of the governor, down seven points since April and “miles” from the near-unanimous party support he received pre-Bridgegate. Views among Democrats have sunk even lower, with just 11 percent now favorable toward the governor – less than half of the favorable rating four months ago; 78 percent are unfavorable. Independents also show a six-point drop in favorability, now at 30 percent, versus 59 percent who are unfavorable.

Christie now does worse with men than with women, reversing the typical gender gap that Christie has faced as a Republican – down 10 points to 29 percent favorable among the former, and down five points to 32 percent among the latter. His favorability has also dropped among both white (seven points to 36 percent favorable) and non-white voters (11 points to 18 percent favorable).

Middle-aged voters show an especially large decline compared to other age groups: now 28 percent favorable (down 18 points), versus 24 percent favorable among millennials and 40 percent among senior citizens.

Even many of Christie’s strongest supporters in shore and especially exurban counties have pulled away from him, with about four in 10 now feeling favorably– an 11-point drop since April for exurbanites. Residents of urban, suburban, and southern counties – traditionally more Democratic regions – show further drops in their already lower favorability rating.

The attitude, the bullying, perception of lies

When New Jersey voters are asked why they feel favorable or unfavorable toward the governor, Christie’s most famous traits spur both positive and negative views. His “tell it like it is” campaign seems to be working at least on some Garden State voters, with a few respondents directly referencing the slogan to explain their positivity. Among the 28 percent who feel similarly, his “frankness,” “no nonsense” approach, ability to “speak his mind,” and being “a man of his word” are frequently mentioned. The 15 percent who give his performance as governor as a reason for their favorable views think Christie is doing a “good job” and is “trying” and “working hard.” Favorable voters also mention a range of positive personal attributes, calling him respectful, caring, nice, and courageous – and even appreciate his tough guy, bully approach. Christie’s policy decisions and actions, his Superstorm Sandy leadership, and his effectiveness and ability to get things done are mentioned as positive reasons as well, but each come in at single digits.

Christie’s most infamous personal traits – some of the very same mentioned by Christie supporters – take the top three spots among reasons given by unfavorable voters. In the words of one voter among the 18 percent who mentioned Christie’s personality, “I am tired of the loudmouth Jersey guy routine.” Among those unfavorable voters who mention something pertaining to honesty, the second-highest reason at 10 percent, many outright call Christie a “liar” and believe he “does not keep his promises.”

Another 9 percent specifically mention “bully” as why they dislike him, the same percentage that cites his treatment of teachers and the education system. Other reasons for voter dislike include: Christie’s handling of state workers, unions, and the pension system (8 percent); his overall governing and apathy toward New Jersey and its citizens (each at 7 percent); his ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishments (5 percent); ,and his policy decisions (5 percent). His out-of-state traveling and campaigning for president, as well as scandals such as Bridgegate, actually rank low among voters’ reasons for discontent (3 percent each).

“While there have been both highs and lows in the trajectory of Chris Christie as governor, voters are more focused on Christie’s personal qualities than specific events,” said Koning. “In his heyday, Christie was the tough Jersey guy you wanted on your side, the refreshing straight-talker who ‘tells it like it is.’ But at his lowest moments, these same traits have been used against him and are painted in a much more unflattering light. Voter explanations of their views – especially negative ones – have more to do with the governor himself and his personal style than anything else.”

Negativity grows among Christie’s base

Though slightly higher than his favorability, Christie’s overall job approval as governor has nevertheless reached a new low. While 69 percent of Republicans are still in his corner, only 19 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of his performance as governor. Since April, backing from many of his typical supporters has fallen: male voters to 36 percent (down seven points), white voters to 41 percent (down five points), those who are middle-aged to 34 percent (down 13 points), and exurbanites to 44 percent (down 10 points).

Christie’s approvals by issue fare no better. On Republicans’ top concern, taxes, just 38 percent approve of his approach, while 54 percent disapprove – the first time a majority of Christie’s base has given him disapproval on the issue. Twenty percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents approve Christie’s job in this area; similar numbers feel the same on his handling of the economy and jobs. Christie does better with Republicans on the economy, at 50 percent approval.

Republicans are also mostly responsible for Christie’s new lows on education (52 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 10 points) and crime (57 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 12 points), whereas Democrats and independents have fluctuated little. Republican voters also show growing disapproval with how the governor has handled the state pension fund: 32 percent of Republicans now support Christie here (down 13 points), while 45 percent disapprove. Only 14 percent of Democrats (up six points) and 23 percent of independents approve.

Views on Sandy recovery efforts and the state budget are virtually steady since April.

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Trump leads among NJ GOP; Voters expect Christie to do well in debate, but they say it won’t matter

With the first official GOP debate just days away, we asked New Jersey voters about how they think Gov. Chris Christie will do, IF he is one of the top ten candidates who will be invited. Voters in our state expect Christie to be on the Cleveland, OH debate stage, and think he is likely to do at least as well, if not better, than the other candidates. But they also think it really won’t matter much, that the governor’s best chance for the presidency is in the past. In fact, like the rest of the country, it seems, New Jersey GOP voters are looking carefully at Donald Trump, who now leads Christie as their first choice. One important point about this head-to-head test is that we do NOT ask voters to pick from a list of 17 names. Instead, we ask them to tell us who they would like to see as the nominee, without giving them the names. This is not, of course, how a ballot looks in an election, and it requires people to think of names. So given all the media attention, it is not surprising that Trump rises to the top. But we suspect no matter how we asked it, we would have seen the same result.

This release also represents a temporary transition for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. As we announced last week, Ashley Koning is our new assistant director, and over the next six months she will be the primary spokesperson for the Poll. Director David Redlawsk will be away from Rutgers on a research project focused on the presidential nomination process, spending most of the rest of this year in Iowa. He will return next semester.

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


Trump stands atop list for NJ Republicans; Christie distant second

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie clings to the last spot in national polling for Thursday’s primetime Republican presidential debate, most New Jersey voters expect him to make the top 10, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just under a quarter of registered voters say Christie is very likely to be on the stage, while another 43 percent say it is somewhat likely he will make the event. Just 28 percent think Christie will miss the cutoff for the big debate.

New Jersey voters see Christie as a good debater. If he makes the cut Thursday, a third of voters say he will give one of the strongest debate performances, while about half say he will do at least as well as the other contenders. Only about 10 percent think Christie would be one of the weakest debaters.

But optimism about Christie and the debate does not translate into good will toward a potential Christie presidency. Seven in 10 voters say Christie would not make a good president, and 55 percent think Christie’s best chance for getting the GOP nomination has already come and gone. Only about one-third of New Jersey voters say he still has a shot, while 6 percent say he never had one in the first place, and 5 percent are unsure.

“About the only thing New Jersey voters and Gov. Christie agree on is their belief that he will make the top 10 Thursday night,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “New Jerseyans also respect the governor’s ability to hold his own if he does join the debate. But they remain sour about the thought of a ‘President’ Christie and don’t expect him to snag the nomination. Most share the growing belief that Christie missed his chance to run for president at the height of his popularity.”

Christie is also no longer the top choice among New Jersey Republican voters for the nomination. Just as in national polls, Trump fever has spread to Garden State GOPers, with 21 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters naming the businessman as their candidate of choice. Christie comes in a distant second at 12 percent.

Yet Trump is held in low esteem in New Jersey: just 27 percent of New Jersey voters say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 59 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 15 percent are unsure.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie supporters most hopeful about his debate chances

While New Jersey voters are mostly positive about the governor’s prospects in this week’s GOP debate, optimism about Christie’s participation and performance is especially strong among those who generally support him. A third of Republicans believe it is very likely Christie will make the top 10 Thursday night, compared to 23 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats. Republicans are also most positive when it comes to predicting how Christie would do in the debate itself, with 51 percent saying he would be one of the strongest debaters; 35 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats say the same, with another half of each group saying his performance would be about average.

Half of voters who say Christie will very likely be in the debate also say he will be one of the strongest candidates that night.

“Love him or hate him, few in New Jersey think Gov. Christie is completely out of it just yet – at least when it comes to this first debate – and if he makes it, no one thinks he will be put in a corner by the other candidates on stage,” said Koning. “The governor is known for his public speaking skills, his confidence and his quick-on-his-feet rebuttals. The opportunity to be on the stage could give Christie the boost he so desperately needs to stand out. And New Jerseyans seem to agree there is a chance he will be there and will succeed.”

Little faith in a Christie presidency

But New Jersey voters still resist the idea of “President” Christie in general, with views on how he would do as president virtually unchanged since April. Despite Christie’s claims of working effectively across party lines, 84 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents say the governor would not make a good president. Even Republicans remain mixed, with 50 percent saying he would and 45 percent saying he would not.

Seventy percent of men and women alike, 80 percent of nonwhite voters, and about 70 percent of voters under 65 feel the same about a Christie presidency. Exurban and shore residents have a more positive outlook than others, with about a third saying he would make a good Commander in Chief. Given the governor’s crusade against public employee unions, it is not surprising that 75 percent of voters in public union households say Christie would not make a good president.

NJ Republicans want … President Trump?

In what is now a fading memory, when asked in December 2014 to name the candidate they would support for president, 32 percent of New Jersey Republican voters named Gov. Christie as their top choice. Mitt Romney came in far behind at 10 percent and Jeb Bush a distant third at 6 percent.

Half a year later, the field looks very different, and some New Jersey GOPers – much like their fellow partisans in the rest of the country – have turned toward a candidate who has recently been trumping all others in the race: Donald Trump. The entrepreneur is named by a fifth of Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the Garden State as their top pick. Christie garners just over half that number, at 12 percent – now just 2 points ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

But just because Republicans name Trump as their top choice does not mean they have an overwhelmingly favorable view of him. Republican views of him are somewhat mixed, with 47 percent assessing him favorably while 35 percent are unfavorable. Trump is far less liked among Democrats (11 percent favorable, 79 percent unfavorable) and independents (29 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable).

Trump is also viewed more negatively by women (62 percent unfavorable), non-white voters (66 percent unfavorable), those who have done graduate work (68 percent unfavorable), and urbanites (68 percent unfavorable). Not a single group gives the business tycoon a favorable majority.

“Since Trump threw his hat in the ring in June, he has been all over the media and – to perhaps the shock of many – leading both state and nationwide polls,” said Koning. “So when we ask Republicans in the Garden State to name their top candidate, it is no wonder Trump is at the forefront of their minds. Whether it is because Trump’s name comes up most often in an unprecedentedly large Republican field, or because they share ‘The Donald’s’ views, New Jersey Republicans are looking much like Republicans everywhere – now largely abandoning their own governor for the other ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ candidate from across the river.”


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