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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Corzine Report Card

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tax and budget issues lower public’s assessment of governor

The early grades are in and the public's evaluation of the Corzine administration can best be summed up as:  "Shaky start; needs improvement."  Faced with the unenviable task of closing a multi-billion dollar budget gap as soon as he took office, Governor Jon Corzine has not impressed residents of the Garden State with how he has tackled that challenge so far.  The public is split on his job performance, with those who disapprove of the job he is doing as governor edging out those who approve by a 37 to 34 percent margin.  About 3-in-10 residents (29%) haven't formed an opinion yet. 

When asked to grade the Corzine administration in a number of key areas, the public is only able to muster C's and D's.  Overall, the governor averages a grade of "C-" for the first three months of his term.  This includes particularly poor grades for providing property tax relief and making New Jersey a more affordable place to live, two key themes in his campaign for office last year.

According to residents, this lackluster performance has done little to correct the path New Jersey has been taking over the past year.  More than half the state (55%) believes that New Jersey has gotten off on the wrong track compared to only 30 percent who say it is heading in the right direction.  This is almost identical to public sentiment in September of last year.  Then, 54 percent of New Jerseyans saw the state as being on the wrong track compared to 31 percent who felt it was going in the right direction.

Predictably, the governor does stronger among his own partisans, but even there, he fails to muster a majority approval rating.  Just under half of Democrats (48%) approve of Corzine's job performance compared to 24 percent who give a negative rating.  Republicans are decidedly negative on the governor - 56 percent disapprove while 19 percent approve.  Among political independents, disapproval (38%) edges out approval (30%) by 8 percentage points.

The survey asked residents to grade the Corzine administration's performance on issues that were key components of his 2005 campaign.  The reaction here is decidedly lukewarm, with the governor averaging C's in most subjects.  His best subject so far - relatively speaking - seems to be in the area of government ethics, where he averages a "C".  This includes receiving an A or B from 35 percent, C from 24 percent and D or F from 29 percent.

He also averages a "C" on school improvement, including 27 percent who grade him an A or B, 28 percent who grade him a C and 30 percent who give poor marks of D or F.

A "C-"average is what the governor receives on controlling costs and cutting waste.  This includes receiving an A or B from 25 percent, C from 29 percent and D or F from 34 percent.

His grades then drop another notch to "D+" in the areas of providing property tax relief and making New Jersey a more affordable place to live.  On property taxes, only 17 percent of residents feel he has earned an A or B, 21 percent give him a C, and 50 percent give a D or F.  On cost of living affordability, only 15 percent of residents feel he has earned an A or B, 23 percent give him a C, 54 percent say he earns a D or is failing in this subject.

Corzine is just able to squeak out a "C-" for keeping his campaign promises, with 24 percent grading him an A or B in this area, 26 percent a C, and 37 percent a D or F.

In what may be perhaps the most disappointing grade for a governor who routinely shows up to work shortly after dawn, is the assessment of the level of effort he puts into working on behalf of the state.  The average grade he receives from residents for effort is a "C+", his best grade of all but still not stellar.  This includes 42 percent who grade him an A or B for effort, 29 percent who grade him a C and 22 percent who give poor marks of D or F.

"The governor's efforts to reach out to the state, especially regarding the budget, do not seem to have had a visible impact," remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  "Residents are willing to give Corzine credit for effort, if they see it.  As my high school math teacher always said, 'Make sure to show your work.'"

When the individual grades are averaged, the governor receives an overall "C-" grade point average from Garden State residents for his first three months in office.  Broken down by partisan preference, he averages a "C" among Democrats, a "D+" among Republicans, and a

"C-"among independents.  There are no differences in grade point averages by age, education or income.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from April 17 to 20, 2006.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, Home News Tribune, and Ocean County Observer).

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:  

C1.      Would you say things in New Jersey are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

C2.      Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jon Corzine is doing as governor?

C3.      I'd like you to grade the Corzine administration on how it has handled specific issues over the past few months.  For each one I read, please give a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F for failing.  What grade would you give the Corzine administration for … ?  

          A.           Controlling costs and cutting waste

          B.           Providing property tax relief

          C.          Bringing ethics and honesty back to state government

          D.          Making New Jersey a more affordable place to live

          E.           Improving our schools

C4.      What grade would you give the governor for the level of effort he puts into working for New Jersey?  

C5.      And what grade would you give him for keeping his campaign promises ? 

Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll  are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on April 17-20, 2006 with a statewide random sample of 803 adult residents.  For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute's policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues which affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.  

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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