New Jerseyans continue to prefer less government spending to more taxes.
Three of five people, or 60 percent, say the state government should hold the line on spending even if many programs have to be reduced, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll made public Wednesday.
The figure is down 10 points from early 2010 and 2009 but is essentially unchanged from late March when Gov. Chris Christie made his budget speech. Just 22 percent say the state should raise taxes and continue to support programs.
Even Democrats, who dislike the governor by a 2 to 1 margin, say "hold the line on spending" by 48 to 28 percent.
"What's interesting here," Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, said "is that this figure holds steady in the midst of so many budget cuts. Second, there is agreement on this point among many different groups of voters."Self-described liberals agree by 45 to 34 percent. Public employee households agree by a 50 to 24 percent. Even those who disapprove of Christie's job performance tend to agree 40 to 33 percent. Agreeing even more strongly on holding down spending are independents and Republicans, moderates and conservatives, non-public employee households, and those who approve of the governor.
New Jersey voters approve of President Obama and Christie by similar margins: 47 percent approve of the governor's job performance, while 36 percent disapprove, a step up from May when he ran only slightly ahead on that measure, 44 to 42 percent.
However, on strong feelings he runs even, as 23 percent strongly approve and 22 percent strongly disapprove. Voters in public employee households disapprove of him by 54 to 36 percent, while all other households approve by 51 to 31 percent. Democrats disapprove of him by a margin of 2 to 1, while independents give him thumbs up by 2 to 1, and Republicans approve by 5 to 1.
At the same time, voters approve of Obama by 49 to 40 percent, but it is Democrats who approve of the president by 5 to 1 while independents split about evenly and 4 of 5 Republicans disapprove.
"The governor and the president have more in common than people realize," Woolley said. "They are both new to their jobs, excellent speakers, very well-liked by their base, took over from unpopular incumbents, and promised great change."
Three of five public employee households say the state is on the wrong track. But 42 percent of all New Jerseyans say the state is on the right track, up seven points from May, while 48 percent say the state is on the wrong track, down seven points from May. By contrast, 33 percent say the country is headed in the right direction and 54 percent say it's on the wrong track, unchanged from May.
The leaders of the state Legislature, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex), frequent critics of the governor, are largely unknown to voters: 87 percent have not heard of or have no opinion of Sweeney and 94 percent have never heard of or have no opinion of Oliver.
The poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from July 27 through Aug. 2, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM