Category Archives: Taxes

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


Today we release the first of two analyses of assessments of NJ Gov. Chris Christie we carried out as part of our new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. In today’s release we focus on Christie’s favorability ratings and job performance. The former has dropped to lowest point we have yet recorded for the governor; 42 percent of NJ voters have a favorable impression while 45 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job performance rating is also down, but remains slightly positive at 50 percent approval to 46 percent disapproval. Perhaps more critically, approval of Christie’s performance on a range of top issues is quite negative and declining. On taxes, just 33 percent approve the governor’s job performance, with 38 percent approving his work on the economy and 39 percent on education. The numbers are simply not good for a governor who a year ago was riding high toward an overwhelming re-election.

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


Governor’s favorability among registered voters drops seven points in two months

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – For the first time since August 2011, more New Jersey voters have an unfavorable impression of Gov. Chris Christie than a favorable one, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a seven-point decline during the past two months, just 42 percent of registered voters now feel favorable toward the governor, while 45 percent feel unfavorable.

“This is the lowest favorability rating we have ever recorded for Christie, below the 44 percent of August 2011,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “What had seemed like a small rebound following Christie’s Bridgegate ratings collapse now looks more like a temporary blip.”

While remaining slightly positive, Christie’s overall job approval rating is also dropping, falling three more points to 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproving, up five points.
Voters say taxes (24 percent), and the economy and jobs (21 percent) are the top two concerns, followed by corruption and abuse of power (16 percent) and education (12 percent). Underlying Christie’s decline is a roughly eight-month drop on three of these top issues: taxes (down 10 points to 33 percent approval), the economy (down three points to 38 percent) and education (down 10 points to 39 percent).

In addition, voters remain negative about Christie’s handling of the budget (down six points from a January 2014 poll, to 37 percent approval) and the pension crisis (24 percent approval, unchanged since first asked in August 2014.)

Only approval of Christie’s performance on Sandy recovery has shown significant improvement, rebounding to 60 percent from 54 percent last February. Approval of his handling of crime and drugs is up an insignificant two points to 52 percent over nearly the same period.

“The last time New Jerseyans were more negative than positive toward Christie the pension reform bill had just been signed, Christie had begun pushing a voter-supported teacher-tenure package and, there had been no Superstorm Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “But the good will he piled up after acting on those voter supported issues, and his handling of Sandy, has vanished. By nearly every measure we have, Christie is losing support.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Top problems: taxes and the economy

Analysis of voters’ two top concerns shed some light on Christie’s ratings decline. While Republicans remain about 20 points more positive than negative on the governor’s performance on taxes and the economy, Democrats and independents have a different perspective. On taxes, 20 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of Christie’s performance; 74 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents disapprove. On the economy and jobs, 27 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove. Thirty-seven percent of independents approve, 53 percent do not.

Among the 24 percent who call taxes the most important problem, Christie does quite well: a 60-29 percent favorability rating, and a 63-33 percent overall job approval rating. Yet these same voters are very negative on Christie’s actual performance on taxes: 35 percent approve of his work while 57 percent disapprove.

A similar pattern emerges on the economy; the 21 percent who care the most give a 50-46 percent overall job approval rating and split 44 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable on impressions of Christie. But like voters focused on taxes, these respondents hit Christie hard on their key issue: 29 percent approve Christie’s work on the economy while 65 percent disapprove.

Redlawsk identified GOP voters’ strong overall support for Christie as a cause of this odd pattern. “For Republicans, partisan preference overrides specific job performance,” he said. “We see a huge 25-point-plus gap between Republicans’ overall ratings of Christie and their evaluations on taxes and the economy. They may be much less supportive of the governor’s actions on these issues, but this does not interfere with supporting their fellow Republican.”
Democrats, and to a lesser extent independents, have become more consistent in connecting their general ratings of the governor with disapproval of his specific performance on issues, Redlawsk added. “The much smaller gap between job approval and assessments on top issues for these voters leads to the very negative ratings we find when we look at all voters who care most about taxes and the economy.”

Partisanship and ratings

The share of Democrats with a positive impression of Christie has fallen seven points to 21 percent since last August and 37 percent since a high point in February 2013. Since August, favorability among independents has dropped eight points to 44 percent, and among Republicans five points to 74 percent. At Christie’s high point 20 months ago, 71 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans, respectively, felt favorably.

“The partisan favorability gap has skyrocketed to 53 points, as Democratic negativity has greatly increased since Bridgegate,” said Redlawsk. “But Christie is also losing independents at a growing rate, which threatens to undermine his image as a leader with broad support.”

Because some voters who dislike Christie still give him positive job ratings, his general job approval remains more positive than negative. But this partisan gap has also grown to 53 points: 80 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and just over half of independent voters approve.

Where support weakens

Christie’s favorability and job support ratings among men have each fallen nine points the past two months; approval and disapproval of his overall job performance each stand at 47 percent, while 41 percent of men feel favorable about him. His favorability among women has declined four points to 44 percent, while they still approve of his job performance, 50 percent to 46 percent, virtually unchanged since August. Among urban voters, Christie’s job approval now stands at 31 percent, an 11-point tumble since August; 65 percent disapprove. Over the same period, suburban voters’ approval of Christie’s job performance fell seven points to 44 percent. Half of suburban voters now disapprove of how the governor does his job.

Christie’s report card: New lows

Since a pre-Bridgegate poll in November 2013, Christie’s job performance grades have plunged: only 10 percent now award him A, his smallest-ever share of the top grade and an 11-point drop. One-quarter of registered voters grade him B, also among the lowest total ever. C grades now dominate at 28 percent. The percentage of voters assigning D (16 percent) and F (19 percent) grades has climbed since last November, when only 8 percent of respondents failed the governor.


Filed under Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Economy, Education, Taxes

New Jerseyans not All that Supportive of Municipal Consolidation unless it Controls Taxes

With 565 independent municipalities, New Jersey has too many local governments, right? It may seem so, although given our nearly 9,000,000 people, the number isn’t really all that large. In fact we place in the bottom third in terms of per capita municipal governments. What makes it seem large is that we also have 600+ school districts, and maybe more importantly, we have all of this in a relatively small land mass. Given our ever-increasing  property taxes, it’s no surprise that political leaders from Gov. Chris Christie to NJ Sen. President Steve Sweeney are on the municipal consolidation bandwagon. The idea is that combining local governments should increase efficiency and this lower taxes. Certinaly it seems logical.

But a recent report from the Bloustein School at Rutgers casts doubt on whether municipal consolidation in New Jersey will really reduce taxes. Unless it does – or at least halts their continuing increases – New Jerseyans are not so hot on the idea of giving up their local governments. In fact, our results today show a noticeable decline in support for consolidation since we last asked about it in March 2010, when a majority of the state offered support for the idea. Today, Garden Staters are split evenly over the idea, unless it is tied to gaurantees of tax cuts or at least stability. They also doubt claims of greater efficiency or improved quality of local services, mostly thinking little would change or things might even get worse.

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


Support for municipal consolidation has declined since 2010

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As NJ Gov. Chris Christie renews his call for merging local governments as a means to get rising property taxes under control, Garden State residents express less support for the idea than they did in 2010, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 45 percent support consolidating their municipal government with that of a neighboring community, down nine points from a March 2010 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Opposition has climbed to 46 percent, up eight points.

“This decline in support may be partially a result of the smaller property tax increases seen over the last few years,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “While some towns have had large tax increases, many have not, which ironically may be reducing pressure to cut local government costs.”

Even as support for consolidation has dropped, views on the efficiency and quality of consolidated local services remain similar to four years ago. Today, 37 percent say consolidation would make local government more efficient, while the same percentage says it would not change things much at all. Just 18 percent are negative, expecting consolidation to make government less efficient. In 2010, results were nearly the same: 39 percent saw greater efficiency, 34 percent little change, and 22 percent believed combined government would be less efficient.

While nearly four in ten think consolidation means more efficiency, fewer say local services would improve. Just 20 percent think services would get better, while 27 percent says they would get worse. Forty-four percent anticipate little change. These results are also little changed from 2010.

The prospect of stable or lower property taxes may reduce opposition to consolidation. Non-supporters were given one of two follow-up scenarios: consolidation guaranteeing property taxes would remain stable for many years, or guaranteeing at least a 10 percent cut in property taxes. Results show no significant difference between the two. Forty-six percent of opponents change to supporters in the case of stable property taxes, while 43 percent of opponents offer support in the 10 percent-cut case.

“Tying consolidation directly to property tax control changes the minds of many New Jerseyans, leading to a majority becoming supportive,” said Redlawsk. “We saw similar effects in 2010. No doubt this is because we offered a guarantee of tax stability or cuts in the questions. But as a new report from faculty of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers suggests, it is unclear if property taxes would really decrease as a result of consolidation.”

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. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points.

Support for consolidation down in most groups since 2010

In addition to now dividing New Jerseyans overall, support for consolidation has dropped across many groups over the past four years. The 47 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans who now say they support consolidation represent a double-digit drop for both groups since 2010, when 61 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans were supportive. Democrats have shown little change over the same period: 44 percent now support consolidation, compared to 43 percent in 2010. Across parties, residents favorable towards Gov. Christie are mixed: half support consolidation while 42 percent prefer their own government; among those unfavorable toward the governor, the result is just the opposite.

Support for consolidation has declined significantly in several regions of the state. Only 39 percent of those in the urban counties of Essex and Hudson preferred to maintain their existing local government in 2010; today that number is 60 percent, and only 34 percent support consolidation. Similar changes have occurred among those living in exurban northwestern counties and those in southern New Jersey. Nearly half of south Jersey residents now prefer their own government, versus just 33 percent four years ago, while exurban support for consolidation has dropped from 67 percent to 46 percent, a 21-point decline. Countering this trend are shore county residents, a majority of whom still support consolidation, and suburban areas, with 47 percent support. Both are virtually unchanged from 2010.

In 2010 men were 10 points more likely than woman to support consolidation: 59 percent to 49 percent. Both have shown a noticeable decline, men to 49 percent and women to 42 percent support. The only residents showing wholehearted support for consolidation are those who believe it would make local government more efficient (77 percent) and those who think it would make the quality of local services better (74 percent).

Potential property tax savings have positive impact on views

Gov. Christie’s push for consolidation has been accompanied by the argument that property taxes will drop if towns combine. If so, consolidation will be more appealing to New Jerseyans who do not initially support it. Almost half of respondents told there could be many years of stabilized property taxes change their minds in support of consolidation, while about half remain opposed. Those told consolidation could guarantee at least a 10 percent cut in property taxes show a similar pattern.

When initial supporters are added to these new supporters, 69 percent of all New Jerseyans are in favor of consolidation, including the 24 percent supportive only if property taxes would remain stable or be cut. A quarter remains opposed, even given one of the two tax scenarios. The overall increase in support is enough to give consolidation majority support in every key demographic group.

“For consolidation to be embraced, proposals will have to all but guarantee tax cuts,” noted Redlawsk. “But we don’t know whether voters would believe politicians who say combining governments will cut taxes. Some clear real-world evidence will likely be needed. Even the recent merger of the Princetons resulted in just a five percent initial savings, while it is too early to tell if the combination will keep tax increases under control.”

Efficiency and quality more or less expected to stay the same under consolidation

While New Jerseyans may be split on consolidation, they are also not sure that efficiency and quality of government services would improve if their municipality were merged with another. Few, however, expect that efficiency (18 percent) or quality of services (27 percent) would get worse, but well under half thinks they would actually improve.

Partisanship makes little difference in these views. Favorability towards Gov. Christie has some effect: 43 percent of his supporters see more efficiency, compared to 34 percent of his detractors. Similarly, only 15 percent of those favorable toward Christie think consolidation would lower efficiency, while 22 percent of those unfavorable are negative about efficiency.

Seeing consolidation as increasing efficiency and quality of services is strongly related to supporting the effort to combine governments. More than three quarters of those who think consolidation would make local government more efficient support the move, while 87 percent who think efficiency would be hurt want to keep their current government. Among the large number who sees no change, only 37 percent support consolidation. Perceptions of changes in the quality of local government services under consolidation lead to similar findings: 74 percent who think services will get better support consolidation, while 86 percent of those seeing lower quality services want to retain their town’s current independence.

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Filed under Municipal Consolidation, Taxes

Latest on Gov. Chris Christie’s Ratings

Today we begin our next series of press releases from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The latest poll was in the field from April 3-7, and has a total of 923 NJ adult respondents, along with 819 registered voters. Our first focus is on our governor. We continue to see very high ratings for Gov. Christie both in terms of his favorability and his job performance.  But, five months after Hurricane Sandy we also see our first significant downward tick in his ratings. It appears most of it is due to Democrats who are starting to moderate their opinion of the governor. As we would expect, before Sandy Democrats on the whole were quite negative. Since Sandy hit, they have been uncharacteristically positive. Now we see that softening a bit. But, at the same time Christie’s support is holding up well with independents, and of course Republicans are solidly in his camp as they mostly were before the storm.

This time around we gave voters a chance to tell us in their own words why they are favorable or unfavorable toward Christie. Hurricane Sandy is a big reason for his support, especially for Democrats. Interestingly, virtually no Republicans named Sandy as their reason for liking Christie. On the other hand, for those who feel unfavorable, we find words like “bully” and reactions to his education reforms and battles with the teachers’ union leading the way.

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

(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Five months after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey voters continue to give Gov. Chris Christie high marks for his job performance, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. However, weak spots have emerged and in general, Christie’s ratings have dropped slightly since February.

While overwhelmingly approving (87 percent) Christie’s post-Sandy recovery efforts, only 42 percent of voters approve of his handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs and only 37 percent approve of his tax policy. About 50 percent approve of Christie’s efforts on education, the budget, and crime.

Christie’s work on Sandy recovery drives up his general approval ratings despite unhappiness about economic issues: 68 percent approve his overall job performance, 64 percent have a favorable impression, and 60 percent grade Christie A or B.

Polling has shown Christie all but invincible in the gubernatorial race, but there is some evidence his ratings are coming down from his record highs. Overall job performance is down five points and favorability is down six points from a February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s approval on both the economy and taxes has fallen three points.

“Christie still has ratings any governor would love, but all-time highs generally come back toward earth over time,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “With Sandy recovery helping drive overall approval and voters all but ecstatic at his efforts there, Christie remains in great political shape.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. A subsample of 819 registered voters reported on here has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Christie’s “character”

Twenty-six percent of voters maintain an unfavorable impression of Christie, up 6 points from February, while 64 percent of voters have a favorable impression. Democrats are most responsible for the overall decline, showing a 14-point drop to 45 percent. Independents (71 percent favorable) and Republicans (90 percent) show no significant change.

Favorability among men declined from 74 percent in February to 65 percent, while women’s admiration decreased by four points to 62 percent. Christie continues to receive very high favorability ratings from areas hardest hit by Sandy – northwest exurban (72 percent) and shore (75 percent) counties.

Among those viewing the governor favorably, one quarter use a range of character terms such as honest, integrity, and frankness to explain why they like him. Many mention how Christie “speaks his mind,” is a “straight shooter,” and “sticks to his beliefs.” But the single most named reason (18 percent) for liking Christie is his post-Sandy recovery work. Another 10 percent mention his governing and policy decisions.


Word Cloud for “In just a word or two can you tell me why you have a favorable impression of Gov. Christie?” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Among the 26 percent who dislike Christie, 30 percent name similar traits as supporters: but they question his character, honesty, and integrity, with many calling him a bully. The single most often named issue focuses on teachers and education (18 percent). Sixteen percent say Christie is uncaring, has the wrong priorities and is hurting the state and its citizens, and 10 percent cite his handling of such economic matters as the budget, taxes and fiscal responsibility.


Word Cloud for “In just a word or two can you tell me why you have an unfavorable impression of Gov. Christie?” Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, April 3-7, 2013

Democratic Christie supporters are mostly driven by Sandy (35 percent) and by perceptions of the governor’s honesty and integrity (20 percent).  But only 3 percent of Republicans cite Sandy as their primary reason. For GOP voters, honesty and integrity drive support at 28 percent, followed by Christie’s leadership (14 percent) and policy positions (12 percent). Among independents, 27 percent name honesty as their top reason for liking Christie, followed by Sandy recovery work at 16 percent.

Democrats’ unfavorable views of the governor are driven mostly by dislike of his education policies (18 percent) and impressions of Christie as confrontational (14 percent). Another 14 percent believe the governor does not care about New Jersey’s citizens.

“Christie’s natural Republican constituency likes his attitude and policies and sees him as a strong leader,” said Redlawsk. “Sandy doesn’t matter much to them. But for Democrats, we see clear evidence that the Sandy recovery is critical to support and probably also contributes to their sense of his integrity and honesty. Without those Democrats, Christie’s ratings would be much closer to where they were before Sandy hit.”

Christie job approval still high but dropping among Democrats

Almost six-in-10 voters (58 percent) continue to think New Jersey is headed in the right direction. Just over one-in-three (35 percent) continue to say the state is on the wrong track. Even so, the respondents’ approval of Christie’s overall job performance has dropped five points to 68 percent, while disapproval has risen slightly to 26 percent.

Democrats are clearly responsible for the decline; their approval has dropped 11 points since February to 51 percent. Three-quarters of independents and 93 percent of Republicans remain steady in their approval.

“This decline among Democrats is not surprising as we enter an election season,” noted Redlawsk. “As long as independents are strongly on Christie’s side he will continue to draw very positive ratings. If they move away, things could get interesting.”

While strongly backing Christie’s response to Sandy, more voters disapprove than favor his performance on the economy and jobs, 49 percent to 42 percent. More men (46 percent) than women (39 percent) like Christie’s economic performance. His highest approval on the economy comes from the exurban (54 percent) and Jersey Shore (47 percent) regions of the state.

Voters’ views on taxes show a similar, but more negative pattern. Overall, just 37 percent approve of the job Christie is doing on taxes while 56 percent disapprove. Sixty percent of women disapprove of Christie’s handling of taxes, and men are now more likely to disapprove (51 percent) than approve (42 percent).

Approval of the governor’s performance on education, an area of strength in February, is now more tenuous; 49 percent approve (down five points) and 44 percent who disapprove (up five points). Christie does better on the state budget, with 50 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving of his performance – appraisals that have remained steady over the past two months. Voters are much more positive on crime: 55 percent approve and 29 percent disapprove of his performance on this issue.

Christie continues strong in Hurricane Sandy approval ratings – 87 percent approve compared to only 9 percent who disapprove and 4 percent who are unsure. He continues to gets high marks from many of his usual detractors: those who view him unfavorably (75 percent approval), Democrats (87 percent), women (87 percent), black voters (82 percent), Hispanic voters (87 percent) and public union households (87 percent).

When asked to grade Christie’s efforts, 21 percent award an A, while another 39 percent give a B. Democrats have become their most critical graders since Sandy – 43 percent grade him A or B,  down from 52 percent in February. Independents have held steady with 64 percent awarding A or B, while 88 percent of Republicans (the same percentage as in November 2012) assign top grades, an increase of 8 points. Christie continues to get his highest marks from storm-battered exurban and shore regions, though down six and seven points respectively from the last poll.


Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters, Superstorm Sandy, Taxes

A new take on Gov. Christie’s ratings

Today we release our latest polling on our governor, Chris Christie. As has been the case for other statewide polls since Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Christie has sky-high ratings. For us, that means his favorability rating is at an all time high, as is his job performance rating. Among all statewide polls, Christie’s ratings are the highest ever for any elected governor; only former Gov. and State Sen. Richard Codey has rated as highly during his unelected term.

But we thought it would be useful to dig a little deeper, to look at how voters view the governor’s performance on a range of issues. So we asked approval of how Christie is doing on Sandy, the economy and jobs, taxes, education, crime and drugs, and the state budget. Except for the last of these, the list was also part of our “most important problem” question.

What we find is that Gov, Christie’s ratings on specific issues are generally lower than his overall rating, except for his handling of Sandy. In fact,  more voters disapprove of his performance on the economy and on taxes than approve. The apparent take away is that Gov. Christie’s exemplary handling of Sandy and its aftermath is what has driven his overall ratings into record territory, but positive ratings on Sandy do not trickle down to other issues. And, as it turns out, far more people say the economy and taxes are the most important problem facing the state than see Sandy in that light.

Text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF of the release with all questions and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Gov. Chris Christie continues to ride high from his handling of Superstorm Sandy, but a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds registered voters are less pleased with his performance on their No. 1 issue: jobs and the economy. While 73 percent of voters approve of Christie’s overall job performance, only 45 percent specifically approve his handling of the economy, which 35 percent of voters say is the most important problem facing New Jersey.

High taxes ranks second to jobs: 31 percent of voters call this the most important problem. Christie’s approval rating on taxes is even lower, at 40 percent. In contrast, 86 percent of voters approve of how the governor has handled Superstorm Sandy, but only 11 percent say the storm’s aftermath is the most important problem, making it a distant third on the list of problems.

“Governor Christie remains very popular across the board, with a 70 percent favorability rating and continuing sky-high overall job approval,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “It appears that Christie’s handling of Sandy has made the difference, since voters are not nearly as positive about other key issues. If voters begin to focus on these issues instead of the Sandy recovery, we could see a change in the governor’s overall ratings over the next few months.”

Results are from a poll of 796 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Jan. 30 – Feb. 3. Within this sample is a subsample of 698 registered voters reported on here; this subsample has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.

Overall approval of Christie remains at record highs

Among registered voters, Christie continues to get record high marks for an elected governor, with favorability at 70 percent, up three points since a November Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 20 percent say they feel unfavorable toward the governor, a drop of five points.

Democrats, in particular, have become more positive toward Christie with a jump of 10 points to 59 percent favorable. Independents and Republicans have remained relatively steady at 71 percent and 88 percent favorable, respectively.

After nearly closing in November, a gender gap in favorability has reopened, but only because men have become five points more favorable, to 74 percent, while women remain steady at 66 percent favorable.

“Favorability measures how people feel about Christie as a person, and is not specifically about job performance,” noted Redlawsk. “The governor continues to generate very good feelings among voters of all stripes.”

As for Christie’s job performance, 73 percent of voters say they approve overall, with only 23 percent disapproving. Even 62 percent of Democrats approve of how Christie is doing his job, as do three-quarters of independents and 90 percent of Republicans.

When respondents assign letter grades to his work, 24 percent award an A, while another 40 percent give a B. In November, 28 percent awarded A and 33 percent a B.

Both Democrats and independents have become more positive about Christie’s job performance. Christie’s standing improved five points with each, so 52 percent of Democrats and 66 of independents now give the governor an A or B. Republicans have become less pleased, however. Eighty percent – an 8 percent decrease since November – award an A or B. Christie continues to get his best grades from storm-battered exurban and shore regions (71 percent and 73 percent, give an A or B, respectively).

Opinions on the direction of the state have remained steady, with 60 percent of voters saying New Jersey is headed in the right direction and 33 percent saying it is on the wrong track.

Potential risk ahead for Christie

As the 2013 gubernatorial race gets under way, polling puts Christie well ahead of any Democratic opponent. But an analysis of his job performance suggests the possibility of a more competitive race over time. While voters feel very positive and give the governor high job marks, approval of Christie’s performance on some key issues is a different matter.

Among registered voters, 35 percent say the economy and jobs is the most important problem facing the state, while 31 percent say it is high taxes. These issues are followed by Hurricane Sandy recovery at 11 percent, education and schools at 10 percent, and crime and drugs at 8 percent.

Voters are split on Christie’s performance on the economy and jobs (45 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove). Just over half of those who name the economy and jobs as the top problem disapprove of the way the governor is handling it, while 43 percent approve.

Forty percent of independents and 37 percent of Democrats approve of Christie’s performance on the economy and jobs, compared to 69 percent of Republicans. More men than women (50 percent to 41 percent) approve of Christie’s economic performance, while his highest marks come from the exurban (47 percent) and suburban (54 percent) regions of the state.

Respondents’ views on taxes show a similar pattern. Overall, 40 percent approve of the job Christie is doing here, while 52 percent disapprove. Only one-third of those who call high taxes the most important problem approve of how Christie is handling the issue while 63 percent disapprove.

Majorities of Democrats (59 percent) and independents (58 percent) disapprove of the governor’s tax efforts, but 65 percent of Republicans approve. Fifty-seven percent of women disapprove of Christie’s handling of taxes. Men are evenly split at 47 percent pro and con.

“Two-thirds of voters say the economy or high taxes are the most important problems facing the state. And for the most part voters are not fans of Christie’s job performance in these areas. This suggests there is real risk for Christie if the effects of Sandy wear off over time,” said Redlawsk. “Campaigns tend to focus voters on the issues they care about most. Whether that happens over the next few months will be something to watch very carefully.”

Christie’s political strength lies both in his personal favorability rating and in nearly universal approval of how he has handled Superstorm Sandy. He gets high marks across the board for his job with Sandy recovery, including approval from many of his typical opponents: those unfavorable toward him (77 percent), Democrats (85 percent), women (86 percent), black voters (84 percent), Hispanic voters (80 percent) and public union households (87 percent).

The governor’s performance on education is another area of strength; 54 percent of New Jerseyans are positive, 39 percent are negative. Voters also are positive about Christie on crime: 51 percent approve and 30 percent disapprove of his performance on this issue.

Finally, the governor gets more positive than negative marks on the state budget, with 49 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving his performance. But in the end, voters see these issues as less critical than high taxes, a perpetual complaint of New Jerseyans, and the economy, which seems to be only slowly picking up steam.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters, Superstorm Sandy, Taxes

Quick thoughts on the election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back on Taxes in NJ: 40 years of polling by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll

Today we dig deep into our archives as we have at other times this year in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. One of the great things about this place is the treasure-trove of data from the past. The archives, which are publicly accessible, contain results from all of our public polls back to 1972, and up until late 2010. We are in the process of adding more recent polls, though we have a one-year wall. That is, we add polls to the public archive approximately one year after we do them. This gives us a little time to use the data for our academic work before throwing it out to the world.

In any case, we’re looking at taxes today through two questions we have asked off and on since that very first year. One is whether New Jerseyans feel they get what they pay for in their state and local taxes. The answer is no, and has been every time we have polled it. The second is whether people recognize NJ as one of the most taxing states. Turns out back in 1972 – when we were in the top 5, according to the Tax Foundation, no one knew this. Now everyone does.

So strap yourself into our Wayback Machine and read the full text of today’s release below. For a PDF of the text as well as the questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Much has changed in New Jersey since 1972. Gambling came to Atlantic City. The Giants and the Jets moved to the Meadowlands. And 1.7 million more people call New Jersey home.

At least one thing endures, however. For four decades, Garden State voters have said they pay too much in state and local taxes for what they get in return. Even as Gov. Chris Christie touts his proposed income tax cut, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds that only 18 percent of registered voters say they get their money’s worth from the taxes they pay. The vast majority, 76 percent, disagree.

A review of 40 years of Rutgers-Eagleton polls reveals that this belief is nothing new. In 1972, before the passage of the state income tax, 73 percent of respondents said they paid too much for services. Only in 1984 did fewer than 70 percent say they did not get their money’s worth; 64 percent were disgruntled while 29 percent thought they paid the right amount for services.

Voters also recognize New Jersey is a high tax state: 85 percent say they pay more than other states. But that recognition was slow in coming. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent thought they paid more. By 1984 this had climbed above 50 percent, and it has continued a steady rise since.

“Historical data show that state and local taxes in New Jersey have been among the highest in the nation for at least the past 40 years.” said David Redlawsk, poll director and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But it took a while for people to fully recognize that fact, even though complaints about taxes have been around as long as taxes themselves.”

New results are from a poll of 914 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. Data from older surveys comes from the publicly available Rutgers-Eagleton Poll archives at with margins of error from +/- 2.8 to +/-4.4 percentage points.

 New Jersey and Taxes

As previously reported, more than half of voters (52 percent) support Christie’s proposed 10 percent cut in the state income tax while 36 percent are opposed. Even so, 76 percent would rather see property taxes cut first, though most wouldn’t balk at saving tax money from either source. However, most overestimate what a 10 percent state income tax cut would mean, with a median expected savings of nearly $750, compared to a typical cut of about $100 for median income earners.

Driving both findings may be the widespread belief that more is paid than is gotten in return. Moreover, awareness that New Jersey sits at the top of the list of high-tax states is now pervasive.

“While voters may not really know what an income tax cut means to them, they are painfully aware of the state’s reputation as one of the most highly taxed in the nation,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the amount they’ll get from a tax cut, they no doubt hope it will ease some of the pain.”

Since the first Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in 1972, data shows that New Jerseyans do not feel they get a good return on their tax dollars – 21 percent thought they “got their money’s worth” from state and local tax payments, and 73 percent felt otherwise. Twelve years later, attitudes improved a bit, with 29 percent saying they got their money’s worth and 64 percent believing they paid too much for what they got. But negatives hit 70 percent by 1990 and currently stand at 76 percent.

While New Jersey’s tax rates have been among the top five nationally since the 1970s, voters did not realize this in 1972,  when only 9 percent said they paid more than other states, while 44 percent thought they paid the same and a third actually believed they paid less.

“The view that we pay less than other states is now as rare as declining property taxes,” said Redlawsk, noting that only 1 percent of New Jerseyans now think they pay less, while 85 percent say they pay more than in other states.

Republicans express the most negativity, but this wasn’t always been the case

In 1972, more Republicans (27 percent) than Democrats (20 percent) thought they got what they paid for with their taxes, but in both 1984 and 1990 there was virtually no difference between the parties. Today, state and local taxes are a major issue for Republicans; 80 percent say they pay too much in state and local tax and only 13 percent feel they are getting their money’s worth.

Democrats are slightly more positive, with 22 percent saying they get their money’s worth. Nevertheless, most Democrats (71 percent) and independents (78 percent) feel they pay too much.

In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of all voters thought New Jersey’s taxes were higher than those in states. By 1984, that number increased to about 50 percent of Democrats and Republicans, and nearly 67 percent of independents. Since 2000, Republicans’ perception of New Jersey as highly taxed grew 16 percentage points to 91 percent. Democrats’ perception has remained relatively steady and stands at 79 percent.

Higher earning residents generally have been more likely to say they get their money’s worth from their state and local taxes than those making less. This group also has been more likely to recognize New Jersey’s high tax status. Today, 23 percent of those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 annually say they get their money’s worth. The very highest earners are somewhat less likely to agree (19 percent), and those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 are least positive at only 14 percent. High-income voters are also much more likely to recognize New Jersey’s position among states: 93 percent of the wealthiest say New Jersey pays more, compared to only 76 percent of those making less than $50,000.

The best educated voters are more likely to think they get their money’s worth from their taxes, though fewer than 25 percent feel this way. Liberals are among the most positive at 27 percent, while only 13 percent of conservative agree. And 23 percent of retired voters say they get value for money, but this drops to 16 percent of full-time workers and 13 percent of those not employed.

“Even with these differences among groups, the clear story is that New Jerseyans have never really felt they got their money’s worth out of their taxes, at least since we’ve been asking,” said Redlawsk. “And while it took a while, the perception of where New Jersey stands relative to the rest of the states has now caught up with reality.”

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Gov. Christie income tax cut supported, but little awareness of how much it will save

We continue today with our series of releases on our current poll. Last week was about same-sex marriage (here, and here) , the merger of Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, and how Gov. Christie and Pres. Obama are doing in NJ. Today we take on attitudes toward Gov. Christie’s proposed 10% income tax cut. The governor is giving his budget address today, so it seems to make sense to see how NJ voters feel about his proposal. In a nutshell, a majority supports a 10% income tax cut, but most seem to have no real idea how much such a cut would save them, and the vast majority wants to see property taxes cut first if they had a choice.

We should point out that these releases all come from the same poll – that is, we were in the field calling people from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11. We asked a series of questions on many different topics, as we usually do. The result is that we release the different parts of the poll over time – usually no more than three weeks – in order to give time to digest it all, and to give us time to do the analysis and writing! So there is still more to come this week and next, including a look back at 40 years of taxes, how things are looking for the 2012 election in this state, and a fun release about New Year’s resolutions. So stay tuned!

Full text of the release follows. For a PDF of questions and tables, click here.


But most would prefer property tax cut first

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give his annual budget address, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows a majority of registered voters support his proposed 10 percent income tax cut. But even though 52 percent say they support the governor’s signature budget proposal, fully three-quarters would prefer to see a property tax cut come first.

Moreover, voters significantly overestimate how much money they would actually receive from an income tax cut. A New Jersey taxpayer making $50,000 would save a little less than $100 per year from a 10 percent income tax cut, and those making $100,000 would save about $275. Voters anticipate a median savings of nearly $750.

“People are eager for tax relief,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Yet for most New Jerseyans the burden they feel comes from property taxes, more than from income taxes. A majority would certainly take an income tax cut over nothing, but large numbers have no idea how much they would save from Christie’s proposal.”

While there are strong partisan differences in support for an income tax cut – 72 percent of Republicans want it, while only 38 percent of Democrats offer support – everyone agrees that a property tax cut is preferred. Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans and Democrats say cut property taxes first, and 73 percent of independents agree.

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

Income tax cut popular among Republicans, voters with higher incomes

Predictably, nearly three-quarters of Republicans favor the proposed income tax cut, with only 21 percent opposed. Independents support the proposal, 54 percent to 32 percent. Democrats statewide are dubious about this plan, with half opposed and only 38 percent in favor. These figures lead to an expected outcome: 71 percent of voters with positive feelings about Christie support an income tax cut. A majority (55 percent) who feel unfavorable toward Christie oppose his plan.

Household income makes little difference in support for the proposed tax cut: 58 percent who earn more than $150,000 annually and 53 percent who earn less favor the proposal. Gender also makes little difference: 54 percent of men and 50 percent of women say they favor the tax cut.

“While those at higher income benefit more in terms of dollars, that doesn’t seem to make much difference,” said Redlawsk. “Support for the proposed income tax cut remains consistent across all income levels.”

Christie’s income tax relief is less popular among the more educated; only 43 percent of voters with post-graduate education favor the proposal, while more than half of those with less education say they like the idea. Support for the income tax cut is slightly higher among whites (54 percent) than among blacks (49 percent). More retired voters (55 percent) favor the savings than full-time workers (52 percent) or part-timers (50 percent).  Fewer than half of the unemployed support the proposed tax cut.

Voters overestimate value of income tax cut

Thirty-five percent of registered voters think a 10 percent tax cut would save them more than $500 per year, but reports suggest that a household would have to earn more than $150,000 in taxable income to save just over $500 in state taxes. Another 32 percent say they are unsure about their savings. Only 22 percent estimated their savings at $200 or less.

Support for the tax cut is greatly influenced by inaccurate perceptions of how much will be saved. Among the 31 percent who think they will save $750 per year or more, nearly two-thirds support the tax cut. Among those who expect to save less, support runs from 44 to 48 percent.

“Only 14 percent of voters report household incomes over $150,000,” noted Redlawsk. “These respondents can expect savings above $500 from the proposed cut. But more than twice as many say they expect to save that much. People really do not have a good sense of how much they pay in state income tax and what a 10 percent savings means. This leads them to overestimate their own gain, which may affect their support for the proposal.” –

Voters in households with lower incomes give the lowest estimate of their savings, though they still over estimate badly. About a quarter of those earning under $50,000 believe their tax savings would be more than  $200, far higher than the $80 savings likely at $50,000 income. Moreover, 10 percent of those earning less than $50,000 and 15 percent of earners between $50,000 and $100,000 anticipate tax savings of more than $2,000.

“There is a great deal of misinformation about how much can be saved in state income taxes,” said Redlawsk. “Most voters appear to be guessing at best, and are guessing very high. One-third won’t even make a guess.”

Strong preference for property tax reduction

Although the governor’s proposed income tax cut is popular across the state, an overwhelming majority of voters (76 percent) would prefer a property tax reduction. Given a choice between the two taxes, Republicans, Democrats and independents all agree that property taxes should be reduced first. Voters’ opinions of the governor do not seem to affect preference for property tax reduction. Those with a favorable opinion (80 percent) and an unfavorable opinion (74 percent) strongly prefer a property tax cut come first. Even eight-in-10 of the highest earning Garden Staters – who would benefit most from an income tax cut – prefer to see their property taxes cut before income taxes.

“Everyone likes lower taxes” said Redlawsk. “But property tax cuts are what New Jerseyans seem to want. While recent changes pushed by Gov. Christie have placed stronger caps on property tax increases, voters still want to see those taxes actually reduced. It’s one thing nearly everyone agrees on.”



Filed under Chris Christie, Taxes