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Monmouth University Polling Institute

NJ Support for Christie Reform Agenda

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

But Governor and legislature don’t work well together

Many of Governor Chris Christie's reform proposals get the green light from Garden State residents.  According to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll , the public supports increasing state workers' health care premiums and eliminating double dipping, but opinion is divided on cutting pension benefits for current employees.

The governor has spent the past few weeks laying out an aggressive government reform agenda.  Democrats in the legislature have already signaled opposition to some of his proposals.  This comes as no surprise to most New Jerseyans.

Only 21% of state residents say that Governor Christie and the Democratic legislative leadership have been working well together.  A majority (61%) say they have not been working together all that well.  Among this latter group, most (54%) say both sides are equally to blame for this state of affairs, with the remainder slightly more likely to blame Christie (26%) than the Democrats (17%).

When it comes to reforming New Jersey government, about 1-in-3 New Jerseyans (32%) say they have a lot  of trust in Chris Christie, outpacing the 1-in-7 who have a lot of trust for either legislative Democrats (14%) or Republicans (14%).  Even mayors and town councils (20%) are relatively more likely than legislators to engender a lot  of trust when it comes to reforming government.  At the other end of the spectrum, about 3-in-10 residents say they have no trust at all in either Governor Christie (29%), legislative Democrats (29%), or legislative Republicans (36%).  About 1-in-4 (26%) have no trust in their local elected officials.

"While the New Jersey public is not unquestioning in its support, the governor does have a credibility advantage over the legislature when it comes to reforming government," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

New Jerseyans say that the days when state government needed generous benefits to recruit a quality workforce are past.  Specifically just 31% say that higher benefits are necessary, compared to 61% who say that government salaries are good enough to compete with private employers.  The number who feel that extra benefits are not necessary has increased by 10 percentage points since 2005.

Furthermore, only 8% of New Jerseyans say that state government has been managing the costs of its pension system wisely.  An overwhelming 78% say these costs are out of control, up sharply from 59% who felt the same five years ago.

Despite the pension system's current fiscal state, the public is conflicted on whether to cut benefits for current government workers - 46% say yes, while 46% disagree.  Although state opinion is currently divided, it should be noted that two and a half years ago, fewer residents (39%) supported reducing pension benefits while a majority (54%) were opposed.

A majority opinion does emerge, though, when it comes to new employees.  Fully 6-in-10 (61%) New Jerseyans say that newly hired government employees should be put into a 401k-like defined contribution plan rather than a pension.  Just 27% disapprove of this idea.  Approval for this idea is up by 9 percentage points since March 2008.

In another benefit area, the governor has proposed that state workers should pay 30 percent of their health care premiums.  The poll results indicate that about half of the public is in general agreement with that premise.  Specifically, 48% of New Jerseyans feel that state workers should pay about 25 percent or more of their health care premiums - up from 43% who said the same five years ago.  Another 31% feel they should pay about 10 percent and 12% feel they should not have to pay anything for health care coverage.

The governor has also proposed eliminating all double-dipping.  A sizable majority of New Jerseyans side with him on this, with 71% disapproving of anyone receiving two public salaries, even if both jobs are classified as part-time.  Only 23% would continue this practice.

About 22% of New Jerseyans have been on the public payroll at some time in their lives.  Among this group, 56% say that government salaries are good enough to recruit a quality workforce without added benefits; 71% agree that state workers should be restricted to holding only one public job; and 54% approve of putting new employees on a defined contributions retirement plan.  However, only 40% say state workers should pay 25 percent or more of their health care premiums; and just 35% support reducing pension benefits for the current workforce.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll  was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from September 15 to 19, 2010.  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).

 

DATA TABLES

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

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

 

  1. In general, have Governor Christie and Democratic leaders in the legislature been working together well or not so well?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Well 21% 21% 20% 15% 23% 24% 21% 20%
Not so well 61% 62% 56% 70% 57% 56% 66% 60%
(VOL) Mixed/Depends 4% 4% 5% 3% 4% 6% 2% 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 14% 13% 19% 12% 16% 14% 11% 15%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

 [The following question was asked only of those who said “Not so well” to Q1, moe= ± 4.3%]

  1. Who is more to blame for this – Christie, the Democrats, or both equally?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Christie 26% 28% 6% 41% 19% 9% 38% 22%
Democrats 17% 16% 20% 5% 18% 35% 11% 19%
Both equally 54% 52% 71% 51% 59% 56% 47% 57%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 3% 3% 3% 5% 1% 4% 3%
Unwtd N

510

468 42 156 237 108 141

361

 

  1. How much do you trust [READ ITEM] when it comes to reforming New Jersey government – a lot, a little, or not at all? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

 

  1. Governor Christie
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

A lot 32% 32% 29% 15% 35% 52% 32% 32%
A little 35% 34% 45% 37% 37% 31% 27% 38%
Not at all 29% 30% 17% 46% 23% 13% 37% 26%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3% 9% 3% 4% 4% 3% 4%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

  1. Democrats in the legislature
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

A lot 14% 15% 13% 35% 4% 2% 15% 14%
A little 53% 52% 59% 54% 56% 47% 59% 51%
Not at all 29% 30% 19% 9% 34% 50% 24% 30%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 3% 9% 2% 6% 2% 3% 4%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

  1. Republicans in the legislature
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

A lot 14% 13% 17% 3% 11% 36% 11% 15%
A little 46% 45% 50% 41% 50% 45% 39% 47%
Not at all 36% 37% 27% 53% 33% 16% 47% 33%
(VOL) Don’t know 5% 4% 6% 3% 7% 2% 3% 5%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

  1. Your local mayor and council
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

A lot 20% 21% 17% 20% 19% 24% 19% 20%
A little 49% 49% 53% 57% 46% 44% 51% 49%
Not at all 26% 26% 24% 19% 29% 27% 27% 25%
(VOL) Don’t know 5% 4% 7% 4% 5% 5% 3% 5%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

  1. Do you approve or disapprove of a person holding two paid government jobs, even if both jobs are classified as part-time?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Approve 23% 23% 22% 29% 20% 19% 25% 22%
Disapprove 71% 71% 68% 65% 73% 75% 71% 71%
(VOL) Don’t know 6% 6% 10% 6% 7% 6% 4% 7%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

  1. How much of their health care premiums do you think New Jersey government employees should pay – nothing, about 10 percent, about 25 percent, about half, or more?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Nothing 12% 12% 11% 18% 9% 8% 17% 11%
About 10 percent 31% 31% 29% 32% 31% 28% 35% 30%
About 25 percent 25% 26% 20% 23% 26% 28% 20% 26%
About half 18% 17% 24% 14% 20% 19% 16% 18%
More 5% 5% 3% 4% 3% 7% 4% 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 10% 10% 13% 9% 10% 10% 9% 10%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

TREND:

Sept.
2010

Sept.
2005*

Nothing 12% 13%
About 10 percent 31% 37%
About 25 percent 25% 26%
About half 18% 15%
More 5% 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 10% 6%
Unwtd N

801

800

 * Question wording in September 2005 poll was: “Currently most public employees pay little for the cost of their health benefits as long as they participate in a managed care plan. How much of their health care premiums do you think public employees should pay – nothing, about 10 percent, about 25 percent, about half, or more?”

 

  1. Which of the following statement comes closer to your view – State and local governments need to give their employees higher benefits than workers in the private sector in order to attract and retain talented people in public service - OR -  The salaries paid by government agencies in New Jersey are competitive with the private sector and there is no need to give public workers more benefits than they would probably get in the private sector?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Gov’t needs to give
higher benefits
31% 30% 40% 42% 23% 30% 37% 30%
No need for higher
benefits
61% 62% 52% 53% 67% 62% 56% 62%
(VOL) Don’t know 8% 8% 8% 5% 10% 8% 7% 8%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

TREND:

Sept.
2010

Sept.
2005

Gov’t needs to give higher benefits 31% 39%
No need for higher benefits 61% 51%
(VOL) Don’t know 8% 10%
Unwtd N

801

800

 

  1. Do you think that the state of New Jersey is managing the costs of its pension system wisely or have the costs gotten out of control?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Managing wisely 8% 8% 10% 11% 8% 4% 7% 8%
Costs out of control 78% 79% 75% 75% 80% 82% 79% 78%
(VOL) Don’t know 14% 13% 15% 15% 12% 14% 14% 13%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

TREND: Sept.
2010
Sept.
2005
Managing wisely 8% 13%
Costs out of control 78% 59%
(VOL) Don’t know 14% 28%
Unwtd N

801

800

 

  1. Do you approve or disapprove of reducing pension benefits for current government workers?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Approve 46% 46% 44% 40% 47% 54% 35% 50%
Disapprove 46% 47% 41% 55% 45% 36% 59% 42%
(VOL) Don’t know 8% 6% 15% 5% 8% 10% 6% 8%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

TREND:

Sept.
2010

March
2008*

Approve 46% 39%
Disapprove 46% 54%
(VOL) Don’t know 8% 8%
Unwtd N

801

489

 * Question wording in March 2008 poll was: “Now, I’m going to read you some other proposals to reduce the state budget.  Please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of each. Reducing pensions for government workers"

 

  1. Do you approve or disapprove of having all newly hired government employees use a 401-k plan rather than receive a set pension when they retire?
 

TOTAL

REGISTERED
VOTER
PARTY ID

PUBLIC WORKER

   

Yes

No Dem Ind Rep Yes

No

Approve 61% 61% 60% 53% 62% 73% 54% 64%
Disapprove 27% 27% 30% 36% 25% 18% 37% 25%
(VOL) Don’t know 11% 12% 10% 11% 13% 9% 10% 12%
Unwtd N

801

726 75 223 382 177 203

581

 

TREND:

Sept.
2010

March
2008*

Approve 61% 52%
Disapprove 27% 37%
(VOL) Don’t know 11% 11%
Unwtd N

801

316

* Question wording in March 2008 poll was: “Now, I’m going to read you some other proposals to reduce the state budget.  Please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of each. Having all newly hired government employees use a 401-k plan rather than receive a set pension when they retire” 

 

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on September 15-19, 2010 with a statewide random sample of 801 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.

POLL DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)

35% Dem 48% Male 27% 18-34

68% White

43% Ind 52% Female 40% 35-54

13% Black

22% Rep   33% 55+

12% Hispanic

     

  7% Asian/Other

 

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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