Toll Hike Proposal and Opposition Are Familiar

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Perhaps some things are just very slow to change—like public opposition to toll hikes.  According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 53% of New Jersey voters oppose toll hikes, even if they are to “provide new funds to repair bridges and roads, widen the Turnpike and help build a rail tunnel into Manhattan.”  Just 37% support the idea, and 10% are undecided. The results are very similar to PublicMind surveys earlier in the year when Governor Jon Corzine proposed to issue bonds against revenue from future tolls.

“One thing that is different is that this toll proposal has had a much lower profile,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “The proposal was put out by the Turnpike Authority, not the governor’s office, allowing the governor to be at arm’s length.”

In contrast to surveys earlier in the year that consistently showed majorities of New Jersey voters had heard “a lot” about the governor’s toll proposal, only a third (33%) say they’ve heard a lot about this one. “The governor has a number of irons in the fire so that not all eyes are on the toll proposal,” said Woolley. “He is putting forward ethics legislation and promoting Obama for president.”

The governor’s job rating is unchanged from September: 31% rate his performance as “good” or “excellent,” while 41% rate it as “only fair” and a quarter (25%) rate it as “poor.”  The governor’s approval rating rose above a one-to-one ratio: 45% approve and 39% disapprove with another 17% mixed or unsure.  But 40% of voters say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 43% say their view is unfavorable, a one-to-one ratio.

Something else that has not changed is the percent of voters who say the state is headed in the right direction. That measure stands at 23%, matching the low mark of the governor’s term a month ago. Meanwhile 67% of voters say it’s “off on the wrong track,” matching the high mark of the governor term, set a month ago.

One month ago, the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll tested eight potential statewide candidates for name recognition and favorable opinion. This month, the poll tested seven more. Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews, who challenged Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the spring primary election, is not recognized by 61% of voters. Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone is not recognized by 57%.  Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman is not recognized by 70%.  And Bonnie Watson-Coleman, the Majority Leader of the New Jersey State Assembly, is not recognized by 89%.

Republicans measured in this survey were more obscure than Democrats. State Senator Bill Baroni is not known by 84% of voters.  State Senator Rick Merkt is not known by 89%. And John Crowley, a bio-tech millionaire who considered running for Senate against Frank Lautenberg, is unrecognized by 81%.

“When it comes to name recognition, the governor has no rivals on the horizon,” added Woolley. “For the time being, that makes insider party politics that much more important in positioning oneself to rival or succeed the governor,” he said.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Sept 29, 2008 through Oct 5, 2008, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.


Contacts: Peter Woolley 973.670.3239 Dan Cassino 973.896.7072

For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.

Copyright © 2008, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 081009]