Poll: N.J. residents back layoffs, wage freezes for state workers

A Quinnipiac Poll released Thursday morning captures the angry mood of New Jerseyans toward public workers.

The poll – which shows voters supporting 53-41 percent Gov. Christie’s handling of state budget woes – finds residents in overwhelming favor of layoffs, wage freezes, furloughs and reduced pensions for state workers.

The numbers are stark:

Poll respondents back layoffs 56-38 percent.  Democratic respondents are against layoffs 53-40 percent. Those with a union member in their household also oppose layoffs 53-44 percent.

Salary freezes for workers are supported 77-20 percent, and that includes a 72-23 percent backing by Democratic respondents and 64-34 among union respondents.

Reducing public pensions? Sixty-six percent are in favor as compared to 29 percent against.

And by a 65-24 percent margin, furloughs of state workers are supported.

“As the reality of tough budgets begins to sink in – in New Jersey and everywhere else – voters are starting to get tougher on state workers,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. 

“Furloughs and wage freezes had won some approval in the past.  Now voters approve even layoffs and reduction in pension benefits for new workers.”

New Jersey voters also support 55–34 percent the so-called “Millionaires’ Tax.”  Support is 72–21 percent among Democrats and 55–32 percent among independent voters, while Republicans oppose the tax 53–33 percent.

However, although a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed Christie’s approval ratings on the rebound, and respondents in today’s poll  are behind his handling of the budget problems, they gave him lower marks – 47-48 percent –  for his handling of education problems.

Despite the state’s budget problems, the poll found that voters oppose 71 – 25 percent cutting aid to public schools, with no group in support of such a cut.  Voters split 47 – 48 percent on tax cuts for corporations to help stimulate the state economy.  

Christie’s proposed cap on salaries for school superintendents as a way  to help balance the budget is backed by 68 percent of voters, while 25 percent say it is meddling in local government.  All groups support the salary cap.

And although poll respondents have a favorable opinion of public school teachers in general – 62-17 percent – their outlook on the teachers’ union is much less favorable: 44-27 percent.

By a wider margin – 52-36 percent – voters said the union plays a negative role in improving New Jersey education.

On other education issues, the poll shows voters backing merit pay for teachers 68-27 percent; limiting tenure 62-30 percent; opposing school vouchers 52-43 percent; and opposing charter schools 50-41 percent.

“Voters agree overwhelmingly that Gov. Christopher Christie has one tough problem on his hands as he prepares to submit his budget next week,” Carroll said.  “What would they like that budget message to say?”

Eighty-two percent of the respondents said New Jersey’s budget problems are “very serious,” while 15 percent said they are “somewhat serious.”  To balance the state budget, 64 percent of voters said cut services, while 26 percent said raise taxes.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 3–7 of 1,347 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.  Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

Poll: N.J. residents back layoffs, wage freezes for state workers