Category Archives: New Jersey

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … The NJ State Legislature

It’s a new semester at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, and as we gear up for our next Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, our student staff continues to take a closer look at some of the data from last semester’s surveys that we have not yet had a chance to fully explore. This time, one of our staff takes a deeper dive into numbers on the state Legislature.

Who Knows? Examining Favorability of the NJ State Legislature

By Robert Cartmell

Robert Cartmell is a senior at Rutgers University. Robert leads the data visualization and graphic representation team for the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.


According to an October 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the New Jersey state Legislature appears to have a problem – a recognition problem. The Legislature is viewed favorably by only 27 percent of registered voters in the Garden State, but this low rating does not mean the rest of voters are necessarily unfavorable (36 percent express a negative view). Instead, the real issue is that 37 percent of voters either have “no opinion” or “don’t know” enough about the Legislature to form one. Therefore, while voters are more unfavorable than favorable toward the Legislature, a significant portion of the New Jersey electorate simply does not have a clue about the legislative body … or cares.

Certain demographics are less likely to know or have an opinion about the Legislature than others. Breaking down the population into different age groups is particularly illustrative. Most age groups are pretty much just as likely to be favorable toward the Legislature as they are unfavorable. For millennials, 24 percent are favorable versus 24 percent who are unfavorable; among those 30 to 49 years old, 30 percent are favorable versus 32 percent who are unfavorable; and for those 65 and older, 35 percent are favorable versus 32 percent who are unfavorable. But voters 50 to 64 years old tend to feel significantly more negative – 48 percent are unfavorable, compared to 20 percent who are favorable.

Most interesting is the percentage of voters in each age group who say “no opinion” or “don’t know.” There is almost a linear relationship between this response and age, with younger respondents being more likely than older respondents to say that they have no opinion or don’t know: 52 percent of 18 to 29 year olds, 38 percent of 30 to 49 year olds, 32 percent of 50 to 64 year olds, and 33 percent of those 65 or older give this ambivalent response. It appears that younger generations do not pay as much attention to local or state politics as compared to older age groups. Even among older voters, however, the percentage of those who have no opinion is the most frequent response, with the exception of those ages 50 to 64. This suggests that the Legislature should be concerned about its lack of recognition with most voters, but especially those who are the newest to the electorate – and will be sticking around the longest.

Partisanship also reveals some differences in opinions about the New Jersey state Legislature. Among Democrats, 29 percent are favorable toward the Legislature, while 26 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of independents are favorable. Thirty-three percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents, and 42 percent of Republicans are unfavorable. Thus, we see – unsurprisingly – that New Jersey Republicans feel much less favorably toward the state Legislature than Democrats, while independents fall somewhere in the middle.

Partisans of all stripes, however, are roughly equally likely to respond that they have no opinion or don’t know about the state Legislature: 38 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of Republicans, and 42 percent of independents say this. Again, we see that Democrats and independents are more likely to have no opinion or not know, while Republicans are only slightly more likely to say they are unfavorable than express uncertainty. The Legislature’s recognition problem therefore reaches across party lines. While Republicans are the most negative and independents are the most unaware, lack of opinion on the Legislature does not completely boil down to a simple matter of partisan identification. Instead, the issue is much more widespread.

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Leading Up to our 200th Poll Ever … A Look back at the 1970s

Celebrating the 200th

A Look Back at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: The 1970s

By Sonni Waknin

Sonni Waknin is a junior at Rutgers University. Sonni is the lead poll historian and a research associate with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Here at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, we are about to approach our 200th poll ever – quite a milestone and a marker of just how long we have been polling New Jersey politics. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was the nation’s first university-based state survey when it was established with funding from the Wallace-Eljabar Fund in October 1971. It has been called many different names and has had many different directors over the past 44 years, but what has remained constant is its dedication to contributing to the public dialogue in the state; to access our over four decades of data, you can visit our extensive data archive. For more information on the poll’s history, check out our website:

This is our first decade-by-decade analysis as we gear up for our 200th poll. We have an amazing team of interns who have been working very hard on researching our past and analyzing old questionnaires, press releases, and data. Special thanks to Sonni Waknin, Natalie DeAngelo, and Abigail Orr on this project.  


In American history, the 1970s is marked as a tumultuous decade. Filled with war, protests, and reform, the 1970s culture and counterculture was a driving force in changing the political atmosphere. Founded in 1971, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll cataloged the shift in public perception and opinion throughout the decade. Recurring themes in poll questions during this decade included education local government knowledge, reform, taxes, and drug use.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was founded as the nation’s first university based public opinion poll. One of the first major releases for the poll pertained to New Jersey state elections. The center’s major finding was that, with elections for State Senate and General Assembly only two weeks off, 85 percent of adults did not know which members of the two bodies were even up for election. The poll also asked a variety of questions on the public’s perception of New Jersey politics. Questions centered around government’s place in protecting the citizen from corruption and abuse by corporations.

Education appears to be a major theme throughout the ‘70s. Questions primarily asked during this decade focused on how states should fund school districts. One question asked respondents, “Local schools must be supported by some sort of tax money. If you had to choose, would you prefer paying for schools through the income tax or through property taxes?” 55 percent of respondents answered that they thought schools should be supported through income tax, while 33 percent of respondents believed that property taxes were the best method. In New Jersey, schools are funded through local property taxes, as well as funding from the state.

Another question asked was, “There are a number of ways to tell how well a student is doing in school. The student can be compared to other students, or the student can be evaluated on how much individual progress has been made during the course of the year. Finally, the student could be compared with some objective standards measuring the learning of important skills. Which one of these–comparison with others, individual progress, or objective standards–do you feel is the best way to tell how much a student has learned?” Sixty-five percent of respondents believed that students should be measured against their own individual achievement, and 20 percent supported objective standards. Only 10 percent of New Jerseyans supported other measures, such as being compared with others. Questions of how to measure schools’ effectiveness or how much children are achieving are questions still being asked today. The common core curriculum was recently put in place as a remedy and a standard to measure student performance; much debate has occurred over its implementation and impact, however.

Many of the questions asked in the 1970s are questions that are very applicable today. Education and taxes are two issues that have not lessened in importance by the public’s perception. Also, questions of how active one is in government or knowing about local elections are important to how political entities interact with citizens; in fact, in our latest poll over four decades later, we see very similar results. Today, many people do not know when state elections are held or even who their state representatives are. I guess we can say that even though a lot has changed since the 1970s, other things have certainly stayed the same.

Word Cloud of All Press Release Topics: 1971-1979


Filed under 1970s, Education, New Jersey, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Taxes

About that YouGov Survey on NJ Being the Most Disliked … A Look at NJ Pride and What Makes the Garden State Great

We end this round of press releases from our latest poll with a little bit of a tribute to the great Garden State as we approach the end of summer.  Back around this past Fourth of July, YouGov released a “State of the States” survey, which found New Jersey to be the least liked state in the nation; Americans were more likely to have an unfavorable opinion of New Jersey (at 40 percent) than a favorable one (at 30 percent) – the only state in the nation about which Americans had net negative views.

So we wanted to give New Jerseyans the chance to “respond,” tell us what life in the Garden State is really like, and say just how much Jersey pride they have and why.  New Jerseyans across the board definitely have Jersey pride, and they love all the things that make the Garden State unique – it’s location, proximity to the city, and its shoreline.

See you back in the fall!

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


Residents concerned with state’s “bum rap” but say New Jersey is a good place to live

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – From the Skylands to the tip of Cape May, residents of the Garden State are proud to live in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than three-quarters of New Jerseyans say they take pride in living here, including 56 percent who exhibit “a lot” of pride. Conversely, only 18 percent say they feel little or no pride about living in New Jersey.

This pride abounds despite concern about how New Jersey is viewed by outsiders. Fifty-seven percent of residents believe New Jersey has a negative image outside of the state, while 35 percent think the state has a positive image; 5 percent say it has a little of both.

Asked in particular about a recent YouGov survey that called New Jersey the most disliked state in the nation, residents are mixed about how much it matters: 26 percent think it matters a lot, 27 percent say some, 14 percent a little, and 33 percent not at all.

Nevertheless, six in 10 New Jerseyans see the Garden State as an excellent or good place to live while three in 10 say it is only fair, and just one in 10 say poor. Moreover, most residents believe the state is as good a place to live as any other: just 23 percent say New Jersey is a worse place to live compared to other states, while 39 percent say it is the same, and 33 percent say it is better.

“In July’s national YouGov survey, New Jersey was the only state about which the rest of America was more negative than positive,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “So we wanted to get New Jerseyans’ take on their own state and to find out how much ‘Jersey pride’ residents have and the reasons they might find New Jersey a great place to live.”

Allegiance to the Garden State stems from the features residents love most. Most important is the state’s location, convenience, and proximity to places like New York and Philadelphia, at 17 percent of New Jerseyans. Following close behind, at 16 percent, is access to the shore, beach, and ocean. Eleven percent of New Jerseyans reference the general quality of life.

“Where else can you be an hour away from two of the biggest cities in the country, as well as the shore – not to mention the variety of scenery, seasons, and culture in between?” said Koning.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Plenty of Jersey pride, praise for Jersey living

Jersey pride is widespread, though some residents show more than others. Women (60 percent), nonwhites (62 percent), senior citizens (64 percent), and those in the lowest income range (63 percent) are more likely than their counterparts to express a lot of pride. Those living in urban areas are much prouder than residents in any other region: 70 percent say they take a lot of pride in being a New Jersey resident. Those in the south near Philadelphia have the least pride by comparison, at 47 percent.

Almost all New Jerseyans who rate the state as an excellent place to live also have lots of pride. Even those concerned about the state’s image and what outsiders think are proud. Pride grows with time spent in the state: 60 percent of those who have lived here virtually their entire lives say they take a lot of pride in being a New Jerseyan, and another 26 percent take some pride.

Contentment with New Jersey as a place to live is likewise prevalent across most groups. Exurbanites, living in northwest New Jersey, are most likely to say the Garden State is an excellent place to live, at 30 percent; southern dwellers are again least likely, at 10 percent. Jersey pride also has a positive effect on rating New Jersey’s livability. Relative newcomers to the state are a bit less likely to rate New Jersey as highly as those who have lived here for a while, yet when it comes to comparing New Jersey to other states, this same group is most likely to say New Jersey is better than or about the same as other states.

Greater concern about state’s image among some groups

Despite their accolades for New Jersey, many residents are nonetheless concerned about how outsiders view the Garden State. White residents (65 percent), those 50 to 64 years old (66 percent), those in higher income brackets (70 percent) and those who have done graduate work (68 percent) are more likely to believe New Jersey is viewed negatively by outsiders.

Perception of New Jersey’s negative image also increases with years spent in state: 62 percent of those who have remained in New Jersey their entire lives believe the state is viewed negatively, while a majority of those who have been state residents the shortest feel the opposite.

Belief that New Jersey has a negative image is more common among those who take less pride in the state, as well as among those who are more negative about New Jersey as a place to live.

In general, New Jersey residents are mixed on the extent to which the views of other Americans matter. Exurbanites appear to be more concerned than those in any other area about the state’s outward appearance, with 61 percent saying it matters at least somewhat what others think. Concern grows among those with negative views on living in New Jersey. It is also concentrated most among relative newcomers to the state – interestingly enough, the group most hopeful about New Jersey’s image.

“The overall positive feelings New Jerseyans have about their home is in direct contrast with the negativity they perceive from outsiders,” noted Koning. “And this concern about what other Americans think comes from New Jerseyans of all stripes, not just those who are more negative about New Jersey themselves.”

What makes the Garden State great

New Jersey is all about “location, location, location”: residents cite the unique ability to be near the city, countryside, and shoreline all at the same time as their most favorite thing about the state. The beach and general quality of life are second and third most named.

Beyond the top three, 8 percent of all New Jerseyans mention something about the state’s diversity and variety as a reason for their positive feelings. Six percent love New Jersey for its outdoors – including its parks, farmland, open spaces and Garden State reputation. The same number say family is their favorite thing about New Jersey, as well as the weather and changing seasons. Five percent mention something about the people in the state, while another 3 percent cite their community and something positive about the state economy and job opportunities. Even a few mention not having to pump their own gas.

White residents, those with higher incomes or more education and those living in northern New Jersey are more likely than others to say something about proximity and easy access to cities than are others. Not surprisingly, shore county residents are far more likely to name the beach as why they love the state (at 40 percent) compared to elsewhere.

Nonwhite, urban and lower-income residents are more likely than others to mention the general quality of life in the Garden State. Those who rate New Jersey as better than or the same as other states are also more likely to mention this than those who say the state is comparatively worse. State pride and perceived image show similar patterns.

“Residents certainly know all that New Jersey has to offer, which is most likely a lot more than casual passersby realize when they fly over the smokestacks and congested highways,” said Koning. “New Jerseyans love all the things – including living up to its nickname – that make the Garden State wonderfully unique.”

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Increasingly Positive Views on Immigration in New Jersey, but Some Division Still Exists

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


2016 effect? Views colored by partisanship, Trump support

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As the immigration debate rages on in the race to 2016, New Jerseyans increasingly support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently working in the United States, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Sixty-four percent of residents now believe undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for U.S. citizenship, an increase of 12 points since last asked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in 2012. Another 15 percent say they should be allowed to stay as temporary guest workers but not be able to apply, down seven points. Eighteen percent think they should be required to leave the country, a decline of four points.

“Last night, Donald Trump claimed no one was talking about immigration until he did, but here in New Jersey, immigration – both legal and not – has been a hot topic for years,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “In Rutgers-Eagleton polls in the past two decades, New Jerseyans have solidly supported legal status and then citizenship for immigrants. This is not surprising, given that New Jersey is one of the most diverse states and that one in five residents is an immigrant.”

The personal importance of immigration to New Jerseyans has increased over time as well: 14 percent now say it is the most important issue to them, up nine points since 2012, and another 29 percent say it is one of a few very important issues. Thirty-nine percent say it is somewhat important (down seven points), and 17 percent say it is not important to them at all (down three points).

More New Jersey residents also have a positive opinion of immigrants’ impact on everyday life today than they did in 2012.

But even with these increases, 41 percent say the number of immigrants in the Garden State is too high, up five points since 2012; another 44 percent say it is just right. Moreover, immigration remains a partisan issue, with notable differences between the two parties and even within Republicans, specifically among Donald Trump supporters compared to the GOP as a whole.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Importance of citizenship influenced by demographics

Immigration is an especially personal issue within certain demographics. Three-quarters of residents who identify as Hispanic support citizenship, compared to 61 percent of non-Hispanics. Similar patterns exist for those not born in the United States and those whose parents immigrated to this country.

These same groups are also more likely, by double digits, to say immigration is personally important to them: 40 percent of Hispanics, 30 percent of foreign-born residents, and 21 percent of those with foreign-born parents say it is the most important issue, with the majority of each group saying the issue is at least one of a few of their top concerns.

Interaction with immigrants in daily life also has an impact: support for citizenship and personal importance increases along with frequency of interaction. Over seven in 10 who say immigrants make their neighborhood, workplace, or the state a better place also favor citizenship.

Younger generations are much more supportive of citizenship – though not more likely to say the issue is important – than older ones, as support steadily declines with age.

Importance of immigration does not necessarily imply support of citizenship, however. Among supporters, 15 percent say it is the most important issue for them, and another 25 percent say it is one of few. But those who favor deportation also feel strongly about it, with 16 percent saying immigration is their top issue and another 38 percent saying it is one of the most important.

Republicans now support citizenship, but dividing lines persist

Partisans of all stripes support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, though to varying degrees: Democrats at 78 percent, independents at 57 percent, and even Republicans at 51 percent. But Republicans and independents are also more likely to say undocumented immigrants should be forced to leave the country, at 28 percent and 21 percent respectively, while just 10 percent of Democrats say the same.

Those favorable toward former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resemble Democrats in general, with 72 percent supporting citizenship. Those who like Gov. Chris Christie likewise resemble Republicans in general. But Donald Trump supporters are notably more negative about welcoming immigrants: 46 percent favor citizenship, 17 percent prefer legal status, and 35 percent choose deportation – the highest of any demographic.

“Republicans as a whole have come a long way on the issue since we last polled this in 2012, when they were mostly split over citizenship, with 37 percent expressing support and another 33 percent favoring deportation,” said Koning. “The double-digit increase to majority support in two years is remarkable. But of course, there are many different views about immigration reform on the national stage right now – especially among contenders on the Republican side like Donald Trump. And we see these differences play out when we specifically look at Trump supporters’ attitudes on citizenship, which are more conservative than the rest of the party.”

Republicans are slightly more negative regarding other aspects of the immigration issue. While there are minimal party differences in personal importance, just over half of Republicans feel the number of immigrants in the Garden State is too high, compared to 35 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents. Those in Trump’s corner are especially likely to say the number of immigrants in the state is too high, at 58 percent, compared to Christie supporters or the GOP as a whole.

Republicans are also less likely to say that immigrants have a positive impact on different parts of daily life. Nineteen percent say immigrants make their neighborhood better, compared to 39 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents. GOPers feel somewhat similarly about the workplace, with about a quarter believing immigrants make it better, versus almost four in ten of other partisans. As for New Jersey itself, 29 percent of Republicans view immigrants’ influence positively, compared to 40 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats. Republicans say they interact with immigrants on a daily basis to a lesser extent than other partisans – at 52 percent, versus 59 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents.

Increased interaction and perceptions of immigrants’ positive effects

The overall increase in support for immigration and importance of the issue among New Jerseyans may stem from their frequent interaction with immigrants and their increased belief that immigrants have a positive effect on society. Six in 10 say they interact with someone from another country every day; another two in 10 say a few times a week. The remaining two in 10 interact with immigrants a few times a month or less.

Thirty-two percent feel people born outside the U.S. have made the quality of life in their neighborhoods better (up six points), while 49 percent say immigrants have not had much of an impact (down 12 points); another 13 percent say immigrants have actually made their neighborhoods worse (up three points). New Jerseyans feel similarly about their place of work, with 36 percent saying immigrants have made it better, a 10-point increase since 2012. Another 43 percent say they have had no effect here (down 11 points), and just nine percent say they have made the workplace worse.

Forty-one percent of residents believe immigrants have made New Jersey as a whole better, a nine-point increase. Twenty-nine percent say they do not have an impact on the state (down 6 points), and 21 percent say immigrants make the state worse, a drop of four points.

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Gov. Christie’s Ratings Continue to Fall

Tuesday evening we learned that NJ Gov Chris Chrisite made it into tonight’s primetime debate sponsored by Fox News. It was somewhat touch and go; Christie was in 9th place in the poll averaged used by Fox, and thus he made the top 10. As we reported on Monday, New Jerseyans expected him to make the debate and anticipate he will be able to hold his own. But as today’s release shows, the governor’s ratings among New Jersey voters continue to drop; his favorability rating is down 8 points since our last poll in April to just 30 percent. That puts him below former Gov. John Corzine right before Christie beat the incumbent in 2009, who recorded 33% favorability in our October 2009 poll.

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



 Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate this Thursday, August 6th.

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie campaigns to win over voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, voters back home are more dissatisfied with him than ever, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 30 percent of New Jersey registered voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, an eight-point drop since April and less than half his favorable rating following his November 2013 re-election; 59 percent are now unfavorable, an 11-point increase since April. Christie’s favorability has mostly been on a downward spiral since August 2014.

“Governor Christie has not experienced any kind of 2016 announcement ‘bump’ in ratings from voters back home – in fact, quite the opposite,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While he has yet to challenge the record low job approval of 17 percent logged by Brendan Byrne in April 1977, he is edging toward the lowest ratings recorded for any New Jersey governor over 45 years of Rutgers-Eagleton Polls.”

Voter dislike for Christie stems from defining traits that have proved both a blessing and a curse for him since taking office. Asked to justify their negative assessments, 18 percent cite his character, attitude, and image as reasons for their unfavorable feelings; another 10 percent use such terms as untrustworthy, deceitful, and liar. Among the 30 percent who are favorable, 28 percent point to his honesty and straightforwardness, 15 percent like his overall governing style and performance, and 14 percent each cite his personality and his attempts to better New Jersey.

Christie’s overall job approval shows a similar collapse over the past year, also reaching a new low after a steady decline since August 2014. He now stands at 37 percent approve (down four points) to 59 percent disapprove (up five points).

Christie fares no better on individual issues, reaching a new low on approval for Superstorm Sandy recovery – now at 46 percent approve, far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-seven percent currently disapprove of his work in this area.

Christie also falls to new lows on education (34 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove) and crime and drugs (43 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove). He remains at his low point on the economy and jobs (31 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove), and continues to receive substantial disapproval for his efforts on taxes (28 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (30 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove), and the state pension fund situation (22 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove).

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie’s favorability drops across the board

Christie’s favorability has reached new lows in virtually every demographic, seeing declines among his usual supporters and detractors alike. His Republican base seems to be growing more weary, with just 61 percent of GOPers now having a favorable impression of the governor, down seven points since April and “miles” from the near-unanimous party support he received pre-Bridgegate. Views among Democrats have sunk even lower, with just 11 percent now favorable toward the governor – less than half of the favorable rating four months ago; 78 percent are unfavorable. Independents also show a six-point drop in favorability, now at 30 percent, versus 59 percent who are unfavorable.

Christie now does worse with men than with women, reversing the typical gender gap that Christie has faced as a Republican – down 10 points to 29 percent favorable among the former, and down five points to 32 percent among the latter. His favorability has also dropped among both white (seven points to 36 percent favorable) and non-white voters (11 points to 18 percent favorable).

Middle-aged voters show an especially large decline compared to other age groups: now 28 percent favorable (down 18 points), versus 24 percent favorable among millennials and 40 percent among senior citizens.

Even many of Christie’s strongest supporters in shore and especially exurban counties have pulled away from him, with about four in 10 now feeling favorably– an 11-point drop since April for exurbanites. Residents of urban, suburban, and southern counties – traditionally more Democratic regions – show further drops in their already lower favorability rating.

The attitude, the bullying, perception of lies

When New Jersey voters are asked why they feel favorable or unfavorable toward the governor, Christie’s most famous traits spur both positive and negative views. His “tell it like it is” campaign seems to be working at least on some Garden State voters, with a few respondents directly referencing the slogan to explain their positivity. Among the 28 percent who feel similarly, his “frankness,” “no nonsense” approach, ability to “speak his mind,” and being “a man of his word” are frequently mentioned. The 15 percent who give his performance as governor as a reason for their favorable views think Christie is doing a “good job” and is “trying” and “working hard.” Favorable voters also mention a range of positive personal attributes, calling him respectful, caring, nice, and courageous – and even appreciate his tough guy, bully approach. Christie’s policy decisions and actions, his Superstorm Sandy leadership, and his effectiveness and ability to get things done are mentioned as positive reasons as well, but each come in at single digits.

Christie’s most infamous personal traits – some of the very same mentioned by Christie supporters – take the top three spots among reasons given by unfavorable voters. In the words of one voter among the 18 percent who mentioned Christie’s personality, “I am tired of the loudmouth Jersey guy routine.” Among those unfavorable voters who mention something pertaining to honesty, the second-highest reason at 10 percent, many outright call Christie a “liar” and believe he “does not keep his promises.”

Another 9 percent specifically mention “bully” as why they dislike him, the same percentage that cites his treatment of teachers and the education system. Other reasons for voter dislike include: Christie’s handling of state workers, unions, and the pension system (8 percent); his overall governing and apathy toward New Jersey and its citizens (each at 7 percent); his ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishments (5 percent); ,and his policy decisions (5 percent). His out-of-state traveling and campaigning for president, as well as scandals such as Bridgegate, actually rank low among voters’ reasons for discontent (3 percent each).

“While there have been both highs and lows in the trajectory of Chris Christie as governor, voters are more focused on Christie’s personal qualities than specific events,” said Koning. “In his heyday, Christie was the tough Jersey guy you wanted on your side, the refreshing straight-talker who ‘tells it like it is.’ But at his lowest moments, these same traits have been used against him and are painted in a much more unflattering light. Voter explanations of their views – especially negative ones – have more to do with the governor himself and his personal style than anything else.”

Negativity grows among Christie’s base

Though slightly higher than his favorability, Christie’s overall job approval as governor has nevertheless reached a new low. While 69 percent of Republicans are still in his corner, only 19 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of his performance as governor. Since April, backing from many of his typical supporters has fallen: male voters to 36 percent (down seven points), white voters to 41 percent (down five points), those who are middle-aged to 34 percent (down 13 points), and exurbanites to 44 percent (down 10 points).

Christie’s approvals by issue fare no better. On Republicans’ top concern, taxes, just 38 percent approve of his approach, while 54 percent disapprove – the first time a majority of Christie’s base has given him disapproval on the issue. Twenty percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents approve Christie’s job in this area; similar numbers feel the same on his handling of the economy and jobs. Christie does better with Republicans on the economy, at 50 percent approval.

Republicans are also mostly responsible for Christie’s new lows on education (52 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 10 points) and crime (57 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 12 points), whereas Democrats and independents have fluctuated little. Republican voters also show growing disapproval with how the governor has handled the state pension fund: 32 percent of Republicans now support Christie here (down 13 points), while 45 percent disapprove. Only 14 percent of Democrats (up six points) and 23 percent of independents approve.

Views on Sandy recovery efforts and the state budget are virtually steady since April.

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Gov. Chris Christie Polling: A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Summary

As NJ Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce a 2016 presidential run today, we decided to summary our last 18 months of polling New Jersey voters about their governor. The details of the polls included here, with graphs and margin of error details, can be found here.  Note that we do NOT have new polling in this release, but rather a compendium of the polling we’ve done on the Governor’s favorability and job ratings, his personality traits and emotional responses to him, and some questions on the prospect of him as president.

Text of the full release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release.



 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie officially tosses his hat into the ring for 2016 today amidst sinking ratings, unflattering perceptions, and skepticism about his presidential chances from home state voters, according to a number of Rutgers-Eagleton polls from the past year.

Discontent among New Jerseyans has been fueled by Bridgegate and other allegations against Christie and his administration dating to January 2014. While Christie was an early frontrunner for 2016 due to unprecedented post-Superstorm Sandy ratings highs – at his peak, Christie had a 70 percent favorable rating in February 2013 – his announcement of a presidential bid comes during his lowest point in public opinion to date as governor.

“Announcing a presidential run with low or declining ratings back home is not unprecedented,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are in similar situations. Voters elsewhere may not care that much about how New Jerseyans feel, but Christie’s decline has to hurt, especially when his original appeal stemmed from his bipartisan efforts and leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”

Christie’s 2016 campaign slogan – “Telling it like it is” – takes advantage of the straight-talking attitude for which he is best known, but New Jersey voters have cooled to his brashness. Negativity toward Christie in the past 18 months has pervaded judgments on Christie as a person (now seen as more bully than trustworthy), his job (no rating crosses the 50-percent mark), and his chances for 2016 (more than four in 10 New Jerseyans said they have worsened recently). Christie was viewed as a beacon of bipartisanship in the Sandy aftermath, but now even Republicans in New Jersey have become less inclined to rally behind him.

All results described here are from previously released Rutgers-Eagleton statewide polls of New Jersey adults, with registered voter subsamples, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones. All past Christie-related releases, ratings, and other reports can be found at: including disclosures and margins of error.

Christie: more stubborn, arrogant and less trustworthy

After benefiting from his unique personal style for a solid year post-Sandy, perceptions of Christie’s positive character traits began to decline following his Bridgegate press conference in January 2014. By April 2015 fewer than half saw the positives: “smart” (49 percent), “strong leader” (39 percent), “effective” (26 percent), “fair” (21 percent) and “trustworthy” (17 percent). The last three reached all-time lows that month, with trustworthy falling furthest since Bridgegate. These were many of the same characteristics that saw large increases for Christie right after Sandy struck.

Negative descriptors, on the other hand, have climbed steadily during this same period, with solid majorities calling him “arrogant” (57 percent) and “stubborn” (64 percent) by April 2015. Nearly half have said he is a “bully” and “self-centered.” At the same time, only 10 percent said the term “presidential” suits Christie “very well.”

Moreover, while half the state’s voters felt proud and enthusiastic about him immediately after Sandy, only 30 percent now feel positive. But 40 percent feel “contempt” or “worry.”

“Christie has always branded himself as a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, and sometimes – like with Sandy, or even his ‘Get the hell off the beach’ moment during Hurricane Irene – it has definitely worked for him,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “But the Jersey tough guy approach seems to have worn thin, and the traits for which he was praised during some of his finest displays of leadership are now working against him.”

Favorability and job approval: post-Sandy highs turn into post-Bridgegate lows

The turn for the worse in perceptions of Christie’s personality is strongly connected to a precipitous decline in Christie’s favorability and job approval ratings. Ratings are now a far cry from when Christie polled at or near the top of the 2016 Republican pack; both favorability and job approval are now more negative than positive (net negative) and at their lowest points ever.

In the April 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Christie’s favorability rating was just 38 percent, while 48 percent felt unfavorable. Fifty-four percent of voters disapproved of his job performance compared to 41 percent who approved. His job grade has similarly taken a big hit, compared to what New Jersey voters awarded him pre-Bridgegate; 70 percent give him a C or lower, with a quarter of this group failing him.

Approval on specific issues has also dropped, including such nationally significant issues as taxes (26 percent approval) and the economy (31 percent), at their lowest levels ever. Approval on Sandy recovery efforts is no exception. This was once the governor’s strongest issue area, garnering almost 90 percent approval, but only about half this number still approved by April 2015.

“For a good while, Sandy was the biggest driver of Christie’s overall ratings,” said Koning. “Despite mediocre approval in other areas, Christie’s leadership immediately before, during and after the storm singlehandedly carried him to unprecedented highs through his re-election in 2013. But as 2014 brought an onslaught of allegations against his administration, the lengthy Sandy bump vanished, and the governor’s numbers have not recovered.”

Growing dissent among Garden State’s GOP base

Following Sandy, Christie commanded support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. This bipartisanship unsurprisingly faded over time, with first Democrats and then independents, to some extent, waning on Christie. But less expected in this era of unabashed partisanship, Republicans recently have cooled on Christie as well.

During the early part of 2015, Democrats and independents remained relatively steady in their negative assessments of the governor. Republicans, however, registered a double-digit approval drop between February and April. Among GOP voters, job approval was down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval up 11 points to 27 percent in April. Republicans’ impression of Christie also took a hit to 68 percent favorable; a far cry from the almost unanimous backing Christie once received from this group. Meanwhile just a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents felt favorable.

New Jersey Republicans have split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, Christie is in the red with GOPers – 44 percent approve of his approach, while 49 percent disapprove, according to the April survey. Republicans have been slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove). By comparison, Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

“Christie losing Republicans in his own state – a group known to be more moderate than Republicans in other parts of the country – can translate into a big problem for him nationally,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the case may be as to why New Jersey Republicans feel this way, Christie now lacks full support from his base at home – not an ideal way to kick off a presidential campaign. Still, Christie is a great campaigner, and early primary state voters reward the kind of personal connections he has been able to make in the past. Christie may be down, but he’s not quite out.”

A bleak view of a “President” Christie

Most New Jerseyans do not see Christie as a good president: in April just 24 percent said he would make a good president; 69 percent said no, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll. But a slim majority of voters most positive toward him do see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie.

New Jersey voters have been mixed on the likelihood of Christie ultimately becoming the Republican nominee. In April, 44 percent believed his chances had worsened in recent months, 46 percent said they were about the same, and just 6 percent said they had improved. “At this point, there is no reason to think anything has changed here in New Jersey,” noted Koning. “The last two months have not been any better for Christie than any of the other months since Bridgegate brought his high flying ratings crashing down. Only time will tell if his campaign can turn it around.”

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Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, New Jersey, NJ Voters, Uncategorized

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Understanding the Future of New Jersey’s Most Important Problem

By Brandon Diaz-Abreu

Brandon Diaz-Abreu is a data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and a sophomore at Rutgers University.

In our most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, New Jerseyans continue to say that taxes, followed closely by the economy and jobs, are the most important problems facing the Garden State – a combined 53 percent. Our previous polls show that these two issues have consistently been mentioned as the top problems since February 2013. But while there is a lot of focus on how the prolonged reign of these issues impacts politics in the Garden State, a closer inspection reveals some possible new trends in the years to come.

Approximately 10-13 percent of New Jersey residents have said education is the top problem in the state in the same time period as stated above, consistently ranked third or fourth as the most important issue. But when we look closer at this question by age and region, we see that each month, education is the first or second most important problem for people 18-39 years old (21 percent this past February) and is usually a close second for people who live in urban areas (12 percent this past February) – arguably two of the groups most impacted by this issue.

For young adults, the rising costs of higher education is one part of the issue that looms large: young college students are worried about how to pay tuition rates that are on the rise, and recent college graduates may be struggling to pay off their accumulated student loans. As for urban residents, their heightened interest in this issue may stem from concerns for quality of education and child safety in urban school systems.

As we can see in the table below, the issue of education has become an increasingly important problem to these particular groups, as well as to the New Jersey population overall, between 2009 and now. Though taxes and the economy have perennially been top concerns, it is possible that education could take the number one spot in New Jersey in the next few decades if little continues to be done for the state’s educational system.

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Filed under Education, Most Important Problem, New Jersey