Governor’s Ratings Don’t Benefit
from Sprawl Issue
Half of voters say suburban sprawl is “very important compared to other issues” but this group does not give Governor McGreevey higher or lower marks than other voters. Voters who place great emphasis on the problem of suburban sprawl do not draw significantly different conclusions than other voters about whether the state is on the right or wrong track, whether they view the governor favorably or unfavorably, or how they rate the governor’s job performance. The PublicMind study was undertaken just before the Governor’s State-of-the State speech for the March 2004 issue of New Jersey Monthly.
“The Governor has spent a lot of time and energy on this issue, but voters don’t appear to judge him on it one way or the other,” said Bruce Larson, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst. “While many voters find the sprawl issue compelling, they apparently judge the governor on other issues dogging state government and the quality of life.”
Independents are somewhat more likely than Republicans and Democrats to rate controlling sprawl in the Garden State as very important, and self-described liberals are somewhat more likely than conservatives to say sprawl is very important compared to other issues. But party identification and ideology seem to hold less sway than other factors. Females place more importance on controlling sprawl than males while suburban and rural dwellers find it more important than urban dwellers. In fact, in the state’s northwest region, 62% of voters rate sprawl as very important but in the state’s urban core only 32% say controlling sprawl is very important. And it is most important to those who have long lived in single family detached housing as opposed to those who have moved to a single family home from an apartment or condo.
“Sprawl is a potentially powerful statewide issue for the Democrats,” added Larson. “But it is not a strong sell among the party’s core constituency in the cities. And in the suburbs, it is decisively seen as an issue better dealt with at the local level than by the state.” Only 22% of those who say controlling sprawl is very important also say that planning should be done by the state. Two-thirds think it should be done by local government.
Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll of 600 registered voters was conducted from January 4 through January 11 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
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