April 25, 2019 | 54° F

Poll shows slight increase in Murphy's approval rating prior to inauguration

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New Jersey residents polled by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics in early December showed an increase in Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s favorability rating since last August.

A recent poll by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics shows a slight uptick in New Jerseyan's confidence in Governor-elect Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) as he assumes office.

The poll, which was conducted after the election and released on Dec. 12. 2017, contacted 1,203 New Jersey adults and asked the Garden State residents questions about their support of Murphy's policies and the direction the state is going. 

While 60 percent of residents surveyed still believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, 30 percent now say the state is headed in the correct direction — a double-digit increase since August, according to the poll. Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said that a boost in positivity is common but in today’s divisive political climate it is more likely to be concentrated on the winning side.

“With elections nowadays and hyper partisanship there is such a divide between political parties that it’s hard to say that there is really kind of a universal rallying moment or effect anymore at these types of situations,” Koning said.

Koning explained that those whose political parties win will be happy and those who lose will not, and that current positive ratings are rooted primarily in Murphy supporters and somewhat in those excited to see the old administration leave. She said the last time New Jersey saw a rallying effect of positivity across the board was with former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) after Hurricane Sandy.

Following Hurricane Sandy, in November 2012, a Rutgers Eagleton poll found that Christie’s favorability rating stood at 65 percent at the time.

Residents were also asked their opinions on Murphy’s campaign promises and policies that he hopes to implement as governor. 

Eighty percent of residents surveyed favored providing employees with a minimum number of paid sick days, 75 percent favored restoring funding for family planning services, 68 percent favored raising the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour and 53 percent favored legalizing the sale and recreational use of marijuana, according to the poll.  

Megan Coyne, a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences and president of Rutgers University Democrats said that her organization is excited to see Murphy tackle issues like fixing the state infrastructure, increasing funding for state universities to lower tuition, increasing the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana, among others. 

She said policies that could have the most effect on students include raising the minimum wage and increased funding for education. 

“Also Phil (Murphy) has a plan to make community college free in New Jersey which I think is obviously incredible for students, it will provide people with opportunities that they didn’t have before,” Coyne said.

In September, NJ Advance Media reported that Murphy plans to bring free community college to the state, and said that his plan could cost $200 million and is likely to be phased in over the course of a couple of years.

Coyne said taking action on the state’s infrastructure would be a good place for Murphy to start his term.

“We would definitely like to see him take action on the infrastructure which he already started to do, he actually sent letters of resignation to high-up people at New Jersey transit," she said. “I think that we are already seeing him starting (sic) to take a hard stance on New Jersey infrastructure, which will be great.”

According to the poll, 25 percent of respondents want Murphy to focus on taxes first. Koning said that looking at how all of these policies are paid for is the biggest question. New Jersey is already home to the highest property taxes in the nation, according to The Daily Targum.

“The caveat is how all of these policy proposals get paid for. That’s the big thing,” Koning said. “New Jerseyans are unsatisfied and quite negative about taxes, and particularly property taxes, so a lot of these policy proposals are going to require funding. Where that funding comes from becomes a big question.” 

Murphy’s support base mainly consists of democrats, with 41 percent of respondents saying they are “very enthusiastic” compared to only 7 percent of Republicans, according to the poll. 

There is still hope for bipartisanship within some of the governor’s policies. According to the poll, 67 percent of Republicans support paid sick days and 57 percent support funding family planning services.

Coyne said that paid family leave is an example of an issue that both parties can agree on, referencing a previous bill that was vetoed by Christie over the summer that would have expanded the program.

“New Jersey is really lucky to have a paid family leave program, we’re one of only a few states in the country that have that … So I am sure that Phil (Murphy) will try to capitalize on that and make sure that both parties kind of have input,” Coyne said.

Koning said that this particular election was strange because neither candidate was widely known leading up to the election, even though Kim Guadagno served as lieutenant governor under Christie and Murphy started his campaign approximately two years ago.

In an earlier poll from August, Rutgers Eagleton found that 4 in 10 residents did not know either candidate. In their most recent poll, 6 in 10 residents said they have “at least some knowledge” of Murphy’s plans.

Koning said that it was a very low turnout election, but Coyne said that she has seen more political involvement in her organization recently.

“Most people think that you can show up every four years and vote for the president and that’s pretty much it, and that’s really not how things are supposed to work,” Coyne said. “You have to, in New Jersey we have an election every single year, and it’s important that people show up every single year because those elections directly impact us.”

Ryan Stiesi

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