New Jersey voters may approve of the governor but not necessarily of his ideas for raising money. According to the latest survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, 58% of voters say leasing the New Jersey Turnpike is a bad idea and 54% say leasing the state lottery is a bad idea. Just 17% say leasing the Turnpike is a good idea, a figure unchanged from two months ago, and just 20% think leasing the state lottery is a good idea.
The lack of enthusiasm extends across party lines as just as many Democrats as Republicans and independents say leasing either property is a bad idea. Moreover, those who approve of the governor's job performance are just as likely as those who disapprove to think these are bad ideas.
“The governor may want to sell assets, but the public is not yet buying the idea,” said Peter J. Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “Because skepticism of his ideas reaches across political parties, the governor has his work cut out for him. The good news for the governor is that the issue is not hurting his standing with the public, and a quarter of voters are reserving judgment on the idea of a lease until they hear more.”
Voters are split at this point over whether the governor's proposed budget is good or bad: 38% say it's good, 29% say it's bad, and 32% have not decided. But they are certain the property tax bite will not get any smaller: 69% expect property taxes to increase in their town and nearly half of those expect property taxes to increase “a lot.” Only 21% expect their taxes will stay the same, and just 5% think they might decrease.
As always, the main cause of high taxes in the public's view is “fraud, waste, and abuse.” Over a third (36%) cite fraud, waste and abuse, while the cost of public schools is far behind at 14%, and just 13% cite pension and health care costs for public employees. Forty-seven percent say the state is on the wrong track, down from a peak of 57% last summer, but exactly the same as a year ago. Just 39% say the state is headed in the right direction.
Despite it all, Gov. Corzine maintains a healthy favorable to unfavorable ratio of opinion of about 5:3 or 53-30%. In fact, his approval rating increased slightly, to 55% from 51% in January, while disapproval of the governor declined slightly to 25% from 29% in January. “The gap between the percentage of voters who say the state is on the right track the percentage who say they approve of the governor suggests that he maintains a large measure of personal trust of the voters,” added Woolley. His numbers are bolstered by households tied to the public pension system, which give the governor an impressive 62% approval rate against just 21% disapproving, while non-public employee households give him a 53%-26% approval rating.
Trailing the governor in popularity is the man who took his place in the U.S. Senate, Bob Menendez, who still has a ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion of just 1:1 (36%-31%). “Menendez' image has not recovered from the bruising campaign season,” observed Woolley. New Jersey's other US Senator, Frank Lautenberg, checks in with numbers similar to the governor's of 53% favorable and 25% unfavorable.
But it is Cory Booker, the new mayor of the state's largest city, who wins the popularity contest. Even though just over half (54%) say they have heard of him, among those who know him, 57% have a favorable opinion against just 8% who have an unfavorable opinion, for a ratio of 7 to 1.
Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind poll of 800 randomly selected registered voters statewide was conducted from February 27 through March 4 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
Peter Woolley 973.670.3239 or Dan Cassino 973.896.7072
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