Toll Plan Puts Public Opinion on Wrong Track

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The percent of New Jersey voters saying the state is on the wrong track jumped since the governor’s state-of-the-state address. According to the most recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, just one in four (26%) say the state is headed in the right direction, down from 33% early in the month, while 63% say it’s off on the wrong track, up from 55% before the governor’s speech.  Three of four Republicans say the state is on the wrong track and a majority of Democrats agree.  “In fact the governor is telling voters that the state is on the wrong track,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, “and at least this part of his message is getting through.”

Among those who use the Turnpike or Parkway to commute to work, 32% rate the governor’s job performance as “poor” compared to just 19% of those who don’t use the Turnpike or Parkway to commute.  At the same time, the governor’s favorable to unfavorable ratio edged down to one to one (42%-40%) with 17% unsure, the lowest it has been in his two year term.

Overall approval of the governor’s job performance slipped to 44%-36% from 48%-32% just two weeks ago.  He maintains a two-to-one approval among Democrats (57-24), though that is down from three-to-one earlier in the month. Meanwhile, Republicans disapprove by two-to-one (56-26) and independents essentially split (34-38). “Given the reaction against the governor’s far-reaching proposal, it is surprising that his approval ratings have not dipped more,” said Woolley. “Voters are ambivalent. They may agree the state is headed in the wrong direction, and they want a fix.  But what fix with what pain for whom?” 

A majority of 60% say they heard little or nothing at all about the governor’s state-of-the-state speech on Jan. 7th.  But, by contrast, fewer than one in five voters, 18%, say they’ve heard little or nothing about the governor’s proposal to restructure the state’s finances by bonding higher future tolls revenues on the Turnpike and Parkway.  More than four of five voters, 83%, say they’ve heard some or a lot about the governor’s plan.

A majority of 57% of voters say they oppose the proposal, up seven percentage points since the governor’s speech, while just a third, 34%, say they support it, down 5 percentage points.

Public-employee household members are somewhat more likely to oppose the governor’s refinancing plan (63-29) than those in other households (55-36) even though the governor has said the restructuring is necessary to maintain state-financed programs at current levels.

Those who use the Turnpike or Parkway to commute to work also oppose the plan (68-26) more strongly than those who don’t use those arteries (55-36). “The governor has a tough sales job ahead of him,” added Woolley. “Clearly he doesn’t have to convince people that the state is headed in the wrong direction, but he does have to convince them that his plan will help and not hurt the quality of voters’ lives.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 927 registered voters statewide was conducted from January 14 through January 20 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 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 080122]