Category Archives: Buono

Analysis of Rutgers-Eagleton 2013 Pre-election Polls Released

Following inaccurate results for final pre-election polls in October 2013 (NJ Special Senate) and November 2013 (NJ Governor), the Eagleton Institute of Politics commissioned an outside study by Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates of New York to identify reasons for the outcomes of these polls. Today, The Eagleton Institute of Politics and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling are releasing this analysis to the public as part of a commitment to transparency and education.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll reported a final pre-election poll for the special Senate election between then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Republican former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in which Booker held a 22-point lead. Booker ultimately won by 11 points. In the final November gubernatorial pre-election poll, Rutgers-Eagleton had Republican Governor Chris Christie ahead of his Democratic challenger state Senator Barbara Buono by 36 points: Christie won by 22.

The Langer report identifies the primary reason for the inaccurate results as the failure to put the “head-to-head” questions, which asked respondents for their vote intention, at or near the beginning of the questionnaire. Because these questions were asked after a series of other questions, it appears that respondents were “primed” to think positively about Governor Chris Christie in the November survey, which then may have led Democrats and independents in particular to over-report their likelihood of voting for the Governor. A similar process occurred with the October Senate poll, where voters were first reminded of how little they knew about Lonegan and how much they liked Booker before being asked the vote question.

Ruth B. Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics stated that, “In response to these results, Eagleton chose to contract with an independent, highly respected, outside survey research firm to review its recent work and offer suggestions for improvement.” She added, “The Institute is committed to contributing to political knowledge in New Jersey and nationally with credible, impartial data. When we saw we had a problem, we knew we had to learn why and what to do about it.”

“Gary Langer and his colleagues spent many hours examining multiple aspects of our polling to understand what went wrong,” said David Redlawsk, director of Eagleton’s Center on Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and professor of political science at Rutgers. “We are grateful for the efforts they put in and the advice they have provided, both in terms of this specific issue and general operations of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The results of this report will make what we do even better.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has been a valued source of information about the views of New Jersey residents for over 40 years. As an academic-based survey research organization, ECPIP strives to be transparent and accessible. “We have a special obligation to take our educational mission seriously, which includes informing the public as well as learning from our own errors.” Redlawsk notes that survey research results released by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, for example, aim to meet the transparency standards set by the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). Further, in recent years, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has been providing open informal insights and perspectives about survey research from Redlawsk and members of his staff through its blog at https://eagletonpollblog.wordpress.com. And for many years full data from the Poll has been freely available, generally after a one-year period, at http://eagleton.libraries.rutgers.edu/.

Langer’s major finding is that the order in which the head-to-head ballot test questions were asked most likely added inadvertent bias to the results in both the October and November Polls, although the results came out in opposite partisan directions in the two polls. Decisions made by ECPIP to maintain the standard set of questions about political figures including Cory Booker and ratings of Chris Christie at the beginning of the questionnaire worked to particularly prime Democrats in the November poll and Republicans in the October poll to support the candidate from the other party – Christie or Booker.

Redlawsk noted that the cause was a decision to maintain an ongoing four-year series of questions about Governor Christie that have been asked at the very beginning of a Rutgers-Eagleton NJ Poll since the governor’s inauguration. “We made this decision purposefully to maintain the integrity of our time series,” said Redlawsk. “This long-term research has greatly informed our understanding of public opinion about Governor Christie, and we had concerns that moving these questions after a head-to-head vote question would bias those results for the same reason we ended up biasing the vote questions.”

Most pre-election head-to-head polls focus only on the election and do not include long batteries of additional questions. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was unable to field separate pre-election surveys and thus combined the head-to-head polls with the regular surveys of New Jersey public opinion. “In retrospect, this was the wrong choice when one goal was to be as accurate as possible with pre-election numbers,” noted Redlawsk. “We should have either fielded a separate poll or just focused on our long-term work, rather than trying to do both at the same time.”

The Langer report on the cause of the pre-election poll mis-estimates is available to the public now on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website at http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu (PDF).

 

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

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff… Gender Effects in the 2013 NJ Gubernatorial Election?

The Candidate Gender Effect That Wasn’t?
The Subtle Role Gender Played in the 2013 New Jersey Gubernatorial Election

Ashley Koning

Ashley Koning is Manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University.

The past election cycle in New Jersey was notable for many reasons, not least of which was that State Sen. Barbara Buono was the first woman to run for the executive office as a major party candidate since Gov. Christie Todd Whitman more than a decade ago.  It initially seemed like the governor’s race could have been the perfect storm for a gendered campaign, given Buono’s stark contrast to Gov. Christie – the very embodiment of “Jersey guy” toughness – and her partisanship, ideology, and agenda that revolved around the types of compassion and social issues frequently stereotyped as feminine, “communal,” and emotionally charged.  After all, we know through a whole host of research that the entire process is gendered for women candidates from selection through Election Day as they continue to be stereotyped – even if not intentionally – by both voters and by the media (see the Center for American Women and Politics or the Political Parity project for more on this).  Gov. Whitman even speculated decades ago that her gender affected pre-election polling during her run for governor back in 1993, consistently underestimating her eventual win (though this has been debated in the literature, both for and against).

Yet it was Gov. Christie who cried foul about his physical appearance being put in the campaign spotlight after a comment he claimed Buono made that alluded to his weight issues.  And the only gender gap the media spoke of was the one in Christie’s favor among women voters.  In a race where gender could have potentially had a significant impact, any type of gender effect from Buono’s candidacy seemed to be non-existent.

But sometimes there is more than meets the eye in these cases.  Therefore, in our final pre-election poll from October 28 – November 2, we conducted a small “list” experiment to test whether Buono’s gender actually had any effect on why respondents thought she was behind in the polls throughout the entire campaign.  For a campaign season that rarely – if ever – explicitly mentioned Buono’s gender as a pro or con to her candidacy, the results of our survey experiment paint somewhat of a different story.

First, what is a “list experiment”?

List experiments have increasingly become a popular research tool in political science as a way to unobtrusively tease out attitudes towards sensitive subjects that respondents may not want to express explicitly – whether because of a wish to sound socially desirable and not go against commonly held societal beliefs, to maintain congruency within oneself regarding other views and aspects of his or her own life, or in order to not disparage the interviewer based on perceived characteristics such as gender and race.  Respondents only become more comfortable expressing socially undesirable or unacceptable answers when a degree of anonymity can be obtained.  Therefore, survey list experiments enable this desired anonymity by allowing respondents to not have to directly state their views to the interviewer but rather provide a much more coded and private – and thus hopefully more accurate – response.

In a list experiment, the survey sample is randomly split into different groups; one group acts as the baseline or “control” condition group, while the one or more remaining groups act as the experimental condition(s) to test the sensitive issue in question.  All groups are then given a list and asked only to specify how many items on the list they would choose; those in the experimental group(s) have one additional item on their list related to the target issue than those in the control group.  Respondents then report only a number based on how many items they support or oppose, never specifying exactly which item(s) was (were) left out.

For example, we asked the following question to more subtly explore the impact of gender on Buono’s campaign:

“There has been a lot of speculation about why Barbara Buono has been so far behind Chris Christie in the polls during this entire election season.  I am going to read you three possible reasons for it. I would like to know how MANY of these reasons you agree with.  Just tell me how many, I do not need to know which ones.”

 We then split the sample in half, randomly assigning half of our respondents to each group.  The first half were given three statements about Buono in a random order and asked whether they agreed with none, one, two or all three of them:

Her views are too liberal for New Jersey.
She is not well known throughout the state.
She did not receive enough support from the Democratic Party.

The other half of the sample received the same three statements, plus a fourth statement that addressed Buono’s gender.  All four were presented in a random order, and these respondents were asked whether they agreed with none, one, two, three, or all four of them. The fourth statement was:

            She is a woman.

Since the ONLY thing that differs between the two lists is the addition of the target item in the second list, we can use some very simple statistics to see if it ha any effect, that is, to see if  some voters think Buono was disadvantaged by being a woman. Because the two groups are random, if both got the same list we should get about the same mean number of responses for both groups. But since the second group has an extra item – the target item – any difference in the mean between voters in the second group and those in the first has to be because of the extra item.

So we compare the means (averages) of both groups, and look at the difference between the first group (the “control” list) and the second group (the “experimental” list) to determine the percentage of respondents who supported or opposed the target item.  While we will not know whether individual respondents agreed or disagreed with this item, we will get a more accurate read on  how many voters felt Buono’s gender was a disadvantage than we would if we asked the question outright..

So, was there a candidate gender effect?

The short answer is yes, but a modest one.  The first “control” group that received only three items selected 1.77 items on average.  The second group – our “experimental” group – that received the four items selected 1.92 items on average.  We take the difference of these two averages and multiply it by 100 to get the percentage of respondents who actually agreed that Buono’s gender influenced her continual double-digit lag behind Christie in the polls throughout the campaign. The result is 15 percent of NJ voters thought Buono being a woman candidate contributed to her support deficit during the race.

We know that there are no significant differences in characteristics between the two random groups – such as respondent gender, age, race, partisanship, ideology, and vote choice.  Furthermore, the only difference between the experimental versions assigned to these two groups is the item specifying Buono’s gender; all other items are the same, and all items are presented in a random order.  Therefore, we can with a great deal of confidence say that this extra gender item is making the difference – and according to tests of statistical significance, this difference is not just by chance.

The Candidate Gender Effect That Not-so-evidently Was

While 15 percent may not initially seem like a large amount, that is about one in seven voters who believed Buono’s gender to be an issue in her performance during the campaign.  If we generalize this a bit to the more than two million New Jersey voters who voted for governor this past election, that means more than 300,000 voters may have believed in some way that Buono being a woman candidate contributed to her struggles.  While Buono no doubt eventually lost for a large variety of reasons – Christie’s untouchable and skyrocketing post-Sandy popularity, lack of support from Democrats at the elite and mass level, and difficulties fundraising compared to Christie’s insurmountable war chest just to name a few – her gender may be one of them despite the apparently non-existent role it seemed to play publicly.

Buono in fact did a few points better in the actual election results than in the last pre-election average forecast by Real Clear Politics, and though Christie did slightly better than the average predicted as well, Buono’s increase from the average to the actual was twice Christie’s (Christie went up 1.6 points from an average of 58.8 percent to an actual of 60.4 percent; Buono went up 3.4 points from an average of 34.7 percent to an actual of 38.1 percent).  Perhaps there is some more support here for the polls underestimating Buono in part due to gender, but the clearest takeaway here is that gender still plays a notable role in campaigns – even when it seemingly does not.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie

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

CHRISTIE’S RE-ELECTION A PERSONAL VICTORY DRIVEN BY YEAR OF HIGH RATINGS POST-SANDY

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.

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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!

 

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Chris Christie

CHRISTIE MAY BE GAINING ‘COATTAILS’ AS BUONO’S BASE ABANDONS HER

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

CHRISTIE MAY BE GAINING ‘COATTAILS’ AS BUONO’S BASE ABANDONS HER

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.”

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CHRISTIE’S OVERALL RATINGS REMAIN HIGH BUT VOTERS UNHAPPY ABOUT HOW HE HANDLES ECONOMY AND TAXES

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.

CHRISTIE’S OVERALL RATINGS REMAIN HIGH
BUT VOTERS UNHAPPY ABOUT HOW HE HANDLES ECONOMY AND TAXES

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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CHRISTIE’S STRENGTH ON MOST ISSUES WIDENS LEAD AMONG LIKELY 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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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Buono, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters