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TRUMP TRUMPS THE REST OF GOP IN NJ; CLINTON HAS DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD OVER SANDERS

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

TRUMP, CLINTON CONTINUE TO HOLD COMMANDING LEADS IN NEW JERSEY; RUBIO A DISTANT SECOND IN GOP RACE 

Over half of voters dissatisfied with 2016 field of candidates

 Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll overlapped the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, February 9, and Gov. Christie’s official end to his presidential bid on Wednesday, February 10, but was conducted prior to the South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucus.

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – “Trump-mentum” is at an all-time high with Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters in New Jersey, who are now more likely than ever to choose businessman Donald Trump as their presidential nominee, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Thirty-eight percent would choose Trump if they had to cast their primary vote today. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who would receive only 11 percent of the vote, is a distant second. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is neck and neck with Rubio, coming in third at 10 percent.

Voters interviewed for this poll leading up to the New Hampshire primary were just as likely to choose Trump as those interviewed afterward, unlike the post-primary fluctuations in support seen for other GOP candidates based on their performance in the Granite State.

Among all New Jersey voters, Trump is not overwhelmingly popular, however: 31 percent have a favorable impression of the entrepreneur, while 57 percent have an unfavorable one – almost the same as Gov. Chris Christie’s numbers in the Garden State. Voters are slightly less favorable toward Rubio and Cruz, at 27 percent and 20 percent, respectively, though negativity toward these candidates is not as strong as it is toward Trump. Thirty-seven percent are unfavorable toward Rubio (another 37 percent have no opinion or do not know him), and 48 percent are unfavorable toward Cruz (another 32 percent have no opinion or do not know him).

But Trump’s ratings specifically among Republican voters are solid, far surpassing his competition’s. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are favorable toward Trump (30 percent are unfavorable), compared to 40 percent who say the same about Rubio (27 percent unfavorable), and 31 percent who say the same about Cruz (38 percent unfavorable).

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton easily beats Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination, 55 percent to 32 percent. Yet Sanders has an edge in favorability. Forty-six percent of voters have a favorable impression of the senator, while 29 percent have an unfavorable one and another 25 percent have no opinion or are not familiar with him. Clinton, on the other hand, receives higher negative than positive ratings – 42 percent favorable versus 47 percent unfavorable, with 11 percent uncertain. This is a marked difference from Clinton’s ratings a year ago, which were 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable.

Clinton, however, excels with her own party base. Over three-quarters of Democrats are favorable toward her, versus two-thirds who feel the same about Sanders.

Although each party has a clear frontrunner, more than half of voters are dissatisfied with the current field of candidates: 30 percent are somewhat dissatisfied, and 25 percent are very dissatisfied. Just 9 percent say they are very satisfied, and another 36 percent are somewhat satisfied. Republicans are most likely to express satisfaction with the choices available, followed by Democrats, with independents least satisfied.

“New Jersey voters look like the rest of the country when it comes to the 2016 race,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Trump and Clinton hold strong leads and garner solid majorities among their respective party bases, despite their higher negative than positive ratings statewide. Yet neither candidate does well with independents, the driving force behind dissatisfaction with the current field – a strong indication of how polarizing the 2016 race already has become.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 889 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 to 15, 2016, including 758 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

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Back in NJ, Christie Not Seen as Strong Leader, Effective, Trustworthy

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

NEW JERSEYANS HAVE CHRISTIE BACK, BUT DON’T SEE HIM AS STRONG LEADER, EFFECTIVE, OR TRUSTWORTHY

 Majorities continue to view him as arrogant, self-centered, stubborn

 Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie’s February 16th budget address.

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie may be back for good in the Garden State, but New Jersey voters have few nice things to say upon his return, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Asked how well a series of personality and leadership traits describe the governor, registered voters are less likely than ever to apply positive descriptors.

Thirty percent now say “strong leader” describes Christie “very well” – an all-time low, down 36 points since his reelection in 2013, 26 points since Bridgegate erupted in January 2014, and 10 points since August 2015. This is the single largest decline over time of any of the traits. Another 31 percent now think the trait applies only “somewhat well,” and 37 percent say it does not apply at all.

Even fewer say “effective” describes the governor very well: only 22 percent, a new low. Thirty-nine percent say this describes him somewhat well, and 36 percent say not at all.

Christie continues to suffer most when it comes to issues of honesty and authenticity. Just 15 percent say “trustworthy” describes him very well (33 percent somewhat well, 49 percent not at all), another new low, surpassing previous lows following the George Washington Bridge scandal. When it comes to sincerity, the pattern holds: 22 percent say “sincere” fits him very well, 29 percent somewhat well, and 44 percent not at all.

Fewer voters now ascribe “smart” to Christie – 44 percent, seven points lower than last August. Only 10 percent say “presidential” fits Christie very well, a number that remained virtually steady throughout his campaign.

“It is no coincidence that New Jersey voters give Governor Christie some of his lowest character ratings to date upon his return home,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “With the governor spending the last several months on the campaign trail, positive perceptions of him have taken a hit across the board in his absence – especially leadership, a trait that has usually been his strong suit since taking office.”

Perceptions of Christie’s negative traits have not changed quite as dramatically as his positives. Voters are slightly more likely to say “arrogant” describes the governor very well, now at 62 percent (up four points). Sixty-five percent still call him “stubborn,” and 53 percent say “self-centered” is an apt descriptor. Half say “bully” suits the governor very well, and 41 percent say the same about “impulsive.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 889 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 to 15, 2016, including 758 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans, independents spur new lows on positive traits

Belief that Christie is a strong leader has suffered most during Christie’s presidential run – especially with independents and Republicans. While Democrats remain stable in their views on the trait since August (17 percent say it fits Christie very well), Republicans and independents drive the overall double-digit decline. A bare majority of GOP voters – 52 percent – now say “strong leader” fits Christie very well, down 12 points since August. Among independents, 29 percent now say the same – a 14-point drop.

Republicans and independents are both less likely to ascribe “smart” to the governor in the past six months: 65 percent of Republicans (down six points) and 43 percent of independents (down 11 points) now say “smart” describes Christie very well. Democrats again hold steady in their views here, at 33 percent.

Republicans are also markedly more negative on whether “effective” describes Christie very well – now at 41 percent, a 13-point drop since August. Ten percent of Democrats say the same (down five points), as do 22 percent of independents (down two points).

Increased negativity on “trustworthy” – one of the traits consistently ascribed least to Christie since Bridgegate – is driven by independents this time: 12 percent now say this suits him very well (down 11 points), while Democrats and Republicans remain virtually steady in their views at 7 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

“Independents and Republicans had a more positive outlook on Governor Christie’s character back in August, but now, they are the ones driving the decline,” said Koning. “As the governor gets back to business in the Garden State, increasing favorable perceptions of himself among these two groups is crucial to what he can accomplish in his remaining two years, his legacy as governor, and any ability to tout his bipartisan appeal should he run for national office again.”

Negative perceptions hold steady

Unlike their positive counterparts, negative perceptions of Christie have changed little in the past six months. “Arrogant” achieves a new overall high due to a modest increase among independents (now at 65 percent, up five points) and Republicans (now at 37 percent, up four points); Democrats hold steady, with 73 percent saying this describes Christie very well.

On most other negative traits, voters are about as likely to ascribe them to the governor as they were in August. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats (down six points), 68 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Republicans say that “stubborn” suits Christie very well. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents, and 26 percent of Republicans say the same about “bully.” Sixty-six percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Republicans believe “self-centered” is a very fitting description.

While Democrats are nearly as likely as they were in August to say Christie is impulsive (now at 51 percent), independents and Republicans are slightly less likely to do so – now at 40 percent (down six points) and 27 percent (down seven points), respectively.

Voters lack pride, enthusiasm more than ever

Voters continue to feel “angry” about Christie (now at 41 percent), while 45 percent are “worried,” and 37 percent feel “contempt.” Just a quarter say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic”; both emotions are down about 20 points since Christie’s re-election in 2013 and another 10 points since news of Bridgegate first broke in January 2014.

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Welcome Home? Gov. Christie Gets Chilly Reception From NJ Voters Pre-Budget Address

It’s a brand new year, and we are back with some brand new results!  First up, just in time for Gov. Christie’s budget address today, the latest numbers on our governor.  Things do not look good for him … certainly not a warm welcome for him back here in the Garden State after ending his presidential campaign last week.

Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

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

WELCOME HOME, GOVERNOR? CHRISTIE’S FAVORABILITY HITS LOWEST YET

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – There is no warm welcome waiting for N.J. Gov. Chris Christie as he prepares to give his budget speech today, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following his failed presidential campaign bid that had him spending more time out-of-state than in-state, just 29 percent of New Jersey registered voters have a favorable opinion of Christie – his low point to date, down four points since December.

While favorable ratings have declined over the past two months, Christie’s unfavorable rating holds steady at its all-time high of 59 percent. A solid majority of New Jersey voters have consistently had an unfavorable impression of the governor in every poll since August 2015.

Christie’s overall job approval likewise remains at its all-time low of 33 percent; 61 percent disapprove, also virtually unchanged since December.

“After six months on the campaign trail and a year of being mostly out of state, Governor Christie is not being welcomed by New Jerseyans with open arms – in fact, quite the opposite,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University. “Even during the most contentious moments of his governorship – his polarizing first years in office or in Bridegate’s immediate aftermath – the governor’s numbers never reached the consistent lows we saw throughout his run for president and see now upon his return.”

Christie’s favorability is down among partisans of all stripes. Just 12 percent of Democrats (down three points) and 25 percent of independents (down five points) have a favorable opinion of him. While a majority of Republicans are still in his corner, even they have grown more negative – now at 63 percent favorable (down seven points) to 25 percent unfavorable (up five points).

Christie’s overall job approval shows similar patterns. While Democrats (19 percent approve to 79 percent disapprove) and independents (29 percent approve to 62 percent disapprove) show little movement, Republicans once again show notable slippage, although a majority still back the governor – now at 62 percent approve (down seven points) to 30 percent disapprove (up six points).

Ratings do not differ significantly based on whether respondents were interviewed before or after either the New Hampshire Primary last Tuesday or Christie’s official announcement that he would end his campaign last Wednesday.

Christie garners slightly better ratings among voters who are male, white, not living in a public union household, and those living in exurban and shore counties. Nonetheless, even among these groups, he does not receive a favorable or approving majority.

“Going into a budget address with such low ratings does not bode well for Christie’s agenda,” noted David Redlawsk, ECPIP director and professor of political science at Rutgers. “There seems little reason for the Democrats who control the legislature to warmly embrace a governor voters feel so cool about.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 889 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 to 15, 2016, including 758 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

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Eagleton in Iowa: The Countdown to the Caucus is On!!

Since last August, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?. The Iowa Caucuses, which will kick off the actual voting in the presidential nominating campaign will be held February 1, at 7pm CST. The New Hampshire primary follows 8 days later. Historically these two events have been played an outsized role in the success and failure of candidates seeking the nomination

What follows is another in our occasional series of posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. Some of these posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold. Dave’s time in Iowa is coming to a close; he’ll return to Rutgers after February 2.

Trump, Sanders could be changing Iowa

This post was first published January 27, 2016 in USA Today. In it, Dave ponders how the Iowa caucus may have evolved from the “quaint” process of election cycles past to something more mainstream as Iowans focus on national issues and candidates like Trump and Sanders.

***

Political junkies from Beijing to Buenos Aires will be turning their attention Monday night to places like Keokuk and Maquoketa. That’s when the lightly populated Midwestern state of Iowa will kick off the 2016 presidential election campaign at neighborhood caucuses.

As in 2008, both parties have wide open contests and intensely competitive campaigns. Iowa voters — who despite their political image are highly unlikely to be farmers — will be the first to start sorting the candidates …

Read the rest of the column here.

 

 

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Happy New Year from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll!

It’s been another whirlwind year here at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, which culminated in our 200th Rutgers-Eagleton Poll this past month. In the spirit of tradition as we near the end of this holiday season, we are continuing our own tradition of reflecting on our top results of the past twelve months.

2015 proved to be an unprecedented year for politics in New Jersey and nationwide, but conversation was not necessarily focused on politics in the present; instead, the 2016 presidential election took center stage, as Donald Trump soared to the top as the GOP frontrunner. The 2016 election has hit especially close to home for Garden Staters as our own Gov. Chris Christie officially took to the campaign trail this past summer and has battled his way to become a top tier contender in New Hampshire.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll explored several topics about 2016, Gov. Christie, and more this past year, so with another year coming to a close, and as we raise a toast to 2016, here is a look back at five of what we consider to be our top New Jersey polling stories of 2015 …

 

5.) Life in the great Garden State: a lot of pride, but a lot of room for improvement

New Jerseyans had mixed feelings about their home state in 2015: when bullied, residents stood up for New Jersey and took a lot of pride in living here (56 percent said “a lot” of pride back in August), citing the state’s location, proximity, and convenience to major cities, and of course the famous Jersey shore, as the features they love most. About six in ten New Jerseyans called the state a good or excellent place to live, in general. But residents were far more negative about other aspects of the state than they had been in a long time. Assessments of the state’s direction have been more negative than positive since March 2014: about six in 10 have consistently said the Garden State has been off on the wrong track this past year, with the gap between right direction and wrong track widening within the last months of 2015. This is a complete reversal from two years ago, with this kind of negativity on state direction not felt since October 2009. And while majorities believed New Jersey was a good or excellent place to raise a family, get an education, or enjoy entertainment and recreation, 63 percent said job prospects were fair or poor, 55 percent said the same about running a business, and 79 percent rated the state fair or poor when it came to retirement. Overall, New Jerseyans believed that the state had either become a worse place to live (41 percent) or had not changed at all (37 percent) in the last five or ten years; only 17 percent said it had gotten better. Nevertheless, residents were somewhat optimistic when asked about New Jersey’s future: 32 percent thought the state would become a better place to live in the next five or 10 years, while another 38 percent said it would stay the same, and 20 percent said life here would become worse.

NEW JERSEY TO REST OF US: WE’RE PROUD OF OUR STATE; LOCATION, BEACHES, QUALITY OF LIFE MAKE JERSEY GREAT

NEW JERSEYANS REMAIN MIXED ABOUT GARDEN STATE’S QUALITY OF LIFE; IT’S A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE, BUT NOT TO LOOK FOR WORK OR RETIRE

 

4.) At a crossroads with transportation: the gas tax, a depleted Transportation Trust Fund, and crumbling bridges and tunnels

The Transportation Trust Fund in New Jersey is about to go broke, and a gas tax increase seems all but inevitable as the primary funding solution. But a gas tax hike continued to be a “non-starter” with New Jerseyans throughout 2015, despite being aware of how badly road repairs and maintenance are needed. As of October 2015, 37 percent of New Jerseyans supported a gas tax increase, compared with 57 percent who did not, a slightly more negative turn since the issue was previously polled in February. There was virtually no change when residents were told the revenue would be dedicated entirely to paying for road maintenance and improvement and other transportation costs: 36 percent supported an increase, while 58 percent did not. When respondents were told a gas tax hike would cost the average driver about 50 cents more per day – or $180 annually – their opposition grew even stronger. Not even a proposed corresponding cut in estate and inheritance taxes made the gas tax hike any more appealing. Yet 54 percent believed not enough money has been spent on road, highway, and bridge maintenance. Similar feelings existed regarding spending on mass transit and the existing (poor) state of the Hudson River rail tunnels, though New Jerseyans did not want to immediately act on these repairs due to cost concerns.

GAS TAX HIKE STILL OPPOSED BY NEW JERSEYANS

GAS TAX HIKE A NONSTARTER FOR NEW JERSEYANS; PROPOSED ESTATE TAX TRADE-OFF FAILS TO BOOST SUPPORT

ARC PROJECT CANCELLATION BY CHRISTIE RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT FUTURE OF TRANS-HUDSON RAIL TUNNELS FOR NEW JERSEYANS

 

3.) What 2015 election? New Jerseyans unaware of 2015 state legislative elections and legislators

With our 200th ever poll approaching this past semester, we decided to do a throwback in October by re-asking some of the very first poll questions the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll (then known as the New Jersey Poll) ever asked back in 1971. Forty-four years after the first press release from the Eagleton Institute of Politics’ inaugural poll reported little awareness of the then upcoming 1971 state legislative elections, New Jerseyans remained just as uninformed about the state Legislature in our October 2015 pre-election poll. Three-quarters of Garden State residents were completely unaware that any elections would be held this past November, just slightly better than the 85 percent who were ignorant in 1971. Residents actually did worse than four decades ago when taking into account whether those who named a specific office(s) on the ballot were correct: just 6 percent rightly said that the state Assembly was on the ballot, and 3 percent mentioned the Legislature in general. Even fewer residents correctly named their own state senators. Among all Garden Staters, 8 percent gave some name, but only 5 percent actually got it right. Forty-four years and many state legislative elections later, it appears the more things change, sometimes the more they stay the same.

WHAT ELECTION? JUST AS IN 1971, NEARLY ALL NEW JERSEYANS UNAWARE OF STATE ASSEMBLY RACES THIS NOVEMBER; FEW CAN NAME THEIR OWN STATE SENATOR

 

2.) New Jerseyans say “no” to President Christie

A presidential bid for Gov. Christie went from a probability to a reality this past summer, but the governor has had little support for his run back home in the Garden State. A month after Christie’s official 2016 announcement, seven in 10 New Jersey registered voters said he would not make a good president, and 55 percent thought Christie’s best chances for getting the GOP nomination had already come and gone. Only about one-third of New Jersey voters said he still had a shot at that point, while 6 percent said he never had one in the first place. Fifty-four percent said “presidential” did not describe Christie at all, versus 29 percent who thought it described the governor somewhat well and just 14 percent who said “very well.” In October, 67 percent wanted him to end his campaign. This post-announcement sentiment was nothing new: New Jerseyans never thought Christie was a good fit for president, even before he officially threw his hat into the ring. Even support for a Christie presidency from his own party base has waned in recent months, as Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the Garden State have consistently picked businessman Donald Trump as their top choice ever since he officially entered the race.

A ‘BULLY’ FOR PRESIDENT? NEW JERSEY VOTERS QUESTION IF CHRISTIE HAS WHAT IT TAKES FOR 2016

OVAL OFFICE, CHRISTIE PERFECT TOGETHER? NEW JERSEY VOTERS DON’T SEE GOVERNOR AS GOOD FIT FOR PRESIDENT

‘PRESIDENT’ CHRISTIE? 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT FOLLOWS YEAR OF INCREASINGLY NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS AND FALLING RATINGS FOR GOVERNOR

NJ VOTERS EXPECT CHRISTIE TO MAKE DEBATE, BUT SAY HIS BEST CHANCE FOR GOP NOMINATION IS BEHIND HIM

CHRISTIE NOT PRESIDENTIAL, ACCORDING TO HALF OF NJ VOTERS; GOV INCREASINGLY SEEN AS SELF-CENTERED, ARROGANT, A BULLY

TRUMP STILL LEADS GOP FIELD IN NEW JERSEY, CHRISTIE FALLS WELL BEHIND; VOTERS TO CHRISTIE: END CAMPAIGN

CHRISTIE’S JOB APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW, RATINGS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUE TO SLIP; TRUMP STILL LEADS 2016 GOP FIELD IN NEW JERSEY, CHRISTIE RECLAIMS SECOND

 

1.) Gov. Christie hits rock bottom in the Garden State

After riding a post-Sandy high throughout the entirety of 2013, Gov. Christie’s numbers in the Garden State began to drop precipitously in January 2014 in the wake of Bridgegate and other scandal-related allegations. But it was not until one year later, in 2015, when Christie’s ratings completely turned upside down. In our February poll, a clear majority of New Jersey voters (53 percent) felt unfavorable toward the governor for the first time ever. A majority also disapproved of his job as governor overall for the first time – 52 percent disapprove to 42 percent approve. His numbers continued to spiral throughout the year, as New Jerseyans cited his character, attitude, and untrustworthiness, as well as his 2016 aspirations and lingering Bridgegate accusations, as top reasons for their dislike and his declining ratings. By December, just 33 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Christie, the second lowest rating he has ever received. Christie’s unfavorable rating jumped back to its all-time high of 59 percent after a small improvement in October. Christie’s overall job approval likewise slipped to its lowest point yet in December: 33 percent of New Jersey voters approved of his performance, and 62 percent disapproved, representing voters’ strongest disapproval of Christie’s job performance to date. Christie has fared no better regarding his job approval on individual issues. His rating on the perennial top issue in the state – taxes – hit an all-time low in December, 23 percent approve to 71 percent disapprove. He also reached new lows on the economy and jobs (30 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (25 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state pension fund situation (21 percent approve, 66 percent disapprove) and education (33 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove) to close out 2015. As Gov. Christie continues his campaign for president, and as the primary season officially gets underway, there is no telling what kind of ratings 2016 may bring for the governor back home.

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

CHRISTIE’S NEGATIVE RATINGS CONTINUE; NEW LOWS FOR OVERALL JOB APPROVAL, SANDY, AND TAXES

CHRISTIE CHARACTER TRAITS LEAVE NEW JERSEY VOTERS DUBIOUS; GOVERNOR SEEN AS LESS TRUSTWORTHY, MORE ARROGANT

CHRISTIE’S NJ RATINGS DROP TO NEW ALL-TIME LOWS; VOTERS CITE GOV’S ATTITUDE, BULLYING, AND UNTRUSTWORTHINESS

NEW JERSEY VOTERS SAY GOV. CHRISTIE SHOULD RESIGN, BUT NOT IF LEGISLATURE FORCES THE ISSUE: RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL

CHRISTIE’S LOW RATINGS IN NEW JERSEY CONTINUE; APPROVAL ON TAXES HITS LOWEST POINT EVER

CHRISTIE’S JOB APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW, RATINGS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUE TO SLIP; TRUMP STILL LEADS 2016 GOP FIELD IN NEW JERSEY, CHRISTIE RECLAIMS SECOND

 

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Some Holiday Fun and Looking Ahead to 2016 on the 200th Rutgers-Eagleton Poll!!

With Christmas right around the corner, we wanted to wrap up our 200th poll press releases with a little bit of holiday fun!  We polled New Jerseyans on the “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” question asked a few times over the years by Pew Research Center, as well as about New Year’s resolutions for 2016 (a topic we ourselves asked back in 2012). Turns out, NJers mostly do not care which seasonal greeting is used, and resolutions center around health, wealth, and success.

So enjoy some holiday statistics, and Happy Holidays (or Merry Christmas or Season’s Greetings – take your pick!) from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll!

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

‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ OR ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS?’ NEW JERSEYANS DON’T CARE

 Health tops residents’ New Year’s resolutions for 2016 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – ‘Tis the season in the Garden State, and as New Jerseyans fit in last-minute holiday shopping, 49 percent do not care how they are greeted by merchants, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

But about one-third still prefer hearing “Merry Christmas,” while 19 percent want something less religious, like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

“Almost nine in 10 New Jerseyans celebrate Christmas, but residents without a preference or who want a more generic greeting outnumber those who want ‘Merry Christmas’ by more than 2 to 1,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “And though Garden Staters mostly resemble the rest of the country on holiday greeting preferences as we see in national polling, they are slightly less likely than other Americans to choose ‘Merry Christmas’ and are more likely to opt for something less religious.”

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, one third of New Jerseyans are procrastinators and have not made a resolution yet. Among those who have, health- and fitness-related promises top the list. Eleven percent mention staying or getting healthy, another 8 percent specify something about losing weight, and 3 percent want to strive for good health, in general. Three percent also hope to quit smoking.

Five percent have made a resolution about money – spending less, as well as saving or making more – while another 5 percent say something about becoming more successful. Other resolutions include becoming a better person (7 percent) and achieving peace and happiness (3 percent).

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Politicizing Christmas

Much like the larger debate about a “war on Christmas,” preferences on seasonal greetings become entangled in politics during the holidays each year. Unlike New Jerseyans as a whole, most Republicans prefer the more religious greeting of “Merry Christmas,” at 49 percent. Just 10 percent of this group chooses “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Democrats and independents feel just the opposite. Among Democrats, 22 percent prefer “Merry Christmas” and 29 percent want something less religious. Independents feel similarly, though a bit more likely than Democrats to choose “Merry Christmas” (at 32 percent) and less likely to choose “Happy Holidays” (at 15 percent).

Above all, Democrats and independents say it does not matter (49 percent and 52 percent, respectively); even 41 percent of Republicans say this.

Ideological conservatives are the most likely of all demographics to prefer “Merry Christmas” and the only group that reaches a majority: 55 percent side with this greeting, while only 9 percent choose “Happy Holidays” and 36 percent have no strong feeling either way. They are more than three times as likely as liberals and almost twice as likely as moderates to prefer the more religious phrase. Liberals and moderates, on the other hand, look much like Democrats and independents.

Religion has only a slight impact on preferences. Catholics and Protestants in the state are a bit more likely than New Jerseyans as a whole, and much more likely than residents of other religious affiliations, to want stores to use “Merry Christmas” – 40 percent of Catholics and 42 percent of Protestants do, compared to just 19 percent of those from other religions. Similarly, 42 percent of born-again Christians feel the same. Nevertheless, more than four in 10 of each are indifferent.

Even half of those who celebrate Christmas have no preference; another 35 percent would prefer the more religious greeting, while 17 percent say they would actually prefer something less religious.

White residents are 12 points more likely to prefer “Merry Christmas” than non-white residents, though half of both groups are indifferent. Residents 50 years and older are almost four times as likely (at about 40 percent) to prefer the more religious greeting than millennials (at just 11 percent). Millennials are the most indifferent, with 60 percent saying it does not matter to them which greeting is used.

Eighty-eight percent of New Jerseyans say they celebrate Christmas, 9 percent celebrate Hanukah, 2 percent Kwanza, 1 percent each celebrate Ramadan and Diwali, and 8 percent celebrate something else. Four percent of residents do not celebrate anything.

Wishes for health, wealth, and success in the New Year

New Jerseyans continue to make health, fitness, and finances top priorities, similar to when the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last asked about resolutions in 2012. While these topics remain most prevalent among New Jerseyans overall, some disparities between groups do emerge.

While gender differences are not significant when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, men are a bit more likely than women to mention something about money and staying or getting healthy, while women are slightly more likely to specify losing weight.

Non-white residents’ resolutions are focused more on money issues and achieving success in the new year compared to white residents.

Age has a definite impact on resolutions. Millennials are most concerned with being successful in 2016 (at 16 percent) – a vast difference from older residents, for which this type of resolution barely registers. New Jerseyans under 50 years old are also much more likely than those over 50 to mention something about money.

Residents of all ages are concerned about getting and staying healthy, though 50-64 year olds are slightly more likely to say this as their resolution and also most likely to specifically have a resolution about losing weight.

New Jerseyans in more affluent households are more likely to mention health and fitness than those in households making less than $50,000 annually. Those in households making $150,000 or more are less likely than others to mention a resolution that involves money.

“Garden Staters mention a wide range of New Year’s resolutions, including uplifting things like ‘creating joy’ and ‘peace on earth,” said Koning. “But not all resolutions are rosy. Others imply a dissatisfaction with life in New Jersey and state politics: a handful of residents mention a desire to move out of the state, and one individual even wished for Gov. Chris Christie to end his presidential campaign and come back home to govern.”

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Some polling about … polling!! NJers think polls matter to democracy and are somewhat trusting of them, but question their accuracy

Our 200th poll has been a whirlwind so far with releases on terrorism, Gov. Christie, and life here in New Jersey.  For this special occasion, we wanted to go a bit “meta” and poll New Jerseyans on what they think about … well, polling itself!

Polls have been in the news a lot lately.  Everyone is doing a poll; every day there is a new one. So it’s easy to get poll fatigue.  Luckily, New Jerseyans still seem to have some faith in the process – even though they do not necessarily think polls are always accurate.  But even with all this polling going on, New Jerseyans recognize that polls are an important part of our democracy and help to get the voice of the people heard by their leaders.

To learn more about polling and how to be a good poll consumer, visit the American Association for Public Opinion Research or the National Council on Public Polls.

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

MORE THAN HALF OF NEW JERSEYANS TRUST POLLS, BUT MOST QUESTION THEIR ACCURACY 

New Jerseyans think polls matter, are important in influencing policymaking

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While discussion and controversy surround polling’s role in the race to the White House in 2016, New Jerseyans still have some faith in the public opinion polling process, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty percent trust polls a fair amount and another 4 percent, a great deal. On the other hand, 36 percent do not trust polls very much, and 9 percent do not trust them at all.

But whether polls are consistently accurate is up for debate with New Jerseyans. Almost no one thinks they are always accurate, and only 21 percent say polls are mostly accurate. Still, 69 percent believes polls are accurate at least some of the time; only 5 percent discount them all the time.

Despite some reservations, New Jerseyans believe polling plays an important role in the democratic process, with 55 percent thinking it influences government decisions and policymaking. Reflecting that polls give citizens a chance to have their say, 77 percent feel political leaders should use poll results to help them understand public opinion on issues.

Many respondents moreover cite polling’s connection to democracy when asked why they chose to participate in this Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: one in five mention something about wanting their voice to be heard, the importance of polling in society, or doing their civic duty. But above all, New Jerseyans cite having the time to talk as their number one reason for participating.

“For our 200th poll, we thought we’d turn our sights inward a bit, and ask about some of the big questions currently facing polling, such as public perceptions of accuracy, trust and the whole point of it all,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “It’s refreshing to learn that, even with today’s deluge of polls, Garden State residents still see the importance of this scientific method of understanding public opinion and the vital role it plays in the democratic process.”

A third of New Jerseyans claim to follow the results of polls regularly. Just under half say they had been interviewed in the past for at least one public opinion poll or survey prior to talking with the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Trust and accuracy depend on familiarity, knowledge

Polling is not a partisan issue. Instead, trust and belief in polling’s accuracy is rooted in respondents’ prior knowledge and interaction with public opinion surveys. Those previously interviewed for a poll are much more likely to trust polls overall – 62 percent versus 47 percent among those talking to a pollster for the first time. They are also slightly more likely to say that polls are mostly accurate (24 percent to 19 percent).

Regular followers of polls also have more confidence in them. Seventy-one percent of those who regularly follow polls trust them, compared to 45 percent of those who do not; regular followers are also six points more likely to believe polls are mostly accurate.

Beliefs about polling’s role in a democracy also connect to general views on polling. Those who think polls matter in policymaking and should be used by political leaders are more likely to trust polls and believe them to be accurate.

Education has an influence as well. Individuals with a high school diploma or less are the least likely to trust polls (46 percent), while those who have done graduate work are the most likely (62 percent); the former are also least likely to believe polls are accurate.

Trust and accuracy unsurprisingly have a significant impact on one another: the more Garden Staters trust polls, the more they think they are accurate, and the more accurate they think they are, the more trust there is.

“The mystery and skepticism surrounding polls fades when you know a bit about them and how they work,” Koning. “It can be really hard to see how so few people can represent the entire state. Thus, it becomes important to learn how to be a good consumer of polls and know how to separate the good from the bad. Only then can one understand their benefits and limitations.”

Widespread agreement that polls are important

Even as most New Jersey residents agree that polls matter for policymaking and leaders should use them, there are noticeable differences across some demographic groups. Women are 7 points more likely than men to believe leaders should use polls to help determine what the public wants. However, residents over 65 are more likely to balk at the idea than younger New Jerseyans, who are more supportive of leaders using polls.

Education also makes a difference, probably because those who are more educated are also more trusting of polls. Residents whose education ended with a high school diploma are less likely to think leaders should use polls to understand public sentiment. Those with at least some graduate school are more likely than others to think that polls influence government decisions and policy.

Familiarity with polls themselves also plays a large part in beliefs about them. Regular followers of polls are more likely than others to agree that polling is important in policymaking and to say polls should be used by policymakers. Beliefs about polling’s importance also increase with trust and perceptions of accuracy.

New Jerseyans have the time to talk

Asked why they decided to participate in the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the most popular answer among respondents had something to do with time: 18 percent cited something about being available, having time, having nothing better to do, or even being bored as their reason for participating. Not far behind is New Jerseyans’ democratic desire for their voice to be heard, at 13 percent.

Twelve percent say something about the interviewer made them decide to go through with the interview – his or her personality, voice, friendliness, or even the fact that the interviewer is a student. Nine percent say they wanted to participate because of either the poll’s Rutgers affiliation or their own connection to the university.

Other reasons mentioned for doing the poll include: wanting to help and be a part of research (9 percent); a general curiosity about polling (8 percent); an interest in politics overall or the specific topics that were asked (7 percent); simply because they were asked to participate (6 percent); because they feel polls are important (4 percent); a sense of civic duty (3 percent); and something to do with New Jersey itself, either because the poll was asking about it or because the respondent wanted to assist their state (2 percent).

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Revisiting Garden State Quality of Life in the 200th Rutgers-Eagleton Poll

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

NEW JERSEYANS REMAIN MIXED ABOUT GARDEN STATE’S QUALITY OF LIFE; IT’S A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE, BUT NOT TO LOOK FOR WORK OR RETIRE

One-third think state will be a better place to live in next decade, but most say N.J. still on wrong track, taxes top concern

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Almost six in 10 New Jersey residents call their state a good or excellent place to live, but those who call the Garden State home clearly recognize its strengths and weaknesses, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

While 58 percent believe New Jersey is a good or excellent place to raise a family and about 70 percent rate it good or excellent for education and recreation, 63 percent say job prospects are fair or poor, 55 percent say the same about running a business, and 79 percent rate it fair or poor when it comes to retirement.

Overall, New Jerseyans believe that the state has either become a worse place to live (41 percent) or has not changed at all (37 percent) in the last five or ten years. Only 17 percent say it has gotten better during this period. This pattern was first seen in December 2010, departing from rosier views in previous decades.

Yet residents remain somewhat optimistic about the future, just as they have in previous decades. Thirty-two percent say New Jersey will become a better place to live in the next five or 10 years, while another 38 percent say it will stay the same. Twenty percent say life here will become worse.

Although finding both good and bad in their state, New Jerseyans remain mostly negative about the state’s current direction: 33 percent now say New Jersey is headed in the right direction, while 58 percent say the state is off on the wrong track.

“For our 200th poll, we revisited some of the most important questions we have asked over the past four decades, questions that helped us trace the trajectory of the Garden State,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Residents nowadays have very mixed feelings about their home – socially and culturally, New Jerseyans give the state solid ratings, but they take a much dimmer view of the state on employment, the economy and finances.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Rating New Jersey’s past, present, and future

In four decades of asking this question, a majority has consistently rated New Jersey as a good or excellent place to live. The 1980s were the most positive period; 84 percent rated the state as an excellent or good place to live in February 1987. Higher ratings held mostly constant until the current decade, during which a comparatively less positive trend emerged beginning in March 2010.

While majorities across the board are positive today, differences in magnitude emerge among certain demographics. Republicans, Gov. Christie supporters, white residents, exurbanites, and married residents are more likely to give better ratings than their counterparts. Residents relatively new to the state are more positive than those who have lived here longer: 70 percent rate New Jersey as good or excellent, compared to 56 percent of residents who have lived here their entire lives.

Views on New Jersey’s past and future are strongly linked to views on its present. Residents more positive about the last several years and more optimistic about the next several are more likely to rate New Jersey as an excellent or good place to live now. Likewise, those currently more positive about the state have correspondingly positive takes on the state’s past and future. Right direction-wrong track views relate to these ratings as might be expected.

Reflecting on New Jersey’s past, Republicans, less educated residents, exurbanites, urbanites, and Christie supporters are all more likely to say the state has gotten better. Residents who have lived in New Jersey their entire lives are slightly more likely to say the state has improved as a place to live (19 percent), but almost half of this group also say it has become worse. Residents who have lived in the state about a decade or less are the least negative and much more likely to say there has been no change or to say they are unsure.

Certain groups are more likely to believe in New Jersey’s future than others. The optimists include Democrats, non-white residents, millennials, urbanites, those who say the state is going in the right direction, and those who have lived in New Jersey for about a decade or less.

The good and the bad of living in New Jersey

When it comes to education, family life, and entertainment, New Jerseyans like the Garden State. New Jerseyans across the board recognize the state’s superiority in educational offerings. Twenty-two percent say the state is an excellent place for education, and another 47 percent say good – little changed since the question was first asked in October 1984. The state’s oldest residents, as well as youngest residents, are most likely to rate New Jersey highly on education, as are the most educated residents.

Although more than half still believes New Jersey is a good (43 percent) or excellent (15 percent) place to raise a family, this number has experienced a double-digit drop since 1984, when over three-quarters felt the same. Nevertheless, family life in New Jersey is still rated highly across all groups – especially among younger residents, those in more affluent households, those living in exurban and suburban areas, married residents, and residents who are newer to the state.

As for entertainment and recreation, little has changed here over the last few decades as well. Residents continue to rate their state highly in this area (22 percent excellent, 48 percent good). Ratings are particularly high among residents who are older, white, living in exurban or shore counties, married, and long-time or lifetime residents.

But the state does not fare so well when it comes to retirement. Almost half of New Jerseyans once gave positive ratings to the state on this score, but just 18 percent do today; negative ratings, on the other hand, have gone up almost 30 points since 1984. Nowadays, middle-aged residents and those approaching retirement are especially apt to rate the state low here.

As a place to find a job, ratings are now much more negative than positive – a far cry from the 65 percent good or excellent rating of 1984. Just 29 percent overall say job prospects in the state are good; only 5 percent say excellent. Middle-aged residents and men are particularly negative in their current ratings, while Republicans, residents in more affluent households, and residents newer to the state are slightly more positive.

Still moving in the wrong direction

Assessments of the state’s direction have been more negative than positive since March 2014, with the gap between right direction and wrong track widening within the last several months. This is a complete reversal from two years ago, with this kind of negativity not felt since October 2009.

“Residents give New Jersey positive ratings as a place to live and have some hope for the future, but they also continue to think the state is on the wrong track,” noted Koning. “While the two indicators are connected, one measures personal experience while the other reflects more economic and political concerns facing the state. Just because New Jerseyans enjoy aspects of the lifestyle here does not mean they think everything is great in the Garden State.”

Length of residency in New Jersey also has an effect. Relative newcomers to the state are more positive (half say right direction), but the longer one has lived in New Jersey, the less positive the rating.

Typical partisan patterns are evident: while a majority of Republicans (53 percent) believe New Jersey is headed in the right direction, most independents and especially Democrats feel the state is off on the wrong track (55 percent and 73 percent, respectively).

Taxes: the bane of New Jerseyans’ existence

As always, taxes remain the top concern in the state, at 23 percent. Disdain for taxes in New Jersey is clear: 80 percent of residents say they pay too much in state and local taxes for what they get in return, while just 14 percent feel they get their money’s worth. While “pay too much” is at a peak, a large majority of New Jerseyans has felt disgruntled about taxes in every survey since the question was first asked in February 1972.

New Jerseyans also believe they are at a disadvantage on taxes compared to other states: 67 percent think they get less for their money compared to taxpayers elsewhere, 23 percent say they get about the same, and just 5 percent say they get more. Views on this question have changed markedly since initially asked on our second-ever poll, when almost half thought we got about the same for our money as taxpayers did in other states.

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Christie’s lackluster ratings back home continue to slip; Trump still #1 among NJ GOPers, Christie in distant second

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

CHRISTIE’S JOB APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW, RATINGS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUE TO SLIP

Trump still leads 2016 GOP field in New Jersey, Christie reclaims second

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie may be on the rise in New Hampshire, but his numbers continue to fall with voters back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s overall job approval has slipped to its lowest point yet: 33 percent of New Jersey registered voters now approve of his performance, a drop of six points since October, and 62 percent disapprove, up six points. This represents voters’ strongest disapproval of Christie’s job performance to date.

Likewise, 33 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, the second lowest rating he has ever received. Christie’s unfavorable rating is back at its all-time high of 59 percent after a small improvement in October. Since August, every poll has consistently found more than half of New Jersey voters in the unfavorable column.

“Governor Christie’s good fortune and favorables may be improving on the national campaign trail, but it’s just the opposite in New Jersey,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Ever since Christie announced his official 2016 run, he has received his lowest ratings as governor – even lower than in the year post-Bridgegate.”

Christie fares no better on individual issues. His rating on the perennial top issue – taxes – hits another new low: now 23 percent approve while 71 percent disapprove. He also reaches new lows on the economy and jobs (30 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (25 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state pension fund situation (21 percent approve, 66 percent disapprove) and education (33 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove).

More voters also disapprove of Christie’s work on crimes and drugs (40 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove), as well as transportation and infrastructure (30 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove). Voters continue to be closely divided on his handling of Sandy recovery – 48 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove – a far cry from the near-unanimous approval he received through most of 2013.

The only bright spot for Christie at home is his return to second place for the 2016 Republican nomination among New Jersey Republican and GOP-leaning registered voters. Christie now stands at 14 percent. Donald Trump remains Republicans’ top choice at 30 percent.

Six in 10 New Jersey Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters continue to prefer former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as their 2016 nominee.

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015, including 700 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Independents’ criticism of Christie grows

While Christie continues to receive lackluster ratings from most Garden State voters, his Republican base remains in his corner: 69 percent approve of the job he is doing, and 70 percent have a favorable impression of him. Democrats feel just the opposite, holding steady at 16 percent on job approval and 15 percent on favorability.

This time, independents show the most significant shift since last polled in October. Returning to a level of negativity not seen since August, 31 percent of independents now approve of the job Christie is doing, while 66 percent disapprove. This is much different from the split two months ago, 42 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove. Similarly, 30 percent of independents are now favorable toward Christie, down six points in two months. Sixty-three percent are unfavorable, up 14 points.

Christie’s overall ratings increase among white voters, as well as with age and income. The governor still draws his biggest support from exurban and shore counties. Nonetheless, even among these groups, he does not garner a favorable or approving majority.

Christie’s report card has changed little since August. When asked to award the governor a letter grade, more voters than ever now give Christie an F, at 31 percent (up three points since October). For the third time in the past year, just 5 percent give him an A – the lowest number of top grades Christie has received since taking office. Nineteen percent now give Christie a B, 23 percent a C, and another 21 percent a D.

Just 3 percent of Democrats give Christie an A, while 41 percent fail him and another 25 percent give him a D. Just 4 percent of independents give Christie an A. The rest of this group is spread out more evenly among the remaining letter grades – though they are slightly more likely to give him an F (at 35 percent) than any other grade.

Republicans are the only group, besides those favorable toward Christie and those who approve of the job he is doing, whose number of As reaches double-digits. Thirteen percent of Republicans award him this top grade, while another 38 percent give him a B; but Christie still gets a D from 14 percent of his base, and 6 percent give him an F.

Christie’s low marks on individual issues continue across the board

New Jersey voters, who often cite taxes as one of the most important problems in the state, have consistently given Christie some of his lowest scores on this issue, beaten out only by his even lower approval rating on the state pension fund situation.

Christie garners majority approval on taxes from no group. Republicans continue to turn against him on this issue: 44 percent approve of his approach, while 53 percent disapprove. Just 16 percent of Democrats (an improvement of four points) and 20 percent of independents (down six points) approve of Christie’s job in this area.

Approval ratings on the economy and state budget show similar patterns. Republicans are still not fully in Christie’s corner for either; 50 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove of his performance on the economy, while 48 percent approve and 34 percent disapprove of his work on the state budget. Three-quarters of Democrats disapprove of his job in both areas, as do more than two thirds of independents.

Christie does worse on the state pension fund situation, failing to gain majority approval even from those with a favorable impression of him or those who approve of the job he is doing overall. Republicans have now turned against him on state pensions: 33 percent approve of his handling of the issue (down six points), and 49 percent disapprove (up seven points). Just 12 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independents approve of Christie’s job in this area.

On education, Christie receives approval only from his own party base (54 percent), those favorable toward him (60 percent), and those who approve of the job he is doing overall (66 percent). Solid majorities of almost every other group disapprove of his handling of education.

“With the governor mostly out of state on his presidential campaign, these lackluster issue ratings have moved little since August, and when they have, it has typically been downward,” said Koning. “Christie has never done particularly well with voters on some of these issues, but now four times in a row, no single issue polled garners majority approval for the governor.”

NJ 2016 top choices resemble national standings

Trump and Clinton continue to be the top choices for their respective parties. Trump has remained in first place with Republicans in the Garden State since first announcing his candidacy, while Clinton has remained in the top spot among Democrats since the poll first started asking about her party’s preferred 2016 nominee.

Christie has rebounded with his party base in his home state, almost tripling his 5 percent standing in October – which put him in fifth place for a three-way tie – but still far from the 32 percent he garnered this time last year.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio now comes in third with New Jersey Republicans, at 13 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 10 percent; all other candidates rank in the single digits.

Clinton claims three times the support of her closest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, among Garden State Democrats. Sanders comes in second at 19 percent; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley garners just 1 percent.

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Hot off the presses: our first release from the 200th poll … immigration, terrorism, and accepting Syrian refugees in New Jersey

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

NEW JERSEYANS SPLIT ON SYRIAN REFUGEES; MOST WORRIED ABOUT FUTURE TERRORIST ATTACKS 

Overall immigration views little affected; high marks for U.S. handling of terrorism

 Note: One-fifth of this Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was completed prior to the shooting in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, Dec. 2. About half of all interviews had been completed by Friday, Dec. 4, when the FBI declared it was investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In the midst of terror attacks at home and abroad, and following Gov. Chris Christie’s demand that no Syrian refugees come to the state, New Jersey residents split evenly on whether to accept refugees from Syria, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While 45 percent say New Jersey should remain open to refugees from the conflict in Syria, another 45 percent disagree, while 10 percent are unsure.

Most of those who oppose Syrian refugee resettlement in New Jersey also support Christie’s insistence that even refugee children should be barred. Only a quarter of those initially opposed to Syrian refugees in the state would make an exception for children.

Feelings toward Syrian refugees do not necessarily go hand in hand with general attitudes toward immigration. While many oppose Syrian refugee resettlement, just 34 percent of Garden Staters think the number of immigrants in the state is too high, actually down seven points in the past four months; 49 percent now think the number is just right. Most either say immigrants make the overall quality of life here better (34 percent) or believe they do not have much of an effect either way (38 percent). Only 19 percent of New Jerseyans say immigrants make the quality of life in the Garden State worse.

“Over half of U.S. governors – including New Jersey’s own – have said they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks, even though immigration policy is a federal, not state, responsibility,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers. “Opposition toward Syrian refugees has become, for some, a broader symbol of security and resistance to terrorism. Even New Jerseyans – whose general attitudes toward immigration remain largely positive – have reservations about harboring this specific group.”

Apprehension about Syrian refugees stems from significant concern over a future terror attack. Eight in 10 worry that another attack will happen on American soil, while seven in 10 fear one will occur in or near New Jersey.

As a precaution, almost all New Jerseyans (86 percent) support surveillance and security checks in public places like stadiums, movie theaters and shopping malls; this number is similar to other polls’ nationwide results.

Despite these fears, most New Jerseyans – unlike the rest of the country as reported in national polls – believe the U.S. government is generally doing well in reducing the threat of terrorism.

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Key demographics drive views on refugees

The Syrian refugee issue is certainly a partisan one: while 65 percent of Democrats believe New Jersey should continue to accept these individuals, 79 percent of Republicans take the opposite view. Independents most resemble the population as a whole, split 43 percent to 46 percent against.

Place of birth has a strong impact on views. Those born outside the United States are only slightly more accepting of Syrian refugees than native born citizens – 49 percent versus 45 percent. But they are much less likely to outright reject the refugees and more uncertain: 33 percent of foreign born residents, but 49 percent of U.S. natives, want the state to reject the refugees. Eighteen percent of those born outside the U.S. are unsure about accepting Syrian refugees, compared to 7 percent of natives.

A similar pattern emerges among those with foreign born versus American born parents and non-white versus white residents. Willingness to accept the refugees decreases among older residents and increases with education.

Immigration attitudes, fear of attacks linked to increased rejection of refugees

While the Syrian refugee matter has not significantly influenced overall views on immigration, individuals who oppose one are also more likely to oppose the other. A large majority of those who say there are too many immigrants in New Jersey (74 percent) and those who say immigrants make the state’s quality of life worse (81 percent) are against the continued acceptance of Syrian refugees in the state. Likewise, residents who say New Jersey should reject these refugees are more negative about immigrants, in general.

Concern over future terror attacks and over how terrorism is handled also accompanies greater caution toward Syrian refugees. Half of those worried about an attack in the U.S. or New Jersey say the state should no longer accept Syrian refugees. While half of residents who say the government is doing well at reducing terrorism believe New Jersey should accept Syrian refugees, six in 10 of those who say the government is not doing well oppose refugee resettlement here.

There is no significant difference in refugee views between those interviewed before and those interviewed after the San Bernardino shooting.

Terror concerns loom large, especially post-shooting

While majorities of partisans of all stripes are concerned, Republicans are the most worried about attacks both in the U.S. and in New Jersey, followed by independents and then Democrats. Women, older residents, and those more negative about immigration are more worried about future attacks than their counterparts, as are those who disapprove of Syrian refugees in New Jersey and those who do not think the U.S. government is doing well in reducing terror threats.

Fear jumps post-San Bernardino. While 29 percent of those interviewed before the shooting were very worried about another U.S. attack (another 44 percent somewhat), this number rises to 44 percent very worried (37 percent somewhat) among those interviewed after the attack.

“We were in the middle of polling when the San Bernardino shooting occurred,” noted Koning. “While concern of an attack was already high before the shooting, San Bernardino solidified and increased New Jerseyans’ fears – both in terms of a possible attack anywhere in the U.S., as well as in our own state.”

More than eight in 10 support greater security checks and surveillance in public places, with little difference among demographic groups. Among those most worried about another attack, nine in 10 support such measures.

How is the government handling terrorism?

Over half of every group believes the U.S. government is doing well in its efforts to reduce the threat of terrorism. Democrats are slightly more likely to believe this (26 percent say very well, 46 percent say somewhat well), compared to independents (19 percent, very well) and Republicans (18 percent, very well).

A majority of New Jerseyans who oppose accepting Syrian refugees and who are worried about future terrorist attacks are nonetheless satisfied with the way the government is handling the threat of terrorism, though to a lesser extent than their counterparts.

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