Category Archives: 2012 Presidential Election

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Top results of 2012

OK, so it’s nearly the end of January, and everyone else has already done their greatest hits of 2012. Even so, we thought we’d take a quick look back at some of the more interesting findings. Aaron Hyndman, the undergraduate student who has been leading our social networking team, and Ashley Koning, graduate student and Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Manager, put together this retrospective.

So here is a look back at the top five Rutgers-Eagleton Poll moments of 2012 at ECPIP:

5) Wider support for same-sex marriage and immigration a reflection of greater social change.

As the New Jersey legislature once again addressed same-sex marriage in early 2012, with a subsequent controversy ensuing, more than half of New Jersey voters (54 percent) were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.  But they wanted to vote on it. And around the time of President Obama’s executive order regarding the DREAM Act, June 2012 findings show mass bipartisan appeal for the measure providing opportunities for children of undocumented immigrants.  Eighty percent of New Jersey residents voiced support, mirroring national trends.

Press Releases: February 13, 2012, February 14, 2012, June 18, 2012

4) “Predicting” the 2012 Election.
From President Obama’s strong win in New Jersey by the same 17-point margin as shown in a late September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, to the higher education bond passing with nearly the exact same percentage as our results showed more than a month prior, our late September polling was surprisingly accurate, reinforcing the idea that most NJ voters had made up their minds long before election day.  And in partnership with WNYC and The Brian Lehrer Show, we went even further into major issues by investigating New Jersey opinions on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid (

Press Releases: October 3, 2012, October 5, 2012, October 10, 2012

3) A growing concern about gun violence and gun control in the wake of nationwide tragedies.
First polled in August after the Colorado, Wisconsin Sikh Temple, and Empire State Building Shootings, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found two-thirds of NJ voters very concerned with gun violence in America, 65 percent believing gun ownership was more important than gun owners’ rights, and nearly half agreeing that New Jersey gun laws should be made stricter.  Asked less than four months later in the wake of the unspeakable shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll saw a dramatic shift in favor of gun control from August (up to 72 percent across all New Jerseyans and up to 57 percent specifically within gun-owning households).  More than three quarters of New Jerseyans were worried about gun violence – including six in ten gun owners – and virtually all believed it to be an important issue for the national agenda.

Press Release: September 12, 2012

2.) Jersey Strong in the face of the Superstorm – bipartisanship and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Superstorm Sandy was probably the most unprecedented, dramatic weather event in New Jersey’s history.  In the days before a national election, the Superstorm forced politics to be set aside so that leaders on both sides of the aisle could do everything in their power to provide aid to those suffering and help rebuild our region (and canceled our pre-election polling as well).  With two thirds of New Jerseyans affected by the storm, they praised this spirit of bipartisan cooperation by giving both President Obama and Governor Christie extraordinarily high marks in our November poll that chronicled Sandy’s aftermath.

Press Releases: November 20, 2012, November 21, 2012 

1.) The Untouchable Chris Christie and his soaring reelection and approval numbers heading into the 2013 race for governor.
Prior to Sandy, New Jersey voters were split on whether the governor should receive a second term or if it was time for someone new.  But Sandy changed all of that, and Governor Christie took a commanding lead in our November poll – both in general and by double-digit margins when put head-to-head against likely Democrat opponents (including Booker) for the 2013 election.  His undeniable leadership in a time of crisis and post-Sandy popularity has catapulted him to his highest favorability ratings ever as governor.  Christie now enters the 2013 race as a formidable opponent with strong job performance grades, greater support from his citizens, and a reputation that is less reminiscent of his pre-Sandy numbers and more reflective of his leadership and strong character in rebuilding the Garden State. But a lot can happen over the course of an election year, and we will be there to document it.

Press Releases: November 27, 2012, November 29, 2012

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Filed under 2012 Presidential Election, 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, DREAM Act, Gay Marriage, Immigration, Obama NJ Rating, Superstorm Sandy

2012 NJ Election Wrap Up

Click here for a PDF of this release with questions and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following President Barack Obama’s re-election, 49 percent of New Jersey voters say the country will become more divided, while only 40 percent think Americans will become more united, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. Even so, two-thirds of respondents remain optimistic about the next four years.

Not surprisingly, this feeling of optimism is driven by the 90 percent of Democrats who are positive about the future. Only 25 percent of Republicans are optimistic about the next four years.  Independent voters are more optimistic than pessimistic, 56 percent to 38 percent.

Nearly all of Mitt Romney’s GOP backers are pessimistic and expect the country to remain divided.  Most Obama voters are optimistic, but 30 percent agree that Americans will be more divided. Voters also are evenly split about the country’s direction.

“New Jersey went heavily for Obama, and his supporters are optimistic,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But their optimism is tempered by recognition that the election did not eliminate divisions in the country.”

Obama and Romney voters do not agree on much, but 60 percent of both groups say that the economy and jobs are the most important issue today. Romney supporters name the federal budget deficit second (17 percent), while Obama voters call education their runner-up (12 percent).

Asked to name a second-term priority for Obama, 42 percent of all voters reference the economy, jobs, or fiscal responsibility. Reinforcing existing divisions, 15 percent of Republicans simply say Obama should resign and leave office.

“Obama’s victory clearly did little to heal partisan wounds,” said Redlawsk. “National polling gives him a post-election approval bump, but a significant number of voters continues to be implacably opposed to the president.”

Results are from a poll of 1,228 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Nov 14-17. Within this sample is a subsample of 1,108 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Demographics underscore political division

early 80 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents see the country as more divided following the election. Conversely, 60 percent of Democrats say Americans will become more united.

Obama voters – Democrats and independents – are seven times more likely to believe the country will come together (60 percent) than Romney backers (8 percent).  By more than 3 to 1, Romney voters expect more division in the country than Obama supporters.

Reflecting the presidential vote, men are more likely than women to believe the country will become more divided (55 percent to 44 percent). About one-third of men expect greater unity, while 44 percent of women feel the same. White voters have a more negative outlook than Hispanic and black voters: 55 percent of whites believe the country will be more divided, compared to 46 percent of Hispanics and only a quarter of blacks.

Perceptions of division decrease with age.  Voters under 35 are the most skeptical about Americans uniting, with 55 percent thinking there will be greater division. Seniors are split, with 44 percent expecting division and 41 percent seeing a more united country. This negative outlook also increases with education; more than half of those with at least a college degree believe the country will be more divided.

Beliefs about country’s direction follow a similar pattern. Voters are split with 47 percent saying the country is going in the right direction while 48 percent think it is off on the wrong track. More Democrats (73 percent) say the U.S. is going in the right direction than Republicans (12 percent) or independents (40 percent). Eight-five percent of Republicans say the country is on the wrong track, compared to 57 percent of independents and 21 percent of Democrats. By more than 12 to 1, Obama supporters agree with the country’s direction compared to Romney voters.  More than 90 percent of Romney voters believe the country is headed down the wrong path.

The next four years: who is optimistic?

As expected, partisanship defines voter optimism about the next four years. While more than nine in 10 Democrats are optimistic, 56 percent of independents and just 23 percent of Republicans feel the same.

Women are 12 points more likely than men to be optimistic about the next four years (69 percent to 57 percent). While more than half of all white voters are optimistic, blacks and Hispanics are most positive at 89 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Younger voters and those in lower income brackets are most optimistic, while older and higher-income voters show greater pessimism. Still, more than half from each group say they are optimistic.  Obama voters are more optimistic about the next four year than Romney’s supporters (92 percent to 17 percent).

Economy and jobs remains top priority

Given a list of issues, voters name the economy and jobs as most important (58 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of independents, 62 percent of Republicans). Education is a distant second for Democrats (11 percent), while Republicans and independents pick the federal budget deficit second (17 and 13 percent, respectively).

Obama handily won voters who found the economy and jobs most important, 59 percent to 39 percent.  Romney was the easy winner among the much smaller group naming the federal budget deficit first, 58 percent to 36 percent.

Asked to say “in just a couple words” what the president’s second-term priorities should be, nearly half of voters cited the economy, jobs, fiscal issues and taxes. Health care is specifically named by seven percent, followed by six percent who want Obama to focus primarily on bipartisanship and compromise.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say fixing the economy is most important, while Republicans are equally likely to talk about establishing fiscal responsibility and about the economy. But 15 percent of Republicans – the largest percentage – simply say Obama should resign and leave office. Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to mention health care, with 11 percent saying the top priority is to change Obama’s health care law.

Motivation for Republicans at the polls

Many Romney voters were motivated primarily by opposition to Obama. The large majority of Obama voters (79 percent) said they voted more for the president than against Romney, while 20 percent said they were voting against the challenger. By contrast, 55 percent of Romney supporters say their vote supported Romney, while 42 percent said they voted against the incumbent.

Eighty-five percent of Democrats who voted for Obama were motivated by their support for the president, rather than by their opposition to Romney (14 percent). Independent Obama voters were somewhat more focused on their opposition to Romney, but 67 percent still said they were voting in support of Obama. Sixty percent of Romney’s GOP supporters voted for him while 38 percent were voting against Obama. Independents supporting Romney were equally likely to say they were motivated in favor of the challenger as they were to be voting in opposition to Obama.

“While opposition to a candidate can motivate voters to show up, studies show that it is enthusiasm that really brings people to the polls,” said Redlawsk. “Obama voters clearly had enthusiasm on their side, while Romney voters were more motivated by their dislike of Obama.”

Obama’s favorability

Obama’s favorability rating has increased five points since October to 61 percent. His unfavorability dropped seven points to 32 percent. Ninety-three percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents like Obama. Three-quarters of Republicans are unfavorable while only 14 percent feel favorably toward the president. Nearly two-thirds of women are favorable, while 57 percent of men agree, reopening a gender gap that had disappeared in a late September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

While 96 percent of Democrats voted for Obama and 87 percent of Republicans for Romney, independents split evenly, 47 percent for each. Obama won both men and women in New Jersey, but women were much more supportive: 64 percent favored Obama, compared to 54 percent of men. Obama also won virtually all black voters, nearly 70 percent of Hispanics, and just half of white voters in the Garden State.

“As Romney closed in during October, the gender gap in attitudes toward Obama briefly disappeared,” noted Redlawsk. “But in the end, women were far more likely to vote for Obama, and that gap continues in Obama’s post-election favorability. Any announcement of the death of the gender gap was obviously premature.”

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Filed under 2012 Presidential Election, Obama NJ Rating

Quick thoughts on the election

As we noted the other day, we had planned to do a pre-election poll in New Jersey but those plans were stopped by Superstorm Sandy. As it turns out, might not have made much difference. When we last polled – 5 weeks ago! – we had President Obama up by 17 points over Romney in the state. In doing so, we seemed a bit of an outlier. As it turns out, looks like the president won by, you guessed it, 17 points.

In that poll, we had the ballot question on a bond issue for higher education at 62% support. Last night it won 61%.

We were off, however, on the judge’s pay ballot issue, which won 83% of the vote – we pegged it at only 70% support.

Not that we think polling 5 weeks ahead of the election is a good indicator of what will happen on election day. But at least in the NJ presidential race, nothing happened – we were not a battleground, so we had no campaign. With no campaign, the numbers simply didn’t move.
One thing that is annoying today is the “No Change Election” meme being floated. Yes, it is true that Obama is still president, the Republicans still have the House, and the Democrats still have the Senate. BUT, on a national level, real change is evident. Instead of losing Senate seats, Democrats picked up, and may now have a 55-45 margin (including the two independents) up from 53-47 before the election. That small change is evidence of something underneath the overall numbers, and that something drove not only Obama’s re-election but also state level results like the passing of same sex marriage in three states (MD, ME, WA) when it has NEVER won a popular vote before, and the failure of a one-man-one-woman constitutional amendment in Minnesota. California actually voted to tax itself for education. Women made historic gains in the U.S. Senate. And other small, yet significant, changes appear below the national level.

These changes are driven by fundamental changes in the electorate. Young people are voting and have very different attitudes on race, gender, and social issues than do their elders. And Latino’s made up 10 percent of the electorate, with significant consequences. There is change, it is just hard to see if you only look at the big picture.

At the presidential level, our initial simple assessment is that Obama won in the end because:

The electorate in the United States is changing. More Hispanic voters that ever showed up to vote (they made up about 10% of all voters) and they overwhelmingly voted for Obama. In addition, 93 percent of African Americans voted Obama. Young voters (under 30) also strongly supported him. Whites made up only 72 percent of the electorate, continuing a steady decline in influence. Even though they went for Romney, it is no longer enough to have an overwhelmingly white electoral coalition.

Obama’s voter mobilization operation was better than Romney’s. Obama had many more campaign offices and people “on the ground” doing the hard work of getting people to go to the polls to vote. That allowed him to win a number of close states.

Voters did not like Mitt Romney as much as Obama and they did not blame Obama as much as they did former President Bush for the economic problems. They seem willing to give Obama more time to make things better.

That’s our no-pre-election-poll wrap up. We will be back in the field soon with a post-election poll and our initial look at the 2013 elections. Yep, they’ve already started…

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Filed under 2012 Presidential Election, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters, Rutgers, Taxes

NJ voters support higher ed bond; making judges pay more for benefits

On Wednesday we released our latest numbers on the presidential race in New Jersey, and that story is one of relatively little change, though perhaps increased voting likelihood among some Democratic leaning voters leading to a slight increase for Obama. In applying our likely voter screen – the same screen we started using last month, which includes  vote intent, campaign interest, attention to politics, and 2010 turnout – we found a slight increase in Democratic turnout, stability among Republicans, and a decline among self-described independents. On top of that, we found more Democrats in our registered voter sample than the previous month. Does that mean our sample was skewed? We don’t think so, since our sampling methods did not change. But Democrats were more energized after the conventions. As a party is doing better in how people perceive it, it tends to gain among voters, since partisanship is not a fixed characteristic, but instead a sense of affiliation.

In any case, today we release additional numbers on two ballot issues facing New Jersey voters this fall. One is on a $750 million bond issue for higher education facilities. The other is a state constitutional amendment that, if passed, will allow the legislature to require state judges to pay more for their benefits (as other state workers have had to) without it being considered a reduction in compensation.

This is the first time we’ve asked about the judge’s benefits, but we asked about the bond twice before, once back in February when it wasn’t certain it would be on the ballot, and again last month. We see significantly more support for the bond this month, suggesting it has a good chance of passing. As for the judges, they will almost certainly be paying more for the benefits after the election.

Full text of the release is below. For a PDF of the release with questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Large majorities of likely New Jersey voters support each of two key issues that will be on the November ballot, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. A proposed $750 million higher education bond issue garners 62 percent support, up from 56 percent a month ago. Only 27 percent of voters oppose the bond, while 11 percent are unsure.

Even more voters – 70 percent – support a state constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to require judges to pay more for their benefits. On this issue, just 18 percent of voters are opposed, while 12 percent have not made up their minds.

The higher education bond designates the money for new academic buildings and technological upgrades at New Jersey colleges and universities. The judges’ benefits amendment was placed on the ballot after a heated battle between the Legislature and state Supreme Court over whether the former could require judges to pay more toward their pensions and health insurance.

“As we get closer to the election, support for the higher education bond seems to be solidifying, reflecting the lack of vocal opposition so far,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “The benefits amendment is even more popular, most likely reflecting a sense that judges, too, should be subject to the same increases in costs that all other state workers have endured.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from September 27-30. Within this sample, 619 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Bond support continues to climb

Support for the higher education bond issue has climbed steadily during the year, including a six-point jump since late August, as more independents have come on board while opposition has remained steady. Voters were much more divided – 48 percent for, 45 percent against – when the potential bond issue was thought to be more than $1 billion in early 2012. The reduction to $750 million appears to have made it much more palatable, Redlawsk noted.

Likely Democratic voters remain the strongest supporters (76 percent). Independent (57 percent) and Republican (46 percent) support has increased since August.

By 93 percent to 54 percent, blacks are stronger supporters of the bond issue than whites. Moreover, black support since August has increased 19 points while white support grew by only 3 points. The disparity is most likely due to a significant drop in blacks who say they are unsure (by 18 percentage points), while the number of whites who are uncertain has dropped by only six points.

“As black voters have become more aware of the bond issue, they’ve become stronger supporters,” said Redlawsk. “White voters are much less likely to support the bond, but their support at least has held steady.”

Though a majority of voters at all education levels support the new higher education funding, support increases with level of education attained. Voters who attended one of the Rutgers campuses are more likely than other college graduates to support the plan, at 69 percent. In addition, younger voters are much more positive – 81 percent of those ages 18 to 34 plan to vote yes, compared to 57 percent of those 65 or older. Support from younger voters is up 11 points since August, and up eight points among seniors.

Regionally, support among shore residents increased 16 points since August while support among voters in exurban areas declined by 6 points.

Voters want judges to contribute more

The amendment to have judges contribute more to the cost of their benefits has widespread support across nearly all groups. Overwhelming majorities of likely GOP (75 percent) and independent (73 percent) voters favor the amendment, as do two-thirds of Democrats.

Men are stronger supporters of the amendment than women: 74 percent to 67 percent. Whites are also more likely to support it than blacks, 72 percent to 66 percent. The differences are small and support is well above a majority in key demographic groups, Redlawsk observed.

“It is hard to imagine the judges’ benefits amendment failing to pass,” said Redlawsk. “For most voters, it seems like the right thing to do, even if the judges themselves argue it amounts to a reduction in pay. Voters don’t seem swayed by the argument that judge’s pay is related to judicial independence and therefore sacrosanct.”


Filed under 2012 Presidential Election, Rutgers

Obama Lead Grows in NJ

For a PDF of the release with questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – On the eve of today’s first presidential debate, likely New Jersey voters give President Obama a 17-point lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney – a three- point increase since August. According to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 56 percent of New Jersey voters say they prefer Obama while 39 percent support Romney. Another 2 percent would like to see someone else, and only 4 percent are undecided.

Reflecting a national trend since the Democratic convention, voters have become slightly more positive about Obama over the past month: 56 percent now hold a favorable impression, up two points since August, while 39 percent view him unfavorably, unchanged over the past month. During the same time, voters have become increasingly negative about Romney. While 38 percent continue to view him favorably, 54 percent are now unfavorable, up five points from August.

The “economy and jobs” remains the most important election issue by far, named by 56 percent of voters. The president continues to be seen as better able to manage the economy with a 52 percent to 43 percent edge over the challenger. Many fewer voters (10 percent) pick the federal budget deficit as most important, followed by education at 9 percent and “Social Security and Medicare” at 6 percent. Romney holds nearly a 3 to 1 edge (66 percent to 23 percent) among voters who name the budget as the most important issue.

“This poll reflects recent national trends,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Romney’s missteps on Libya and his ’47 percent’ comments may have had effects, though he was already well behind here. We’ve also seen a pickup in voters who say they are Democrats, which is reflected in the poll’s partisan makeup. More people calling themselves Democrats means higher Obama numbers.”

Results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from September 27-30. Within this sample, 645 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Obama increases large lead

President Obama’s increased lead is due to several factors. Voters have become more likely to self-identify as Democrats, 95 percent of whom now support Obama. Romney, too, has solidified support among his party, as 94 percent of Republicans are now in his camp, up 11 points since August. Undecided voters and those wishing for another choice have dropped by half, as only 6 percent of likely voters cannot choose between the challenger and incumbent, with the president gaining a larger share of formerly undecided voters.

Most importantly, men have become more supportive of Obama. He now leads among men, 53 percent to 42 percent, compared to a 45 percent to 42 percent lead a month ago. Women remain stronger supporters, with 58 percent for Obama, and 36 percent for Romney, but the previously wide gender gap has closed considerably in recent weeks.

More independents are supporting Obama than when last polled. Romney also gained among this group as fewer independents remain undecided. Obama now leads among independents, 47 percent to 39 percent, compared to 44 percent to 36 percent last month.

“The president’s improving numbers among men, combined with the fact that more younger voters, women and minority voters are entering the likely voter pool than last month, accounts for much of his gain in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “If groups that traditionally support the president are increasingly likely to vote, then his position in New Jersey is probably not at risk.”

White voters favor Romney by a mere 1 point, 47 percent to 46 percent. Nonwhite voters overwhelmingly prefer Obama and comprise nearly 30 percent of likely voters. The Republican holds a seven-point lead among Catholics and a five-point edge among likely voters 65 or older. In contrast, more than half of voters in all other age groups support Obama, with those ages 18 to 34 and 50 to 64 most likely to vote for him, at 63 percent and 62 percent respectively.

Regionally, voters in the shore and exurban counties of New Jersey are stronger Romney supporters, by 11 points 25 points, respectively. Urban, suburban and south Jersey voters are all strong for Obama, with urban voters overwhelming for the president.

Democratic ticket still more likeable

Likely voters are more positive about Obama personally, and more negative about Romney than a month ago. While 56 percent of all likely voters have a favorable impression of Obama, he does not do as well among independents (48 percent). Romney does slightly better among independents at 40 percent favorable, than he does overall (38 percent), a 4-point improvement among independents since August. Romney also receives a huge favorability boost from his own party – 90 percent of Republicans now have a favorable impression of him, compared to just 78 percent before the Republican National Convention. In comparison, 94 percent of Democrats like Obama, virtually unchanged over the past month.

“The Republican National Convention did at least one thing it was meant to do. It greatly improved Romney’s standing among his base voters and somewhat improving how independents perceive him,” said Redlawsk

Likely voters are generally less favorable toward Vice President Joe Biden than they are toward Obama: 49 percent have a favorable impression of Biden, with 39 percent unfavorable. Voters are slightly less negative toward Paul Ryan than they are toward Romney, though Ryan is still viewed unfavorably overall, 36 percent favorable to 48 percent unfavorable.

While the earlier gender gap has closed somewhat, women remain much less positive about Romney than do men while there is now no gender difference in feelings about Obama. Thirty-four percent of women feel favorable toward Romney, compared to 42 percent of men. But while women’s favorability toward Obama declined six points to 57 percent, men increased their rating by nine points to 56 percent favorable. Obama is now viewed as more likeable by both genders.

Changes in favorability among income groups shows some unexpected patterns in the face of Romney’s “47 percent” comments about those he does not believe will support him. The lowest income New Jersey voters, those with less than $50,000 in household income, have become somewhat more favorable toward Romney in the last month, increasing from 33 percent favorable (55 percent unfavorable) to 38 percent favorable (51 percent unfavorable). At the same time, those earning more than $150,000 show little change, barely moving from 44 percent favorable (48 percent unfavorable) to 43 percent favorable (50 percent unfavorable). Voters between these income groups have become significantly more unfavorable toward the Republican challenger.

“It does not look like Romney’s widely reported comments actually moved lower-income voters further away from him,” noted Redlawsk. “In fact, lowest-income group became slightly more likely to vote for Romney over the past month, rather than less likely. On the other hand, middle class voters with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 are the ones who moved in Obama’s direction, while those who make more show relatively little change.”

Voters pick Obama to handle economy but Romney still deemed stronger leader

More than half of likely voters name the economy as their most important issue in the election – though this is down six points from August. Still, no other issue comes close to the
economy as most important to voters. Among voters who care most about the economy, 52 percent say Obama is the right candidate to handle the issue, while 43 percent say Romney would do the better job.

More voters (28 percent) say “strong leader” is the quality they want most in a presidential candidate; among these voters, Romney is preferred 61 percent to 35 percent, an increase for Romney of seven points since August. But the next two qualities – “cares about me” (19 percent choose this quality) and “shares my values” (17 percent) clearly play into Obama’s strengths, as voters who want those qualities strongly support Obama. The president wins on values, 67 percent to 31 percent, and overwhelms Romney on caring, 80 to 14 percent. While Obama support among voters choosing “cares about me” has changed little, “shares my values” voters have moved strongly into Obama’s column, up 18 points in the past month. These voters eliminate any advantage Romney has on leadership.

Interest in the election is high among most registered voters. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) report they are “very interested,” while 23 percent are “somewhat interested” and 4 percent are “not interested at all.” Among those who are deemed likely voters based on history, turnout intent, political interest, and campaign interest, an overwhelming 88 percent say they are “very interested” in this year’s presidential election.

“If there is an enthusiasm gap for Democrats, or at least compared to past elections, we’re not seeing it very clearly in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “At least among registered voters, interest is quite strong, and turnout appears likely to be similar to past presidential elections here.”


Filed under 2012 Presidential Election, NJ Voters, Obama NJ Rating, Romney


Today we take our first “likely voter” look at the presidential election in New Jersey. We find Obama doing well, up 14 points over Romney. But for you to assess this you need to know a few things, such as HOW do we determine “likely voters” and how and where did we ask the vote question in our survey.

Here’s what we describe in the disclosure statement attached to our full press release:

Within this sample 710 respondents were identified as likely voters by scoring responses to questions about interest in politics, in the presidential election, plans to vote, and vote history. Approximately 78 percent of registered voters were identified as likely voters by this measure. In 2008, 73 percent of registered New Jersey voters actually voted.

“This sample” refers to the 916 registered voters we surveyed this time around. Among them, 710 passed our likely voter screen, which combines vote intention, interest in the campaign, interest in politics generally, and whether the respondent voted in 2010. We take these four questions and create an index from 0 to 9. Respondents who score 7, 8, or 9 make it into this likely voter sample. This results in about 77.5% of our respondents being considered “likely voters”, a pretty decent result. In fact, in a sample like this we probably should have a few more – after all people who really hate the politics and don’t want to talk to us are not included, so our sample is more disposed to voting than the statewide set of registered voters.  But we’re trying to be conservative here.

On the second issue, what about the question, you can see that in the PDF of the release as well. We give voters several options – “if the election were today…” – they can choose Obama, Romney (which are rotated to neither is always first), “Someone else” (to reflect that there are third parties on the ballot), or Don’t Know. They can also say they won’t vote, in which case they are not included as a likely voter in any case.

We placed the question AFTER we asked about issues and candidate qualities, as well as favorability and Obama job performance. Political science research has suggested that the vote intention is more stable when the question is asked after people have time to think about the election, which our earlier questions give them. We might have a different response had we asked the question at the very beginning, but probably not a lot different.

Following is the text of today’s release. Again, a PDF of the release with questions and tables is available here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As the Republican National Convention begins in Tampa, New Jersey voters give President Barack Obama a 14-point lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Among likely voters polled just before the GOP convention, 51 percent say they would vote for Obama while 37 percent support Romney. Another 6 percent prefer someone else, and 5 percent are not sure.

Obama holds his lead despite the fact that a majority of likely voters (57 percent) thinks the country is on the wrong track; 36 percent say it is going in the right direction. The key for Obama is that voters are much more positive about him personally: 54 percent hold a favorable impression while 39 percent view him unfavorably. Voters dislike Romney – only 38 percent view him favorably, while 49 percent are unfavorable.

Easily the most important issue in the election is the economy and jobs, named by 62 percent of likely voters. The president leads Romney as the candidate who can best address this issue. The federal budget deficit is a distant second at 10 percent, followed by Social Security and Medicare at 8 percent. Voters see Obama as better able to handle the economy by 46 percent to 42 percent, but Romney has a strong edge on the budget, 68 percent to 12 percent. Obama is favored on Social Security and Medicare, 73 percent to 14 percent.

Voters’ most important candidate quality is leadership (29 percent), followed by “shares my values” (18 percent) and “cares about people like me” (17 percent). Voters who care most about leadership say they will vote for Romney over Obama, 54 percent to 34 percent. But Obama wins on values, 49 percent to 39 percent and overwhelms Romney on caring, 82 to 13 percent.

“The president leads in New Jersey primarily because of his personal qualities,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Voters like him better and feel he shares their values and cares about them. While Romney keeps it closer on the hard issue of the economy, and wins easily on leadership, voters generally prefer to support someone they like over someone they don’t.”

Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23 – 25. Within this sample 710 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Head-to-head it’s Obama by double digits

Obama’s 14-point lead is built on support from women, who prefer the incumbent by a 58 percent to 32 percent margin. Men give Obama a very slight edge, 45 percent to 42 percent. Independents are also in Obama’s camp, 44 percent to 36 percent. The president does better among Democrats, (93 percent support him) than Romney does among Republicans (83 percent support).

Catholics (by four percentage points) and white voters (eight percentage points) are among the few demographic groups to favor the Republican. Romney’s support among whites is completely offset by nonwhite voters who overwhelmingly prefer Obama and comprise a quarter of the electorate. Romney also holds a very slight lead among likely voters making more than $100,000. Regionally, voters in the shore and exurban counties of New Jersey are Romney supporters; he holds an 18-point lead in the former. Urban, suburban, and south Jersey voters are equally strong for Obama, however. Young voters remain with Obama as they were in 2008: 58 percent of those under 35 say they will vote for Obama, while 26 percent support Romney.

“As long as women here are overwhelming supporters of Obama, Romney has little chance of winning,” said Redlawsk. “While he does OK among men, and very well among white men, this is not enough of a base in a state as diverse as this one.”

The likeability factor

Likely voters are generally positive about Obama personally, while negative about Romney. Much of this is driven by independents, who like the president (49 percent favorable) more than they do Romney (36 percent favorable.) But Romney suffers within his own party in comparison to Obama; 94 percent of Democrats like Obama, while just 78 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of Romney. Few Democrats (4 percent) dislike Obama, but 12 percent of Republicans are unfavorable toward their nominee, while another 10 percent are neutral.

A huge gender gap is evident in favorability ratings for both candidates. While 62 percent of women hold a favorable impression of Obama, only 47 percent of men agree. Forty-four percent of men feel favorably toward Romney, but only 32 percent of women agree. As a result, women are twice as positive about Obama as Romney. Men feel equally favorable toward both candidates.

“As Election Day approaches, Obama’s margin in New Jersey will be readily traceable to how positive women feel about him, more than anything else,” Redlawsk said.

Whites are far more favorable toward Romney (46 percent) than are black voters (11 percent favorable). Romney also does much better among senior citizens than with voters under 35 (44 percent favorable to 34 percent). Even so, Obama fairs better among every age group, gaining a 50 percent favorable rating from seniors and a 62 percent favorable rating from those under 35.

Wealthier voters also are much more likely to feel positive about Romney compared to those with lower incomes, although he still trails Obama in favorability at all income levels.

U.S. on wrong track; Voters prefer Obama on the economy

By a 21-point margin, the state’s likely voters think America is on the wrong track. At the same time, they say Obama would do a better job fixing their strongest concern, the economy. Two-thirds of Democrats believe things are going in the right direction, but only 27 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans agree. Voters with household incomes under $50,000 comprise the only group with a positive outlook, as 43 percent say the country is going in the right direction while 40 percent disagree. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters at all other income levels are convinced things are on the wrong track.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of likely voters name the economy as their most important issue in the election. Among these, 46 percent say Obama is the right candidate to handle the issue, while 42 percent say Romney would do the better job. When it comes to the election, however, voters who care most about the economy give the president a 51 to 40 percent edge.

More voters (29 percent) say “strong leader” is the quality they want most in a presidential candidate; among these voters Romney is preferred 54 percent to 34 percent. But the next two qualities – “shares my values” (18 percent) and “cares about me” (17 percent) clearly play into Obama’s strengths, as voters who want those qualities strongly support Obama. These voters eliminate any advantage Romney has on leadership.

“The right direction-wrong track numbers, especially among independents, would normally point to a clear opportunity for a challenge to a sitting president,” said Redlawsk. “Yet Obama seems immune to these numbers here in New Jersey. Garden State voters may or may not be pinning the blame for the economy on him, but they still think the president will do a better job than Romney. That, coupled with his likeability and the fact that this remains a Democratic state, suggests New Jersey is squarely in his corner.”

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We start a new academic year of polling with a look at NJ voter reactions to Gov. Christie’s upcoming speech and Romney’s decision not to select him as his running mate. Since the Governor had not given his speech when we were in the field (August 23-25) we thought we’d simply ask if NJ voters think Christie being tapped to give the Keynote at the RNC will improve the state’s image in the eyes of others. The short answer: No. NJ voters really don’t think it will make much difference. Likewise, they are not overly concerned that Christie wasn’t named as the VP candidate. We also throw in our latest numbers on the Governor’s favorability and job performance here in NJ, and find that very little changed over the summer. While we might have expected some uptick in ratings given all the attention, the fact is Gov. Christie has tracked in the same narrow range of favorability and job performance for nearly all of his administration. Nothing changed much here either.

Over the next couple days we will have some additional releases. Watch for our NJ Obama-Romney head-to-head immediately pre-convention and NJ voters’ reactions to Paul Ryan. We’ll mix it up at the weekend with a look at tattoos, then go to more political stuff next week. So stay tuned.

Today’s release is below in text. For a PDF of the full release with questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As NJ Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention today, New Jersey voters do not expect his latest moment on the national stage will benefit the Garden State’s image, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While nearly a third believes Christie’s address will enhance New Jersey’s image with the rest of the country, 46 percent think it will make no difference; 14 percent say Christie’s speech will hurt the state’s image.

That presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney failed to choose Christie as his running mate also elicits mostly yawns from voters: 64 percent say that it does not matter that Christie was not selected, a quarter are pleased with the outcome and only 10 percent are disappointed.

Christie saw no bump in his personal favorability rating from being named keynote speaker at the RNC. Instead, his rating remained virtually even at 49 percent favorable, down one point from early June, and 40 percent unfavorable, up one point.

“While Gov. Christie will speak to his largest audience yet, with as many as 30 million viewers expected to tune in, New Jerseyans are not that impressed,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While not exactly a case of ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ voters simply don’t think the VP talk or the speech itself makes much difference in how New Jersey is viewed from outside.”

Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23 – 25. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Christie Keynote and New Jersey’s Image

While it may be an important political opportunity for Gov. Christie, most New Jerseyans think the rest of the country will not view New Jersey differently as a result. But among some groups there is optimism. Fifty-seven percent of GOP voters expect Christie’s role to burnish New Jersey’s image, but less than one-third of independents and only 18 percent of Democrats agree. Just over half of voters with a favorable impression of the governor think his speech will help, but a mere 9 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie say the same. However, Christie detractors are not all negative: half say the speech will make no difference, though about one-third says Christie will hurt New Jersey’s image.

“New Jerseyans are more dubious than they were 16 months ago about how Gov. Christie’s national visibility affects the state,” noted Redlawsk. “In April 2011 40 percent thought it helped. Now only 32 percent feel positive about his latest national opportunity. Much of this is partisan with Republicans remaining still on board. But this shift may also reflect some of the negative ‘YouTube’ moments over the past year.”

Older New Jersey voters are more likely to say Christie’s keynote will enhance New Jersey’s image. While 35 percent of voters over 65 feel this way, only 25 percent of those under 30 say the same. Younger voters, by 53 percent to 43 percent, are simply more likely to think the speech will make no difference.

Men, stronger supporters of Christie, are more likely than women to say the speech will be good for New Jersey’s image (37 percent to 28 percent.) By a six-point margin, 17 percent to 11 percent, women are more likely to say the speech will hurt the Garden State’s image. About 45 percent of both genders say it will make no difference.

Few care Christie is not Romney’s No. 2

Voters are blasé about Romney choosing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan over Christie as his running mate: 10 percent are disappointed, 25 percent are pleased and 64 percent say it “doesn’t matter to me.” Independents are slightly more likely to be pleased Christie was not picked (28 percent, compared to 23 percent of both Republicans and Democrats.) But even 60 percent of independents say it doesn’t matter, as do 66 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats.

Even Christie’s backers are not very concerned. In fact, 20 percent are actually pleased, while 13 percent are disappointed. Christie’s detractors, on the other hand, are happier he was not chosen: 35 percent are pleased and 7 percent disappointed, while 58 percent do not care.

“There’s an interesting dynamic here,” said Redlawsk. “Those who like the governor should be happier he wasn’t picked, since it means he stays here and continues a job they think he is doing well. But instead they are less pleased than those who don’t like him. Those who dislike the governor seem to be reacting more to his failure to make the jump to national politics. Yet logically they should be unhappy he will remain here for the foreseeable future.”

Christie favorability, job performance ratings show little change

In the face of the intense speculation about Christie’s role in Tampa, voters show little change in their support for the governor. Favorability is 49 percent, down one point since early June. The percentage of voters grading Christie’s job performance as an “A” or “B” is also little changed at 45 percent, while “F” grades remain at 16 percent.

Since June, favorable ratings have declined 7 points among independents to 48 percent and unfavorable ratings increased 8 points to 40 percent. Favorable marks among GOP backers have risen from 79 percent to 84 percent, offsetting much of this decline among independents.

There has been a particularly sharp decline in favorability among black voters, from 31 percent favorable in June to only 20 percent. The persistent gender gap remains, with 54 percent of men having a favorable impression of the governor compared to only 44 percent of women.

Despite the drop in favorability, independents remain much more positive than negative about Christie’s job performance grade: 48 percent award an “A” or “B” and 15 percent fail him. Of course, Democrats are much more negative than other voters: only 20 percent grade him an “A” or “B” while 23 percent give an “F”. The vast majority of Republicans see things quite differently, with 74 percent saying Christie is doing “A” or “B” work, and only 4 percent saying he should fail.

While there have been a few shifts among groups, the overall picture of New Jersey voters’ feelings about Gov. Christie has not changed much over the course of his administration as tracked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. During this time, Christie’s favorability rating has ranged between 44 and 50 percent. His unfavorable rating has ranged between 37 and 47 percent.

“All of this reinforces a big ‘so what?’ among New Jersey voters, both in terms of the impact on the state and perceptions of the Governor from the chatter about his national aspirations,” said Redlawsk. “Given that Christie has now said he has no interest in a Romney cabinet position, maybe the media will let Garden State voters do what they seem to want to do: forget about it and focus on day-to-day life in New Jersey. Perhaps we’ll get a break, at least until we see if the Republican presidential nomination is available in 2016 when the speculation will start over again.”

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Continuing our look at the current state of politics in the Garden State, today we release our latest numbers on President Obama, Mitt Romney, and the 2012 matchup here. We confirm what we’ve already been seeing; this remains a non-competitive state for the presidential election. That means we should not expect to see much int he way of actual campaigning for president, except to the extent we get spillover from Pennsylvania, which may be more competitive.

Having said that, in our latest numbers we see a drift downward in Obama’s favorable rating and job performance grade, while Romney has moved up as the primary campaign ended and Republicans in particular accepted their nominee. But favorability ratings aside, Obama continues to have a large lead when we do a head-to-head matchup, little changed from early in the year.

The full text of today’s release is below. Click here to get a PDF of the release, with questions and tables.

Republican candidate trails and still appears to be in a non-competitive race

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Although he still is viewed favorably by 55 percent of New Jersey’s voters, President Obama’s favorability rating has dipped five percentage points since his high-water mark in February, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. One-third of voters hold unfavorable views of the president and 12 percent have no opinion.

Conversely, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has gained four percentage points since a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in March, yet only 32 percent of voters have a favorable impression of the former Massachusetts governor. Forty-six percent still have an unfavorable view and 23 percent have not yet made up their mind.

Obama handily beats Romney in a 2012 election matchup, 56 percent to 33 percent, the margin virtually unchanged the past several months. Romney’s single area of strength comes from voters who see strong leadership as a president’s most important trait, where he ties Obama. On all other characteristics, Obama leads. The incumbent also leads across the most important issues identified by New Jersey voters – the economy and jobs, health care and education. Romney leads among the far fewer voters who call the federal deficits their most important issue.

“This poll again confirms the conventional wisdom that New Jersey is simply not competitive in the presidential campaign,” said Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers. “While Obama’s numbers have slipped slightly, mirroring some national trends, Romney is not yet getting enough traction here to catch up.”

Results are from a poll of 1,191 adults with a subsample of 1,065 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from May 31-June 4. The registered voter subsample has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

Obama’s grades vary among groups

After improving from last August to February, Obama’s favorability rating began drifting downward in March, the trend driven by independents and the unemployed (each down eight points since February). Republican support has declined five points to 12 percent. Democrats, at 89 percent favorable, have held strong showing no significant change.

After ticking up from February to March among less-educated voters, Obama’s favorability with this group has dropped 10 points to 52 percent. Concurrently, among those in the lowest income bracket, the president’s favorability is down five points to 62 percent. Fifty-one percent of high-income voters view him favorably. The incumbent’s popularity had declined equally among men and women; 59 percent of women and 51 percent of men now have favorable impressions of Obama.

On presidential job performance, 47 percent of respondents award A or B (down 3 points since March), about a 2-to-1 margin over those who give Obama a C. Twenty-eight percent fail Obama with D or F.

While earning slightly higher grades from Democrats and liberals compared to March, independent voters are less pleased. Only 39 percent (a decline of five points) now award A or B. Voters who are not employed have also lowered Obama’s job performance. While the same number (16 percent) give Obama an A, B’s are down 13 points to 29 percent, with increases in those assigning C, D or F to his efforts.

“While the negative trends are not dramatic, there are some areas where Obama could stand to shore up his support,” said Redlawsk. “In particular, the campaign cannot afford to have independents become more disillusioned”

Romney favorability up with Republicans and unemployed

Republicans (up 15 points) and to a lesser extent conservatives (three points) are happier with Romney than in March, now that he is the GOP standard-bearer. “While conservatives remain less positive than other Republicans, they are slowly becoming more favorable,” Redlawsk noted.

Romney’s favorability also is up among those with lower levels of education – now at 30 percent for those with at least a high school degree and 29 percent for those with some college – as well as with college graduates, up seven points to 37 percent. Romney is down, however, among the most educated voters. His favorability also has improved among both the youngest and oldest cohorts (to 30 percent for 18 to 29-year-olds and 43 percent favorable among the oldest voters).

The Republican candidate’s favorability also has jumped among unemployed voters (13 points to 31 percent) and the lowest income voters (10 points to 27 percent). He gained six points among the wealthiest and dropped the same in each of the middle two income brackets.

The gender gap in favorability toward Romney has widened considerably, with men increasing 10 points to 39 percent favorable, while women stay virtually the same at 26 percent

Obama maintains lead but slips with independents, unemployed

Some groups have shifted toward Romney the last two months. Independent support for Obama has dropped five percentage points to 46 percent, with a corresponding increase to 33 percent who say they will vote for Romney. While still strong, Obama’s lead among these swing voters has dropped from 22 points to 14 points.

Support for Obama by voters who are not employed has fallen 10 points to 55 percent, while Romney has experienced an eight-point gain to 29 percent. While still favoring Obama, 63 percent to 26 percent, more low-income voters are becoming supporting Romney than in March, Redlawsk said. Among the highest-income voters, Obama leads Romney, 50 percent to 41 percent.

Voters want a strong leader, economy and jobs are most important

Echoing the March Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, strong leadership remains a candidate’s most important trait at 27 percent. Thirty-eight percent of Romney backers feel that way compared to 22 percent of Obama supporters. The president’s supporters are more likely to say that a candidate’s most important quality is that he “cares about people like me” followed closely by “strong leader.”

Across character traits, Obama wins in every category except “strong leader,” where he trails Romney by one percentage point. The president easily beats the challenger among voters who believe it is important for the candidate to “share my values,” “care about people like me,” have “high moral character,” be “consistent in his beliefs” and “bring people together.”

More than 60 percent of voters – regardless of candidate preference – say jobs and the economy is the most important issue, well ahead of health care (11 percent) and education (9 percent). Obama wins easily on the economy – 53 percent to 36 percent for Romney. He also wins three-quarters of the vote among those who say that health care or education is the most important issue. Romney wins a majority of voters who say the federal budget deficit is their top priority.

“While Romney is running heavily on the economic challenges we face, this issue does not seem to get him much traction in New Jersey, at least not to date,” said Redlawsk. “This is most likely a consequence of not being a battleground. There is essentially no active campaigning here, though the candidates do come to New Jersey to raise money.”

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Obama Maintains Support in NJ; Continues to Lead Romney

A PDF with questions and tables is available here.

Our most recent poll also gets a read on the 2012 election in New Jersey. The overall story is not a lot of change from our early February poll. Support for President Obama among New Jersey voters holds steady.  A clear majority – 58 percent – has a favorable impression of the president, while one third of voters continue to remain unfavorable.  His job performance grade also remain virtually the same, with half of all voters awarding Obama an A or B and a little more than one quarter giving a grade of D or F.  As was true in February, 22 percent give him a C.

Obama’s positive ratings coincide with a continuing double digit lead over the top Republican presidential candidates in general election match-ups.  The president leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 58 to 31 percent, a 27-point difference that has held relatively steady.  Obama leads former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich 64 to 23 percent and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum 62 to 27 percent.

In general, Romney earns the highest favorability rating from New Jersey voters among all three Republican candidates, but half of voters still have an unfavorable impression of him.  Only 28 percent have a favorable impression toward Romney, 20 percent toward Santorum, and a meager 12 percent toward Gingrich.

None of the Republican candidates score very highly at all among New Jersey voters, which is reflected in Obama’s wide leads against each of them in these match-ups.   The president appears to be maintaining his solid lead over any Republican in New Jersey.

Results are from a poll of 601 New Jersey adults, including a subsample of 518 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from March 21-27. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

Obama viewed positively by almost all groups, though Independents show slight dip

In line with the overall trend, Obama is viewed favorably by most groups, except for Republicans and conservatives. Three-quarters of Republicans and 71 percent of conservatives feel unfavorable toward the president.  Only 15 percent of Republicans and one-quarter of conservatives express favorable views.  These numbers remain basically stable from last month, during which Obama saw a slight softening in opposition from Republican and conservative voters after single-digit favorability with Republicans last fall.  In contrast, overwhelming majorities of Democrats and liberals – 87 and 86 percent, respectively – hold favorable views of Obama.

Obama’s favorability takes a slight downward turn with independent and moderate voters since last month.  While February showed a large increase in favorable ratings among these groups, Independents have dropped 5 points since then in their favorability toward Obama to 50 percent and moderates are down 7 points to 54 percent. It may be too early to tell if these drops among Independent and moderate voters are the start of a new downward trend for them, but these groups can make a difference in the general election.

While Obama’s job performance grade remains relatively solid with all New Jersey voters, groups who had given Obama an A a month ago are showing some shift toward B’s. Among the 58 percent of voters with favorable impressions of Obama, 20 percent give him an A for job performance, 59 percent give him a B, and 18 percent give him a C.  Like most of the other groups of voters, even those who give Obama high favorability ratings are at the same time giving him more B’s than A’s on job performance compared to a month ago.

Obama continues large lead over Republican frontrunner Romney

Even if there has been a softening of job performance ratings for Obama, so far there has been no impact on his lead over likely Republican nominee Romney.  Romney receives the highest favorability ratings among Republican candidates across most subgroups, including Republicans and conservatives.  Of Republicans, 58 percent view Romney favorably, compared to 45 percent who view Santorum favorably, and only 28 percent who feel favorable toward Gingrich.

Independents and moderates more or less reflect the overall number of voters both in terms of favorability toward Romney and in the general election match-ups.  Only 31 percent of Independents and 26 percent of moderates have favorable opinions toward Romney, though this is higher than their opinions of both Santorum and Gingrich.  In a head-to-head with Romney, 51 percent of Independents and 53 percent of moderates would choose Obama.  Yet Independents and moderates also have a relatively high number of don’t knows in this general election match-up – 16 percent of Independents and 12 percent of moderates are undecided in who they would vote for between Obama and Romney.

Obama’s 58 percent to 31 percent lead over Romney is fueled by two factors: the larger number of Democrats versus Republicans in New Jersey and the fact that independents are currently strongly in his camp. Ninety percent of Democrats support Obama, compared to 84 percent of Republicans who would vote for Romney in the head-to-head matchup. Among independents, 51 percent say they support Obama, while 29 percent are in the Romney camp.

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2012 US Senate and House – An early look in NJ

As we did two years ago, we are beginning our polling on the 2012 Congressional races in New Jersey. This time around we have a U.S. Senate race, with incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez running for re-election. And while two Republicans have declared their interest in running against him – Anna Little and State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, from our current vantage point Kyrillos is the one building a potentially strong campaign, so we test him against Menendez in this round of polling. Menendez has pretty weak favorability for an incumbent, but mainly because nearly 40 percent of registered voters have no opinion about him. Among those who do, he is 10 point to the positive in his favorability rating, pretty much where he has been for the past year. Kyrillos, however, is unknown – 80 percent venture no opinion when asked whether they see him favorably or unfavorably. In a head to head ballot test, Menendez holds a strong lead. But when we ask a generic party-only ballot test, the gap closes from 22 points to 12 points. Maybe that signals potential for Kyrillos.

We also ask about the U.S. House races, in a generic fashion. Half our sample gets asked if they prefer a Republican or Democrat and half is asked whether they want the incumbent or a challenger. The results lean more toward the Democrats than they did at this time two years ago, mostly because independents are currently evenly split, where in 2010 they had a strong Republican tilt. But, this says nothing about individual districts – we don’t have the resources to poll all 12 House districts. Instead, it is an overall read of registered voters 9 months before the election, with all the limitations that suggests.

The full text of the release follows. For a PDF of the text, along with all relevant questions and tables, click here.


Statewide, New Jersey voters support Democrats for U.S. house

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez holds a commanding lead over New Jersey state Sen. Joe Kyrillos in an early test of the 2012 U.S. Senate election, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Menendez, a Democrat, is favored by 44 percent of Garden State registered voters and 22 percent name Kyrillos, while 26 percent are unsure and 7 percent say they would not vote. An unnamed Republican does better than Kyrillos in the Senate race, though still loses to a generic Democrat by a 46 percent to 34 percent margin.

Kyrillos’ primary weakness is that few voters know him; 80 percent either have no opinion (50 percent) or are unsure (30 percent) about the GOP challenger. Eleven percent have a favorable impression and 9 percent do not.

Voters feel more positive toward Menendez, 37 percent to 24 percent, but nearly 40 percent have no opinion about the incumbent. “Menendez’s favorability numbers crept up slightly early last year, but for an incumbent, he has a very low profile,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Kyrillos, however, is completely unknown at this point, a huge advantage for Menendez. We certainly expect that the numbers will tighten as the campaign develops, but Menendez starts off in a good position.”

Democrats also hold a significant lead over Republicans statewide in an early 2012 U.S. House election ballot test, according to the poll. Statewide, 45 percent of registered voters would support an unnamed Democrat, 28 percent would vote Republican, 11 percent would not vote and 15 percent are unsure.

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Questions about the U.S. Senate and House elections were split into two random subsamples, with a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points for each.

 Even Republicans don’t know Kyrillos

While the state’s voters tend to lean Democratic in national elections, Kyrillos is at a particular disadvantage, suffering from virtually no name recognition nine months before the election. Only 20 percent of voters venture an opinion (11 percent favorable and 9 percent unfavorable). Even among Republicans, few know how they feel about the state senator: 12 percent are favorable, 4 percent unfavorable, but 84 percent have no opinion.

“No name recognition is a double whammy for Kyrillos,” said Redlawsk. “He must overcome the lack of a statewide profile and the underlying Democratic leanings of voters. Neither is impossible to do, with enough time and enough money, but it is a clear challenge.”

That Kyrillos’ lack of name recognition is a drag on his candidacy against Menendez is reflected by a party name ballot test for the Senate, where half of the poll’s respondents were asked to pick a Democrat or Republican for the seat. Among those with this option, a generic Democrat beats a generic Republican by only 12 percentage points, with 18 percent unsure. When the matchup is described as Kyrillos versus Menendez, the Democrat’s lead grows to 22 points. However, 33 percent say they would not vote or they cannot decide.

“Given a partisan cue – vote for a Republican or a Democrat – voters can express their generic preference pretty easily,” noted Redlawsk. “Asking them to choose between candidates they don’t know well leaves more room for uncertainty.”

Menendez rating stable and favorable, but lots of ‘no opinion’

Although an incumbent up for re-election, Menendez continues to have a surprisingly low profile: 39 percent of respondents have either no opinion of him (32 percent) or don’t know (7 percent). Thirty-seven percent feel favorably and 24 percent do not. One year ago, those favoring Menendez provided a 10-point cushion. Just as many held no opinion then as now.

“Without a sense of the candidates as individuals, voters are likely to fall back on party cues,” said Redlawsk. “This gives Kyrillos the opportunity to define Menendez, which could make the race more competitive by November. But first Kyrillos has to make himself known.”

Independents are particularly unsure where they will go at this point, said Redlawsk. Those asked to vote for an unnamed Republican or Democrat split evenly at 32 percent, but 37 percent would not choose one party over the other. Given named candidates, independents swing heavily to the name they recognize better: 43 percent would vote for Menendez, 23 percent for Kyrillos, and 34 percent are undecided or would not vote.

 Democrats lead in statewide U.S. House test

To examine the 2012 U.S. House race, one-half of respondents chose between a Republican and a Democrat, while the other half was asked to choose between their “current congressman” and a “challenger running against him.”

In the party name test, 45 percent of registered voters pick a Democrat while 28 percent say they would vote GOP. Another 11 percent would not vote, and 15 percent are uncertain. Asked to choose the incumbent or challenger, voters are more ambivalent, with 30 percent choosing the officeholder and 27 percent preferring the opponent. Given this choice, 20 percent would not vote, and 23 percent could not make a choice.

“For perspective, two years ago when we asked these same questions, 33 percent picked a Democrat and 31 percent wanted a Republican,” said Redlawsk. “These results suggest a shift towards the Democrats, much of which is driven by independents, who were 2-to-1 for Republicans in February 2010, and are now leaning slightly Democratic.”

Redlawsk also noted that the desire for challengers is not much different now than two years ago, when 32 percent supported their “current congressman” and 25 percent preferred someone else. As the 2010 election progressed, voters shifted slightly toward challengers in the polling, but in the end re-elected all but one of the state’s incumbents.

While noting that getting an early read on where the electorate is for 2012 provides a sense of the political environment, early numbers give only some guidance for the fall. “I would caution against reading too much into this,” said Redlawsk. “It’s early, for one thing. And whether a voter wants to throw out an incumbent, or wants a candidate of one party or the other, it really doesn’t matter if there isn’t a strong alternative to the incumbent on the ballot.”

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