MADISON, NJ - According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, just 22% say the country is headed in the right direction, while two-thirds (67%) say the country is “on the wrong track.” This is a stark contrast to voters’ views of the direction of the state expressed in the same survey: 46% saying the state is headed in the right direction and 43% saying the state is on the wrong track (released 10/25/11).
Nearly 9 of 10 New Jersey Republicans (88%) say the country is headed in the wrong direction, but independents agree (78%-16%) and so do Democrats (49%-36%). “When New Jersey voters’ see the direction of their state as better than the direction of the country, it’s a sure sign something is deeply wrong,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
President Obama has a net negative approval rating (44%-47%) for two months running now, the first time in his presidency. However, men and women differ, with men disapproving 51% to 41% and women approving 48% to 42%.
Meanwhile, 4 of 5 voters (81%) are following the Occupy Wall Street protests, with 3 of 5 (62%) saying they’ve heard “a great deal” about them. Overall, New Jerseyans support the movement by a margin of 46%-29%.
“Sympathy for the Wall Street protesters is a direct reflection of voters’ general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country,” said Woolley. “Something broke and voters know that whatever it was, it hasn’t been fixed.”
Sympathy for the movement cuts across gender, age and education. Men and women, both young and old voters, high school-educated and those with graduate degrees support the protests in equal proportions.
Support for the movement does reflect partisan splits. Democrats support it by the wide margin of 6 to 1 (68-11), and Republicans oppose it by 2 to 1 (53-23). Similarly, self-described liberals support it by about 9 to 1 (70-8) and conservatives condemn it by almost 2 to 1 (50-28). Those who approve of the president support it by 61%-13%, and those who disapprove of the president oppose it by 47%-31%.
Voters in north Jersey, closer to Wall Street, are also more likely to support the movement than voters south of the Driscoll Bridge (51% compared to 42%). And while those who say the country is going in the right direction support the movement 56%-17%, even those who say the country is on the wrong track split in favor of the movement 42%-36%.
However, 1 in 4 voters is unsure whether to support or oppose the protests (24%), and that substantial proportion of “don’t know” cuts across every demographic sub-group from party and ideology to age and education.
“The fact that so many people don’t know what to make of the protests is a reflection of the movement’s incoherence,” said Woolley. “The protest has no one message. It means whatever the beholders, pro or con, want it to mean,” he said. “But mostly it means voters are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.