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Little Love for New Jersey Budget Plan

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Public opinion mixed on state worker concessions

New Jersey residents hold a dim view of the proposed state budget, opposing many of the proposed cuts while saying the overall budget hasn’t been cut enough.  The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  also found that many New Jerseyans side with state worker union opposition to furloughs, but are divided on a wage freeze.

Governor Corzine stated in his February budget address that New Jersey is well-positioned to weather the current economic downturn because of his administration’s management of prior budgets.  Garden State residents take a decidedly different view of that.

Just 31% agree that New Jersey’s state government is in a good position to deal with the current fiscal crisis compared to 58% who disagree.  Even fewer – 23% – agree that the state has managed its finances well over the past three years, while more than 2-in-3 (69%) disagree with this assertion.  Most Democrats (58%) join Republicans (86%) and independents (70%) in saying that state finances have not been well-managed during Corzine’s term.

“A key component of the governor’s budget roll-out was that his management decisions over the first years of his term have put the state on solid ground.  That view is not shared by most New Jerseyans,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Over 8-in-10 residents have heard about the governor’s proposed budget, including 22% who have heard a lot and 60% who have heard a little.  Among those aware of the plan, nearly 2-in-3 (65%) would describe the proposal as “more of the same old political dealings” while just 25% say it is the “product of tough, thoughtful choices.”  These results are almost identical to the public’s views of Governor Corzine’s budget proposals in both 2008 (62%-27%) and 2006 (60%-32%).

Nearly half (48%) of those aware of the budget plan say it does too little to cut spending.  Another 17% say it cuts spending too much and 19% say it cuts spending just enough.

Despite this mixed view, many New Jerseyans oppose some of the specific cuts in the current plan, but they do support two tax increases.  The vast majority of state residents approve raising income taxes on those earning over $500,000 (75%) and raising excise taxes on cigarettes and liquor (69%).

However, about 2-in-3 residents disapprove of reducing state aid to municipalities (68%) and cutting funding for the arts (63%).  Most residents (53%) also disapprove of eliminating property tax rebates for those earning over $75,000, compared to 45% who approve of this proposal.

“As we’ve heard before in tough times, the public wants cuts as long as they aren’t personally affected.  So-called ‘sin taxes’ and taxes on the wealthy continue to be popular ways to avoid having to make any further cuts,” said Murray.

Governor Corzine has also sought concessions from state workers to help balance the budget, specifically in terms of furloughs and a wage freeze.  About 4-in-10 (39%) New Jerseyans approve of plans to require state workers to take 12 days off next year without pay, compared to a majority of 57% who disapprove of this idea.  The public is split on a proposed freeze of state worker salaries which include increases due in union contracts – 49% approve of this freeze while 48% disapprove.

State worker unions have registered strong opposition to both of these proposals.  Most New Jerseyans (62%) have no opinion on whether the unions have been reacting appropriately to the budget, while 27% disapprove and 11% approve of the unions’ response so far.

Governor Corzine said that he may have to lay off thousands of state workers if the unions do not agree to furloughs and a wage freeze.  Just 41% of the public would support the governor if he took this action, while 52% would be opposed.  Among New Jerseyans who live in households with a unionized state worker, 25% would support the governor in this action compared to 67% who would be opposed.  Among non-state union households, opinion is more divided – 44% would support layoffs if the unions did not agree to furloughs and a wage freeze while 49% would oppose this action.

“Governor Corzine is in a stand-off with one of his friendliest constituencies, and it doesn’t appear as if the unions need to budge, according to public opinion.  The unions have apparently not overplayed their hand with the public, mainly because most New Jerseyans are paying little attention to the unfolding drama,” said Murray.

The poll also found that 90% of New Jerseyans believe the state budget is in a serious fiscal crisis, basically identical to the 89% who held the same view during 2008’s budget process.  Only 7% say that New Jersey’s budget situation is better than other states, while 43% say it is about the same.  However, a sizable 40% say that New Jersey’s budget is in worse shape than other states.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from April 23 to 27, 2009.  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, and Home News Tribune).

DATA TABLES

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

 

  1. Do you agree or disagree that the New Jersey state budget is currently in a serious fiscal crisis?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Agree 90% 92% 82% 92% 86% 93% 91% 91% 90%
Disagree 6% 5% 9% 4% 8% 5% 6% 6% 6%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3% 9% 4% 6% 2% 3% 3% 4%
  Unwtd N  

803

690 113 299 287 193 237 261

203

 

TREND:

May
2009

March
2008

Jan.
2008

Agree 90% 89% 89%
Disagree 6% 8% 6%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3% 6%
Unwtd N

803

805

804

  1. Compared to other states, is New Jersey’s budget situation better, worse, or about the same?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Better 7% 5% 12% 7% 7% 5% 9% 3% 9%
Worse 40% 40% 37% 30% 46% 47% 35% 44% 39%
About the same 43% 45% 36% 49% 38% 40% 47% 42% 45%
(VOL) Don’t know 11% 10% 15% 14% 8% 8% 9% 11% 7%
  Unwtd N  

803

690 113 299 287 193 237 261

203

 [Question 3 was asked of a random half-sample: moe = ± 5.0%]

  1. Do you agree or disagree that the state government has managed its finances well over the past three years?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Agree 23% 23% 24% 34% 21% 11% 28% 22% 21%
Disagree 69% 70% 64% 58% 70% 86% 64% 74% 69%
(VOL) Don’t know 8% 7% 12% 9% 9% 3% 8% 4% 10%
  Unwtd N  

391

329 62 136 142 103 114 130

103

 [Question 4 was asked of a random half-sample: moe = ± 5.0%]

  1. Do you agree or disagree that the state government is in a good position to deal with the current financial crisis?

TOTAL

REG VOTER PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Agree 31% 29% 39% 39% 28% 17% 33% 30% 29%
Disagree 58% 60% 49% 50% 62% 71% 56% 58% 61%
(VOL) Don’t know 11% 11% 12% 11% 9% 12% 12% 12% 10%
  Unwtd N  

412

361 51 163 145 90 123 131

100

  1. How much have you read or heard about Governor Corzine’s state budget plan – a lot, a little, or nothing at all?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

A lot 22% 24% 11% 17% 27% 25% 16% 26% 23%
A little 60% 61% 54% 62% 56% 59% 64% 54% 63%
Nothing at all 18% 14% 33% 21% 17% 15% 20% 19% 14%
(VOL) Don’t know 0% 0% 1% 0% 1% 1% 0% 1% 0%
  Unwtd N  

803

690 113 299 287 193 237 261

203

TREND:

May
2009

March
2008

April
2006*

A lot 22% 33% 25%
A little 60% 50% 49%
Nothing at all 18% 16% 27%
(VOL) Don’t know 0%   1% n/a
Unwtd N

803

805 803

* Note: April 2006 question wording: “How much have you heard or read about Governor Corzine’s budget proposals to deal with this deficit?”

[NOTE: QUESTIONS 6 AND 7 WERE ASKED ONLY OF THOSE WHO HEARD “A LOT” OR “A LITTLE” ABOUT THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PLAN: moe = ± 3.8%]

  1. In general, would you describe the budget plan as: the product of tough, thoughtful choices – or – more of the same old political dealings? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Product of tough, thoughtful choices 25% 27% 14% 33% 26% 15% 21% 24% 31%
More of the same old political dealings 65% 63% 74% 55% 65% 78% 69% 66% 61%
(VOL) Some of both 3% 3% 4% 5% 3% 2% 2% 3% 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 7% 6% 9% 8% 7% 5% 8% 7% 4%
  Unwtd N  

680

602 78 250 244 166 192 218

182

 

TREND:

May
2009

March
2008

April
2006

Product of tough, thoughtful choices 25% 27% 32%
More of the same old political dealings 65% 62% 60%
(VOL) Some of both 3% 5% n/a
(VOL) Don’t Know 7% 6% 7%
 Unwtd N

680

695

613

 

  1. Do you think the proposed budget reduces state spending too much, too little, or just enough?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

INCOME

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep <$50K $50-$100K

>$100K

Too much 17% 16% 26% 21% 12% 19% 26% 15% 8%
Too little 48% 50% 38% 39% 52% 58% 40% 49% 59%
Just enough 19% 18% 26% 26% 19% 8% 22% 20% 19%
(VOL) Don’t know 15% 16% 10% 14% 16% 15% 12% 16% 15%
  Unwtd N  

680

602 78 250 244 166 192 218

182

TREND:

May
2009

March
2008

Too much 17% 26%
Too little 48% 44%
Just enough 19% 18%
(VOL) Don’t know 15% 13%
Unwtd N

680

425

 [NOTE: The following questions were asked of a random half-sample: moe=+/-5.0%]

  1. I’m going to read you a few proposals to cut the state budget.  Please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of each.  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
 

 

Approve

Disapprove (VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

Eliminating property tax rebate
checks for families earning more
than $75,000
45% 53% 2%

391

Requiring state workers to take 12
days off next year without pay
39% 57% 3%

391

Raising taxes on cigarettes and
liquor
69% 30% 1%

391

Cutting funding for the arts 34% 63% 4%

391

Freezing all state worker salaries,
including increases due in the union
contracts
49% 48% 4%

412

Raising income taxes on those
earning more than $500,000
75% 23% 2%

412

Reducing state aid to municipalities 25% 68% 7%

412

 

  1. Do you approve or disapprove of how the state workers unions have been responding to the proposed budget, or don’t you have an opinion about this?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

STATE
UNION
HOUSEHOLD

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Approve 11% 10% 14% 14% 10% 8% 12% 11%
Disapprove 27% 28% 23% 19% 31% 34% 24% 28%
(VOL) Don’t know 62% 62% 64% 68% 59% 58% 63% 62%
  Unwtd N  

803

690 113 299 287 193 98

698

 

  1. Governor Corzine has said that he may have to lay off thousands of state workers if the unions do not agree to furloughs and wage freezes. Would you support or oppose the governor if he laid off state workers?

TOTAL

REG
VOTER
PARTY ID

STATE
UNION
HOUSEHOLD

 

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Support 41% 44% 27% 31% 49% 48% 25% 44%
Oppose 52% 49% 64% 61% 44% 47% 67% 49%
(VOL) Depends 4% 4% 2% 4% 3% 3% 5% 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3% 7% 4% 4% 3% 3% 4%
  Unwtd N  

803

690 113 299 287 193 98

698

 

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted and analyzed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute research staff.  The telephone interviews were collected by Braun Research on April 23-27, 2009 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 crosstabs