Category Archives: Frank Pallone

On to the NJ Special Senate General Election!

OK, so let me start by admitting I was wrong. About what, you ask? Well, along with virtually every other pundit in the state, we here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll expected turnout in the special Senate primary to be abysmal, if even that. The primary was being held with little lead time, in the middle of August, when everyone it seems is down the shore. Moreover, both Republicans and Democrats appeared to have essentially uncompetitive races. And of course, turnout in primaries is generally low anyway. All of this combined to assure us that we’d see record low turnout.

Well, mea culpa. Though I suppose we were half right. Republican turnout looks to have been about 130,000 voters out of around 1.085 million registered Republicans, or about 12%. That’s pretty bad, by any standard. Democrats, though, nearly doubled this, with more than 350,000 showing up to vote, out of just under 1.8 million, or right around 20%. Now 20% might not seem like much, but it is a far cry from the anticipated “no one will vote” story.

The winners were Steve Lonegan, with 79% of the vote (with 98% of precincts reporting,) and Cory Booker with 59%. In both cases, the winners out performed the few polls that were out, but to be fair, Quinnipiac’s last poll was pretty close on both sides. For the Democrats, whether it’s that the 9% “undecideds” in that poll went more for Booker than any other candidate or that (more likely in my mind) undecideds didn’t actually show up and Booker had a better turnout operation than the others, Quinnipiac did a good job of what we thought would be a very difficult task: identifying likely voters. Also, the Monmouth poll done earlier suggested in their likely voter screen that turnout could range between 200,000 and 400,000 Democrats – with that high end seeming pretty unlikely. Yet, in fact, Democratic turnout was closer to the high than the low end.

We had decided not to poll because we were very uncertain about our likely voter model in this context; apparently the primary voters who turned out looked a lot like any likely primary voters, despite the oddity of an August primary. Most likely this is due as much to Cory Booker’s ground operation as the support for Frank Pallone and Rush Holt within their own Congressional Districts (both appear to have basically won their district.) [correction: the Star Ledger reported on Aug. 15 that Booker appears to have narrowly won in Holt’s district while Pallone did indeed win his.]

This morning, I did a quick and dirty look at Democratic turnout by county. Some interesting results:  (All Senate election and turnout numbers from Registered voter numbers come from the state Board of Elections.)

Top 5 counties:  Mercer, 26%; Monmouth, 25%; Essex, 23%; Hunterdon, 23; Somerset, 23%.

Of these, Holt won 2 (Mercer and Hunterdon) and Pallone won one (Monmouth). Booker handily won Essex with 67% and got 53% in Somerset. The problem for both Pallone and Holt is that they won (or did best in) counties with many fewer Democrats than Booker, who, not surprisingly won overwhelmingly in the Democrat-rich counties of Essex, Bergen, and Hudson, even though turnout in the latter two was at or below the state average. Booker didn’t need a massive turnout percentage there to win, just lots of votes. Essex itself, for example, has more Democrats than Mercer and Monmouth combined.

Some other interesting things that reinforce the local aspect of politics. First, Middlesex, with about the same number of Democrats as Bergen (both about 50,000 Democrats behind Essex) had 22% turnout, but a true three-way race, with Booker at 38%, Pallone at 33% and Holt at 25%. Of course both Pallone and Holt both represent parts of Middlesex, accounting for their much stronger showing than in most of the rest of the state.

Booker got less than 50% in only 6 counties: Warren, Ocean, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Hunterdon. Of these Pallone represents parts of Monmouth and Middlesex, and Holt has parts of Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon. Where they knew them, voters preferred Pallone or Holt, otherwise Booker’s wider recognition and celebrity status no doubt played a role in burying both Congressmen.

Also, for all the early news reports of “vote by mail” efforts in Camden county supposedly orchestrated by the Booker campaign, Camden turnout was the lowest in the state, at 11.3% with just over 15,000 reported Democratic votes. However, as of this writing, voters are reported from only 82% of precincts (compared to 98% of the state) so the numbers in Camden are no doubt higher, but will still most likely put it in the bottom 5 of turnout. But what Camden really has in common with other southern counties is that all of the candidates came from central or north Jersey. And for the most part, the turnout percentages reflect that.

Bottom 5 counties:  Camden, 11%; Gloucester, 12%; Salem, 13%; Cumberland, 13%; Warren, 14%/

Where the candidates live, and are better known, voters were simply much more likely to show up. No great surprise, perhaps, but interesting none the less.

So on to the special Senate general election on Wednesday October 16. Given the primary turnout, perhaps we should be more upbeat about turnout for that election. On the other hand, if the initial polling is right (and we suspect it is) then this will be a snoozer of a race, with Booker handily beating Lonegan. Doesn’t mean the campaign won’t be interesting; with Lonegan in it, it is likely to have at least some fireworks. But turnout for October? Who knows. But regardless, Rutgers-Eagleton will be polling this one, with out first poll on the race due out in early September. Watch for it!


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, NJ Voters, Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver

(Not) Polling the NJ Special Senate Primaries

We noticed some recent polls by our friends at Monmouth and Quinnipiac on the upcoming August 13 special US Senate Primary here in NJ. These polls show overwhelming leads for Newark Mayor Cory Booker and (in Quinnipiac’s poll only) Republican Steve Lonegan. It would appear both will coast to easy primary victories, and face off in the October 16 special election.

Or will they? Our take here at Eagleton is we simply don’t know. Monmouth’s poll is probably as good as it gets right now, in that they polled using a “listed” sample, rather than the typical random digit dial sample. They used the list of registered NJ Democratic voters, and looked at turnout history (which many people are surprised to find is public information.) Given the unprecedented nature of this primary – being held in the middle of August when half the state is probably down the shore – about the only way to really get a sense of who might vote is to look at who regularly votes in primaries and talk only to those people. These are unusual people – turning out in primaries on a regular basis – who are clearly committed to the process. So if anyone will turn out in August, they will.

But will they? In the end we just don’t know. Unless there is a significant effort by the campaigns to get people to vote absentee – by mail – if they will be out of town, it’s clearly a crapshoot guessing who will vote. Monmouth says they “screened for likelihood of voting in the upcoming August special primary.” But they don’t seem to say how they did this screening, unless it was the one question about awareness of the primary that they released. Frankly, awareness matters, but it is probably not an adequate screening tool. Monmouth notes that their screening suggests a relatively high level of turnout, towards 400,000 Democrats, about 22% of all Democrats. Consider that in 2008 just over 340,000 Democrats voted in the contested regular Senate primary. Much lower turnout seems likely in August 2013.

Here at Rutgers-Eagleton we have made the decision not to poll the primary. The reality is that it is expensive to do polls, and we need to conserve resources for the two fall elections – the October special Senate general and the regular November general. But we are also guided by the simple fact that we could not come up with a way to identify “likely” August voters, no matter how hard we thought about it.  It may be that the likely screen is not that critical; that Booker has such an overwhelming lead that any polling will more or less get the winner right. But it could also be that his opponents will be much more effective at turning out their supporters at this odd time of year, than seems likely right now. In any case, from our perspective, polling this race may well result in misleading information on its status, and probably will not add any real useful information that would be worth dedicating some of our limited resources, when there will be so many other things to look at this fall.

So we wish Monmouth and Quinnipiac well on their efforts, and we’re glad someone is about to be out there doing it.


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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, NJ Voters, Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver


Click here for a PDF of the full text of the release with Questions and Tables.


 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the campaign to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg gets underway, 55 percent of registered Democrats and independents leaning Democratic would vote for Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the Aug. 13 primary, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Trailing far behind are U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone at 9 percent and Rush Holt at 8 percent. The poll did not include state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who is expected to file to run today. The Republican primary race was not polled, as only former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan had announced a run while the poll was under way.

“Even with Oliver in the race, Booker is currently the odds-on favorite,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Booker has the most visible statewide profile by far among the Democrats running, and name recognition is critical in such a short campaign. At the same time, we surveyed registered voters, and special election turnout is notoriously difficult to predict. We shouldn’t write anyone off just yet.”

When told the $24 million cost of holding both a special primary and general election, New Jersey voters strongly oppose N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a Wed., Oct. 16 election. Only 12 percent agree with Christie that the Senate election should be held separately from the Nov. 5th gubernatorial and legislative elections. Instead, more than three-quarters say the elections should have been combined.

Following Christie’s appointment of Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the Senate seat temporarily, voters had a change of heart about what they wanted in an interim senator. Ahead of the announcement, 43 percent wanted the seat to be filled by a Democrat, reflecting Lautenberg’s party. Fifty-seven percent also preferred an appointed senator who would also run for the seat in the special election. But following the June 6 announcement, opinion shifted strongly in Christie’s direction, with support for a Senate placeholder doubling from 32 percent to 64 percent, along with an 11-point decrease in support for a Democratic appointment.

“The power of the Governor to set the agenda is clear in these numbers,” said Redlawsk. “In a blue state, it’s not surprising most voters initially wanted a Democrat appointed, but once Christie made the appointment, many voters took their cues from his decision.”

Results are from a poll of 888 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from June 3-9 with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. The subsample of 763 registered voters reported in this release has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. The Democratic primary ballot test includes a subsample of 364 registered Democrats and Democratic leaners with a margin of error of +/- 5.1 percentage points.

Senate Democratic primary

Booker’s massive lead comes at least in part because he is much better known than his opponents. Booker is viewed favorably by 56 percent of all Garden State voters, compared to only 12 percent who feel unfavorable toward him. One-third of voters have no opinion or do not recognize his name. Pallone and Holt, on the other hand, are barely known at all: 71 percent have no opinion or do not recognize Pallone, while 72 have no impression of Holt. Among those who venture an opinion on Pallone, 21 percent are favorable, and 8 percent are unfavorable. For Holt the numbers are 18 percent favorable and 10 percent unfavorable.

“Booker’s net favorability rating among all voters is a positive 44 points,” noted Redlawsk. “This not only suggests a potentially strong primary showing, but puts him in good position for the general election. It will take substantial effort by his opponents to change that in just a couple months.”

Booker also has much stronger favorability ratings compared to Pallone and Holt when only Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters are considered. Sixty-six percent of these voters feel favorable toward Booker, while 28 percent are favorable toward Pallone and 22 percent toward Holt. Only 25 percent do not have an opinion of Booker, compared to 68 percent for Pallone and 70 percent for Holt.

Special election and temporary appointment

Democrats and Republicans disagree with Christie’s decision to hold a special election.  Eighty-four percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans say the election for the Senate seat should have been scheduled Nov. 5.

“There is virtually no support for holding a special election given the price tag,” said Redlawsk. “Republicans are upset because many had hoped an appointed Republican would serve until November 2014. Democrats don’t like it because they expect it will lower turnout in the November 2013 election, leading to an even bigger win for Christie and the possibility of Republican legislative gains. And voters will have to keep track of two separate elections, remembering that the special election is on a Wednesday, not a Tuesday.”

Prior to Chiesa’s appointment, voters decidedly favored a Democrat’s appointment as Lautenberg’s successor (43 percent to 26 percent for a Republican). But sentiment shifted in response to the appointment, so that across the full sample, 36 percent wanted a Democrat, while 31 percent preferred a Republican. Another 28 percent volunteered that the party of the appointee would make no difference.

Not surprisingly, partisan preference for Lautenberg’s appointed successor divides across party lines: 56 percent of Democratic voters say Christie should have appointed a Democrat, while 60 percent of Republicans wanted a fellow Republican. Independents are split – 24 percent preferred a Democrat and 28 percent a Republican, but 41 percent said it makes no difference.

While initially preferring that an appointed senator be willing to run for the office, voters warmed to the idea of a temporary fill-in following Chiesa’s appointment. Across the full sample, both before and after the announcement, 53 percent of both Democrats and Republicans support appointment of an interim senator not running for the office himself, while 56 percent of independents agree. Women are slightly stronger supporters than men, 56 percent to 51 percent. Redlawsk noted that much of the change came because Democrats became more in favor of a temporary fill-in once a Republican was appointed.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, Rush Holt

Coming Later Today: Numbers on the Democrat Sen. Primary

As we post this, we are working on a new release of polling that was in the field last week. We had planned to do this poll before the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and frankly we scrambled to insert questions relating to the vacancy. Of course, events moved quickly requiring us to modify questions several times while we were in the field. That’s always a challenge.

In any case, we will have some results of a Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, and Rush Holt head-to-head Democratic primary matchup in a couple hours. Unfortunately we did not include Sheila Oliver since it was not clear until today whether she was running. But we suspect it would not have drastically changed Booker’s position had she been included.

We’ll also have some data on how NJ voters feel about the idea of an October special election vs. holding the Senate vote on Nov. 5.

Stay tuned…

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Filed under Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, NJ Senate 2013 Special Election, Rush Holt