Divided Republicans Head into Primary

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According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, New Jersey Republicans differ on far more than whether to support former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie or former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.  Asked whom they consider to be the leader of the national Republican Party, answers range from House Minority Leader John Boehner (1%) to the party’s national chair, Michael Steele (8%). But the big winners are “no one” (30%) and “don’t know” (35%).

Given a short list of prominent national Republicans, opinions still vary dramatically: Former Vice President Dick Cheney polls 15% while his sometime critic, former presidential nominee John McCain, polls 20%. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh gets just 6%, while his sometime critic, Michael Steele, gets 16%. The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, polls just 5%. The Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, polls just 2%.

Republicans agree somewhat on national issues, but hardly speak with one voice. Two-thirds disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president while the remainder approve of the job he has done or have mixed views.  Similarly, 64% approve of the way Dick Cheney handled his job as vice president, but the remainder disapprove or are unsure.

New Jersey Republicans, long known to be more heterogeneous and less conservative than their counterparts outside the Northeast, are pro-life by 2-to-1 (60%-32%); are pro-gun by 2-to-1 (63%-30%); and favor school vouchers (62%-23%).  Yet they also favor stem cell research (51%-31%).  Lonegan voters are more likely than Christie voters to be pro-gun, pro-life and pro-school vouchers.

Among these likely New Jersey Republican primary voters on the cusp of the June 2 election, Christie maintains a lead over Lonegan of 54% to 30%, with 11% still not having a preference.

What New Jersey Republicans agree on overwhelmingly are just a handful of items: They disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job (83%) and they oppose closing down prison facilities in Guantanamo Bay (83%).

At the state level, Republicans agree overwhelmingly on just one thing: They don’t like the job Jon Corzine has done as governor (91%). “But,” says Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, “their disapproval of Corzine will not be enough to carry them. They will need significant allies and votes outside the party.

“More than nine of 10 Republicans are white in a state with sizable ethnic minorities,” Woolley noted. “Whoever leads the Republicans in the general election campaign will have to reach well beyond regular Republicans and beyond leafy suburbs.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 561 likely Republican primary voters statewide was conducted by telephone from May 26, 2009 through May 30, 2009, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.



Peter Woolley 973.670.3239

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Copyright © 2009, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 090601]