Category Archives: NJ Voters

TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE? NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

Today’s release focuses on Hillary Clinton, while (spoiler alert!) we will have a similar release about Chris Christie tomorrow. We decided to split the releases because there is simply too much information to jam into one. For both Clinton and Christie we asked a series of questions about whether they seem presidential compared to other potential (and unnamed) competitors from their own parties,  and whether they would make a good president overall. For this release on Clinton, we additionally asked whether the country is “ready” for a women president and whether New Jersey voters want to see a woman president in their lifetimes.

The topline? Clinton currently cleans up in New Jersey – with huge leads over Christie, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in head-to-head tests, and New Jersey voters overwhelmingly think the country is ready for a woman president. Half also say they want to see a women president in their lifetimes, but half says this does not matter to them. Not surprisingly, since the potential woman president who comes universally to mind is Clinton, Republicans aren’t particularly interested, and Democrats really, really want this to happen. Especially female Democrats.

One interesting sidelight – questions like “is the country ready…” are often thought to stand in for the kind of direct questions that maybe cannot be asked. If we ask people directly if they are ready for a women president, few will directly admit to any gender bias on this score. But when we ask indirectly, we may be getting some insight into the respondent’s own preferences.  In this case, however, 80% of New Jersey voters say the country is ready, which suggests even on the individual respondent level, there is relatively little bias in New Jersey against such an event. In the end this is all the more interesting since during Clinton’s 2008 run, a CNN poll found Americans more “ready” for a Black president than they were for a woman. Maybe times have changed?

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

TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE?
NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

Clinton clobbers Christie, other GOP hopefuls in NJ matchups, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With all signs pointing to a second presidential campaign by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 80 percent of New Jersey voters say Americans are ready for a woman in the Oval Office, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 16 percent think the country is not yet ready for such a groundbreaking event.

Further, half of Garden State voters hope to see a woman become president in their lifetime, although the other half says it does not matter to them personally.

For many, hope for a woman president is apparently related to being “ready for Hillary.” A large majority of New Jersey voters has a positive view of Clinton and her potential, with 63 percent saying she would make a good president overall. Respondents are very upbeat about Clinton: 70 percent say she has the right “look” to be president, 74 percent say she has the right “demeanor and personality” and 83 percent say she has the right amount of “experience” when considered against other potential Democratic contenders.

“During Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for president, there was a great deal of talk about how voters would respond to her gender,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In January 2008, a CNN poll found Americans more ‘ready’ for a black president than a woman. Fast forward seven years and New Jerseyans, at least, have little doubt that the country is now ready for a woman president.”

Clinton continues to command high favorability ratings here. Her 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable rating puts her well ahead of any other figures the poll tested, including President Obama (53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable). One result of her strong showing is that she easily crushes potential 2016 Republican opponents in New Jersey head-to-head matchups. She tops Gov. Chris Christie, 58 percent to 35 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 58 percent to 32 percent; and Wisc. Gov. Schott Walker, 60 percent to 29 percent.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Partisanship, gender and a woman president

Democrats (85 percent) and independent voters (83 percent) overwhelmingly believe the nation is ready for a woman president. Republicans are less certain, with 67 percent agreeing and 31 percent disagreeing. Partisanship plays an even stronger role when it comes to personal hopes regarding a woman in the Oval Office. Two-thirds of Democrats want to see a woman in the White House in their lifetime, but 70 percent of Republicans say such an historic event does not matter to them. Independents are split – 47 percent hope for a woman president, while 53 percent say it does not matter.

“Of course, asking about the potential for a woman president brings only one candidate easily to mind for most – Hillary Clinton,” noted Redlawsk. “Voters are influenced by who they can imagine in the White House, so Republicans are dramatically less likely to want it to happen any time soon. Given a strong female Republican candidate, we would no doubt see a significant shift among GOP supporters.”

Men and women also differ in their expectations about a future woman president. Men are more likely to say the U.S. is ready to elect one, 84 percent to 77 percent. Women are 16 points more likely to personally hope to see a woman elected in their lifetime, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Given Hillary Clinton’s prominence, the desire to see a woman president is especially driven by Democratic women voters. More than 70 percent want to see a woman elected in their lifetime, compared to just over 50 percent of Democratic men. There is no gender gap among Republicans: about 30 percent of each gender personally hopes to see a woman elected during their lifetime.

But regardless of party, women are less likely to think the country is ready for one of their own as president, with the same gap between men and women evident for Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“Women are more likely to see gender discrimination, which probably makes them more cautious about the prospects for a woman president, said Redlawsk. “On the other hand, Democratic women in particular want to see their gender finally represented in the White House, something that doesn’t resonate the same way with men of any partisan stripe. These patterns track with national averages.”

Clinton’s presidential prospects high among voter base

Even as an unannounced candidate, Clinton has most New Jersey voters believing in her capabilities, especially voters most likely to be among her base. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents agree Clinton would make a good president overall. Only 27 percent of Republicans feel the same. Women are more likely to agree than men (66 percent versus 59 percent). Nonwhite voters and those under 65 years old are more likely as well.

As for particular presidential qualities, Clinton does well even with Republicans, half of whom agree that she has the right “look” to be president; 86 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents say the same. As for her presidential “demeanor and personality,” 92 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans agree with the statement. Additionally, 95 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans concur that Clinton has the right “experience” to be president.

Men and women share similar views on these questions. Nonwhite and younger to middle-age voters resemble Democrats in their assessments. Even a fair share of those unfavorable toward Clinton herself say she has the right look (42 percent), demeanor (35 percent) and especially experience (61 percent) – though only 16 percent of this group say she would make a good president.

“While they are not particularly interested in her becoming president, even Republicans see Hillary Clinton as experienced and of presidential character compared to other unnamed Democratic candidates,” said Redlawsk. “More importantly, she does well on these characteristics among independents, crucial to any general election.”

Top GOP candidates no match in New Jersey

Clinton’s favorability rating has remained well above 50 percent throughout the past year, after an initial slip from 65 percent in January 2014. Democrats are overwhelmingly favorable toward Clinton, at 88 percent. More than over half of independents agree, but just over one in five Republicans feels the same.

Women are 11 points more likely to have a favorable impression of her than men (64 percent to 53 percent). Nonwhite voters are much more likely than white voters to feel favorably towards Clinton – 79 percent versus 50 percent.

Tested head-to-head with Christie, Bush or Walker, Clinton maintains large leads across a wide range of New Jersey voters. Christie does slightly better than Bush and Walker but still loses to Clinton by wide margins among most groups, except Republicans and conservatives. Walker does the worst of all three GOP governors among independents and Republicans when pitted against Clinton. Bush sees the largest gender gap in his matchup.

Those who say Clinton has the right look, demeanor, and experience, and would make a good president overall, are much more likely to say they would vote for her in each matchup. Just under two-thirds of those who think the U.S. is ready for a woman president prefer Clinton in all matchups, as do about three-quarters of those who hope to see a woman president in their lifetime.

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Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, NJ Voters

GOV. CHRISTIE RATINGS FALL TO LOWEST POINT IN RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL

Today we have the first of three releases focused in some way on Gov. Chris Christie: his ratings; New Jerseyan’s attitudes toward his presidential campaign; and a third release on perceptions of Hillary Clinton as a presidential opponent. The latter two will come out next week.

In the meantime we focus today on Christie’s ratings with NJ voters. And the story is not a good one for the governor. He has reached the lowest approval point we have recorded across his entire term, breaking through the 50% negative impressions and job approval barrier. The drop seems to be driven by a huge negative shift among independents.

We also, for the first time ever, asked voters to tell us int heir own words why they think Christie’s ratings had taken a downward trend over the last couple months.   The keys? His personality appears perhaps to be wearing thin on voters, the Bridgegate scandal which remains on their minds, and his focus on national ambitions, rather than on his job as governor. Sometimes it is really interesting to simply record what people say in their own terms. It certainly is here.

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

CHRISTIE’S RATINGS DROP TO ALL-TIME LOWS AS VOTERS CITE GOVERNOR’S ATTITUDE, PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS, BRIDGEGATE AS REASONS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Chris Christie attempts to build a following among national Republicans in preparation for an expected 2016 presidential bid, New Jersey voters have soured on the governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a recent spate of damaging headlines, Christie’s support has collapsed to just 37 percent of registered voters reporting a favorable impression, down seven points in just two months.

For the first time, a clear majority (53 percent) feels unfavorable towards the governor. His overall job approval is also clearly negative: 52 percent disapprove while 42 percent approve, a drop of six points since December.

ChristieFavFeb2015

Voters have definite opinions about reasons behind the slide. Twenty percent mention his attitude, personality, and behavior; 15 percent refer specifically to “Bridgegate” and 10 percent say something about shunning his current duties to pursue presidential ambitions.

“As one respondent said, ‘Christie visiting different states for the presidential race made New Jerseyans not like him,’” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Others used words like ‘arrogance,’ ‘rudeness’ and ‘abrasive’ to explain the turnaround from his high flying post-Sandy days. And of course, all manner of mentions of Bridgegate and other scandals were offered.”

Christie’s slump is reflected in specific issues as well. His job approval on taxes (the top concern for 29 percent of voters) is down three points to 28 percent since the December 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. On the economy – the most important issue for 24 percent – Christie is down four points to 31 percent approval.

And what was already a strikingly low approval rating on handling the pension situation has fallen an additional five points to 19 percent. The largest decline, seven points to 35 percent, has been in respondents’ perception of how he has been handling education. Only approval levels on Sandy recovery (55 percent, the highest of any issue), crime and drugs (48 percent), and the budget (31 percent) have remained steady since the last poll.

Despite Christie’s increasingly negative ratings, voters split on whether he has been a good or bad governor: 38 percent of voters are positive, 33 percent negative, and 29 percent neutral. But voters are increasingly negative on the direction of the state: 35 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 54 percent say it is on the wrong track.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie loses independents in overall ratings

A key to keeping Christie’s ratings in positive territory through most of tenure has been ongoing support provided by independent voters. But that has changed. Independent voters now are squarely against a governor they long supported, with favorable impressions falling a record-breaking 16 points since December to 31 percent. Meanwhile, the share of independent voters with an unfavorable impression grew by double digits to 55 percent.

“Christie’s loss of independent support undercuts his efforts to be seen as appealing across the political spectrum,” noted Redlawsk. “This 16-point drop is even larger than we found in the aftermath of Bridgegate, when the decline was 14 points over two-and-a-half months. This would seem to be nothing but bad news as the governor ramps up his national profile. For the first time, independents look more like Democrats than they do Republicans in their assessments of Christie.”

While New Jersey independents show a steep drop, Democrats and Republicans hold steady in their assessments. Democrats are at 24 percent favorable to 70 percent unfavorable, while Republicans are just the opposite, at 73 percent favorable to 20 percent favorable.

Christie’s overall job approval reflects more of the same. Independents’ approval of his performance has completely flipped; just 39 percent now approve (down 13 points), versus 55 percent who disapprove (up 13 points). Just 25 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove, while Republicans remain at 79 percent approval to 16 percent disapproval.

Christie slips among Republican on key issues

Republicans retain their overall positive assessments of Christie, but the story varies on some key issues. While GOP approval of Christie’s performance on taxes remains steady at 47 percent, the same is not true of the economy and jobs, where his 46 percent approval rating among Republicans represents an 11-point decline. More Republicans now disapprove – 48 percent – a huge increase of 19 points since December. Christie also suffers from declines within his base on the state budget, with 55 percent now approving (down nine points), crime and drugs (down six points to 64 percent), and the state pension fund (down six points to 37 percent).

“In December, independents remained more positive than negative overall, despite significant drops on some key issues,” said Redlawsk. “The decline on issues, however, was clearly a leading indicator, as overall support among independents has now plummeted. The question is whether we will see the same dynamic with Republicans, who continue strongly positive overall, but are now trending negative on two major issues: the economy and the state pension fund.”

Voters’ key reasons for Christie’s decline span his past, present, and future

ChristieReasonsWordcloud

Christie’s perennial “Jersey guy” personality, attitude, and behavior – a blessing in the best of times and a curse to him in the worst – is seen by voters as the top reason for his ratings decline, as 20 percent cite this when asked to explain what polls have been showing. The George Washington Bridge scandal is also high on voters’ minds, coming in a close second at 15 percent, along with an additional 4 percent who mention scandals generally.

Christie’s 2016 aspirations have not been lost on voters either. His lack of attention to New Jersey as he focuses on presidential preparations is named by 10 percent, with another 4 percent specifically mentioning Christie’s “excessive” out of state travel.

Some, however, believe Christie’s fall may not be entirely his fault; 6 percent of voters cite news coverage and his portrayal by the media. Others look to specific issues – 5 percent name his handling of the economy and jobs; another 5 percent reference state employees, unions and pensions. Four percent bring up general poor governing, lack of leadership, and not doing enough for the state.

Democrats and independents are much more likely to reference Christie’s personality, attitude and behavior than Republicans (23 percent and 20 percent, respectively, to 12 percent). At 19 percent, Bridgegate is the top reason given among Republican voters. They are also much more likely than Democrats to blame Christie’s downfall on his portrayal in the media (11 percent versus just 2 percent of Democrats).

Mixed views on Christie’s legacy

For the most part, voters are split on how good or bad a governor Christie has been over the past five years. Independents are the most split: 35 percent say Christie has been a good governor, 34 percent say bad, and 31 percent say neither. But 69 percent of Republicans look positively on the governor’s time in office, while 24 percent are neutral; just 7 percent say Christie has been bad.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats differ: 22 percent say Christie has been good, 46 percent say he has been bad, while 31 percent are ambivalent about his performance.

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Filed under Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Economy, Education, NJ Voters, Uncategorized

NEW JERSEYANS SEE NEW CONGRESS CHANGING COUNTRY’S DIRECTION

Today we look back at the midterm elections. While little changed in New Jersey, the election of course resulted in Democrats losing control of the U.S. Senate.  That word got out pretty far and wide – 8 in 10 New Jerseyans know Republicans are taking over (far more than the 30-something percent that actually voted in November).  There is some expectation that the new Republican-led Congress will change the country’s direction and limit Obama’s ability to get things done (although, since the poll was done we have seen Obama flex his muscles in areas he can direct). New Jerseyans, however, do not expect a rise of bipartisan compromise, as much as they would like to see it.

We also asked people to tell us in a word or two the most important issue they would like the new Congress to “fix” and whether they expect a fix to happen. At the top is the economy (22%) and people are surprisingly optimistic something will get done. Many other topics came up, but for the most part those raising them do not expect much to happen on their most important issue.

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

NEW JERSEYANS SEE NEW CONGRESS CHANGING COUNTRY’S DIRECTION

Rutgers Poll: Nearly half of Garden Staters say GOP majority will limit Obama agenda

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As 2014 winds down, New Jerseyans see both change and continuity for Congress, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than half of the state’s residents believe Republican control of the Senate will change the country’s direction, with 19 percent saying things will change a lot, and 38 percent seeing some change coming. About a quarter think GOP control will not make much difference and 16 percent think nothing will change.

The poll, completed before the president’s announcement on normalizing relations with Cuba, also shows limited expectations for the Obama administration’s final two years. Nearly half think Obama will not be able to accomplish much of his agenda in the remainder of his term, while 16 percent expect him to get nothing done at all. Some are more optimistic: 32 percent see Obama getting some things done over the next two years, and 5 percent say he will get a lot done.

“The vast majority of New Jerseyans know control of the Senate is flipping to the Republicans next year, so their expectations are informed by that,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Despite the president’s recent flexing of his executive muscles, it is not unreasonable to think he will have a hard time accomplishing his goals.”

Asked to name their top priority for the new Congress, respondents say the economy and jobs. The 22 percent who want Congress to fix the economy first are somewhat hopeful it might happen. Only two percent say a fix for the economy is “very likely” and another 62 percent say it is somewhat likely Congress will make progress here.
However, 32 percent are dubious, and think action on the economy is not at all likely. But across a full range of issues named by New Jerseyans they are less hopeful: just three percent think it is very likely their most important issue will be addressed, while 43 percent see it as somewhat likely. A plurality, 48 percent, expects no real action on their key issue.

New Jerseyans strongly endorse the idea that compromise is needed in Congress. Two-thirds think compromise is more important than for lawmakers to stick to their individual beliefs. Having said that, residents simultaneously predict there will be little improvement in relations between the parties. Fifty-seven percent say relations will stay the same, 29 percent think they will get even worse, and just 12 percent believe they will get better.

Slightly more registered voters say they voted for a Democrat over a Republican in November’s congressional elections, but they are negative about both parties. Thirty-five percent of all residents hold a positive view of Democrats compared with 28 percent toward Republicans.

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 adults, including 646 registered voters, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014, with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. The registered voter subsample has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.

Residents give GOP upper hand, question Obama’s effectiveness

After November’s GOP tidal wave, Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the Republican takeover of the Senate will “change the way things are going in this country.” Most Republicans predict at least some change, with 23 percent expecting “a lot” of change and 55 percent expecting “some” change.

A quarter of Democrats also expect a lot of change, while 30 percent think there will be some change. Independents are slightly less certain of the impact of GOP control of the Senate: just 12 percent say it will have a lot of impact on the country, while another 38 percent say some impact.

The same pattern occurs regardless of views about Obama, the parties in Congress, respondent ideology or the midterm congressional vote; across all of about half or more New Jerseyans say that GOP Senate control will change things in the country, at least to some extent.

Views on Obama’s effectiveness during his remaining time in office are more directly tied to political preferences. Among Democrats, 40 percent think the president will be able to accomplish some of his agenda, but only 7 percent say he will be able to do a lot. Republicans are far more negative: only a quarter expect Obama to accomplish even some of what he wants in his last two years. Half expect little to happen, and another 20 percent see none of Obama’s preferences being implemented. Independents resemble Republicans: one-third think Obama will get at least something done – four percent say “a lot” – while two-thirds believe he will not get much, if anything, accomplished.

Those favorable towards Obama and Democrats in Congress, as well as those who voted for Democrats this past election, are also more likely to believe the president will get something done in the next two years. Surprisingly, those who say GOP control of the Senate will have an impact are slightly more likely than those who feel the opposite to say Obama will have some impact as well.

Doubt about congressional ability to fix top concerns

New Jerseyans say the most important issues for a GOP-led Congress to fix are a blend of perennial and more recent concerns. The economy and jobs is the most frequently mentioned, at 22 percent. Second – probably due to Obama’s executive order just as the poll was taken – is immigration at 12 percent. Health care and taxes tie for third, at nine percent each. Eight percent mention something about bipartisanship or compromise, but only two percent mention gun and crime-related issues. Another two percent name social issues, including race relations.

The economy is tops for all New Jerseyans, but Democrats (at 28 percent) are more likely to name the issue as the top concern compared to Republicans and independents, by eight and nine points, respectively. On the other hand, Republicans and independents are more likely to mention taxes, immigration and Obamacare as their top concern, compared to Democrats.

Those for whom a congressional fix of the economy is most important are somewhat optimistic that it will actually get done, but New Jerseyans with other top concerns do not agree. While the heavy focus on the economy means relatively small numbers of respondents named other issues, among those who did, the trend is toward much less optimism. One-third of immigration advocates doubt anything will happen, while about six in 10 who care about taxes expect nothing to get done. Similarly, half of those who mention health care anticipate no progress on the issue.

“While the small subsamples focused on issues other than the economy mean that we are much less certain of the results, the trends seem pretty clear,” noted Redlawsk. “There is simply more optimism among those who care most about economic issues than anyone else. This may reflect recent news that the economy is, in fact, improving.”

Little expectation for bipartisanship despite desire for compromise

Though many New Jerseyans see change on the horizon, most do not foresee a new era of bipartisanship being ushered in with GOP control of Congress. This is not for lack of desire for lawmakers to work together. Solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents think it is more important for legislators to compromise to get laws passed than to stick to their own beliefs. Democrats, probably mindful of the new political landscape, however, are more likely to want comprise, 74 percent compared with 65 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans.

More than half of Democrats, Republicans and independents are pessimistic about improved relations in the coming year. But Republicans and, to some extent, independents are about twice as likely as Democrats to say relations will improve. Democrats, instead, believe relations between the two sides will grow even worse; 38 percent say this, compared to about 25 percent of Republicans and independents.

“Things may be changing in Congress in January, but overall, New Jerseyans are uncertain what to expect,” said Redlawsk. “They believe some things may change, but they also remain uncertain about the basic underlying dynamics of Washington getting any better.”

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Filed under Congress, Midterm Elections, NJ Voters, President Obama

NEW JERSEY VOTERS DISLIKE CHRISTIE’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY, TAXES

Today we begin the first of two releases relating to NJ Gov. Chris Christie. This release focuses on his ratings with NJ voters. The next one will look at presidential campaign-related perceptions. For reference, we last talked about Christie’s ratings here, back in October.

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

NEW JERSEY VOTERS DISLIKE CHRISTIE’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY, TAXES; GOVERNOR’S FAVORABILITY REMAINS NEGATIVE, RUTGERS POLL FINDS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With speculation heating up about a Chris Christie presidential bid in 2016, the governor’s ratings with New Jersey voters are lukewarm at best, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Showing little change from October, 44 percent of registered voters feel favorable toward Christie, while 46 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job approval is a little better: 48 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.

“Voters remain divided on how Christie is doing,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Without any recent marquee policy win and with the bloom of Sandy recovery long gone, we seem to have settled into a stasis where Democrats dislike Christie, Republicans still support him, and independents are mostly split down the middle.”

New Jersey voters say taxes (25 percent) and the economy and jobs (20 percent) remain their top two concerns, followed by corruption/abuse of power and education (tied at 13 percent each). Christie continues in negative territory on most top issues. His job approval on taxes is down two points since October to 31 percent, and down three points on the economy to 35 percent. Also, voters remain negative about Christie’s handling of the budget (down five points to 32 percent approval) and the pension fund (24 percent approval, unchanged since last August). Forty-two percent approve how he handles education.

The governor’s performance on Sandy recovery ties his all-time low, declining seven points in the past two months to 53 percent, a level last seen in April 2014. Approval of his handling of crime and drugs is down six points from October to 46 percent.

Voters are also more negative than positive on the direction of the state as a whole: 40 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction while 49 percent say it is on the wrong track.

“For the most part, these are not particularly good numbers for Governor Christie,” said Redlawsk. “The declines in approval of his performance on a range of specific issues may yet lead to another drop in overall approval in the coming months, unless something changes the trend.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 New Jersey residents, including 646 registered voters contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014. This release reports on registered voters only with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

One bright spot: report card gets a small boost

While not even close to his post-Sandy highs, a report card on Christie provides a slight reprieve from other lackluster ratings. Voters are six points more likely to give him a B grade (31 percent) than they were in October. Correspondingly, those who grade him a C dropped six points to 22 percent. At the extremes, 8 percent give Christie an A (virtually unchanged), while the share of Ds and Fs remains essentially stable at 17 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Christie’s B rating improved among partisans of all stripes: 18 percent of Democrats (up seven points), 33 percent of independents (up four points), and 49 percent of Republicans (up eight points) give him this above-average grade. Even among voters who call the economy and taxes the state’s the most important problems and rate Christie’s performance poorly on these issues, B grades predominate at 34 percent among those concerned about the economy and 41 percent of voters focused on taxes.

“We ask a variety of questions about the governor’s performance because people have many ways of thinking about what they like,” said Redlawsk. “Voters have recently become less enamored of him personally and are more likely to disapprove than approve on most specific issues. But Christie’s report card shows the real divide, as 39 percent say he’s an A or B performer and 38 percent would put him at the bottom of the class with a D or F.”

Republican support slips on key issue

Taxes and the economy – voters’ top concerns here – continue to depress Christie’s overall ratings. His approval ratings on both are at their lowest in the nearly two years of polling. Even some Republican voters have taken a step back. While 57 percent approve of Christie on the economy and jobs (29 percent disapprove), GOP voters are much less positive about how he is handling tax issues. His approval on taxes has dropped seven points since October, to 46 percent.

Democrats maintain their negativity toward Christie on these issues. Twenty-seven percent approve (and 64 percent disapprove) of his performance on the economy and jobs. Twenty-two percent approve and 70 percent disapprove on taxes. Christie does not fare well among independents either: 31 percent approve his work on the economy and 32 percent on taxes.

“While the Democrats’ negative views about Christie are to be expected these days, it is a much bigger deal that independents are also negative on these two key issues,” said Redlawsk. “Moreover, the continued loss of Republican approval on taxes is also noteworthy.”

Voters unhappy with Christie performance on top concerns          

Among the quarter of voters who call taxes the most important problem, Christie’s overall rating are surprisingly good: they give him a 59-29 percent favorability rating and a 64-29 percent overall job approval rating. Yet these same voters are strongly negative on Christie’s actual performance on taxes. Since October, Christie has suffered a 10-point drop in his tax performance among these voters, to just 25 percent positive versus 67 percent negative. The key to this paradox, Redlawsk noted, is that Republicans tend to care most about taxes, and they remain positive about Christie overall, even as they are less than positive on some specific issues.

The 20 percent of voters who care the most about the economy give Christie a 48 percent to 47 percent overall job approval rating and split, 50 percent to 47 percent unfavorable on their impressions of the governor. But as with tax-focused voters, these respondents have become more negative on how Christie is handling their top concern. Just under a quarter now approves Christie’s work on the economy, down five points since October, while 69 percent disapprove, an increase of four points.

Economic concerns and New Jersey’s direction

Voters’ concerns about New Jersey’s economy and taxes appear to affect how they view the state’s overall performance. Among those who say the economy is their biggest concern, 37 percent say the state is going in the right direction versus 54 percent who think it is on the wrong track. Those who rate taxes as the top problem in the state are more evenly split, with 45 percent saying it is going in the right direction and 46 percent disagreeing.

Approval of Christie’s work in both of these areas is closely tied to which direction voters think New Jersey is headed. About seven in 10 voters who approve Christie’s performance on taxes and the economy also say the state is going in the right direction. Seventy percent who disapprove of the governor’s handling of the two problems say the New Jersey is on the wrong track.

Overall ratings and partisanship

While Christie’s overall ratings remain relatively stable since October, his job approval – which has usually been higher than his favorability rating – is now more closely in line with voters’ impressions of the governor. Ninety-two percent of those favorable toward Christie also approve of his job performance, while 87 percent of those unfavorable toward Christie do not.

Voters in both parties show little change in their impressions of Christie since October, when the governor’s favorability rating took its first net-negative turn in a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While independents’ feelings about Christie are split, 47 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable, Democrats and Republicans take very different positions. Just 21 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of the governor, versus 69 percent who do not. Republicans are virtually the opposite, at 74 percent favorable and 17 percent unfavorable.

Christie’s overall job approval among Democrats has slipped five points to 22 percent; 73 percent now disapprove. Independents are holding steady at 52 percent approval to 42 percent disapproval. Over eight in 10 Republicans support the job the governor is doing.

Partisan opinions on where New Jersey is headed match closely with the governor’s ratings. More than half of Democrats (57 percent) say New Jersey is on the wrong track; just 31 percent think the state is going in the right direction. Republicans believe the opposite: 62 percent say right direction, while 33 percent say wrong track. Independents, however, are more positive about Christie himself than they are about the state as a whole: 51 percent think the state is on the wrong track, while just 38 percent think things are going in the right direction.

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Heads up – New Poll Coming!

The summer tends to be a bit slow here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Most of our students are off doing summery things, and we’re working hard on planning the next year. But this year we have a poll underway right now, with results to begin being released around the middle of next week. It will be some of the usual – the US Senate race, how Gov. Christie’s doing, and the like, but we’re also working on some interesting questions in cooperation with folks at the New Jersey Medical School, asking about health-related issues. Those results will be released a bit later, after we’ve had time to do some detailed analysis. In the meantime, watch for new numbers on Christie, Booker, and even bridgegate (remember that?)

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NJ SUPPORT FOR POT DECRIMINALIZATION AT RECORD HIGH

One great thing about the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll is that there is so much history recorded over the past 43 years the poll has been around. Today we tap into that history as we look at current attitudes toward marijuana legalization in New Jersey, looking back to 1972 when we first polled on the issue. We did something similar in 2011, in celebration of our 40th anniversary, but the recent talk about full legalization of pot made us think we should look again. And, to their credit, a group of students in Dave Redlawsk’s Public Opinion Class argued for the topic as well.

Our findings show that support for loosening the reins on recreational marijuana continues to grow, and at the same time, partisan differences on the issue are getting larger. A fascinating aspect of looking back to 1972 is finding that Democrats and Republicans were not very far apart on the issue back then; about 4 points separated the two groups of partisans, and neither was particularly supportive. In fact it was independents who were most supportive of lessened marijuana penalties in 1972. But fast forward to 2014, and the differences are stark, as they are for many other issues. A majority of both Democrats and independents now favors complete legalization, while just 28 percent of Republicans agree. Republican opinions on the issue have changed little over the years, while Democrats and independents have become much more supportive.

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

The text of the release follows.

 SUPPORT FOR MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION AMONG NEW JERSEYANS IS STRONGER THAN EVER, FOUR DECADES OF POLLING REVEALS

Attitudes Increasingly Divided by Partisanship in Recent Years

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With the 1960s and 70s drug counterculture a hazy memory for most New Jerseyans, voters in the state have become more laid back than ever about marijuana, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. With recreational marijuana legalization becoming a hot topic across the nation, two-thirds of voters here now say penalties for use should be reduced. This compares to 58 percent of voters in a November 2011 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, and 40 percent of adults in a May 1972 report. Only 29 percent now oppose the relaxation of marijuana use penalties.

Attitudes toward marijuana possession show a similar pattern over the past four decades. In 1972, 34 percent of adults supported the elimination of all penalties for the possession of small amounts, while 56 percent were opposed. Today it is reversed: 65 percent of voters now support eliminating marijuana possession penalties, while 33 percent remain opposed.

In light of societal changes and apparent success in Colorado with legalization, state Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill in the Legislature to legalize the sale and use of marijuana. But despite strong support for reduced penalties, legalization gets much weaker support: 49 percent agree with complete legalization and 48 percent disagree. Even so, this is a 14-point rise from 2011 and a 28-point difference from adults of 42 years ago.

“New Jersey voters reflect the national trend toward less severe attitudes about marijuana,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “During the 1970s and into 1981, there was some movement on the issue, but little policy change, so we didn’t poll on it again for 30 years. When we finally asked again about marijuana in 2011, we saw signs of liberalization, a trend that has only accelerated since then.”

While Colorado appears to have raked in new tax revenue from legalizing pot, New Jersey voters are split over whether the possibility of more money for the state coffers should lead to making the drug legal here. A quarter of voters strongly agree that the potential for significant state revenue is a good reason to legalize the drug, while another quarter somewhat agree. But 19 percent somewhat disagree and 27 percent strongly disagree with this proposition.

Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 731 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Support from Democrats grows; Republicans much less so

While support for marijuana decriminalization has increased dramatically, the divide between political partisans has also grown. In 1972, Democrats and Republicans held similar views: about 40 percent of each party agreed with reducing penalties for pot use, while 53 percent of independents were in favor. By 2011, 64 percent of Democratic voters and 58 percent of independents supported penalty reductions, but just only 44 percent of Republicans agreed.

Current GOP preferences continue to show little change. Forty-six percent support reduced penalties, 47 percent are opposed. Meanwhile, Democratic and independent support has grown to 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively. “We think of Democrats as liberal on social issues, but 40 years ago they didn’t look much different from Republicans on pot use,” noted Redlawsk. “But as Republicans maintained the status quo, Democrats moved strongly in favor of reducing penalties, increasing the gap between them from four points in 1972 to 28 points today.”

Republicans show more change on eliminating possession penalties (12 points over 42 years), although they remain staunchly opposed and increasingly different from Democrats and independents. In 1972, 29 percent of GOP adults, 38 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents supported decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug. This nine-point gap between the two parties doubled in 2011, when 42 percent of Republican voters and 60 percent of Democrats supported decriminalization. Support among independents grew 11 points stronger.

Today, 74 percent of Democrats voters – nearly double the share in 1972 – want to see possession penalties dropped, versus just 41 percent of Republicans. Only 24 percent of Democrats are opposed, compared to 56 percent of Republicans. Democrats have also caught up to the 71 percent of independent voters who support decriminalization.

In keeping with broader trends, New Jersey voters of all partisan leanings show increased support for completely legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana, although to greatly varying degrees. For the first time, more than half of Democratic and independent voters support legalization, with Democratic support almost tripling since 1972, when only 21 percent of Democratic adults agreed with making pot legal. Between 2011 and 2014, support increased by 17 points.

While 30 percent of independent adults supported legalization 1972, by 2011 the number was still only 37 percent of independent voters. Since then, their support has climbed to 53 percent.
Republican support has doubled over four decades from 14 percent to 28 percent. However, 69 percent of GOP voters today remain against legalization, and the gap between the parties on fully legal pot has quadrupled since 1972 to 29 points.

Generation gap on pot has shrunk, except for legalization

The large generation gap on marijuana decriminalization and penalties from 40 years ago has all but disappeared, except on the question of full legalization. In 1972, two-thirds of adults in their twenties supported reduced penalties for marijuana use versus 24 percent of those 60 and older. That under-30 cohort – now in their 60s and 70s – is even more supportive now, at 72 percent of voters. Meanwhile, 70 percent of today’s millennial voters (18- to 34-years-old) approve decreased penalties, about the same share as their long-ago peers. What was once a 42-point gap between younger and older generations has all but vanished.

More than 60 percent of voters in nearly all age groups support removing possession penalties today, closing age differences that were still apparent in 2011, and were even larger in 1972. But those who were over age 30 in 1972 and are now at least 72 are far less supportive.

Full legalization is a somewhat different story. In 1972, New Jerseyans under age 30 were more likely to favor full legalization than those over 60 that year, 44 percent to 10 percent. Some of this generation gap remains visible today. As 1972’s under youngest residents have aged, their cohort’s opinions have changed very little: 48 percent of today’s voters, 60 to 72, support full legal access to marijuana. Meanwhile the youngest 2014 voters are even stronger supporters, 61 percent to 39 percent. The result is a 13-point generation gap, less than half of what it was 42 years ago.

Mimicking younger voters, more than half of 50 to 64-year olds support legalization. But more in line with today’s seniors, voters who mostly came of age in the Reagan-Bush years (now ages 35 to 49) are more likely to oppose (52 percent) than support (44 percent) legalization of recreational marijuana. “It is pretty clear that the changes we are seeing on marijuana attitudes are less about changing minds than about changing times,” said Redlawsk. “As younger cohorts became adults, they have simply had more liberal attitudes than the older voters they replaced.”

Marijuana sales as tax revenue

Despite support for decriminalization, voters here are clearly split on following in Colorado’s footsteps and fully legalizing the drug with an eye toward the potential for increased state revenue from taxes on its sales. Six in 10 Democrats say they at least somewhat agree with the financial rationale for legalization, as do more than half of independents. Two-thirds of Republicans disagree; most feel strongly. Millennials are much more likely than older voters to agree with legalizing marijuana for tax revenue. More than two-thirds who support reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana also support legalizing the drug for revenue purposes. Among all those favoring complete legalization, 86 percent support the financial rationale for doing so.

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NEW POLLING ON CHRISTIE RATINGS

A PDF of Questions, Tables, and Full Text of this release is available here

WHILE MOST NJ REPUBLICANS STAND BY CHRISTIE, DEMOCRATS ABANDON HIM

  Favorability and Job Ratings Drop to Pre-Sandy Levels

Note: Two-thirds of this poll was completed before the recent allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy aid was withheld from her city due to her unwillingness to support a development linked to Gov. Christie’s allies.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following a second week of revelations about “Bridgegate,” Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval and favorability ratings have dropped dramatically among New Jerseyans, with Democrats driving the decline, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following more than a year of strong bipartisan support, Christie’s favorability rating is now 46 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable, down from 65 percent favorable just before his landslide re-election. This drop in support is led by a 26-point decline among Democrats.

Voters are slightly more positive about Christie’s performance as governor, with 53 percent approving how he handles the job. But this is down 15 points since November; well below the 66 to 73 percent support Christie had enjoyed throughout the year since Superstorm Sandy. Asked to grade the Governor, 43 percent now award Christie an A or B – down 16 points– and 29 percent assign either a D or F, compared to just 18 percent two months ago.

Christie’s ratings drop is driven by a very large decline among Democrats while most Republicans – and many independents – continue to stand by the Governor. In November, 45 percent of Democrats were favorable, but with new challenges to Christie’s bipartisan leadership, only 19 percent of Democrats are now positive. Democratic approval of Christie’s job performance has dropped  from 51 percent to 29 percent. While noticeably down from November, Republicans are still very positive: 78 percent feel favorable, and 83 percent approve of the job Christie is doing. Independent support has also dropped, but a majority continues to favor Christie.

Christie’s ratings are noticeably lower among those who travel across the George Washington Bridge at least once a week, at 37 percent favorable. Those who use the bridge less often are more positive, with 45 percent favorable, compared to 51 percent favorable among voters who never use the bridge. His job approval follows a similar pattern for these commuters.

“Other polls taken immediately after the bridge scandal broke showed relatively small effects,” noted David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But with another week of revelations, damage appears to have been done. The good will the Governor built up among Democrats with his handling of the Sandy aftermath is gone, at least for now.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19. Within this sample are 757 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

“Bridgegate” sinking in

Christie’s ratings have been negatively affected by the “Bridgegate” revelations and the resulting media onslaught. Only five percent of New Jerseyans say they have heard nothing about the scandal. Overall, residents are generally skeptical of Christie, with more than half saying it is somewhat or very unlikely that his advisors acted without his knowledge. And more than half do not believe the explanation Christie gave at his January 9 press conference.

The scandal has created clear partisan differences over what happened. Republicans mostly support Christie: two-thirds think the Governor was likely unaware of what his staff was doing, and 80 percent at least partially accept his explanation. But only a quarter of Democrats think Christie was unaware of his aides’ actions; instead, over half say it is very unlikely Christie was out of the loop. Moreover, 62 percent of Democrats do not believe at all Christie’s explanation for what happened.

“The re-emergence of strong partisan differences in believing the Governor returns us to a pre-Sandy political environment,” said Redlawsk. “Before the storm, Governor Christie’s term was defined by sharp splits, with Democrats generally negative and Republicans very positive. Once Christie proved his leadership after Sandy, partisan differences became quite small right through the election in November. But Democrats are once again very unhappy with the Governor.”

Whether or not they think Christie is telling the truth, New Jerseyans overwhelmingly blame Christie’s “tough-guy” persona for the conduct of his staff: more than 70 percent say the Governor’s attitude contributed at least somewhat to his staff’s reported behavior.  Even six in ten Republicans believe Christie’s demeanor has at least somewhat encouraged these events.

But New Jerseyans are split on whether the state legislature should continue investigating the claims: 49 percent say continue, while 47 percent say the legislature should move on to more important issues. More than half of Democrats want the investigation to continue (57 percent) but majorities of both independents (53 percent) and Republicans (59 percent) want the legislature to move on.

Impact on presidential hopes

More than half of New Jerseyans feel Christie’s lengthy mea culpa was more about damage control for a future presidential run than a sincere apology, and half also think the scandal sheds light on how a future President Christie and his team would act once in the Oval Office.  Again, Republicans mostly stick by the Governor, with nearly half seeing Christie’s apology as heartfelt. But 70 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disagree with GOPers, believing the apology was more about a presidential run. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Republicans do not believe the scandal provides insight into a Christie presidency, but just as many Democrats say that it does.

More than two-thirds of all New Jerseyans think the scandal has been at least somewhat damaging to Christie’s presidential hopes; even 55 percent of Republicans see some damage.  At the same time, most report little effect on their likelihood of voting for Christie if he runs for president. Only 23 percent of registered voters say the scandal would lower at least somewhat their chance of supporting Christie. But another 17 percent say they would not have voted for him in any case. Even with recent events, sixty percent of voters nonetheless think Christie will run in 2016.

Perhaps summarizing the effects of events over the past two weeks, Christie does poorly in a head-to-head matchup with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Among registered voters, Christie loses New Jersey 34 percent to 55 percent for Clinton. “It remains very early in the 2016 presidential cycle,” said Redlawsk. “If the Governor can put this behind him within the next couple of months, and assuming events transpired as he says, then there is every reason to think he can recover in time to mount a strong 2016 campaign. But if it goes on much longer than that, or if allegations continue to build, Christie will have his hands full right here in New Jersey.”

GWB having little effect in most key areas; but Sandy ratings take a hit

With the media focusing on the bridge scandal, the Governor’s favorability and job performance ratings have taken a significant hit. But no significant change has occurred in New Jerseyans’ assessments of Christie’s performance in several key areas, including the economy, taxes, and crime.

On the economy and jobs, 45 percent of voters approved Christie’s performance in November. Today approval stands at 44 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Taxes tell a similar story: 42 percent approved of the way Christie was handling taxes in November, dropping only slightly to 38 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval. Half continue to approve of Christie’s performance on crime and drugs, compared to 53 percent two months ago.

A more significant shift has occurred on approval of Christie’s performance on education, down six points to 48 percent approval. The Governor announced his desire for a longer school day and year in his State of the State speech, placing some brief focus on the issue.

Further, perceptions of Sandy recovery performance have also dropped significantly, from 80 percent approval in November to 69 percent approval now.

“Changes in perceptions of the Governor’s Sandy performance are probably due to the shift of Democrats away from the Governor’s camp and the recent claims by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy recovery aid was tied to supporting a development linked to Christie’s allies,” noted Redlawsk. “Zimmer’s claims may have particularly influenced respondents we talked to on Saturday and Sunday after that story broke.”

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