Voters hang tough on idea of budget cuts

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Half of New Jersey voters (49%) still say they prefer “very steep budget cuts” to the other options of raising highway tolls or the gas tax or the income tax, according to the most recent results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll.  A month ago, before the governor actually did announce steep budget cuts, 51% said they preferred cuts.  However, Democrats split on the question, with a little more than a third (37%) preferring steep cuts and a similar proportion (36%) preferring toll hikes.  Half of Democrats (50%) prefer some increase in tolls or taxes rather than steep budget cuts (37%).  “The blood and gore of the budget cuts has not yet shaken voters even though the lobbyists are swinging into high season,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.

Asked what it is that drives taxes and spending in New Jersey, 43% say “fraud and waste.” In a distant second place with 18% are “pensions and health care for public employees.”  Only 6% say taxes and spending are due to “too many small towns” in the state.  Opinions of voters in towns larger than 10,000 people and towns smaller than 10,000 show no significant differences. “The advantage in political debate usually goes to the side that can define the problem first,” said Woolley. “But by that standard, no one seems to have the advantage in explaining the cause of New Jersey’s fiscal problems.”

Voters in towns under 10,000 and towns over 10,000 also agree on the direction in which their local property taxes are going: three quarters (77%), expect their property taxes to increase in the coming year; and 43% expect their property taxes to increase “a lot,” an increase of 10 percentage points from the same question asked a year ago.  And while nearly half of Republicans (48%) expect their property taxes to increase “a lot,” nearly as many Democrats (41%) expect the same.

The public splits over the governor’s performance with 44% approving and 45% disapproving, similar to his 42%-43% showing in February and 41%-39% in late January after his State of the State address.  But the percent of people who are unsure has declined 5 points from February and 9 points from January.  The governor’s approval was recently as high as 48%-32% in early January and 51%-29% in October.

Also changed are the governor’s favorable ratings -- a general impression of the person rather than approval of the job he does.  These have reversed on him as just 38% say they have a favorable impression while half (52%), say their impression is unfavorable. “For a long time voters’ have given Jon Corzine high personal marks even if they didn’t approve of this or that proposal.  He may have come to the end of that good will,” added Woolley.

Opposition remains broad and deep to the Governor’s proposal to restructure the state’s finances by issuing bonds against toll increases: 60% oppose the plan, including half of Democrats (51%), three of five independents (62%), and most Republicans (70%).  Self-described liberals split on the question, 45%-46%, while moderates and conservatives both oppose it. “How the budget cuts play to Democratic voters is key to the governor’s success or failure in the legislature,” said Woolley.

One in four voters (26%) say the state is headed in the right direction while two thirds (66%) say the state is on the wrong track, a new high for the Corzine administration.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 816 New Jersey registered voters statewide was conducted from March 24 through March 30 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.


Contact: Peter Woolley 973.670.3239

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

Copyright © 2008, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 080401]