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Monmouth University Polling Institute

The WHAT Governor?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Easy passage likely despite low voter awareness

What do Donald DiFrancesco, John Farmer, John Bennett and Dick Codey have in common?  All four have wielded New Jersey's gubernatorial power despite none of them being nominated for statewide office.  In fact, one was not elected to any office and the other three never received more than 50,000 votes in a state where it takes more than 1 million votes to be elected governor.

Even though New Jersey has experienced two periods of "acting" governors over the past four years, most voters are still unaware of how the succession process works.  And just as remarkable, very few voters realize that they will be asked to approve a constitutional change to this situation when they go to the polls on November 8.

This lack of awareness probably makes little difference to eventual passage of the ballot question.  The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  found that 3-in-4 likely voters (75%) say they will push the "Yes" button in support of creating a Lieutenant Governor who will be elected on a ticket with the governor.  Only 12 percent of likely voters say they will vote against the measure and 13 percent are unsure of their vote.

In an interesting paradox, the poll shows a high level of support even though fully 8-in-10 registered voters don't yet know that such a measure will be on November's ballot.  Only about 1-in-20 Garden State voters have heard a lot about the measure to create this new office.

"We're seeing strong approval and very few undecided among an electorate that is largely unaware of the issue.  This may say more about New Jersey's predisposition to approve ballot measures than anything else," commented Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll also found that quite a few voters believe this office already exists.  When asked who currently steps in when a sitting governor dies or resigns, 18 percent of voters name the Lieutenant (or "Deputy" or Vice") Governor.  Only 17 percent of voters correctly identify the successor as the president of the State Senate.  Another 6 percent say it's the leader of the Assembly chamber and 5 percent give other answers.  More than half (54%) of registered voters don't even bother to make a guess at who takes over.  Interestingly, political independents are twice as likely as partisans of either stripe to identify the correct office - 27 percent of independent voters name the senate president as acting governor compared to 14 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans.

The poll also found that independent voters are slightly more likely to support the creation of a Lieutenant Governor position.  More than 3-in-4 independents (77%) say they will cast a yes vote, compared to slightly fewer Democrats (72%) and Republicans (67%).  Among voters who are already aware of the ballot measure, 81 percent say they will approve it.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 602 New Jersey registered voters from October 14 to 19, 2005.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 4 percent.  Results in this release are also based on a subgroup of 371 likely voters, with a ±  5 percent margin of error.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

Q19.     In New Jersey, when a sitting governor resigns or dies in office, who becomes governor?

Q20.     Currently, New Jersey does not have a lieutenant governor.  The president of the State Senate steps in when the governor’s seat is vacant.  Voters who go to the polls this November will be asked whether we should amend the state constitution to create the post of Lieutenant Governor.  This person would be elected on a ticket with the governor.  Have you heard anything about this proposal or not?  [IF “YES” ASK:  Have you heard a lot or a little?]

Q21.     As of today, will you vote for or against the ballot measure to create a Lieutenant Governor?

Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted October 14-19, 2005 with a statewide random sample of 602 registered voters.  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 4.0 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.

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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- Monmouth University Polling Institute