Category Archives: Gay Marriage

Results of a Joint Poll with Siena and Roanoke Released Today

Over the last week we carried out our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of New Jersey with an interesting twist. In conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers we fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states. Today we release the results in a lengthy report that summarizes the interesting differences and similarities between the three states of New York (Siena Research Institute), Virginia (Roanoke Institute for Policy and Opinion Research) and Rutgers-Eagleton. The report speaks pretty much for itself, but if you want to see the full set of questions and crosstabs for all three institutions, you can find them here.

For a PDF of this release with the New Jersey tables and crosstabs, click here.

Full text of the release follows.

Roanoke/Rutgers-Eagleton/Siena College Study:  Simultaneous Polls – Virginia, New Jersey, New York
Majority in 3 States Favorable on Hillary Clinton; Give Former Sec of State 2016 Lead over Christie, Paul & Ryan

Voters in NJ, NY & Virginia in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage, National Gun Registry, Keystone Pipeline, Minimum Wage Hike, Med Marijuana; States Mixed on Obamacare, Unemployment Extension

Cuomo Stronger in NY than Christie in Jersey or McAuliffe in Virginia

NY & NJ Voters see Global Climate Change; Virginians Mixed

Loudonville, NY; New Brunswick, NJ; Roanoke, VA. – A majority of voters in New York (64 percent), New Jersey (59 percent) and Virginia (56 percent) have a favorable view of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and name her most often in each state as the one eligible person that they would most like to see as the next President according to simultaneous identical polls conducted by Roanoke College in Virginia, Rutgers-Eagleton in New Jersey and Siena College in New York.  In early 2016 Presidential horseraces in each state, Clinton tops New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan by over 35 points in New York, 8 (Christie) to 14 (Paul) points in Virginia and even leads Christie by 10 in New Jersey while up there by 25 to 29 over Ryan and Paul.

“It’s early, very early, but in these three states worth 56 of 270 electoral votes needed to win, Hillary Clinton is well-liked, the top choice by margins of 4 or 5 to one in New York and Virginia and named more than twice as often in Governor Christie’s home state.  Head to head, she is untouchable in New York, has majorities in New Jersey and a lead in the potential battleground state of Virginia over not only two lesser known Republican hopefuls, Paul and Ryan, but over Christie who can no longer muster 50 percent favorable in any of the three states,” according to Don Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Asked to vote in favor of or opposed to 12 national initiatives, a majority of voters in all three states support seven and oppose one.  Overwhelming majorities are in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; legalizing the use of marijuana in all 50 states for medical purposes; approving a path to citizenship for people who are in the U.S. illegally, but are working, have no criminal record and pay taxes; approving the Keystone Pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.; using federal funds to make free Pre-Kindergarten education available to all children; and establishing a national gun registry.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states is strongly supported in New Jersey and New York while Virginians are in favor by 53 to 40 percent.  Large majorities, greatest in Virginia, oppose allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap domestic phone lines in the interest of national security.


“We tend to spend more time focusing on how voters differ across states, but here we find that despite differences in geography, racial and religious makeup, and partisanship, there is more agreement than not in these three states on seven current issues. Apparently voters share more opinions than the media leads us to believe with their focus on a hyper partisan world,” according to David Redlawsk, Director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

“Given a huge disparity in gun ownership rates – half in Virginia compared to one in seven in the two northern states – the much smaller differences on support for a national gun registry are surprising.  Virginians are less supportive of stricter gun laws, but those differences are relatively small. New York and New Jersey have much tougher restrictions on guns and gun owners; perhaps those differences are a factor in shaping opinion,” according to Harry Wilson, Director of Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.

On four current issues – the Affordable Care Act, abortion, standardized testing and an extension for unemployment benefits – the voters of New Jersey, New York and Virginia do not speak with the same decisiveness nor the same mind.  Given the opportunity to vote in these polls on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a majority of Virginians are in favor, a small majority of New Jerseyans agree, but a similarly small majority of New Yorkers oppose repeal.  On two other current hot button issues, both New York and New Jersey support both reinstituting unemployment benefits beyond the initial 26 weeks of coverage and to a lesser degree, using nationally standardized tests to assess the quality of public schools, while in Virginia, both issues find voters split.

The one issue on which voters of each state are closely divided is making abortion illegal 20 weeks after conception, a proposal currently being advanced by some in Congress.  Voters in all three states lean towards opposing this measure, but only in Virginia does opposition reach beyond the margin of error and in no instant does opposition reach 50 percent.

“While voters in these three states agree on and endorse initiatives covering a wide range of issues – same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, the Keystone Pipeline and the minimum wage – voters both within these three states and across borders cannot come to any consensus on some of the key issues that are drawing the political battle lines today including abortion, Obamacare and unemployment benefits.  In fact, asked whether the greatest problem we face today is too much government or income inequality, New Yorkers say ‘it’s inequality,’ Virginians say ‘too much government’ and New Jersey is split,” Levy notes.

“Another line in the sand is climate change.  New Jersey and New York emphatically say that they think that the major storms that have hit the East Coast over the last two years are the result of global climate change while Virginians are not convinced,” Wilson adds.

Rating the Governors, States and Country

Of the three Governors, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Cuomo has the strongest favorability ranking in his own state at 59 to 34 percent followed by McAuliffe’s 47 to 33 percent and Christie’s 48 to 40 percent.  Away from their home state, Christie is best known but gets breakeven favorable/unfavorable scores in both New York and Virginia.  McAuliffe, the Governor with the shortest tenure, is little known outside of Virginia while Cuomo is seen favorably in New Jersey, 47 to 19 percent but is neither well known nor popular in Virginia at 27 to 33 percent.

Another point of agreement across these three states is that voters say that the country is headed in the wrong direction rather than being on the right track by nearly identical scores – NJ 56/32, NY 54/36, Virginia 59/32.  And when asked to assess the direction of their own state, voters are more positive about their home than the nation but no state makes it to 50 percent saying ‘right track.’  While Virginians are guardedly optimistic at 47 percent right track to 40 percent wrong direction, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans lean negatively.


“Still, given a chance to vote with their feet when asked across all three states to choose where they would most like to live, a large majority – ninety percent in Virginia, two-thirds in New York and almost six in ten in New Jersey, say, despite any warts, home is sweet home.  Among those with a wandering eye, Virginia calls most loudly as a quarter of both New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are ready to head south,” Redlawsk added.

“Whether we describe our politics as hyper-partisan, divided or gridlocked, this three-state study shows that large majorities of voters from New Jersey, New York and Virginia agree on many issues.  Still, given their sobering agreement on the country currently moving in the wrong direction, they appear more frustrated than optimistic.  At the same time, on some issues including Obamacare, the role of government and abortion, deep divides are evident.  The 2016 Presidential election is a political eternity away.  While some of the issues in this study may be decided by then, it is more likely that Hillary Clinton and the other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, will need to address both the areas of agreement as well as those on which Americans disagree when the campaign heats up.”


Filed under Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Education, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Obama NJ Rating, President Obama

#3 Same Sex Marriage – Rutgers-Eagleton Poll’s 2013 Top 5 Countdown

3.) Support soars as same-sex marriage becomes legal in New Jersey.

After failed attempts by the New Jersey state legislature to make same-sex marriage legal over the past few years and a veto by Gov. Christie in 2012, marriage equality laws in the state did not seem to reflect the continually increasing public support for it in the Garden State. But in late September, all of that changed when Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that same-sex couples should be given the right to marry in New Jersey. Gov. Christie originally said his administration would appeal the court’s decision but later dropped his appeal when the state Supreme Court would not stay the court ruling. As same-sex marriage legalization went into effect, 61 percent of New Jersey voters were in support of it – a continuation of the majority support seen for the past two years in the Garden State; only 27 percent opposed it, and 12 percent were unsure. Fifty-nine percent of voters agreed with the court’s decision, and 53 percent agreed that the governor should drop his appeal and accept the court’s decision – though 62 percent said they would still have preferred the issue to be decided by the voters. Nonetheless, 2013 was a landmark year for same-sex marriage in New Jersey as law finally matched overwhelming public sentiment.


The #2 story is coming in a couple hours…

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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

New results on Minimum Wage Ballot Issue, Same-sex Marriage, and Statewide Legislative Ballot Test

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


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jerseyans remain unwavering in their strong support for a constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than three-quarters of registered voters say they will vote yes on the November ballot question which will increase the minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 per hour. Only 18 percent oppose the measure. A large majority of Republicans plan to vote for the increase, despite Gov. Chris Christie’s earlier veto of a similar measure.

“Support for a higher minimum wage indexed for inflation has been overwhelming since the question was place on the ballot,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Voters are very sympathetic to the idea that the lowest wage workers need an increase.”

Garden Staters also want a chance to vote on same-sex marriage: 67 percent want the question on the ballot, while 25 percent do not. If given the opportunity, 59 percent would vote to legalize same-sex marriage, while 30 percent would vote no, and 11 percent are unsure.

The Legislature has not placed same-sex marriage on the ballot so far, and it is unclear if it will. “But Democrats have every incentive to do so, given strong support for the proposition among their base,” said Redlawsk. “The question would certainly energize key Democratic constituencies.”

Recent polling shows Christie leading state Sen. Barbara Buono by 32 points in the governor’s race, but voters appear ready to stick with Democrats in the Legislature. A statewide ballot test shows voters prefer generic Democrats over Republicans by 16 points. These results are similar to the last Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in April. However, favorable impressions of the Democrat-controlled state Legislature are down by double digits: 30 percent report a favorable impression, as compared to 41 percent in April. Unfavorable impressions are up six points, to 26 percent.

“While Democrats worry about low turnout due to both the U.S. Senate special election three weeks earlier and the lack of enthusiasm so far for Buono, the preference for Democrats in the Legislature remains strong,” noted Redlawsk. “As always with statewide generic ballot tests, some individual races are likely to be much closer. These questions do not get at specific races.”

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 here has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Strong support for minimum wage across typical divides

With 77 percent of all registered voters supporting the minimum wage constitutional amendment, support is both wide and deep. Even a majority of political conservatives now support the change, 55 percent to 35 percent, up eight points from April. More than seven in 10 Christie supporters favor the amendment despite the governor’s opposition, while 91 percent of Buono backers favor the increase. Majority support for the amendment also crosses party lines: 94 percent of Democrats (up three points) and 64 percent of Republicans (up seven points) are in favor. Almost 70 percent of independents agree.

Though majorities of both men and women favor the amendment, women are stronger supporters, 83 percent to 71 percent for men. Support decreases as income increases, though almost three-quarters in the highest income bracket still support the measure. In comparison, 86 percent in the lowest income bracket would vote for the amendment.

“Unless something changes rather dramatically over the next few months, there seems little doubt of the amendment passing,” said Redlawsk. “Even if Democratic turnout is lower than normal, or if an unusually high number vote for Christie, approval of the measure seems likely. However, a strong campaign against the increase could conceivably have some effect.”

Most would vote for same-sex marriage

Despite opposition from some Democratic leaders who do not want to subject what they say is a civil right to a referendum, two-thirds of New Jersey voters want the opportunity to have their say on same-sex marriage.

Although Christie initially called for a vote, preferences in the gubernatorial race make little difference in responses. Seventy percent of those planning to vote for Christie want a referendum on the issue in November as do 63 percent of Buono backers.

Women are more likely to support putting same-sex marriage to a vote than men, 70 percent compared to 63 percent, and 71 percent of voters under 40 also want the chance to vote on the issue.

If the Legislature puts the question on the November ballot, New Jersey would join the list of states legalizing same-sex marriage. While support has weakened since April by three points to 59 percent, opposition has not grown.  Instead, slightly more are simply unsure of where they stand.

Among those who want the chance to vote, 72 percent favor same-sex marriage and 20 percent would veto the measure. Among those who do not want the issue on the ballot, 59 percent would vote against same-sex marriage if it ends up there.

“Opponents of same-sex marriage appear to recognize it is likely to pass and are therefore opposed to giving it that chance,” noted Redlawsk. “This is quite different from most states over the last decade, where opponents pushed to get the question on the ballot to defeat it.”

While large majorities of Democrats (68 percent) and independents (63 percent) would vote for same-sex marriage, Republicans remain strongly opposed, with only 37 percent contemplating a yes vote. Even fewer conservatives of any stripe (27 percent) would vote yes.

Christie coattails seem ‘short’

Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead over Republicans in a test between the two parties in November’s state Senate and Assembly races.

Christie has some sway among those who like him, but it is not overwhelming: 35 percent of those favoring the governor will vote GOP for the Assembly, but 27 percent will vote for Democrats. Disliking Christie has a very strong effect: 67 percent of this group plans to support Democratic Assembly candidates, while only 5 percent support Republicans.

Because Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans, GOP chances are hurt in these statewide ballot tests since few voters expect to cross party lines with their legislative vote. Eighty percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans will vote for their own parties in the Assembly, and most of the others are undecided so far.

Independents, however, are leaning Republican, with 17 percent preferring Democrats (down 3 points), 21 percent favoring Republicans (up two points) and 31 percent undecided – numbers very different from the strong independent support Christie gets in his own re-election effort.

Republicans lead only among a few groups – conservatives (62 percent support), exurban voters (37 percent) and shore county voters (31 percent). Those with a favorable impression of the Legislature are 30 points more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans, while those feeling unfavorable side with Republicans by a only a 2-point margin.

Similar results are seen for the state Senate, where Christie backers are also eight points more likely to vote for Republicans. Sixty-nine percent of his detractors will vote for a Senate Democrat, while only 8 percent will vote GOP.

As with the Assembly, most partisans will vote their party for state Senate. Independents once again lean toward Republicans at 25 percent, with another 19 percent saying they will vote for Democrats (down six points) and 32 percent unsure. Republicans in the state Senate do no better with winning over demographic groups than does the GOP in the Assembly.

“These generic ballot tests are useful for giving us the big picture, and so far we see no statewide movement toward the GOP,” said Redlawsk. “Two years ago the statewide numbers were less favorable toward Democrats but they ended up picking up one Assembly seat. Again, the dynamic can change due to local issues, and the question of who will show up at the polls is likely to matter even more than usual.”

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Top results of 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Release: September 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Quick thoughts on the election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Yesterday we reported that a majority of NJ Voters support same-sex marriage. Today we expand on that by also noting that a majority support’s NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a vote on the issue, while 40 percent support Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s position that the issue is one of civil rights and should not be submitted to a vote. One interesting twist though. NJ votes don’t care very much about the issue – it is not considered even very important by a large majority. BUT, those who support marriage equality are much more likely to call it an important issue than are those who oppose it. Interesting food for thought here – if there were a referendum, would supporters be more likely to get out than opponents? If so, that would be pretty much the opposite of what has happened elsewhere when the issue has been on the ballot.

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


Majority supports gay marriage but issue not that important to most

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Even with a majority of New Jersey voters supporting the legalization of gay marriage, more than half also back Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a November referendum on the question, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. At the same time, most say gay marriage is not one of their top issues.

As reported by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll yesterday, 54 percent of Garden State voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage. At the same time, 53 percent of voters support Christie’s call for a vote on the issue while 40 percent support Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s position that gay marriage is a civil rights issue that should not be decided upon by voters. Even among those who support gay marriage, a majority wants a referendum.

While the Democratic-led Legislature has made gay marriage a top priority, fewer than 25 percent of voters say gay marriage is the most important or one of a very few important issues facing New Jersey today. “It’s surprising that so many of those who support same-sex marriage are also in favor of a referendum,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers. “It may be that given several polls showing majority support among voters, supporters of same-sex marriage think it would win in November. But in the face of a likely intensive campaign from opponents, this could be wishful thinking.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Clear support for referendum across most demographic groups

While 54 percent of registered voters support legalizing gay marriage, voters also want to be able to weigh in on the issue – 53 percent of all voters support Christie’s proposal to have a referendum. This majority support for a ballot question persists across most demographic groups as well as among those who support legalization. Among gay marriage supporters, half also favor Christie’s call for a referendum, while 44 percent oppose it. Among those who oppose gay marriage, 60 percent support the referendum.

The referendum issue was raised in the context of the governor’s call for a ballot question and Booker’s stance that same-sex marriage is about civil rights and not for voters to decide. Given the framing, it is notable that voters with a favorable impression of Booker are evenly split on the call for a referendum, 47 percent for and 48 percent against. Voters with a favorable opinion of Christie clearly support a referendum, 66 percent to 29 percent.

“Despite strong favorable ratings, Mayor Booker’s position is in the minority,” said Redlawsk. “While those with an unfavorable impression of him strongly support a referendum, it is interesting that those who like the mayor are evenly split. The messenger may be liked, but the message is not resonating with most voters.”

Groups with majorities opposed to a referendum include Democrats (54 percent), those with more than a college degree (53 percent) and black voters (52 percent). Democratic voters and black voters likely oppose the referendum in part because Christie is calling for it, but also due to efforts to make a strong connection between gay marriage and civil rights, and the historical controversy surrounding putting civil rights issues on the ballot. The connection to civil rights may resonate especially with black voters despite the fact that a majority of black voters actually oppose legalizing gay marriage.

In addition, just over half of the highest income voters, just under half of liberals and half of those in a public union household also oppose the referendum

Gay marriage not a top priority for voters

As a marriage bill makes its way through the New Jersey Legislature, 40 percent of voters say gay marriage is not at all important in the context of other issues facing the state. Just over one-third believe the issue is “somewhat important” and only 22 percent call gay marriage the most important (3 percent) or “one of a few very important issues” (19 percent) that need to be addressed. This result appears across all demographic groups, with most in each group believing the issue is not important at all with only a few groups having a majority who believe it is somewhat important.

Among gay marriage supporters, about one-third think the issue is at least very important. Almost half (46 percent) think it is somewhat important and about a quarter (22 percent) think it is not important at all. A large majority of opponents (62 percent) believe the issue unimportant.

Thirty percent of Democrats, 36 percent of liberals, and 39 percent of those under 30 believe gay marriage is at least one of a few very important issues in New Jersey. Twenty-eight percent of Born Again Christians feel the same, even though they are overwhelmingly against legalization. On the other hand, Republicans and conservatives – two other groups fiercely opposed to gay marriage – are much more likely to believe the issue is not important at all.

“Supporters of same-sex marriage may have a better opportunity than in most states, if the issue were to go to referendum,” said Redlawsk. “In most places where it has been on the ballot, opponents have been the ones who were intensely concerned and mobilized by the campaign. In New Jersey, most opponents of same-sex marriage appear to not care as much about it as supporters, at least for the moment. But a strong opposition campaign could change that.”

Only about 41 percent of those who think gay marriage is very important support letting the voters decide. But more than half who believe the issue is only somewhat important or not important at all also support Christie’s proposal.

Support for gay marriage increases for many demographic groups

Support for legalizing same-sex marriage in New Jersey has increased across various demographic groups. Joining Democrats (63 percent) and liberals (81 percent) as supporters, a majority of independents (56 percent) and moderates (55 percent) are in favor of gay marriage. Voters of all age groups – except for those over 65 – are in support as well: 77 percent of those under 30, 57 percent of those 30-to-49-years-old, and 55 percent of those 50- to-64. For the first time, a clear majority of Catholics (52 percent) and males (52 percent) support same-sex marriage. Women (57 percent) and those of higher socioeconomic status – higher education (59 percent for college graduates and 68 percent for those who have completed graduate work) and higher income (more than half of voters in each of two highest income brackets) – continue to support legalization.

However, gay marriage still faces strong opposition from those groups who typically oppose it. Republican (58 percent) and conservative (69 percent) voters are still greatly opposed. Half of Protestants, 70 percent of evangelical Christians, and over half of those voters 65 years and older also show majorities opposed to legalization. Half of black voters are opposed as well.


Filed under Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters


PDF of the release with all tables here.

Today we release initial results from our polling over the past weekend on the question of same-sex marriage. Not surprisingly, given the results of our previously released polls on this question, a majority of NJ voters continues to support legal recognition for same sex marriage. Pretty much no matter how we have asked this question over the past six months, we have found a majority in support. Today’s results confirm that even as the debate has heated up again with the introduction of a marriage equality bill in the NJ legislature, positions have shifted little. We do see some increased support in certain groups – in particular men overall have become more supportive.  But increases in some groups have been offset by stronger opposition among the most conservative voters, who have moved 8 points more negative since October. The result is little change in aggregate opinion, but some evidence of ideological polarization.

The full text of the release follows. You can get a PDF of the release with all tables here.


Some polarization evident as legislature debates the issue

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the New Jersey state Senate prepares to vote on gay marriage, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows that 54 percent of Garden State voters say gay marriage should be legalized. Fewer than 40 percent oppose such a move, while 7 percent have no position on the issue. The last time the state legislature debated a marriage bill, during the 2009 lame-duck session, only 46 percent of Garden Staters were in favor, and 40 percent opposed.

“Over the past two years there has been a clear shift towards support for same-sex marriage in national polling and in New Jersey,” said Rutgers-Eagleton Poll director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “This shift has occurred pretty much across the spectrum, with the exception of the strongly religious and most conservative voters. And while there has been little aggregate change since this reintroduction of the marriage bill we are seeing some ideological polarization as the debate develops.”

Results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Support for Gay Marriage in New Jersey

Majority support for legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey cuts across demographic groups. Self-identified liberals are the most supportive, at 81 percent, while 63 percent of Democrats say they favor legalization. Majorities of moderates (55 percent) and independent voters (56 percent) are also in favor. Younger voters are overwhelmingly supportive, with three-quarters of those under 30 supporting gay marriage. Except for the oldest voters, other age groups are also supportive: 57 percent of those 30 to 49 years old express support for legalization, along with 55 percent of those 50 to 64 years old.

Despite ongoing expressions of concern by Catholic Church leadership, a 52 percent majority of Catholic voters continue to support legalizing same-sex marriage. Protestant voters, however, are less supportive, with only 43 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed.

Since a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in October 2011, men have become more supportive of gay marriage. In October, 47 percent of men supported legalization while 45 percent opposed. Today, a majority of men – 52 percent – are in favor, while 40 percent oppose. Women remain more supportive, 57 percent to 37 percent, similar to the October poll.

“Support for legalizing same-sex marriage runs deep in New Jersey, with limited exceptions,” said Redlawsk. “And while there is no doubt that many of those who oppose the idea feel strongly about it, most New Jerseyans in most demographic groups think it is time to make same-sex marriage legal.”

Opposition to Gay Marriage

Strong opposition to gay marriage does remain within certain groups. Voters who are born-again or evangelical Christians are strongly opposed, with 7 in 10 against legalizing gay marriage. Conservative voters express opposition in similar numbers with 69 percent opposed and 24 percent in favor. Also against gay marriage are voters 65 years old and older, of whom 55 percent oppose and only 37 percent support legalization. Not surprisingly, only 35 percent of Republican voters support the measure, while 58 percent oppose it. And while white voters are in favor by 56 percent to 36 percent, Black voters feel differently with half opposing and 43 percent supporting legalizing gay marriage.

“Opposition to gay marriage is driven primarily by strong religious beliefs for many of its opponents, somewhat independently of political beliefs,” noted Redlawsk. “In particular, Black voters, who reliably vote Democratic, break with the large majority of the party in their opposition, reflecting a more conservative outlook on key social issues like same-sex marriage.”

Polarization as the Debate has Developed

Today’s results suggest ideological polarization on the issue since October. During the past four months moderates have become more supportive, moving from 49 percent support to 55 percent today. Liberals have also shifted even more in favor, up from 75 percent to 81 percent. Conservative voters, on the other hand, have become even more opposed, dropping by 8 points from 32 percent support in October to 24 percent today. The gap between liberals and conservative on legalizing gay marriage has increased from 43 points to 57 points over just a few months.

“As the Democrats in the legislature focus on same-sex marriage, voters have responded by becoming more polarized on the issue,” said Redlawsk. “Debates like this focus public opinion on the two opposite positions, moving apart those even slightly inclined one way or the other. Polarization reflects voters paying more attention and better aligning their own position on the issue with their overall ideological preferences.”


Filed under Civil Unions, Gay Marriage, NJ Voters

Some Suprising Gay Marriage/Civil Union Findings

Today we release results on a series of questions on gay marriage and civil unions in New Jersey from our most recent poll. This is a poll of registered voters, so it cannot be generalize to all adults, but it still gives us a useful look at things. First, and most obviously, the numbers for gay marriage are rather surprising to us. When we last polled on this in November 2009 (with an adult sample), NJ favored gay marriage by a slight margin, 46% to 42%, with 12% don’t know (and, though we didn’t include them, about 2.5% of adults would not answer the question.)

In our new poll of registered voters, support has climbed to 52%. That’s not what it stunning. The surprising number is that only 32% say they oppose, a pretty significant decline not only over 2009, but also much lower than a recent automated poll of landlines by PPP. We also now have more don’t knows, and a larger percentage (about 4%!) refused to answer the question (Again, these are not included in the numbers in the release.)

This could be random chance, or it could be real change. Or it could be more opponents unwilling to tell us how they truly feel on this. This latter point makes sense, since we see some of the largest don’t knows among conservatives and Republicans, who might be expect to oppose gay marriage. Or they may be don’t knows because they are really less sure than they once were.

In some ways, the more interesting part of the poll is our effort to test support for Civil Unions in the context of gay marriage, something that is rarely done. We find even greater support for civil unions – when we phrase it as “Instead of” and “an alternative to” gay marriage. In general, New Jerseyans while expressing support for gay marriage, may well prefer the status quo of legalized civil unions.

Parsing the numbers further we find that about 11% oppose BOTH gay marriage and civil unions and 13% support ONLY gay marriage. That leaves a lot of people in the middle. And most of them support civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage – though 15% don’t know where they stand on this one.

The text of the press release is below. But to really understand the nuances you should read the PDF with all the questions and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A clear majority of New Jersey voters now supports legalizing gay marriage here, with 52 percent in favor, 32 percent opposed and 16 percent unsure, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds. The margin in support has grown significantly over the past two years. However, given the choice of civil unions instead of gay marriage, even more voters (58 percent) support this alternative.

“We were surprised by the margin favoring gay marriage, which is much greater than previously reported,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “While the number of supporters has grown only a little, the number directly opposing gay marriage has fallen significantly. At the same time, more people say they are unsure or refuse to answer the question. These may be voters who are uncomfortable with gay marriage but who don’t want to express direct opposition, suggesting support is not as lopsided as it appears.”

The strong preference for civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage also suggests support for same-sex marriage is not as deep as it appears. More than two-thirds of gay marriage supporters say they support civil unions as an alternative, as do 54 percent of gay marriage opponents and 41 percent of those not sure where they stand on gay marriage.

Results are from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of 615 registered voters conducted among both landline and cell phone households from Aug. 9 – 15, with a margin of error for the full sample of +/- 3.9 percentage points

Support for gay marriage in New Jersey

Women are more likely than men to support gay marriage, 58 percent to 47 percent.  Younger voters are supportive, but support declines with age: 77 percent of voters under 30 are in favor, while support declines to only 35 percent of voters over 65.

Support increases as levels of education increase, with 46 percent of those with high school or less, rising to 62 percent of those who have attended graduate school.

Not surprisingly, 61 percent of Democrats (and 58 percent of independents) support gay marriage; 51 percent of Republicans oppose it. Similarly, 83 percent of self-reported “liberals” and 56 percent of “moderates” favor gay marriage. In contrast, 18 percent of conservatives are for gay marriage and 61 percent are opposed.

“We see an interesting pattern, with Republicans and conservatives much more likely to say ‘don’t know’ to the gay marriage question,” noted Redlawsk. “This suggests either some measure of uncertainty and changing attitudes by these voters, or perhaps reluctance to express a negative view in a state known for support of gay rights.”

Catholics show slightly more support for same-sex marriage than Protestants by four percentage points. How frequently respondents attend religious services is a stronger indicator of personal feelings than affiliation. Those who attend at least once a week are least likely to support gay marriage: 25 percent in favor to 60 percent opposed. Support increases with less frequent religious service attendance; 66 percent who attend a religious service once a month or less support gay marriage, while only 19 percent oppose.

New Jerseyans New York’s recent legalization of gay marriage did not affect their views. Only 14 percent of voters said they were more likely to support gay marriage after its legalization in New York, while a large majority – 73 percent – said the new law in New York had no effect on their opinion. Nearly all who were unsure about legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey – a group that might have been influenced by the New York results – also claimed that legalization of gay marriage in New York had no effect on their opinion.

Stronger support for civil unions as an alternative

Almost six-in-10 (58 percent) of respondents strongly support same-sex civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage; 26 percent oppose them. This support runs deep, with a majority within every age group supporting a civil union alternative: 57 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds, 56 percent of 30 to 49 year-olds, 61 percent of 50 to 64 year-olds and 52 percent of those 65 and over. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all support civil unions as an alternative, at 58 percent, 55 percent, and 57 percent, respectively.

“These results suggest that support for gay marriage itself is not as deep or broad as might be assumed by looking at New Jersey polls,” said Redlawsk. “What New Jersey voters do support is legal recognition of same-sex relationships. For many, if not most, civil unions fit the bill just fine as an alternative to gay marriage.”

While a majority of voters support the civil union alternative, those most likely to support gay marriage are also less likely to support civil unions instead. A quarter of gay marriage supporters oppose civil unions as an alternative (14 percent of all New Jersey voters). Democrats, liberals and younger voters are all much more likely to support gay marriage than civil unions. Those with a gay family member are also more likely to prefer same-sex marriage than the civil unions. Republicans, conservatives and older voters are all more likely to prefer civil unions.

“Opposition to civil unions comes from both ends of the spectrum,” said Redlawsk. “For some, any form of legal recognition of same-sex partners is unacceptable. For others, marriage is the only alternative they support. But most New Jerseyans fall in the middle.”

Despite support, gay marriage not an important issue for most

Only 2 percent of voters believe gay marriage is the most important issue the state faces; 13 percent say it is one of a few important issues. In contrast, 36 percent say legalization of gay marriage is only “somewhat important” and 46 percent believe that it is not an important issue at all. These results have changed little from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in early November 2009.

This view cuts across all political parties. Only 23 percent of Democrats, 14 percent of independents, and 9 percent of Republicans state that gay marriage is most important or one of a few very important issues.

Supporters of gay marriage are more likely to say it is an important issue: 72 percent see it as at least somewhat important. Opponents are much more likely to see the issue as unimportant, with 61 percent attaching no importance to the issue.

Knowing someone who is gay or lesbian increases support

Many New Jersey voters say they have gay or lesbian family members (32 percent) or friends (66 percent). These respondents are eight points more likely to support gay marriage, while those with a gay family member are 16 percentage points more supportive of gay marriage. Those with a gay family member express less support for civil unions.

Gay marriage, however, is not a top issue even for those close to someone who is gay.  Only 18 percent with a gay or lesbian friend or family member say legalization of gay marriage is the most important issue or one of a few very important issues facing New Jersey today, only slightly more than those without a gay or lesbian friend of family member.

“Most voters are comfortable with the status-quo – legal civil unions – even if they say they support gay marriage,” said Redlawsk. “There seems to be little likelihood of changing the situation in New Jersey.”

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Filed under Civil Unions, Gay Marriage