A year after the state Senate failed to pass a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, New Jerseyans are telling legislators and Gov. Chris Christie they have no problem with the idea, according to a poll made public on Friday.
The results of the survey by Public Policy Polling come five days after same-sex marriage became legal in New York.
By a 47 percent to 42 percent margin, New Jerseyans feel same-sex marriage should be legal.
Those aged 30 to 45 come out strongest in support of the idea, with 55 percent in support and 35 percent opposed. New Jersey currently allows civil unions, and when they are added as an option, voters are split between marriage and civil unions. Forty-one percent favor marriage to 40 percent for civil unions, while 17 percent oppose all recognition.
“Even among Republicans in the state (77 percent) support either gay marriage or civil unions,” Tom Jensen, the poll's director, said.
Apparently the majority of New Jerseyans are leaning to the left and told pollsters they are prepared to re-elect the Democratic majorities in the Legislature in November.
By a 52 percent to 39 percent margin, residents say they would choose the Democrat over the Republican in their district. Democrats and Republicans are united behind their parties, while independents are split, giving Democrats the edge in Democratic-leaning New Jersey.
“Democrats lead on the generic legislative ballot 52 percent to 39 percent,” Jensen said “They're holding their base (91 percent support from Democrats) better than the Republicans (87 percent of GOP voters for the GOP) and only trailing by a 39 percent to 36 percent margin with independents. That three point deficit is a lot smaller than the advantage Republicans had with independents in 2009 and it's not nearly enough for the party to win in a state with a significant Democratic party advantage.”
New Jerseyans have poor opinions of two of their former governors. Only 31 percent see Republican Christie Todd Whitman favorably, compared to a 52 percent majority who see her unfavorably. Jim McGreevey achieves an even worse rating 19 percent to 64 percent.
“The animosity towards him cuts pretty strongly across party lines,” Jensen said “Democrats like him the 'best,' such as it is at 31 percent to 48 percent. With Republicans 5 percent to 85 percent and independents 12 percent to 70 percent warm feelings are virtually nonexistent.”
McGreevey resigned from office after announcing he was gay. “This same poll finds that New Jersey supports gay marriage so that's clearly not the issue- the way he handled it is,” Jensen said.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who is not up for re-election until 2014, achieves only tepid approval, with 41 percent of voters approving compared to 36 percent who disapprove.
Lautenberg achieves decent number among Democrats, 62 percent to 15 percent , but garners little crossover support from Republicans, 12 percent to 63 percent, and is narrowly underwater with independents, 38 percent to 40 percent.
While Lautenberg’s approval is nothing to write home about, Lautenberg can take solace in that he is far more popular than his predecessor, Democrat Robert Torricelli. While most seem to have forgotten Torricelli, now a Democratic fundraiser. Of those who have an opinion, only 10 percent view Torricelli favorably, compared to 33 percent who see him unfavorably.
“Eight and a half years after he left the Senate, Robert Torricelli has quickly been forgotten by Garden State voters,” Jensen said. “56 percent have no opinion of him. He might want even more to forget about him because among those who do remember only 10 percent have a positive opinion to 33 percent with a negative one. Torricelli replicates the McGreevey trifecta of being disliked by Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
“What other elected senators who have served in the office within the last 10 years do you think would be unpopular/forgotten enough now to have a favorability rating at 10 percent or lower?” Jensen asked. “John Edwards manages that feat but he may be the only other one.”
But New Jerseyans love former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), giving him a 56 percent to 14 percent rating. Even Republicans like Bradley, rating him positively by more than a 2:1 margin, 47 percent to 21 percent.
PPP, a Democratic-leaning polling company, surveyed 480 New Jersey voters from July 15 through 18. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent. The poll was not authorized by any campaign or political organization.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM