Poll Finds Split Over Politics Is ‘Dirty’ or ‘Honorable’
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — When it comes to the government, you can’t get much more divided than this.
According to a Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday 44% of respondents believe politics and government is “a dirty business,” while an equal number still consider engagement in both as “an honorable thing to do.”
The poll of 809 Garden State residents was conducted between Jan. 5 and 9.
And while the baseline rating for politics seems to be a wash, the pollsters note that the number of New Jersey residents who say politics is dirty has actually climbed significantly over the past 15 years, up from 32% in 2008.
Republicans (52%) and independents (52%) are more likely than Democrats (33%) to have a negative image of politics, but there were no significant generational differences in response to the question, the poll found.
When it came to comparing their state government to the federal government, just over one-third (36%) of respondents rated the quality of their state government as either excellent or good, while only 19% said the same about the federal government.
When asked to compare the two levels directly, 29% say the government in Trenton is better run and 9% say Washington works better, while the majority (57%) say the two governments are run about the same.
Among New Jersey Democrats, 37% pick Trenton and 12% choose Washington as the better run government. Republicans are less likely to name either level (24% Trenton and 6% Washington), with the vast majority (68%) saying they are about the same. The views of independents are nearly identical to Republicans.
It should also be noted that the New Jersey government rating, while low, is better than it was a decade ago (24% in 2010).
“A pox on both your houses say New Jerseyans,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a statement accompanying release of the poll.
“It may never be possible to get a majority of the public to view the government in a positive light in this day and age, but it may be some comfort to Trenton officials that at least some New Jerseyans think they are doing a better job than the folks in Washington,” Murray said.
Democrats (63%) were a lot more likely than Republicans (14%) to rate the state government positively. They were also somewhat more likely to give positive reviews to the quality of the federal government, although both partisan groups’ opinion of Washington is largely negative – just 31% excellent or good among Democrats and 7% among Republicans.
Again, independents’ views on both levels of government were more in line with Republican than Democratic opinion.
Interestingly, past polls on the quality of state government showed less of a partisan divide than the current results.
In 2009, when Democrats controlled both the executive and legislative branches, Democrats (44% excellent/good) had a slightly better view of Trenton than Republicans (20%), and independents (17%).
Republican opinion (38% positive) ticked up the following year when a GOP governor took office, while Democratic opinion (19%) slipped and independent (21%) opinion held steady. But these partisan gaps are nowhere near the nearly 50-point difference today.
“Partisanship fractures how we view the government nowadays. You’ve got to stick with your team and boo the other guys no matter what. Which means independents tend to remain unhappy no matter who is in charge,” Murray said.
The Monmouth University Poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points for the full sample.