Full report in PDF format
Compared to voters statewide, voters in the experimental Clean Elections districts were more likely to say they had heard or read about Clean Elections legislation and had heard or read about the legislative races in their district. According to a study undertaken jointly by Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics and Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll for the Clean Elections Citizens’ Advisory Committee, 22% of likely voters statewide but 44% of voters in Clean Elections districts heard some or quite a lot about the experimental legislation. In addition, just 37% of likely voters statewide compared to 70% of likely voters in Clean Elections districts reported they heard some or quite a lot about the legislative races in their district. “There was a distinct and positive change this year in voters’ awareness of the reform legislation compared to two years ago,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of polling at Eagleton.
Voters in Clean Elections districts were also far more likely than other voters around the state to say their legislative races focused on candidates’ issue positions rather than on personalities. While 41% of voters in Clean Elections districts said their campaigns stressed issues and 42% said their campaigns stressed personal characteristics, just 25% of voters statewide said their legislative races stressed issues and 45% said the campaign emphasized personality. “A campaign focused on issues rather than on personality is what you hope happens with public financing of elections,” said Ingrid Reed, Director of the New Jersey Project at Eagleton.
Likely voters in Clean Election districts reported getting more direct mailings from the campaigns than voters statewide (82%-49%) and reading more articles in the newspaper about their races (74%-56%). However only one in four voters (28%) in the Clean Elections districts could remember receiving any mailings from the state—mailings that were supposed to explain and promote participation in the Clean Elections races.
One thing that did not differ much between statewide surveys and surveys in the Clean Elections districts was voters’ trust in the legislature. Only 14% of voters statewide and 20% of voters in the Clean Elections districts said they can trust the state legislature to do what is right most or all of the time. Likewise, 55% of voters statewide and 52% of voters in Clean Elections districts said they are “very concerned” about the influence of campaign contributors on the state legislature after the election. In addition, 39% of likely voters statewide and 41% of voters in Clean Election districts said they are “not confident at all” that public financing can reduce the influence of large donors in the political process. “People’s skepticism about the election process shows up in low turnout, low trust in government and high concern about the influence of money,” said Peter Woolley, director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. “But public skepticism also applies to public financing as a solution.”
Statewide polls were taken Sep. 21-26 and Oct. 22-28 and have a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. The Clean Elections districts – the 14th, 24th and 37th legislative districts – were polled Oct. 29 - Nov. 5 and have a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points. The study was underwritten by the Fund for New Jersey and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
Ingrid Reed 732-932-9384 x232;
Tim Vercellotti 732-932-9384 x285;
Peter Woolley 973-670-3239
For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.