FDU Poll: Jersey Residents Say Politicians are Corrupt, Even the Ones that Represent Them

The New Jersey Statehouse and Capitol Building In Trenton

Jersey Residents Say Politicians are Corrupt, Even the Ones that Represent Them

Residents of Coastal Counties More Likely to Say Their Officials are Corrupt

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, May 12, 2023 – Most New Jersey residents say that politicians in the state are “very” or “somewhat” corrupt, and they’re only a little more positive about their own representatives in state and local government. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, 80 percent of New Jersey residents say that the state’s politicians are at least “a little” corrupt, a view driven by partisanship and views of Governor Phil Murphy.

“This is Jersey, and people expect some degree of corruption,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “But the fact that they think their own representatives, the people they could vote out, are corrupt is really saying something.”

Overall, 61 percent of New Jersey residents say that Garden State politicians are “somewhat” or “very” corrupt. Just 6 percent say that they’re “not at all corrupt,” and 19 percent say that New Jersey politicians are “a little” corrupt. However, residents are less likely to believe that the politicians who represent them are corrupt. Fifty percent of New Jersey say that their representatives in state and local government are “very” or “somewhat” corrupt; 74 percent say that their representatives are at least “a little” corrupt.

One of the main drivers of views of corruption seems to be the views of Governor Phil Murphy. Overall, Murphy’s approval is 44 percent among residents, a tick down from his figure of 48 percent in February’s FDU Poll, and well down from his pandemic-era highs, but up from last fall, when it was as low as 40 percent. Among the 39 percent of residents who disapprove of the job Murphy is doing as governor, 79 percent say that New Jersey politicians are “very” or “somewhat” corrupt. Among those who approve of Murphy, just 49 percent say so.

This gap is very similar to the one based on partisanship: Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say that statewide politicians are corrupt, but both Democrats and Republicans are more sanguine about the politicians that represent them. Independent residents are about equally likely to say that politicians on the whole, and those who represent them, are corrupt. Sixty-three percent of independents say that New Jersey politicians generally are “very” or “somewhat” corrupt, and 57 percent say that their own representatives are.

Only 26 percent of New Jersey residents say that their representatives are less corrupt than other elected officials statewide, with Republicans (30 percent) being more likely to say so than Democrats (22 percent).

“People tend to think politicians from the other side are corrupt, so it makes sense that Republicans see more corruption than Democrats,” said Cassino. “Since independents don’t particularly like either party, it makes sense that they’d be more negative about everyone, even the politicians that they elected.”

There are also intriguing differences in perceptions of local corruption by region. People living in the coastal counties (Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean) are more likely than those living in other areas to say that their representatives are “very” corrupt, with 26 percent saying so, compared with 15 percent in the urban core counties, or 18 percent in South Jersey.

“There are long traditions of corrupt practices all over the state,” said Cassino. “So when the residents of one area stand out this much, it’s telling us something about how bad people think things are down on the coast.”

 

Methodology

The survey was conducted between April 28 and May 6, 2023, using a certified list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. Lists of residents were obtained from Aristotle International of Washington, DC. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via either live-caller telephone interviews or text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones, resulting in an overall sample of 817 respondents. 239 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews on landlines, and the remainder (578) were done on a web platform via weblinks sent via SMS to cell phones, or via live caller cell phone interviews. Surveys were conducted only in English.

The data were weighted to be representative of the population of adult NJ residents, as of the 2020 US Census. The weights used, like all weights, balance the demographic characteristics of the sample to match known population parameters. The weighted results used here are balanced to match parameters for sex, age, education and race/ethnicity.

SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure, was used to produce final weights. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis helps to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The size of these weights is used to construct the measure of design effects, which indicate the extent to which the reported results are being driven by the weights applied to the data, rather than found in the data itself. Simply put, these design effects tell us how many additional respondents would have been needed to get the weighted number of respondents across weighted categories: larger design effects indicate greater levels of under-representation in the data. In this case, calculated design effects are approximately 1.4.

All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. Sampling error should be adjusted to recognize the effect of weighting the data to better match the population. In this poll, the simple sampling error for 817 residents is +/-3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-4.7 percentage points, though the figure not including them is much more commonly reported.

This error calculation does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, differences in translated forms, or context effects. While such errors are known to exist, they are often unquantifiable within a particular survey, and all efforts, such as randomization and extensive pre-testing of items, have been used to minimize them.

 

Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics

817 New Jersey Residents

Figures are weighted to overall voter characteristics from the 2020 US Census. Figures do not include individuals who declined to answer demographic items.

 

Man                           

49%                 N = 399

Woman                         

50%                 N = 402

Some Other Way

1%                  N = 9

 

18-30

19%           N = 158

31-44

30%                 N = 249

45-64

32%                 N = 252

65+

19%                 N = 150

 

Democrat (with leaners)

44%                 N = 295

Independent                   

22%                 N = 147

Republican (with leaners)

34%                 N = 230

 

White                         

55%           N = 449

Black                         

13%           N = 104

Hispanic/Latino/a             

21%           N = 170

Asian

8%           N = 61

Other/Multi-racial            

2%           N = 15

 

No college degree

60%           N = 483

College degree or more

40%           N = 321

 

 

Question Wording and Order

NJ1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?

  1. Approve
  2. Disapprove
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

[Respondents are randomly assigned to get NJ2A or NJ2B]

NJ2A. In recent months, dead whales and dolphins have washed up on New Jersey beaches. No one is sure why. The deaths have led some people to argue that New Jersey should stop the development of offshore wind farms until we know what’s happening. What do you think? Should we stop the development of offshore wind farms, or not?

  1. Should stop the development of offshore wind farms
  2. Development of offshore wind farms should continue
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ2B. The development of offshore wind farms off the Jersey Shore has long been controversial. For various reasons, some people want to stop building wind farms, other people think that they should go forward. What do you think? Should we stop the development of offshore wind farms, or not?

  1. Should stop the development of offshore wind farms
  2. Development of offshore wind farms should continue
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

NJ3A/B held for later release

NJ4. Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…

  1. Not at all corrupt
  2. A little corrupt
  3. Somewhat corrupt
  4. Very corrupt
  5. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  6. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ5. How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…

  1. Not at all corrupt
  2. A little corrupt
  3. Somewhat corrupt
  4. Very corrupt
  5. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  6. Refused [Vol]

D1. In politics today, do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or something else?

  1. Democrat
  2. Republican
  3. Independent  [ASK D1A]
  4. Something Else/Other
  5. DK/Ref

D1A. [Ask only if D1 is 3] Which way do you lean?

  1. Democrat
  2. Republican
  3. Independent
  4. Something Else/Other
  5. DK/Ref

NJ6. [Half get this question before NJ7, half get it after NJ7] Former President Trump is under investigation over several matters and has been indicted for alleged crimes in New York. Do you believe that these investigations are legitimate, or not?

  1. Believe that they’re legitimate
  2. Do not believe that they’re legitimate
  3. Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

[Randomly shuffle order of NJ7A, NJ7B; both only for Republicans and leaners]

 

NJ7A. [Ask only Republicans/lean Republicans] Regardless of who else is running for the Republican nomination, how likely are you to support former President Trump in the Republican Presidential Primary next year?

  1. Will definitely support Trump
  2. Likely to support Trump
  3. Unlikely to support Trump
  4. Will definitely not support Trump
  5. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  6. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ7B. [Ask only Republicans/lean Republicans] Former Governor Christie has been exploring a run for President next year. Regardless of who else is running for the Republican nomination, would you consider voting for Christie in the Republican Presidential primary?

  1. Would consider voting for Christie
  2. Would not consider voting for Christie
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ6. [Half get this question before NJ7, half get it after NJ7] Former President Trump is under investigation over several matters and has been indicted for alleged crimes in New York. Do you believe that these investigations are legitimate, or not?

  1. Believe that they’re legitimate
  2. Do not believe that they’re legitimate
  3. Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

Further questions held for later release

 

Region Classifications

Northwest: Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren Counties
Northeast: Bergen and Passaic Counties
Urban Core: Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties
South: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties
Coast: Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties

 

Release Tables

 

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…
Overall
Dem
Indp
Repub
Not at all Corrupt
6%
11%
5%
5%
A Little Corrupt
19%
26%
17%
11%
Somewhat Corrupt
34%
38%
25%
36%
Very Corrupt
27%
11%
38%
40%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
11%
12%
14%
7%
Refused
3%
2%
1%
1%

 

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…
Overall
White
Black
Hisp
Not at all Corrupt
6%
8%
6%
6%
A Little Corrupt
19%
17%
18%
21%
Somewhat Corrupt
34%
33%
38%
34%
Very Corrupt
27%
30%
19%
22%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
11%
10%
14%
11%
Refused
3%
2%
5%
6%

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…
Overall
White
Black
Hisp
Not at all Corrupt
13%
13%
12%
12%
A Little Corrupt
24%
24%
20%
27%
Somewhat Corrupt
32%
31%
44%
26%
Very Corrupt
18%
19%
12%
18%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
10%
10%
7%
12%
Refused
3%
3%
5%
5%

 

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…
Overall
Dem
Indp
Repub
Not at all Corrupt
13%
19%
8%
10%
A Little Corrupt
24%
29%
22%
20%
Somewhat Corrupt
32%
29%
34%
36%
Very Corrupt
18%
10%
23%
24%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
10%
10%
12%
8%
Refused
3%
3%
1%
2%

  

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…
Northwest
Northeast
Urban Core
South
Coast
Not at all Corrupt
7%
4%
9%
5%
5%
A Little Corrupt
20%
17%
20%
19%
15%
Somewhat Corrupt
35%
35%
35%
35%
30%
Very Corrupt
27%
31%
20%
30%
35%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
11%
11%
11%
10%
12%
Refused
0%
2%
5%
1%
3%

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…
Northwest
Northeast
Urban Core
South
Coast
Not at all Corrupt
13%
11%
13%
17%
10%
A Little Corrupt
30%
27%
25%
18%
23%
Somewhat Corrupt
32%
31%
32%
38%
26%
Very Corrupt
17%
16%
15%
18%
26%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
8%
11%
10%
8%
13%
Refused
0%
4%
5%
1%
2%

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?
23-May
23-Feb
22-Oct
Approve
44%
48%
40%
Disapprove
39%
36%
42%
[Vol] don’t Know/Not Sure/Refused
14%
16%
18%

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?
Overall
Dem
Indp
Rep
Approve
44%
75%
40%
14%
Disapprove
39%
9%
42%
77%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
14%
14%
16%
8%
Refused
3%
2%
2%
1%

 

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…
Overall
Approve
Disapprove
DK
Not at all Corrupt
6%
10%
4%
4%
A Little Corrupt
19%
26%
11%
15%
Somewhat Corrupt
34%
39%
28%
31%
Very Corrupt
27%
10%
51%
16%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
11%
11%
4%
30%
Refused
3%
4%
2%
4%

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…
Overall
Approve
Disapprove
Not Sure/DK
Not at all Corrupt
13%
21%
7%
6%
A Little Corrupt
24%
30%
20%
19%
Somewhat Corrupt
32%
27%
34%
34%
Very Corrupt
18%
8%
32%
10%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know
10%
10%
5%
28%
Refused
3%
4%
2%
3%
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