Mt. Laurel, COAH, and the Race for Governor

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Tabular Results
Survey Details

Candidates for New Jersey’s Republican nomination for governor have each squarely attacked the Council on Affordable Housing, (COAH), “the State agency responsible,” according to its own Web site, “for establishing and monitoring municipal affordable housing obligations.” But what impact does COAH have on the race?

Asked about the New Jersey Supreme Court decisions known as Mt. Laurel, which eventually gave rise to COAH, 75% of New Jersey voters say they have heard or read little or nothing about the decisions. Asked about COAH, 72% of voters say they have heard or read little or nothing about it.  There is no significant difference between Republican and Democrat awareness of Mt. Laurel or COAH.

Told that “in the Mount Laurel rulings the court said that New Jersey towns are required to actively promote the building of low and moderate income housing,” 52% approve and 36% disapprove. More important, there is a distinct party split: 69% of Democrats approve; 60% of Republicans disapprove. But how hot is the issue?

The Republican Primary

Republicans who say they have heard some or a great deal about COAH are more likely to report they will vote in the primary election than those who say they’ve heard little or nothing: 86% compared to 69%.  But—caution—Republicans who’ve heard little or nothing outnumber Republicans who’ve heard some or a lot by more than 2 to 1.

Those Republicans who have heard some or a lot about Mt. Laurel prefer Chris Christie over Steve Lonegan by 60% to 19%, with 20% unsure. But Republicans who have heard a lot about Mt. Laurel are outnumbered more than 2-to-1 by Republicans who have heard little or nothing.  Those who have heard little or nothing about Mt. Laurel have weaker candidate preferences: 46% are undecided, 37% prefer Christie, 13% prefer Lonegan.  

A different measure is to compare Republicans who approve of Mt. Laurel to those who disapprove.  Republicans who approve of Mt. Laurel prefer Christie over Lonegan by a margin of about 8-to-1 (47%-6%).  Republicans who disapprove of Mt. Laurel prefer Christie over Lonegan by a much narrower margin of 2-to-1 (42%-21%).  This is important because disapproving Republicans outnumber approving Republicans by a margin of 2-to-1.

Democratic Primary

Democrats who know some or a lot about Mt. Laurel are more likely to prefer Corzine (in a primary with no significant challenger) to those who know little or nothing about Mt. Laurel: 70% versus 56%.  Democrats who approve of Mt. Laurel prefer Corzine in a primary (against unknowns) significantly more than Democrats who disapprove of Mt. Laurel: 62% versus 48%.  Corzine wins over Codey among Mt. Laurel approvers by 53%-30% but comes out at the wrong end (42%-46%) among Mt. Laurel disapprovers.

The issue is still tinged with race. White voters approve of Mt. Laurel, but barely, by 47%-42%, while non-white voters approve better than 3 to 1 (66%-18%) and black voters by more than 7 to 1, (76%-10%).

“COAH presents Republicans with their usual quandary,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “He who lives by suburban gripes in the primary election may die by urban preferences in the general election.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 751 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Feb. 25, 2009 through March. 2, 2009, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.  Samples for some questions, as noted in tables, are smaller



Peter Woolley 973.670.3239

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Copyright © 2009, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 090313]