Celebrating the 200th
A Look Back at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: The 1980s
By Abigail Orr
Abigail Orr is a junior at Rutgers University. Abigail is a research assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Here at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, we are about to approach our 200th poll ever – quite a milestone and a marker of just how long we have been polling New Jersey politics. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was the nation’s first university-based state survey when it was established with funding from the Wallace-Eljabar Fund in October 1971. It has been called many different names and has had many different directors over the past 44 years, but what has remained constant is its dedication to contributing to the public dialogue in the state; to access our over four decades of data, you can visit our extensive data archive. For more information on the poll’s history, check out our website: http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/rutgers-eagleton-poll/.
This is our second decade-by-decade analysis as we gear up for our 200th poll; you can see our first decade-by-decade analysis from last week here on our blog. We have an amazing team of interns who have been working very hard on researching our past and analyzing old questionnaires, press releases, and data. Special thanks to Sonni Waknin, Natalie DeAngelo, and Abigail Orr on this project.
The 1980s marked a new ‘morning in America,” with high spirits and economic prosperity, often attributed to President Ronald Reagan. Throughout this decade, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked questions about such topics as education, the president, elections, political figures, and safety within the Garden State.
Education has always been an important topic in New Jersey and was especially prevalent in the 1980s. One question during this decade read: “Suppose the local public schools said they need more money. Would you vote for or against raising taxes for this purpose?” Fifty-two percent of New Jerseyans said they would vote for more taxes for local schools, while 34 percent said they would vote against more taxes. Eight percent said it would depend, and 6 percent did not know what they would do in this situation.
Another question asked during the 1980s was about culture: “Some people feel the state should support the arts in New Jersey, saying that beyond running the government, the state should try to enrich peoples lives. Others feel the state should give no support to the arts, saying this is not something the state should or needs to be involved in – which view comes closest to your own?” 58 percent of respondents said the state should support the arts, while 29 percent said the state should not support the arts. Four percent said it depends and 10 percent did not know.
Other question topics during the 1980s included: the close 1981 gubernatorial race between Kean and Florio, state tourism slogans, casino gambling, toxic waste, crime, Iran-Contra, drinking and driving, the right to die, and – believe it or not – how home computers are not a trend but rather here to stay.