FDU: voters oppose AC state takeover, 43-29%

It doesn’t change their mostly positive view of the governor’s job approval, but New Jersey voters disapprove of the state’s takeover of Atlantic City’s tourism district, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll released this morning. 

Administered in the days immediately following Gov. Chris Christie’s establishment of a state-run gaming district, the poll shows that 29% favor the state directly overseeing parts of Atlantic City, but 43% say they oppose the measure. Another 27% are unsure or have mixed views. Even South Jersey voters oppose the action, with 40% against it compared to 37% in favor.

“The state has taken over local functions before,” said Peter Woolley, political scientist and director of the poll, “with little or nothing to show for it.  Moreover, many voters want to curb state government spending, not expand its functions. They’re simply not confident the state can run things well.”

Signed by a Republican governor with support on both sides of the aisle and with a job approval rating of 51% compared to 39% disapproval, formation of the gaming district has the support of more Democrats than Republicans, according to the poll. In a battleground legislative election year pitting incumbent state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City) against challenger Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor), GOP voters oppose the move by a margin of 48%-29% while Democrats oppose it 39%-30%. Independents oppose it, 41%-25%. Liberals oppose it 41%-30% and conservatives by 49%-27%. Boiled down to Christie numbers, those who approve of the job the governor is doing oppose the takeover by 43%-34% (though those who disapprove of the governor’s performance oppose the Atlantic City takeover by an even larger margin of 51%-20%). 

“This issue has strange cross-currents,” said Woolley. “On the one hand many voters oppose more and bigger state government. On the other hand, they want Atlantic City to do what it’s supposed to do: draw investment, jobs, and tourists.”

Christie maintaining his chin above 50% probably has more to do with the public pereption that he’s a budget hawk. “Three of five voters (62%) continue to say the state should hold the line on spending even if many programs are reduced, while just one in five (21%) say the state should raise taxes if necessary to support state programs. Among those who say ‘hold the line,’ Christie’s approval rate is 65%-27%.  Among those who say the state needs to raise taxes to support its programs, Christie’s approval runs well behind, 22%-69%.”

Fairleigh Dickinson University pollsters conducted their survey of 801 registered voters statewide by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Feb. 7-13. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.