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Monmouth University Polling Institute

New Jersey Divided on Governor

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fewer than half aware of town hall meetings

New Jersey residents are divided on Governor Chris Christie's job performance and his ratings have dropped since the last Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll  in February.  He now stands at 47% approve to 49% disapprove among all state residents.  Among registered voters, he has a 46% positive to 49% negative job rating.

The change in Christie's rating comes mainly from the number of people who shifted from having no opinion of the governor a few months ago to holding a negative view today.  In February, 47% of residents held a positive opinion of Christie - identical to the result in the current poll.  However, the number who disapprove has increased by 9 points, while the number who have no opinion of their governor's job performance decreased by 7 points.  Christie receives positive ratings from 75% of Republicans, 53% of independents, and 22% of Democrats.

The state budget looms large in New Jerseyan's perceptions of Christie.  Nearly 9-in-10 (86%) say they have been following the budget debate, including 33% who have heard a lot about it.  This is slightly lower than the nearly half who closely followed last year's budget process, but still higher than similar attention levels for the budgets of prior governors.  [ Note:  the poll was conducted before the latest state revenue projections were released. ]

This year's budget has been less controversial than Christie's inaugural effort, but residents are only slightly more happy with the current spending plan than they were last year.   About 1-in-4 (24%) say they are satisfied with the budget compared to 39% who are dissatisfied.  Another 35% say they can live with the budget proposal even though they are not particularly satisfied with it.  Last spring, 22% of the public was satisfied with the state budget plan and 44% were dissatisfied.

Like last year, the public is split on whether the budget is the product of tough, thoughtful choices (45%) or just more of the same old political deals (48%).  Republicans (63%) and independents (53%) are more likely to say Christie's budget is tough and thoughtful while Democrats (68%) are more likely to see it as political deal making.

"Two years of austere budgets may be taking a toll on the governor.  Efforts to sell his reform agenda at town hall meetings generate a lot of media attention, but it appears that New Jerseyans who are paying the most attention to these events have already made up their minds about the governor's proposals," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Since taking office, Governor Christie has held many town hall meetings throughout the state to present his reform agenda.  While these events have received national attention for their "YouTube" moments, less than half (46%) of the New Jersey public report having read or heard anything about them.  Among those who have been following the governor's meet-and-greets, 35% say these forums do a lot to help residents understand what's going on in Trenton, 30% say they do a little, and 30% say they don't do much in the terms of informing state residents.  About half of Republicans (49%) say they provide a lot of information while about half of Democrats (48%) say they don't provide much at all.  Independents are split - 37% say the town halls provide a lot of information and 27% say they provide not much at all.

The governor's cuts to aid for municipalities have increased the burden of providing services at the local level.  According to state residents, their local governments have been handling this well.  Most New Jerseyans (55%) say that their municipality has done a good job at keeping spending down in the past year.  This view is held by majorities of Democrats (58%), Republicans (56%), and independents (54%) alike.  Just 35% of state residents say their local government has done a bad job.

About 6-in-10 residents (59%) are aware that their town is now under a two percent property tax cap.  While some local officials say they will not be able to meet the needs of their constituents under the cap, only 30% of residents are worried that too many essential services will be cut.  Twice as many (62%) believe that their local government will still be able to provide most essential services with the cap in place.

In other poll findings, ratings for the state legislature continue to be negative - just 33% approve of their legislature's performance while 47% disapprove.  A majority (54%) of residents say things in New Jersey are on the wrong track.  Only 1-in-3 (35%) say the state is headed in the right direction, which is similar to other results over the past five years.

The Monmouth University NJ Press Media Poll  was conducted by telephone with 807 New Jersey adults from May 12 to 16, 2011.  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 New Jersey Press Media newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune). 

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

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

2.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job Chris Christie is doing as governor?  [PROBE: Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?]

3.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job the state legislature is doing?

4.     Thinking about Chris Christie’s term as governor so far, would you say that he has major accomplishments, minor accomplishments, or no real accomplishments to point to?

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

[NOTE: QUESTIONS 6 AND 7 WERE ASKED ONLY OF THOSE WHO HEARD “A LOT” OR “A LITTLE” ABOUT THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PLAN: moe = +/- 3.7%]

6.     How would you describe your reaction to the governor’s budget plan – would you say you are satisfied with it, not particularly satisfied but you can live with it, or you are definitely dissatisfied with it?

7.     In general, would you describe the governor’s budget plan as: the product of tough, thoughtful choices - OR - more of the same old political dealings?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

8.     Governor Christie has been holding town hall meetings with residents throughout the state to discuss his policies.  Have you read or heard anything about these meetings, or not?

[The following question was asked only of those who said “Yes, heard of” to Q8, moe= +/- 4.6%]

9.     Do you think these town hall meetings do a lot, a little, or not much at all in helping residents understand what’s going on in Trenton?

10.   Turning to your own town or city – Do you think your local government has done a good job or bad job at keeping spending down in the past year?

11.   Have you heard about a statewide property tax cap that limits local government to increasing property tax collections by no more than two percent each year, or were you not aware of this?

[The following question was asked only of those who said “Yes, heard of” to Q11, moe= +/- 4.1%]

12.   Do you think that with the two percent property tax cap, your local government will still be able to provide most essential services or that too many essential services will be cut?  

The Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on May 12 to 16, 2011 with a statewide random sample of 807 adult residents.  Sampling and live telephone interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc.  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 that 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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