Category Archives: 2013 NJ Election

Election Wrapup: Christie Victory Driven by a Year of High Personal Ratings Post-Sandy

Today we have some favorability numbers on Gov. Christie and analysis of those numbers as they relate to the election. These were colleced immediately pre-election and give us a sense of how all registered voters were viewing the governor. Of course, in the end, it looks like only about 38% of registered voters actually voted this year, perahps the lowest turnout in a very long time (if not ever) for a gubernatorial election that included the entire legislature. Perhaps the October special election had something to do with it, or maybe the simple fact that the election was relatively non-competitive not just for governor, but for almost all legislative seats, with just a few exceptions.

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


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As voters headed to the polls Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election bid was buoyed by some of his highest favorability ratings – 65 percent – since February 2013, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 27 percent of registered voters held an unfavorable impression of the governor. Similarly, 68 percent approved of the incumbent’s job performance and 59 percent said his work deserved at least a “B” grade.

Christie’s new ratings were nearly as high as they were right after Sandy, when 67 percent of respondents had a favorable impression and 61 percent awarded him at least a B. As he concludes his first term, Christie’s favorability rating is more than 20 points higher than it was just weeks after his inauguration in January 2010.

Despite Christie’s overall consistently high ratings, voters continued to question his performance on important issues. Near the campaign’s end, voters remained less than happy with his performance on taxes (42 percent) and the economy (45 percent). Voters were more taken with Christie’s Sandy recovery effort (80 percent approving), which kept his overall ratings high throughout the year.

“Governors and presidents regularly see downward trends in ratings over their term in office,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governor Christie, however, managed to counter that, to his benefit in the re-election campaign. The cause is clearly his leadership in response to Sandy, which overrode other concerns voters might have had. His victory Tuesday was highly personal, not driven by issues.”

Christie’s re-election also was aided by challenger Barbara Buono’s inability to become well known by voters. Immediately before the election, 39 percent still had no real impression of the Democratic state senator. What voters did learn about Buono seemed likely to be more driven by the Christie campaign’s efforts to define her; negative impressions of Buono edged out positive impressions, 32 percent to 28 percent.

Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct 28 – Nov 2.

High overall ratings spur Christie victory

Following Sandy, Christie maintained exceptionally high ratings among his own base as well as from his otherwise usual detractors. While 92 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of independents held a favorable impression,
Democrats reported a seven-point more positive assessment compared to early October. Forty-five percent of Democrats viewed the governor favorably right before Election Day, compared to only 22 percent before Sandy struck.

“As much as she tried, Barbara Buono clearly was unable to make a dent in the goodwill the governor built up following Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “That Democrats became even more positive toward Christie as the campaign wore on testifies to how difficult a task she faced.”

Fifty-one percent of Democrats gave Christie credit for his job performance. They were joined by 93 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of independents. As for assigning a grade, 86 percent of GOP voters, 59 percent of independents, and 43 percent of Democrats awarded at least a B.

Christie’s overall ratings hid a great deal of unrealized discontent on specific issues, something Buono was unable to tap despite her efforts. As the election neared, voters remained more negative than positive on Christie’s handling of taxes (42 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved). Voters were split on the economy, with 45 percent approving Christie’s performance and 44 percent disapproving. The two issues were by far seen as the most important: one-third named the economy and jobs and 25 percent called taxes the biggest problem facing the state.

But Sandy recovery was a different story. A year after the storm, approval of Christie’s Sandy efforts continued to be widespread and untarnished by Buono’s attacks. Even her strongest supporters approved Christie’s work on recovery.

“New Jersey voters did not necessarily buy Christie’s claims about the economy and taxes, but they also didn’t think Buono would do better,” said Redlawsk. “And though voters consistently said these two issues were top concerns, it’s clear that in the voting booth, positive impressions of Christie overrode any focus on issues.”

Even among those who disapproved of Christie on taxes, 47 percent retained a favorable impression of the governor, and 44 percent said they would vote for him. Disapproval on other issues did not lead invariably to dislike, either. On each issue about one-third of those disapproving remained favorable toward Christie.

Approval of Christie’s stance on education increased in the final month, from 48 percent to 54 percent. More than half also approved Christie’s work on the state budget, and crime and drugs.

Christie’s popularity helped shape opinions on New Jersey’s overall well-being: 59 percent said the state was headed in the right direction, while 34 percent said it was off on the wrong track. While Republicans and independents overwhelmingly felt more positive about New Jersey, even a plurality of Democrats (48 percent) said the state was going in the right direction.

One consequence of Christie’s personal star power was that his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, remained virtually unknown. Two-thirds of voters continued to have no impression of her, while only 21 percent said they felt favorable and 12 percent felt unfavorable.

Buono remained mostly unknown

Buono’s struggle to gain name recognition did not improve in the final days of the race. More registered voters had no impression of her than had a favorable impression. Only 48 percent of Democrats had a favorable impression of their candidate, while 39 percent had no impression at all.

Even more independents (42 percent) had no impression of the challenger, with just 21 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable. Republicans were most likely to know something about Buono, but it was all bad, as 59 percent of GOP registered voters had a negative impression, while only 10 percent were positive.

Buono’s running mate, Milly Silva, fared only a little worse than Guadagno in terms of recognition: 72 percent had no impression of Silva as Election Day approached.

Voter contact favored Christie, but TV was the best messenger

While noticing the ubiquitous Christie for Governor TV ads, most registered voters did not recall receiving any direct contact from either gubernatorial campaign or from political parties or other groups. Just 26 percent reported some kind of campaign contact.

Among contacted voters, 54 percent said they heard from the Christie campaign, while 41 percent reported a Buono contact. One-third reported a Republican Party contact, and 27 percent said they heard from the Democratic Party.

Fewer than 10 percent heard from other candidates, non-campaign organizations, or other entities.

Christie’s outreach reflected his efforts to paint himself as a bipartisan candidate. Republicans, independents and Democrats were all equally likely to report a Christie contact. But Buono’s need to keep her own base is reflected in the fact that Democrats were seven points more likely than independents and 18 points more likely than Republicans to say they were contacted by Buono.

Traditional media sources continued to be where voters got information about the governor’s race. Eighty-two percent got their news from television, and 58 percent from newspapers. Internet and radio were nearly as popular, however, with 52 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Television campaign commercials still reached the largest share of voters: more than three-quarters reported that they saw or heard a campaign ad from one of the candidates, with voters eight points more likely to report seeing a Christie ad than a Buono ad.

“While the internet has become an important information source, voters still reported that television is where they learned most about the campaign, which was covered extensively by national TV news, even if New Jersey has no real local television,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time it is likely that the wall-to-wall Christie ads in particular are part of what voters were responding to when they said TV was an information source. Those ads were pretty hard to miss.”

Some partisan differences in news preferences appeared. While television and newspaper usage was quite even across all partisans, Republicans and independents were more likely than Democrats to use the internet and radio. Radio was also more popular with Christie voters but the internet was more popular with Buono voters.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie

Well, we overstated this one too.

Results are mostly in and Gov. Chris Christie appears to have won by about 22 points or so. That’s a huge win, of course, especially for a Republican in a “blue” state. But it is somewhat below Quinnipiac’s final 28 point lead and our whopping 36 point lead. Monmouth again was closest.

While we’re of course not happy about being so far off, we’re also sitting here scratching our heads a bit. When we look at our likely voters screens as well as our raw numbers in terms of registered voters, it’s hard to see what went wrong. It is the case we did not have enough Democrats, if the CNN exit polls as of right now (10:45pm on Tuesday) are right, about 40% of voters were Democrats, and we had it at 36%.  But the more direct “cause” is that 38% of Democrats we talked to told us they were voting for Christie, as did 70% of independents. CNN says 32% of Democrats went for Christie, and 66% of Independents. Combined these folks make up 72% of the electorate, and we overstated Christie support in both groups.

The fact is, however, this is what our data show. And at a basic level our sample is well representative of the state both in terms of demographics, as well distribution throughout the state, and we talk to people on both landlines and cell phones. So the skew isn’t coming there in any serious way, and the skew is not an obvious partisan one since we overstated both a Democrat (Booker) and a Republican (Christie). And more interesting, perhaps, is that many of our other numbers fit with what we and other polls have consistently found in terms of Christie approval ratings and other measures that can be compared. And in October, using the same methodology, we came up with numbers (Christie +26) that were basically where Monmouth was (+24) and well below Quinnipiac (+33).

So we have to look at the possibility that something about our live caller operation is creating a “winner” effect at the very end – overstating results for the leading candidate through the interaction of our callers and the respondents in some way unique to our operation. We have begun to analyze what happened with our overstating of Booker’s win, and that may be something different – we are seeing some serious possibility of a “race of interviewer” effect where our white interviewers were far less likely to be told the respondent was voting for Booker than were our non-white interviewers. (We will have more on this when we complete the analysis and we will report the details here.) But that isn’t the issue here at all.

We also have to look at the nature of our questionnaires. Given that we can only poll a limited number of times in any given year, and we have a lot of questions we like to ask in any given poll. Maybe adding other questions to a pre-election poll (that is questions beside the basic voting stuff) is a potential problem. In this case, we stuck with our usual mode of asking our battery of favorability and approval ratings before we went on to the voter turnout questions and the actual vote. It is certainly possible that we skewed things toward Christie by first asking a fairly detailed battery of favorability and approval questions, most of which were about Christie (only one – favorability) was about Buono.

There are no doubt other things we will look at as well as we try to improve our operations.

In any case, we suppose there is small comfort in getting the winners right, but it is very small. At least it isn’t 1993 when the then Star-Ledger Eagleton Poll not only consistently gave Jim Florio clear leads, but in the final poll that year put him up 9 points. Of course, Christie Whitman eked out that win, making the poll about 10+ points off, and picking the wrong winner to boot. Our error is in the same ballpark 20 years later, but thanks to Christie’s overwhelming win, we at least didn’t get the winner wrong!



Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie


Well, once again there are widely varying polls in the last days of an election. And once again we’re at the high end, though this time we are more Republican than some others. Today while we show Gov. Christie with a massive 36 point lead, Monmouth puts the race at 20 points. But this time we’re not alone since a few days ago Quinnipiac gave Christie a 33 point lead and today they say 28 points.

A quick look at Monmouth shows the big difference is due in large part to the reported partisan vote. They have Buono winning 70% of Democrats. In our poll only 59% of Democrats said they are sticking with Buono while 38% support Christie. This alone accounts for some 2/3 of the difference between the polls. The new Quinnipiac Poll today splits the difference here as it does overall – they have Buono winning 64% of Democrats, halfway between us and Monmouth.

Our differences with Quinnipiac are relatively trivial, and within our respective margins of margins of error. But Monmouth definitely tells a different story.

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


Governor holds better than 2-1 lead over challenger

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In the final hours before New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, Gov. Chris Christie’s lead over state Sen. Barbara Buono has grown to 36 points among likely voters, up 10 points in the last month, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s 66 percent to 30 percent margin may also be helping Republican Assembly and Senate candidates, as voters prefer Democrats keep control of the Legislature by only seven points, down from 12 points in early September.

Christie’s increasing home stretch lead reflects a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Buono, leading to decreased levels of attention to the race and a lower likelihood of voting. While 95 percent of Republicans support Christie, only 59 percent of Democrats plan to vote for Buono.

“Over the past month, Christie’s campaign appears to have convinced more Democrats to abandon Buono,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Whether Democrats are switching to Christie or just planning to stay home, the small gains Buono had made with her party base over previous months have been reversed. The risk is great for Democrats up and down the ballot if uninspired party faithful fail to turn out.”

In a generic statewide ballot test, likely voters give Assembly Democrats just a six-point margin, 42 percent to 36 percent, nearly erasing what was a 17-point Democratic lead in early September. The state Senate vote is similar: 44 percent plan to vote for Democrats, while 38 percent will support the GOP. Overall, 47 percent of likely voters still want Democrats in control of the Legislature while 40 percent hope for a Republican takeover, down from 50 percent to 38 percent two months ago.

“The real story tomorrow could be that Republicans make unexpected legislative gains,” said Redlawsk. “While the gerrymandered nature of legislative districts – mostly drawn to favor one party over the other – argues against a Republican takeover, Christie’s huge margin may make a difference.”

Voters continue to favor overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour, 68 percent to 30 percent.

Results are from a sample of 535 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points, drawn from 804 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 28 – Nov. 2, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie makes more inroads into Buono’s base

Christie’s already large lead has grown within almost every group of voters. The governor wins 95 percent of his own party members, up two points since October. Likewise, 73 percent of independents now support Christie, up five points. Buono gets support from just 20 percent of independents. Democrats have especially taken to Christie in the final week; 38 percent now say they support him, up from 25 percent four weeks ago. Buono garners only 59 percent among Democrats.

Nonwhite voters also have moved into Christie’s column, 55 percent to 40 percent for Buono, a reversal from early September. Her other stronghold, public union households, now gives Buono just a three-point lead, 48 percent to 45 percent, down from nine points.

“There is simply no good news for Buono in any of our numbers,” said Redlawsk. “To top it off, Christie’s efforts to court black and Hispanic voters seem to be paying off much better than might have been expected.”

Christie continues to win big across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though his margin is somewhat smaller among the most educated. Among voters in households with incomes under $50,000 that usually lean Democratic, Christie’s lead has doubled and is now 70 percent to 27 percent. Christie also holds massive leads in every region of the state.

There is only a limited gender gap in support for the governor. Christie has a 2-1 lead among women (63 percent to 32 percent), while men are five points more likely to back him.

Christie coattails may be in play

Democrats have held a wide lead over Republicans in statewide generic tests of Assembly and Senate races all year. But the combination of a huge Christie margin and possible demobilization of Democrats may be having an impact on down-ballot races, as the previous lead has all but disappeared.

After giving Democrats an 18-point margin in early September, likely voters now favor Democrats by single digits statewide in both Assembly and Senate races. Christie’s success is rubbing off, especially among fellow partisans. Among the increasing number of Christie supporters, Republican Assembly candidates lead, 53 percent to 22 percent. In the Senate, Republicans lead 55 percent to 25 percent among these voters. While more than eight in 10 Buono voters choose legislative Democrats, the smaller share of her supporters means statewide Democrats are in worse shape than two months ago.

Democrats maintain a small lead because most partisan voters still plan to vote for their party in both Assembly and Senate races. However, increasing solidarity among likely Republican voters contributes to Republican gains. In Assembly races, 89 percent of GOP voters are now staying with the party line, up 13 points from September. Eighty-two percent of Democrats plan to vote for legislative Democrats, even as many are defecting to Christie at the top of the ticket. Senate races look similar.

Christie’s coattails are not as strong with independents, but Assembly Republicans eke out a 4- point lead, 32 percent to 28 percent, while independents favor Senate GOPers, 37 percent to 31 percent.

“As always, these statewide tests do not tell us about individual districts, and they are highly contingent on who actually chooses to vote in these races,” noted Redlawsk. “But as the statewide margin closes, some Democratic seats may be more at risk than they were before.”

Democrats lack enthusiasm

Two-thirds of all registered voters say they have followed the election very or fairly closely, and 31 percent are very enthusiastic about their vote choices. Another 52 percent are somewhat enthusiastic.

But Democrats are not nearly as engaged in the race as Republicans. Registered Democrats are five points less likely to say they are paying very close attention to the election, and they are seven points less apt to say they are very likely to turn out to vote. More importantly, enthusiasm for their gubernatorial candidate reveals an even larger gap. Only 22 percent of registered Democrats are very enthusiastic about voting for Buono, compared to half of Republicans who feel that way about re-electing Christie.

“We would expect Democrats remaining with Buono to be more enthusiastic about her compared to defecting Democrats, who might be somewhat reluctantly favoring Christie, but that’s not the case,” said Redlawsk. “Democrats voting for Christie are just as enthusiastic about crossing over as those remaining with Buono feel about her. Across the board, Republicans are excited. Democrats are not.”

Christie voters are much more motivated by support for their candidate than by opposition to Buono. While 60 percent of Buono’s likely voters are primarily voting against Christie, 84 percent of Christie’s voters are marking their ballot in support of him, rather than in opposition to Buono.

Few voters remain unsettled in their choices; only about 10 percent say they might consider changing by Nov. 5. But Buono loses our here as well: 14 percent of her supporters might change their minds versus only 8 percent of Christie voters.

Minimum wage continues to win, but loses some GOP backing

Support for the minimum wage constitutional amendment has fallen eight points since September, to 68 percent, mostly due to an increasingly strong Republican turnout. For the first time, Republicans are now more likely to oppose it: 52 percent are against the increase, versus 45 percent who support it.  Support is also down seven points among independents, though 60 percent still are still in favor. Ninety-one percent of Democrats are behind the minimum wage increase.

Fifty-six percent of Christie voters favor the amendment despite the governor’s opposition –down six points since September. Ninety-one percent of Buono’s backers favor the increase. Women are stronger supporters at 72 percent versus 63 percent for men. A 12-point gap in support exists between the lowest and highest income brackets, though 59 percent in the highest income bracket still support the measure.

“It seems that despite the lack of enthusiasm by Democrats for voting in this election, the minimum wage amendment will pass,” said Redlawsk. “Almost all Democrats will support it, and enough independents agree to likely put it over the top.”


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie, NJ Voters


Full text of the release of 10/25/13 follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While opponents often try to label Gov. Chris Christie a “bully,” most of New Jersey’s registered voters have a different take. By more than a 2 to 1 margin (72 percent to 34 percent), respondents in the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll agree that the governor’s self-description as a “fighter,” fits “very well” and is more apt than bully.

“Whether or not they all mean it in the same way, ‘fighter’ is the single word most applied to Christie by New Jersey voters,” said David Redlawsk, director of the poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. He added that since he started polling about the governor’s character traits in 2010, this is the first time fighter has been included in the list of descriptors.

The latest survey also shows that about two-thirds of registered voters see Christie as a “smart,” “strong leader.” Voters started to identify those traits more frequently following Superstorm Sandy’s assault on the state a year ago. “This perception of Christie as a strong leader has not only driven his high overall ratings, but has sustained their heights much longer than expected,” Redlawsk said.

About half of voters also ascribe “effective” and “independent” as key Christie characteristics, saying they fit him very well; 43 percent say “trustworthy,” 40 percent “fair” and 30 percent “reformer.”

Strong leader shows a slight uptick since polled in April, while a key negative has declined: 54 percent now say “stubborn” applies very well, a drop of six points. Other negatives have changed little: 46 percent say “arrogant” applies, 36 percent call him “self-centered” and 34 percent say “impulsive.”

Voters still assign many positive traits to Christie, but they are slightly less upbeat in emotional responses to him. Just under half are proud or enthusiastic, a drop of five and six points, respectively, since April. But Christie does not generate noticeably more anger (28 percent) or worry (31 percent).

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

A fighter, not a bully

In a CBS Sunday Morning interview in late September, Christie rejected the idea that he is a bully, saying, “No, I am not a bully. But what I am is a fighter.” New Jersey voters appear to agree, with 72 percent saying fighter is a word that describes him “very well” while only 34 percent say the same about “bully.”

Whether interpreting fighter positively or negatively, respondents overwhelmingly agree with the governor’s own self-assessment. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents, and 89 percent of Republicans say fighter fits very well. There is much less agreement about bully. Forty-nine percent of Democrats, 29 percent of independents and 19 percent of Republicans see Christie this way.

Both men (69 percent) and women (74 percent) agree Christie is a fighter, as do more than 80 percent of Christie supporters and more than 50 percent of supporters of Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono. Forty-four percent of Christie voters reject the term bully, with its much more negative connotation, but 16 percent still say it applies very well.

For Buono voters, the opposite is true. More than two-thirds (69 percent) call Christie a bully, while just 9 percent completely reject the description. About one-third of men and women say bully describes Christie very well, but another 30 percent of both gender say it applies only “Somewhat well.”

Christie’s positives

The governor continues to ride high from his handling of Sandy’s aftermath, with very high favorability, job approval and re-election numbers. The core reason may be that 88 percent of all voters say strong leader applies at least “somewhat well” to Christie, while only 8 percent say the term does not apply. More than nine in 10 voters say smart fits Christie at least somewhat well. Only 6 percent deny that Christie is smart.

Gender differences continue. Women remain much more positive about Christie than before Sandy hit, but are not as upbeat as men have become since April. Women are eight points more likely to say that independent describes Christie very well (53 percent to 45 percent), but they are seven points less likely to think of the governor as a strong leader, eight points less likely to think he is a reformer and six points less likely to think he is effective.

While Christie receives positive assessments from overwhelming numbers of independents and Republicans, his numbers have slipped among Democrats as the election draws near. Just over 40 percent of Democrats call Christie smart, down 9 points from April. Forty-four percent say strong leader applies very well, down 3 points. Just 16 percent now see him as a reformer, down 12 points.

Among Christie voters, 87 percent say strong leader applies very well and 79 percent identify him as smart. Even 34 percent of Buono voters say strong leader describes her opponent very well, and 36 percent say the same about smart. Still, while almost no Christie voters deny that he is smart or a strong leader, a quarter of Buono voters say he is no leader, and 15 percent say smart does not apply.

Christie’s negatives

Despite mostly positive responses, many voters continue to apply negative traits to Christie: 54 percent say “stubborn” describes the governor very well, and another 31 percent say it fits somewhat well. Arrogant (46 percent applies very well), self-centered and impulsive (each about one-third) are other frequently used descriptions. Voters have mostly maintained their level of negativity since April, but stubbornness responses have fallen six points, returning to levels found immediately after Sandy.

Democrats now are less likely to say the governor is stubborn than in April (a 10-point decline to 59 percent very well) but are marginally more likely to describe him as arrogant (a two-point rise to 61 percent). Fifty-six percent of independents label the governor stubborn, and 40 percent think him arrogant. Forty-one percent of Republicans say that stubborn describes the governor very well, with 31 percent saying the same for arrogant.

Almost half of Democrats call Christie self-centered and 40 percent say he is impulsive. A third of independents feel the same, as do fewer than a quarter of Republicans.

Women are slightly more likely to characterize Christie as arrogant (49 percent to 42 percent) but little to no gender differences exist with other negative traits. Among Buono voters, Christie is overwhelmingly seen as stubborn and arrogant (77 percent and 81 percent very well, respectively).

Christie evokes more pride, less anger

Voters’ emotional reactions to Christie also reflect the post-Sandy trend, with positives still outweighing negatives, though results are inching back toward pre-Sandy numbers. Forty-seven percent of voters say they are proud (down five points since April) and 45 percent say they feel enthusiastic (down six points) when hearing or reading about Christie. Those who say they feel worried or angry remain unchanged at 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Women are slightly more likely to say they are proud of Christie, 49 percent to 45 percent, but both figures are lower than in April. At the same time, some gender gaps have widened. Women are 10 points more likely to feel anger or worry. Enthusiasm by both sexes stands at 45 percent.

About 70 percent of respondents who feel favorably toward Christie feel both proud and enthusiastic about him, with only 11 percent angry and 13 percent worried. The numbers reverse for voters with an unfavorable impression, and intensity has grown since April: 70 percent who dislike Christie say they feel angry, and 76 percent are worried.

Positive emotions for the governor among Democrats are down since April – 10 points to 28 percent for pride and seven points to 25 percent for enthusiasm. Democrats have also increased in anger – up seven points to 45 percent – and worry, up seven points to 49 percent. Nearly half of independents are proud (49 percent) and enthusiastic (45 percent) about the governor, and Republicans are even more so (78 percent and 82 percent, respectively). Only about one in five independents and about one in 10 Republicans feel angry or worried.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating


We’ve already reported that Gov. Chris Christie is up 26 points over Barbara Buono in our latest polling. Today we report more details, focusing on how registered voters as a whole (not just likely voters) feel about Christie and view the governor’s job performance.

We have multiple measures, which may at times seem confusing. We start by asking a “Favorability” question. This is a general question: “I’d like to ask about some people and groups. Please tell me if your general impression of each one is favorable or unfavorable, or if you do not have an opinion.” Both Christie and Buono’s names are given, along with others, in random order.The idea is that this question taps an overall feeling for the person or group, and also gives us a sense of awareness.

Our second question asks people to assign a letter grade to the governor’s performance. We do this because report cards are easy for people to understand and it gives respondents a way to differentiate their assessment of how Christie is doing. Rutgers-Eagleton has been using a report card for several years now.

Our third questions asks for general approval or disapproval of the governor’s job performance – we added this because it was very unclear whether or not some people considered a “C” grade to be “good enough”. The answer is apparently some do, since overall job approval is generally higher than the number of A and B grades.

Finally, we recently added approval questions for specific issues that New Jerseyans continue to tell us are very important to them. As you will see below, this turns out to be interesting. There are major disconnects between the overall approval voters feel for Christie and their disapproval of his work on the economy and jobs as well as taxes.

Text of the release follows. Click here for full text plus questions and tables.


Buono still largely unknown just weeks before the election

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Election Day approaches, New Jersey’s registered voters continue to give incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie high overall ratings, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s favorability remains steady at 61 percent. He is viewed unfavorably by 28 percent of voters. Similarly, his overall job grade and approval are strong: 60 percent grade the governor B or higher and 67 percent approve of the overall job he is doing.

Voters remain persistently negative toward Christie’s efforts on what they perceive as the two most important issues facing the state, the economy and taxes. Only 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy and jobs, which more than a third say is the biggest problem facing New Jersey. Similarly, 38 percent approve of his performance on taxes, the top problem for 25 percent. But, as earlier polls have found, Christie’s overall support is not hurt by disapproval on specific issues.

Christie continues to benefit from Democratic challenger state Sen. Barbara Buono’s lack of a statewide profile – 43 percent of respondents have no real impression of her. Among those with an impression, negative views now outweigh positive: 29 percent to 28 percent, a seven-point increase in negative ratings since early September. This slippage reflects Christie’s continued and mostly unanswered TV ads attacking his opponent.

“For a major party challenger, Sen. Buono has had very low visibility throughout this campaign,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Her lack of resources and unwillingness of many Democratic leaders to promote her have hampered her messaging. Christie could have been vulnerable on the issues voters care about, but not without the presence of a visible, viable alternative.”

Voters also have difficultly placing Buono’s ideology: 19 percent say she is very liberal and 25 percent say somewhat liberal. Fifty percent are evenly split between moderate and unsure. Seven percent call her conservative. “This pattern of responses seems more like guessing than a clear recognition of Sen. Buono’s stances,” noted Redlawsk.

By way of contrast, 58 percent mostly see Christie as a moderate (58 percent) or somewhat conservative (22 percent), suggesting he has effectively positioned himself in the middle of the road. Only five percent of registered voters are unable to assess Christie’s ideology.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Democrats increasingly less favorable toward Christie

Ninety percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents fuel Christie’s high favorability. However, as the campaign winds on, Democrats are increasingly negative: the governor’s favorability dropped five points in a month to 38 percent while his unfavorability rose two points to 49 percent.

Also, Democrats’ disapproval of the incumbent’s overall job performance fell three points to 46 percent. Independents, however, are increasingly approving, showing a four-point rise to 74 percent. Nearly all Republicans – 91 percent – approve generally of the job he is doing, and his job grade is slightly higher.

“Democrats have become less enamored of the governor as is to be expected during a campaign.” said Redlawsk. “But between the increasing support of independents and the fact that many Democrats remain on his side, Christie’s favorability and job ratings continue to fly high.”

Sandy still drives ratings

As the one-year anniversary of SuperStorm Sandy approaches, that fact that 85 percent approve of Christie’s post-disaster work drives his overall approval. Approval cuts across party lines.

The governor’s performance on many other issues, however, fails to top 50 percent approval, and partisans are deeply divided. This is especially true on the economy and taxes. Thirty-seven percent call the economy and jobs the most important problem facing the state, while another 23 percent name taxes, followed by education at 12 percent.

Across all registered voters, 42 percent approve of Christie’s performance on the economy and jobs, 38 percent on taxes, and 48 percent on education. But partisan divides are clear. Seventy-five percent of Republicans approve Christie’s work on the economy and jobs, but 65 percent of Democrats disapprove. Even independents, who strongly favor Christie overall, show just 43 percent approval on the economy, while 44 percent disapprove.

On taxes, two-thirds of Republicans approve the governor’s work, while 69 percent of Democrats disapprove. Independents are also more likely to disapprove, 49 percent to 42 percent. Christie does better with independents on education: 53 percent approve versus 39 percent who don’t.

But only 30 percent of respondents who call the economy/jobs the state’s most important problem approve of Christie’s performance on the issue. Another 58 percent disapprove.

The same trend is observed among those most concerned about taxes; 38 percent approve of Christie’s handling of the issue while 53 percent disapprove. And among the 12 percent of voters calling education the state’s most pressing problem, 77 percent disapprove of Christie’s performance and only 19 percent are positive.

The governor does better on crime and drugs by a 2 to 1 margin, 52 percent to 26 percent. Twenty-two percent are unsure. Democrats are split on this issue, 39 percent approving and 37 percent disapproving. About three-quarters of Republicans and half of independents approve. About half approve of his performance on the budget, compared to 37 percent who disapprove and 14 percent who are unsure. Republicans are much more likely to back Christie’s work – 76 percent to 17 percent – compared to 26 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents.

Voters lack clarity on Buono

The Democratic challenger has gained little additional awareness with voters in the final weeks of the campaign. More registered voters have no impression of Buono than have a favorable impression. Moreover, while her favorability has not grown stronger in the last month, her unfavorability has increased by seven points. Importantly, four in 10 Democrats still don’t know or have no opinion of the candidate. Among all Democrats, just 46 percent are favorable, and 13 percent are unfavorable.

Even more independent voters (51 percent) have no impression of the challenger, with just 18 percent unfavorable and 30 percent unfavorable. More Republicans than Democrats or independents have an opinion: 55 percent of all GOP voters are unfavorable, while only 11 percent have a favorable impression of Buono.

“Results from all registered voters reflect those for likely voters,” said Redlawsk. “Buono has not made enough impact to get voters excited. If people don’t know her, they generally won’t vote for her.”

Voters, including Democrats, are unsure about Buono’s ideology. Thirty-six percent of Democrats see her as somewhat or very liberal, but another 35 percent say she is somewhere in between. Twenty-two percent remain uncertain. Seven percent of Democrats even say she is conservative.

Independents and Republicans are even more likely to say they do not know where Buono stands – 28 percent and 24 percent, respectively – and they also both place her as more liberal than moderate on the scale. Forty-three percent of independents say Buono is liberal (20 percent saying very liberal), while 62 percent of Republicans say the same (with 37 percent saying very liberal). Only one in five independents and one in 10 Republicans label Buono a moderate.

“Not all registered voters will actually show up on Election Day,” noted Redlawsk. “But as we previously reported, things are little better for Buono among those most likely to do so. Christie has positioned himself in the ‘sweet spot’ as a moderate, and most voters agree. But for Buono, voters are all over the place, reflecting their lack of awareness of the challenger.”

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As the news breaks that Gov. Chris Christie has dropped the state’s appeal of the court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey, we have new numbers on the issue, including results showing that a majority of NJ voters did NOT want an appeal of the decision, and more than 60 percent support same-sex marriage.

Attitudes toward same-sex marriage (often asked as “gay marriage”) in New Jersey have been tracked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll for more than a decade.  The chart below shows the dramatic change in recent year.

SSM over Time

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


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As wedding bells ring for the first same-sex marriages in the Garden State, a majority of New Jersey voters agrees with today’s decision by Gov. Chris Christie to drop the state’s appeal of the ruling that made New Jersey the 14th state to adopt marriage equality, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Reflecting continuing changes in public opinion, support for legalizing same-sex marriage is now at 61 percent, versus 27 percent who oppose and 12 percent who are unsure. For the first time, a plurality of Republicans supports allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Opinion on the appeal is somewhat less lopsided; 53 percent say the state should accept the decision, while 40 percent wanted it appealed to the state Supreme Court.

“Beliefs about same-sex marriage have shifted rapidly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Fully one-quarter of today’s supporters tell us they were previously opposed. Not long ago, a ruling like this would have created a significant backlash. Now most voters agree with it.”

Even as they concur with the decision and Christie’s decision to drop the appeal, a large majority of voters would still prefer to be the final decision makers. Sixty-two percent say voters should get to weigh in, compared to 23 percent who believe the decision should lie with the courts and 10 percent who want to give the Legislature final say.

“This apparent contradiction occurs partly because 81 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage want it left to voters, while proponents are far less likely to say voters need to make the decision,” noted Redlawsk. “A majority may like the outcome of the court ruling, but any time voters are asked if they should get a chance to decide an issue, they are very likely to say yes.”

New Jersey voters are split on whether same-sex marriage should be decided by individual states (44 percent) or by the federal government (47 per cent). Ten percent are unsure. Supporters prefer a federal role, while opponents say the issue should be decided state by state.

Results are from a poll of 799 registered voters conducted statewide by live callers with both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Most voters did not want appeal to go forward

Nearly six in 10 voters agree with Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage to start today. One-third oppose the ruling, and 8 percent are undecided.

Support is widespread. Half of Christie’s re-election supporters favor the ruling, while 79 percent of state Sen. Barbara Buono’s voters back the decision. But while a 49 percent to 37 percent plurality of Republicans now supports marriage equality, only 41 percent agree with this particular court ruling. Besides self-identified conservative Republicans and evangelical and other highly religious New Jerseyans, other demographic groups support the court decision.

Slightly fewer (but still a majority) wanted Christie to abandon any appeal of the court’s ruling as he has now done. The state’s appeal garnered support only from those generally opposed to same-sex marriage – including Republicans, conservatives, born-again Christians and those who most frequently attend religious services. Older voters and shore county residents also wanted the appeal to continue. Still, half of Christie voters opposed the appeal.

“Many voters who wanted the appeal held out some hope that the judge would be overruled,” said Redlawsk. “But others see the Supreme Court as the final arbiter and, although happy with the judge’s ruling, wanted an appeal to affirm it. Gov. Christie obviously saw the writing on the wall in withdrawing the appeal; there was little chance he would win.”

Voters still want to make the decision

Voters seem to be contradictory. Although supporting the court ruling, voters also widely agree with the governor that they should decide on same-sex marriage. Virtually every group wants voters to make the decision, including more than half of the new law’s supporters and 70 percent of Christie voters. Even large majorities of those with a gay or lesbian family member, friend or co-worker want voters to decide.

Sixty percent of minority voters want the issue decided by voters, a clear disconnect from the marriage as a civil right not subject to vote position urged by many minority leaders.

Democrats and liberals are among the relatively few groups split on the question: 46 percent of Democrats want voters to decide, 32 percent favor a court decision and 16 percent prefer legislation. Liberals show a similar pattern, with 42 percent calling for a vote. The most educated respondents show less support for voting compared to other groups: 47 percent say voters should decide, 37 percent want a court decision and 12 percent prefer legislative action.

“Voters aren’t purposely contradictory,” said Redlawsk. “Perhaps, those who support same-sex marriage assume it would pass, which would reinforce other positive decisions. Opponents probably see voters as the only hope, since they have lost in the courts and Legislature. No matter what side they are on, an appeal to voters may seem like the best bet.”

For voters, same-sex marriage not a top issue

The new poll is mostly consistent with earlier polling on the issue. Last spring, a large majority of respondents wanted same-sex marriage on the ballot. Now, a plurality of Republicans supports the issue for the first time, 49 percent to 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Conservatives, however, oppose same-sex marriage by a 19-point margin. Democrats are strong supporters at 71 percent, while 58 percent of independents agree.

Most voters with a position on the issue have not changed their minds, but 20 percent have revised their opinion over time; 90 percent of those have become supporters.

Seventy-four percent of marriage equality supporters have “always” held that view, but a quarter of those have strengthened their position. This shift is especially apparent among Republicans and older voters, of whom over a third say they have changed their minds in support of same-sex marriage.

The vast majority of opponents – 91 percent – say they always have been against same-sex marriage, while only 7 percent say they have changed their minds and become opponents.

Most voters know someone who is gay or lesbian but same-sex marriage is not seen as a top priority. One quarter call it among their most important issues. Thirty-six percent see the issue as only somewhat important, while 37 percent say it is not important at all.

A large majority of same-sex marriage supporters say the issue is not that important: just 31 percent say it is among the top issues to them personally. Opponents are even less likely to see the issue as very important. Only 24 percent put it anywhere near the top.  Those with a gay or lesbian family member (36 percent) or friend (31 percent) are more likely than most to say same-sex marriage is one of their most important issues.

Who decides, states or federal government?

Voters are split on whether states should decide individually on same-sex marriage or the federal government should decide for all states.  Sixty-one percent of marriage-equality supporters prefer the federal government, while 68 percent of opponents want the issue settled state-by-state.

More than 60 percent of Democrats and liberals favor a federal decision. About half of women, middle-aged voters, the best-educated and more secular voters, and those who have a gay or lesbian family member, friend, or co-worker feel the same.

Republicans and conservatives strongly support individual state decisions, as do more than half of male voters. Independents favor letting states decide, 48 percent to 40 percent. Younger voters also lean this way, as do Catholics, Protestants and those who attend religious services more frequently.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters


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

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With New Jersey’s gubernatorial election now less than three weeks away, Gov. Chris Christie commands a 26-point lead over Democrat state Sen. Barbara Buono among likely voters, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie now leads Buono, 59 percent to 33 percent – a 6-point increase in the margin since last month.

These gains come despite likely voters consistently disapproving of Christie’s performance on the state’s taxes and the economy. With the exception of same-sex marriage, however, they still think the governor would do a better job than his challenger on most other issues.

“Barbara Buono is not making any new gains, even among those who should gravitate to her,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Chris Christie simply seems to be a force of nature all but unstoppable in this particular election.” Redlawsk added that most voters – about 90 percent – say they are unlikely to change their mind between now and Election Day.

“As has been the case all season, most think Christie will win,” Redlawsk said. “Even 73 percent of Buono backers do not expect her to win.”

Nearly all Christie voters (87 percent) say their vote is to support the incumbent, rather than to oppose the Democrat. That’s not the case among Buono’s backers. Two-thirds of her supporters are motivated by their opposition to the governor. Only 32 percent are primarily voting in support of her.

“For the last several months we have reported that voters disapprove of Christie’s performance in key areas,” said Redlawsk. “The problem for Buono is that she has not convinced them she would do any better. Voters would rather stay with what they know, than to turn over the reins to someone who has not been able to make an effective case for change.”

Results are from a sample of 562 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points, drawn from 799 New Jersey registered voters polled statewide from Oct. 7-13, on both landlines and cell phones. The registered voter sample margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Christie betters Buono on most issues

Likely voters say Christie would do a better job than Buono on a wide range of issues, including New Jersey’s economy and jobs (59 percent to 28 percent) and taxes (56 percent to 30 percent). As is expected, Democrats are more likely to say Buono would do better on the economy and jobs, but only by 19 points; nearly a third of Buono’s partisans say Christie would do the better job. Republicans are more unified: 88 percent say Christie is better on the economy and jobs, while only 6 percent choose Buono. Similarly on taxes, 55 percent of Democrats pick Buono, while 27 percent choose Christie. Among Republicans, Christie’s Republican margin is 84 percent to 7 percent.

Independent voters also believe Christie will do the better job on the economy and on taxes, by margins of 41 points and 40 points, respectively.

The governor is also preferred on the issue of crime and drugs (by 43 points), and the state budget (by 38 points). Christie even does better than the challenger on two core Democratic issues on which Buono has campaigned – health care (10 points better) and education (11 points better).

Buono’s only advantage is on same-sex marriage, where previous Rutgers-Eagleton Polls have shown majority support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in New Jersey. Fifty-eight percent of likely voters say Buono would do a better job on this issue, compared to 26 percent who pick Christie. Majorities of Democrats and independents say Buono would do best on same-sex marriage, while Republicans are split on their choice, 43 percent to 42 percent in favor of Christie.

“Ultimately, voters like Chris Christie personally, and they are not convinced Buono will do better on the issues they care about,” said Redlawsk. “While she does well on marriage equality, the fact is this is relatively low on most voters’ list of issues.”

Christie voters like his non-nonsense governing style

Christie’s performance in office and his candid, no-nonsense style are the biggest reasons 87 percent of his voters say they are more in support of him than opposing Buono. Thirty percent of these voters cite his governing style, including statements such as Christie is “a great governor for the state,” and he is moving the state “in the right direction.” Another 12 percent name policy stances, while 11 percent talk about the governor’s infamous brand of straight-talk, calling him a “man of his word,” a “straight shooter [who] doesn’t pull punches,” “outspoken and honest,” “refreshing,” and a true “Jersey guy [who] tells it like it is.” And Superstorm Sandy still matters: seven percent still say his leadership before, during, and after the storm is the reason why they plan to vote in support of the governor.

Only about a third of Buono voters say their vote is in support of her, rather than in opposition to Christie. Most of these voters (30 percent) prefer her stances on education, same-sex marriage, and minimum wage. Another 10 percent say they favor her because she’s a Democrat. The fact that Buono is a woman is also cited by 10 percent of her supporters, who say “a woman will be more responsible” and who express desire for a “woman governor.”

Few Christie voters are choosing him simply because they oppose Buono, but two-thirds of Buono voters are voting more against Christie than for her. These voters are opposing Christie mostly because they disagress with the governor’s policies generally, his handling of education, schools, and teachers’ unions specifically, and his “bully[ish]” and “arrogant” personality and attitude.

Christie maintains wide leads among all except Buono’s base

Christie’s double-digit lead spans almost every group, including Republicans and those not usually in his corner. The governor wins 93 of his own party members, as well as 68 percent of independents. Buono gets support from 22 percent of independents.

Although a sizeable gender gap exists, Christie has a 20-point lead among women. Even so, men are still 7 points more likely to back the governor than are women.

Christie also leads across all age groups, income brackets and education levels, though the margin is smaller among the most educated voters, at 10-points. His lead has increased among voters in lower income households that would usually vote Democratic; they now favor Christie, 55 to 38 percent. He also leads in every region of the state by a minimum of 9 points.

Buono’s only significant leads continue to be among likely Democratic voters (65 percent to 25 percent) and voters in public union households (52 percent to 43 percent). She also holds a 9-point edge among nonwhite voters, 50 percent to 41 percent. Not surprisingly, 85 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie support her, as do 81 percent of those with a favorable impression of the challenger.

Regardless of their personal choice, large majorities of voters of every stripe say Christie will win again – including Buono supporters, those who view her favorably, voters with a negative opinion of Christie and Democrats in general.

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Well, Booker won, but we were pretty far off…

While not all the final numbers are in as this gets written, it looks like Cory Booker has won the Senate race by between 11 and 12 points. Our final poll, which ended last Sunday, had him up 22 points in our likely voter sample. That’s pretty far off. Monmouth and Quinnipiac were essentially right on the mark.

We’ll try to figure out why we missed it this far over the next weeks. After all, while we’d like to get it “right” we always stand by two points: 1. Polling is NOT a prediction, no matter how much we sometimes act and talk as if it is. It provides an estimate at the point in which the poll is done. It does not foretell the future. 2. We are an academic operation, and even when we get what seem to be out-of-the-norm results, we look for the learning opportunities for ourselves and for others in what we find.

What’s interesting to us is that our other numbers in the same poll make “sense” – for example, our favorability ratings for Booker are in the same range as other polls that have reported them.  And as our releases over the next week will show, other numbers from the same sample also seem reasonable. So something is odd specifically in what we recorded for the Booker-Lonegan vote question. It doesn’t look like a technical problem; we’ve checked that. We recorded what people told us. And the sample doesn’t seem demographically odd as a whole. Given these two points, no matter how we thought about likely voters in our modeling, we kept showing Booker +20 or so.

On obvious problem, then, is that we failed to get a good “likely voter” screen as much as we tried.  Our likely voter calculation did screen out more unlikely Booker supporters than it did unlikely Lonegan supporters, which suggested Lonegan’s supporters would turn out at a higher ratio than would Booker’s.

And in a very quick look, that is be exactly what happened, but even more than we expected.

Last year Republican Joe Kyrillos lost to Sen. Bob Menendez by a 17-point margin. Kyrillos won 7 counties, Menendez won 14 counties. This time around, Lonegan appears to have won the same 7 counties plus another two. More interestingly, Lonegan overperformed Kyrillos in 18 of 21 counties – that is, he did better as a percentage of the vote than did last year’s GOP candidate throughout the state.

Booker overperformed in exactly zero counties as this is written, instead getting the same percentage in 3 counties that Menendez did last year. So it does look like Lonegan supporters were much more likely to turn out than we were seeing in our data.

Another indicator is that in the 7 counties Kyrillos won last year, turnout was just under half of what it was in 2012 (about 46% of last year’s total at the moment).

But in the counties Menendez won last year (and Booker won all but two this year) turnout appears to only be about 40% of the number that voted last year.  Again, Booker not only underperformed Menendez, but also had lower turnout in his winning counties.

Finally,  there are real regional differences: Lonegan’s “best” over-performance came in:

Cumberland +13 points over Kyrillos’ results
Salem +11
Warren +9
Atlantic +8
Ocean +8
Gloucester +8
Cape May +7
Sussex +7
Camden +5

Except for Sussex and Warren, these are southern and shore counties.
Booker’s least worst counties were:

Essex +0 points versus Menendez’s results
Bergen +0
Monmouth +0
Hudson -1
Mercer -1
Morris -1

Nothing South Jersey in this list, though Booker held even in a couple Republican counties.

This leads us to wonder if the fact that Booker is African-American played any role. If it did for us, why not for other pollsters? We have some thoughts on this point we will be investigating, and we’ll come back and talk about that once we’ve done so.

These are not final numbers at this point, so there may be a percentage point shift here and there. But one part of the story seems clear. We assumed better turnout in Democratic counties than actually occurred and we underestimated Republican turnout. And,  Booker underperformed compared to Lonegan all over the state, if we use 2012 as a baseline, which we did not see coming in what people were telling us last week.

It might be worth noting that in most places a 11-12 point win is pretty much a landslide. But given the low initial expectations for Steve Lonegan, it probably seems disappointing to Booker forces. But give Lonegan lots of credit. he ran an impressive attention-getting campaign, for better or worse, and probably can count this as a moral victory if nothing else.

As for us, well we do have another election on which to focus!

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: Booker Lead Greater than Expected

CLICK HERE FOR THE TEXT OF THE 10/14 BOOKER-LONEGAN RELEASE FROM THE RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL. Alternatively, the full text of the release follows a somewhat lengthy speculation on why this poll differs from a brand new Monmouth poll showing a much smaller margin for Booker.

The following analysis is by Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk  [EDITS as noted 6:40pm EDT, 10/14/13].

Well, these are the times that pollsters hate. I think I know how the Gallup people must have felt when their 2012 vote models showed Romney ahead in the waning days of last year’s election, something that was clearly not true.

Why, you ask? Because today’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll puts Cory Booker up 22-points on Steve Lonegan, a far larger margin than any other recent poll, and, in particular well above Monmouth’s 10-point lead for Booker, also out today. Monmouth’s polling dates fall within the dates we polled as well – though we were in the field longer. However, looking at our daily numbers we don’t think the longer fielding time is the issue, though we do see movement more toward than away from Booker over the last week, especially on our last day of polling, Oct 13, the day after Monmouth ended their poll. In fact, of our week of polling, the two days with the best Lonegan performance are the 10th and 12th, two of the three days Monmouth polled.

Still, I am puzzled, to be quite honest. I understood our large margin for Booker right after the primary – at that time Lonegan had gotten nothing but bad press and Booker had just come off a huge primary victory. But here it is harder to see what’s happening.

What’s especially odd from our perspective is that numbers other than the vote – for example, favorability – are very similar between the two polls.

So, anyway, which is it: Booker up 10, or Booker up 22?

We’ve looked at our data over and over. We’ve looked at other indicators besides the Booker-Lonegan race and those numbers seem quite reasonable, as we’ll report later. We looked at our weighted partisan breakdown for likely voters, and that’s not substantially different either. What is different between us and Monmouth today? We see a few key areas:

Gender questions

No, we don’t mean the Lonegan campaign’s attacks on Booker’s masculinity. That’s irrelevant.  But the difference between how men and women plan to vote does matter.

Monmouth shows essentially NO gender gap – in their poll 53% of men and 51% of women support Booker. We show a huge gender gap: 51% of men support Booker (basically the same as Monmouth) but we have 67% of women on his side (versus only 27% voting for Lonegan.) This alone could account for much of the difference. Interestingly, other polls have also shown a gender gap, most notably a recent Quinnipiac poll which had women going for Booker 62%-31%, although they showed men supporting Lonegan 51%-44% .


We have independent voters supporting Booker over Lonegan by a margin of 49% to 41%. But Monmouth’s poll has it the opposite: independents are 48% Lonegan and 43% Booker. we also have more Democrats (96%) supporting Booker and fewer Republicans (74%) supporting Lonegan. For Monmouth the number are 90% and 86% respectively.

Is it the Old Folks?

In our poll, voters 65 and over favor Booker 53%-43% over Lonegan.  Monmouth does not report an age crosstabulation so we do not know how different we are. However, we do know that Monmouth has a lot more senior citizens in its Likely Voter sample, at 36% of all voters, where we have just 30% of likely voters 65 and over. Since older people are more likely to support Lonegan, that could be a factor.

METHODOLOGY!  [EDIT, 6:40PM, 10/13: Huffpost Pollster talks about this point this evening…]

So here’s an interesting issue – Monmouth is using IVR for part of their polling. IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response – or in other words, robo-polling. In this method, computers dial landline numbers and respondents answer computer generated questions by keying responses on their phone keypad. With IVR the pollster has no idea who they are actually talking to – it could be anyone who picks up the phone. There is no human interaction. For the most part people who respond to IVR polls are often quite different from those who respond to live callers. Monmouth knows this so they supplement the IVR with live caller cellphones and some live landlines.  But more than half their sample is from IVR. It would be very interesting to see what the numbers say just for the IVR sample, compared to their live callers. However, they do not report this. Maybe they see no difference. [EDIT: Patrick Murray at Monmouth tells Huffpost that they did in fact see no difference. But since that was NOT disclosed in their press release or their methodology statement, it was impossible to know that when writing this post. I will note we don’t actually know what “no difference” means. Is in no difference in the marginals? Or no difference in the makeup of the samples? Pre or post-weighting?]

My guess is that IVR brings the older sample, and also results in the lack of a gender gap. But that’s only a guess right now. [EDIT, 6:40PM, 10/14: And apparently Patrick Murray suggests the same gender result in both IVR and live landlines, but again he isn’t completely clear on this.]


This leads to one other interesting possibility. With IVR respondents don’t have to talk to anyone. This lessens what we call “social desireabilty” which has been shown to matter when race and ethnicity are a factor in preferences. People know it is “wrong” to express overtly racist attitudes. Likewise, there has been evidence in the past that voters may over report support for a non-white candidate in a live-caller poll. IVR does not have this problem – people can be honest without anyone knowing except the computer. Is it a factor here? I’m really not sure how deeply race comes into this election. If it does, then we may well get more supporters for Booker in our live calling than he will get in the privacy of the voting booth.

Finally, it’s also about likely voters and sampling

Both Rutgers-Eagleton and Monmouth try to identify likely voters. From what Monmouth says in their release, they used a listed registered voter sample and consider people who voted in two of the last four general elections to be likely voters. If they asked any other questions to determine this, they did not say in their release so we assume they did not. [EDIT 6:40PM, 10/14: Apparently, according to Huffpost, Monmouth did ask two additional screening questions. But again this was not made clear in the Monmouth release or methodology statement.]

We use Random Digit Dialing (RDD), not a listed sample. The disadvantage is we do not know voting history, and we have to screen for registered voters – and people may lie about this. The advantage is that we can hear people talk, and can get to the right person. We also theoretically have better coverage in that many people do not provide phone numbers when they register or provide incorrect numbers. With RDD theoretically anyone can get a call.

We ask a series of questions to determine likely voters – including awareness of the election date, attention to the campaign, a direct “will you vote question”, and a vote history question. Combining these gives us a model for likely voters that has fewer older people, and slightly more white people, but about the same share of each party as Monmouth. So the likely voter screen does not seem to be a huge source of the difference, at least in terms of  partisan breakdown.

[EDIT 6:40PM, 10/14: We also checked different levels of screening that were more or less strict, based on different cutoffs on our questions. The results did not vary by more than a couple points.]


The upshot is that we report numbers quite different from other recent polls. Are we certain about them? Of course not – there are many reasons we could be way off. But we could also be within the ballpark.  In the end, every poll is an estimate and some will be on the mark and some will be off. Take each one with a grain of salt. Looking across all polls, if I had to guess (as opposed to poll), I think Booker will win with a margin in the mid-teens.

Still, a lot depends on who remembers to vote on Wednesday, October 16 and how effective the campaigns are a getting out their supporters.  If we’re wrong, we’ll try to figure out what happened. If we’re right, well, you heard it here first!

Finally, we could have simply not released this poll, but we might as well put it out there and see if others can see a problem that we are missing.



NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – With just two days to go until the Oct. 16 special U.S. Senate election, Newark Mayor Cory Booker holds a 58 percent to 36 percent lead over former Republican Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan among likely voters, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. Another 3 percent prefer someone else, and about 3 percent remain undecided. While the Democrat’s lead is less than he enjoyed following the August primary, compared to other polls this latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll suggests Booker has recently gained in his bid to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg.

The debates between Booker and Lonegan, which highlighted the stark policy differences between them, may have played an important role in Booker’s current performance. While 43 percent of all likely voters paid some attention to a debate, independent voters who followed the debates strongly favor Booker, 59 percent to 37 percent. But independents ignoring the debates prefer Lonegan by a 45 percent to 42 percent margin.

For partisans, attention to the debate reinforced support for their own party’s candidate. At this point, Booker does much better than Lonegan within his party: 96 percent of likely Democrats are in Booker’s corner, while Lonegan wins only 74 percent of Republicans. GOP backers are less likely to have followed the debates: 36 percent compared to 49 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of likely independent voters.

“Other recent polls showed a narrower lead for Booker, but voters we talked to seem to have moved back in his direction,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “The debates presented a stark picture of the differences between the candidates, which appears to have led independents to prefer Booker. While both candidates came out swinging, Lonegan’s attacks bordered on the taboo, with his ‘floating dead bodies’ and ‘big black hole’ comments about Newark – reminiscent of the rhetoric that got him into hot water early in the campaign. Independents in particular dislike these kinds of attack.”

Results are from a sample of 513 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points. These likely voters are part of a sample of 798 registered voters polled statewide using live callers to both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 7-13.

Voters paying some attention

The uniqueness of the special Senate election makes estimates of turnout difficult and suggests that the final result will be unusually dependent on the candidates’ abilities to motivate their supporters. There is some evidence that voters are paying attention. More than half of registered voters know there is an election in October, and 45 percent know it will be held Oct. 16. Just over half are following the election at least fairly closely, with about one in five paying very close attention. Sixty percent of registered voters claim they are very likely to vote Wednesday.

Booker holds a commanding lead with minority voters, urbanites and voters in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region. Lonegan leads among voters in shore counties, 46 percent to 44 percent, while losing northwestern exurban voters, 51 percent to 41 percent, a better performance than his statewide margin.

“Here’s the key: if the Booker campaign can turn out urban voters and Democrats who say they will vote, he will be in the range we estimate,” said Redlawsk. “If Lonegan’s turnout operation is stronger and Booker’s base stays home thinking it is all wrapped up, then all bets are off.”

Booker ratings down slightly on Lonegan attacks

Lonegan’s attacks throughout the campaign appear to have had some impact. While Booker receives positive ratings from 54 percent of likely voters, this is a nine-point drop from an early September Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Concurrently, his unfavorability has almost doubled to 32 percent.  Still, asked to rate the Democrat on a scale of 0 to 100 degrees, voters remain warm toward Booker with an average score of 56 degrees. The overriding emotional response to Booker is “hope,” with 48 percent saying his campaign makes them feel hopeful and 33 percent proud. In contrast, only 12 percent are angered and 19 percent worried by Booker.

Lonegan, however, continues to leave either a negative impression or none at all on most likely voters. While favorable impressions of the Republican have risen eight points to 30 percent, the share of voters who hold unfavorable impressions climbed to 34 percent. Over one third have no opinion on the GOP candidate. In general, likely voters are quite cool toward Lonegan; he averages only 41 degrees on the poll’s thermometer. Voters feel more negative about Lonegan than Booker: 37 percent are worried, and 30 percent angered by his campaign. Thirty percent are hopeful and 16 percent are proud of the candidate.

Many voters see Booker as a self-promoter

Booker is not without weaknesses. A third of likely voters say Booker is more about self-promotion and that life in Newark has improved little under this watch. While Lonegan has gained some support though this line of attack, a plurality (47 percent) continues to believe Booker has made real improvement in Newark.

Booker’s position on issues is seen as “about right” for 42 percent of likely voters, but 44 percent think he is too liberal, even for blue New Jersey. Lonegan, however, is thought too conservative by a large majority of likely voters; 60 percent say he is further to the right than most of the state, while only 18 percent say his views are right on par with the preferences of New Jerseyans.

“By all measures, voters see Booker as somewhat more in tune with New Jersey and see Lonegan as less so,” said Redlawsk. “Although Lonegan has tarnished Booker’s image, Booker remains the clear preference of voters, generating warmer feelings and a strongly positive impression, and taking positions more in line with what voters want.”

The party base, women and independents support Booker

Booker’s advantage over Lonegan is driven by overwhelming support from his own party base and a winning margin with independents. Ninety-six percent of likely Democratic voters back Booker, compared to only 74 percent of likely Republican voters who support Lonegan.  Independents also are in Booker’s corner, 49 percent to 41 percent for Lonegan. Newark’s mayor captures 16 percent of the Republican vote, while Lonegan peels off only 2 percent of Democrats.

Booker leads across virtually all demographic groups. While both men and women go for Booker, women are 13 points more likely than men to say they will vote for the Democrat and 18 points less likely than men to say they will vote for his opponent, evidencing a wide gender gap.

Booker also gets support from almost 9 in 10 likely voters who say he has made a real difference in Newark, but among those who think Booker is too much about his own self-promotion, only one in five say they will vote for him.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, Steve Lonegan

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff: Millennial Voters and Governor Christie’s Job Approval on the Economy

Rene Polanco III and Alexa Marzocca are Rutgers undergraduates and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling public relations/social media interns. Following is their analysis of younger voters and support for Gov. Chris Christie.

The other week, our results showed Governor Chris Christie still riding high in terms of favorability and job approval. Sixty percent of all New Jersey registered voters favor the governor and 66 percent approve of the job he is doing.

Taking a closer look by age shows some interesting – and perhaps even unexpected – patterns.  Among 18-39 year-olds, 68 percent approve of the job Christie is doing overall.  More than half of these younger voters (52 percent) also specifically approve of Christie’s handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs, which they rank as the most important issue facing New Jersey.  Both 40-64 year-olds and those older than 65 also say the economy and jobs is the top problem facing the state, but approval of Christie within this issue area is not as high among these older voters.  Only 38 percent of each older group approve of how the governor is handling this issue.

Despite the high approval rating from younger voters, New Jersey’s economy has continued to struggle.  A recent CNN article reported that New Jersey has the 7th worst unemployment rate in the country at 8.6 percent.  The state’s poverty rate has reached a 52-year high, with nearly 25 percent of residents living under the poverty level.  In some counties, more than 30 percent of the populations are living under the poverty line.

Given New Jersey’s reputation as a “blue state” and its high unemployment rate, it is interesting to note how these age groups view this issue differently and how some of the most positive ratings for it are coming from younger voters.  Are younger voters doing better in New Jersey’s job market than older voters?  Is it because some of them are more likely to still be in school or not as likely to have a family to support yet?  Or perhaps it is because these younger voters are more influenced by name recognition and the amount of media coverage the governor receives.

After all, younger voters show the lowest favorable ratings for Buono among all age groups (23 percent), but they also are more likely than others to have no opinion on the Democratic candidate or to be unfamiliar with her (59 percent).  With 18 percent unfavorable, there is no groundswell against Buono, just a lack of awareness.

But six in ten younger voters are favorable toward Christie, on the other hand, with just about 10 percent saying they have no opinion on the governor. As a result many more are negative about him than Buono as well as positive. The governor is visible to these voters but Buono is not. This may account as much as anything for their attitude toward Chris Christie.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie