By MAX PIZARRO
Democratic State Chairman Joseph Cryan said a new Quinnipiac University Institute poll numbers showing Gov. Jon Corzine's approval rating at 51-36 percent, represent good news for Democrats, while a skeptical Tom Wilson, the GOP State Chairman, said the numbers show nothing new, and still reflect voter discontent.
Sparked by increased approval for his property tax reduction plan, the poll results released today are Corzine's highest ever, and show "little apparent effect from his auto accident," according to Quinnipiac.
Gov. Corzine’s split 42 €” 42 percent approval rating in a Jan. 24 poll by the independent Quinnipiac University had jumped to 50 €” 34 percent in a Feb. 28 survey. A new survey begun April 10 shows:
51 €” 36 percent approval among more than 800 registered voters surveyed April 10 €” 12, before news of his accident was widely known;
52 €” 35 percent approval among almost 500 voters surveyed April 13 €” 16, or after the accident;
51 €” 36 percent overall approval for the entire survey.
Voters approve 71 €” 21 percent of the property tax cut Corzine signed recently. The Governor still gets a negative 41 €” 44 percent approval for his handling of property taxes, but this is his highest score on this issue, up from 33 €” 57 percent February 28.
“The administration will feel pleased with these numbers and associate progress with the governor, not the Legislature,” said Prof. David Rebovich, director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics, noting the poll's continued low approval ratings for the Legisalture – 32-49 percent.
Cryan and Wilson disputed what the governor's numbers mean.
“Anytime you’re in office and you’re over 50 percent, you’re doing what people want,” Cryan said. “Pre-accident, the numbers show the governor is determined to do the right thing.”
Speaking specifically to the numbers on Corzine’s handling of property taxes, “The trend on property taxes is upward,” said Cryan. “People are learning about the reform effort.
Property taxes are the number one issue and no one’s happy. Anytime you’re near a 50-50 split, you’re doing something right.”
Wilson said the “slight up-tick” in the numbers on the way the governor is handling property taxes don’t provide cause for celebration.
“Fewer than half the people think he’s doing a good job,” said the Republican chairman.
“This is going to be a change election. People are tired of sky-rocketing taxes and runaway spending.”
Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, broke down the poll.
“Poll results taken before and after the Governor’s unfortunate accident show shifts so small that they are probably unrelated to the event. More significant is that 71 percent of voters approve the property tax reduction that Corzine signed into law shortly before the accident,” Richards said. “As property tax relief moves closer to reality in New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine’s approval rating continues to move up. Voters are happier with his handling of taxes. Last year’s sales tax hike doesn’t seem as bad now with property tax relief checks on the way.”
Wilson underscored that timing is everything.
Addressing the 71-21 approval rating of Corzine’s tax cut, the Republican chairman said, “There’s no surprise here. People are always going to approve of something that gives them more money back. The more telling number is the 41 percent approval rating on the way he’s handling property taxes. That number is likely to get worse come August when people receive their property tax bills and see increases.”
The poll also shows that 48 percent of voters say the 20 percent property tax credit is the “right amount,” while 32 percent say it’s “too little” and 8 percent say it’s “too much.”
By a 76 €” 19 percent margin, New Jersey voters say state legislators should not be allowed to hold other government jobs. Opposition to this practice is consistent among all groups.
Voters say 65 €” 28 percent that current members of the State Legislature who currently hold another government job should be forced to give up one of the jobs.
Despite the thumbs down response to the Legislature in general, Rebovich said safe districting and Democratic Party cash advantages will likely prevent any power shift in the coming election.
"Plus, most residents like their individual lawmakers while disapproving of the institution," Rebovich said.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,424 New Jersey voters from April 10 €” 16, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.