Leading Up to our 200th Poll Ever … A Look Back at the 2000s

Celebrating the 200th

A Look Back at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: The 2000s

By Natalie DeAngelo

Natalie DeAngelo is a senior at Rutgers University. Natalie 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 fourth decade-by-decade analysis as we gear up for our 200th poll; you can see our firstsecond, and third 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.  

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The 2000s was a decade filled with life changing events for New Jersey residents. These included the very close 2000 presidential election, the September 11th terrorist attacks, the resignation of a New Jersey governor, the election of President Obama, and even reactions to the show, The Sopranos. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll catalogued the opinions of New Jerseyans throughout the course of these events and documented them in press releases that capture the essence of the start of a new century.

The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 brought devastation and heartache to New Jersey. The main response was a feeling of patriotism laced with anger. Just over one-fifth of New Jerseyans said they knew of someone who was seriously injured or lost that day. The Star Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll, as it was known at the time, conducted a survey from September 22-26 and found that New Jerseyans responded to the tragedy by participating in ceremonies and memorials. A staggering 90 percent of residents said they prayed for the victims of the attack, and 80 percent said they displayed an American flag where they lived. Many questions in later polls asked about September 11th, but this poll shortly after the attacks truly captured the immediate impact of the event on New Jerseyans’ lives.

The resignation of Governor Jim McGreevey shocked many New Jerseyans, and opinions on the matter were split. After McGreevey announced his plans to resign in August 2004, a poll was conducted the following month to gauge NJ voters’ reactions. Forty-eight percent said he should have resigned because of his affair with Golan Cipel, compared with 44 percent who felt the Governor should have served out his term. Democrats were more likely to think he should stick it out (55 percent), while Republicans were adamant that he should go (70 percent). Independent voters were split, with 45 percent saying that McGreevey’s resignation was justified and 47 percent saying there was no need to leave office based on what they had heard of the issue.

Gay marriage was another important issue addressed in the 2000s. By a ratio of two to one, New Jersey adults supported legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples back in 2006. Sixty-five percent supported civil unions that would give gays and lesbians “many of the same rights and benefits as a married man and woman,” while 30 percent were opposed. A majority also supported gay marriage and opposed a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Today, gay marriage is legal, not only in the state of New Jersey, but also nationwide. New Jerseyans seem to have supported this idea as far back as 2006.

Looking back, many of the polls in the 2000s focused on the future of politics in New Jersey and the United States. It wasn’t all politics, however. Just over half of all New Jersey adults tuned into the New Jersey-based HBO series, The Sopranos, which premiered in 1999. Back in 2002, one-in-five residents said they never missed an episode of the hit show.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll covered a variety of topics throughout the 2000s and provided great insight into the minds of New Jerseyans at the start of the new millennium.

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