Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … State Senate President Steve Sweeney? Who’s He?

As we gear up for our next Rutgers-Eagleton Poll – the big 200th in 44 years of polling New Jersey! – our student staff takes a closer look at some of the data from our October survey that we have not yet had a chance to fully explore. This time, one of our staff takes a look at potential 2017 gubernatorial candidate State Senate President Steve Sweeney.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney? Who’s He?

By Liz Kantor

Liz Kantor is a senior at Rutgers University and an Eagleton Undergraduate Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. Liz is the lead methodologist and data archivist with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.


Two years ahead of the next New Jersey gubernatorial election, all signs point to State Senate President Steve Sweeney making a run for the state’s highest office. His former advisor has created a super PAC, a potential veto override has led Governor Christie to invoke his political ambitions, and he’s condemned Christie’s handling of the economy.

Despite his place as the Garden State’s top Democrat, a majority of New Jersey registered voters don’t have much to say about him. Over 6 in 10 voters either do not have an opinion of Sweeney (29 percent) or do not know who he is (34 percent). Those who express an opinion are about equally likely to be favorable or unfavorable toward the senator (18 percent vs. 19 percent). His lack of name recognition doesn’t discriminate by party; 64 percent of Democrats have no opinion about him or do not know him, along with 61 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans.

Those most likely to feel favorable toward Sweeney are public employee union workers at nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent), while 18 percent feel unfavorable, and just over half (53 percent) have no opinion or do not know him. Private union employees and non-union employees are less enthusiastic, at 15 and 16 percent favorable, respectively. Other groups who feel positively about Senator Sweeney are Democrats (25 percent), those making over $150,000 per year (24 percent), and non-white voters (21 percent). Men and women are about equally likely to feel favorably toward Sen. Sweeney at 18 and 19 percent, respectively, but men are 7 points more likely than women to feel unfavorably toward him (23 percent versus 16 percent).

Still, the last gubernatorial race provides some hope that voters can get to know Sen. Sweeney by the time 2017 rolls around, should he choose to run. When the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll first began asking New Jersey voters about Democratic candidate State Sen. Barbara Buono in February 2012 – a year and 9 months before the election – nearly 8 in 10 said they either had no opinion (50 percent) or were unfamiliar with her (29 percent); just 21 percent offered a substantive response. By October 2013, with the election just around the corner, the proportion of those who either had no opinion or did not know her decreased by more than half to 43 percent for registered voters and 34 percent for likely voters.

As the months go on, it’s likely that more New Jersey voters will form an opinion on Sen. Sweeney, but we will have to wait and see which way their impressions will lean.

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Leading Up to our 200th Poll Ever … A Look Back at the 1990s

Celebrating the 200th

A Look Back at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: The 1990s

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:

This is our third decade-by-decade analysis as we gear up for our 200th poll; you can see our first and second 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.  


During the 1990s, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll went by the name “Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll” and hit its 100th poll milestone in 1994. The decade was filled with polls on diverse topics, including education, taxes, insurance, and the environment. However, the most common theme to have reoccurred over the decade was (not surprisingly) politics! Although politics may be a broad field, the topics that were the most interesting revolved around the lack of knowledge about state government and how citizens had a very contradictory belief about politicians and corruption.

Overall, New Jerseyans were not very informed about their state government: 3 in 10 could not identify the political party of the governor at the time; about 6 in 10 could not name the political party that controlled the state legislature; 3 in 4 did not know what state offices were being contested in a past election; and 9 in 10 could not correctly name their state senator. This is about the same level of knowledge that was noted in the first statewide poll conducted in the fall of 1971.

New Jersey residents were not very knowledgeable at all about state politics. Although Governor Jim Florio was a highly visible political figure in 1991, 70 percent of the state’s residents could correctly identify him as a Democrat compared to 13 percent who thought he was a Republican and 17 percent who said that they did not know his party affiliation.

Toward the end of the decade, a poll was conducted asking about the favorability of state legislators. Most New Jerseyans had an unfavorable view, thinking that they went into and stayed in politics for reasons of personal gain and believing almost half of them to be corrupt. Yet, the same people also said they were far more likely to vote for an experienced politician or an incumbent than an outsider.

New Jerseyans also thought there was a fair amount of corruption in politics, overall. When asked how many out of 10 politicians they would guess to have been corrupt, the statewide average was close to half (4.9 out of 10). However, the survey also pointed out that the vast majority, 63 percent, thought that politicians were no different than people in other occupations, and that there was no difference between politicians in New Jersey and those in other states (84 percent). It seems as if New Jerseyans’ attitudes in the 1990s were a bit confusing and contradictory when it came to state government and their opinions on politics!

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Word Cloud of All Press Release Topics: 1990-1999


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