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Christie’s Sandy Poll Driven Bubble Has Burst

Why Is a Public University Polling Operation Ignoring Critical Public Issues?

Source: Eagleton Institute, Rutgers (12/18/14)

Source: Eagleton Institute, Rutgers (12/18/14)

[Update below]

I saw todays news coverage of the latest Eagleton issues poll and decided to drop by and look at the actual polled questions.

Right off the bat, I read a trend chart that validated something I’d previously written about almost 2 years ago, see:

That trend has to be one of the most significant aberrations in political polling history – Christie’s Great Sandy Bubble.

Take a look at the poll results above – note when Christie’s favorable ratings skyrocketed and his unfavorable ratings dropped like a stone.

It was all a result of the Governor’s cynical manipulation of the Sandy disaster – his Blue Fleece Bubble has now burst.

Why has so little – to nothing – been written about such an enormous aberration in the history of political polling?

Perhaps worse, in reviewing the question and issues Eagleton polled, I was shocked to find a total neglect of all the critical public issues of the day. The issues that mean the most to the people of the State. The issues that have drawn the most attention of media and activists alike.

So, I fired off this note to the folks at Eagleton asking them what’s up with that? We’ll let you know if we get a response:

Greetings – I just checked out your most recent poll on Governor Christie’s performance.

Frankly, I was shocked to find that the issues that are demonstrably of most importance right now – as measured by several criteria – are not even on your polling radar.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are thousands of NJ residents actively involved in organized efforts – which have been the subject of huge public displays, including formal involvement at public events and informal protests – regarding the following issues:

  • income and wealth inequality, loss of upward mobility, decline of the middle class, and overall fairness
  • climate change, extreme weather events, and renewable energy
  • privatization of public schools
  • segregation of communities and public schools
  • police violence and racial profiling of black men
  • land use and environmental quality
  • transportation
  • crumbling water, sewer, & energy infrastructure
  • affordable housing crisis
  • cuts to unemployment, social safety net and seeming war on the poor
  • immigration

Where have you been? Are you paying attention to public events? From policy wonk reports to the people in the Streets, at local government hearings, on the State House steps, etc.

Why are none of these issues on your polling radar? (and please don’t say that “education” addresses the privatization and segregation issues)

Bill Wolfe

[Update – Wow, this is perhaps the most rapid and intelligent response I’ve ever got to. Kudos to Eagleton – let’s hope they broaden their polling operations:

Mr. Wolfe,

Thank you for your email. We’re always glad when folks bring ideas to our attention.

You are absolutely right that there are many issues beyond the ones we’ve included in our routine question about the “most important issue”. The reality of survey research is that we simply cannot ask about everything every time. It’s frustrating, but true. We try to keep the questions to a reasonable length so that people are willing to talk to us, and in order to manage the costs of each Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. This means we always have to make choices about what to ask and we always wish we could ask more.

In terms of our standard issue question, we identify the top 8 or 9 issues through “open ended” questions generally once or twice a year, and then include the ones people name most in the list. So from time to time we DO ask a question that lets people tell us what issues they are most concerned about in their own words. We don’t do this every time because it is very time consuming and costly. And routinely, people tell us – in their own words – that their top issues in NJ are taxes, the economy, jobs, and education. Other issues generally fall behind these, though not always.

As for the specific issues you mentioned, we have done versions of several of those quite recently. In fact, we just asked about perceptions of state road conditions (related to a gas tax increase), as well as about the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island.  While it has been a while, we have asked about climate change in the past – New Jerseyans strongly believe it is happening.

You can see all of our releases on our polls at our website: http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu. There you can look through years of press releases and examine our data archives which lets you look up polls all the way back to 1971. The whole site is searchable, so you can find releases on various topics over the past five years or so.

Again, we very much appreciate your interest and ideas for questions we might ask in the future.

Best wishes,

Dave Redlawsk
Director, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling

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