McGreevey-Schundler Gap Driven by Non-Economic Issues And Independents
Elections are frequently won and lost over bread and butter issues--taxes, the economy, and government spending--but other issues appear to be driving Democrat Jim McGreevey's lead over Republican Bret Schundler in New Jersey's gubernatorial contest.
A poll of 626 likely New Jersey voters conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind shows that voters are split over which candidate they believe would do the best job on the issues of taxes, the economy, and government spending.
By contrast, more New Jersey voters think that McGreevey is the more capable candidate on a range of non-economic issues. While 40% of likely voters believe that McGreevey would do the best job of dealing with growth and development, only 28% percent say that Schundler would be more effective on this issue. Similarly, more voters say that McGreevey would do a better job than Schundler at improving education and fixing racial profiling.
The largest gap in voter preferences is evident on the issue of the environment: 48% of likely voters say that McGreevey would do a better job at protecting the state's environment with only 17% believing that Schundler would best protect the environment.
Self-identified independents differ significantly from partisan voters in their assessment of the candidates. On most issues, majorities of Democratic voters view McGreevey as the best person for the job, while majorities of Republican voters typically see Schundler as the more capable candidate. Independents' preferences on issues of taxes, the economy, and government spending are mixed, but independents favor McGreevey by significant margins on all of the non-economic issues.
Survey analyst Bruce Larson added a caveat about these survey results. "On each of these issues, at least 20% of likely voters are uncertain about whether McGreevey or Schundler would do a better job. Clearly, many New Jersey voters, especially independents, are still evaluating the candidates."
In a typical New Jersey twist, an especially high number of voters are unsure which candidate would be most effective dealing with high auto insurance rates. As Larson noted, "Some New Jersey voters remain unconvinced that any candidate can solve the problem of high insurance rates." Forty percent of voters - a significantly higher portion than on any other issue - either say they are unsure which candidate would be more effective, or that "neither" candidate would do a good job of controlling the cost of auto insurance.
Fairleigh Dickinson Professor, Dr. Bruce Larson can be reached at (973) 443-8727