FDU: Voters Reject OPRA Overhaul

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FDU: Voters Reject OPRA Overhaul

4 out of 5 NJ Voters oppose tightening public records law

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, April 12, 2024 – Proposed changes to New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) currently being considered by the state legislature face serious skepticism from Garden State voters. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, 81 percent of registered voters in the state say that they would support keeping the system as it is, rather than tightening access to public records, with just 14 percent backing the changes.

“It’s rare to see any bill attract this much opposition,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “Republicans and Democrats, young and old, Black, Hispanic and white: nobody thinks this is a good idea.”

The current version of New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act dates to 2002, and applies to all levels of government in the state. The proposed changes to OPRA would exempt certain government information from public records requests and require more specificity in requests. It would also give government bodies more leeway to refuse requests and change the way in which challenges to such refusals are handled, in a way that opponents say would limit the ability to appeal them.

The bill to amend OPRA, sponsored by State Senator Paul Sarlo, was taken off the schedule last month, but it is expected to be brought up for a vote in the coming days with changes that Senate President Nick Scutari has said are clarifications. Supporters of the bill say that OPRA is being abused, especially by commercial entities, and that responding to the requests is a burden on municipalities.

Democrats in the state are about a little more likely than Democrats (15 percent versus 11 percent) to support changes to OPRA, and Black voters (25 percent) are more likely to support it than members of other racial and ethnic groups. The geography of support for the bill closely follows the patterns of partisan support, with the highest levels of support in the Urban Core counties (18 percent), and the lowest in the coastal areas of the state (10 percent). But even among groups that are relatively supportive, overwhelming majorities say that they oppose changes to OPRA.

“Supporters of the OPRA overhaul say that if the public knew what was really in the bill, they’d feel differently about it,” said Cassino. “These numbers show that if that’s true, they’re going to have to do a lot of explaining in order to get the public on their side.”

Methodology

The survey was conducted between April 1 and April 8, 2024, using a voter list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. Voter lists 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 809 registered voters in New Jersey. 212 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews on landlines, 262 on live caller interviews to cell phones, and the remainder (351) were done on a web platform via weblinks sent via SMS to cell phones. Surveys were conducted only in English.

The data were weighted to be representative of the population of New Jersey voters, according to data from Pew Research. 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 809 registered New Jersey voters is +/-3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-4.3 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.

The FDU Poll is a member of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative and is devoted to ensuring that our results are presented in such a way that anyone can quickly and easily get all of the information that they may need to evaluate the validity of our surveys. We believe that transparency is the key to building trust in the work of high-quality public opinion research, and necessary to push our industry forward.

 

Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics

809 Registered New Jersey Voters

Figures do not include individuals who declined to answer demographic items.

 

Man

49%                 N = 401

Woman

50%                 N = 414

Some Other Way

1%                  N = 6

18-30                                    17%                 N = 137

31-44                                    24%                 N = 199

45-64                                    36%                 N = 296

65+                                        23%                 N = 192

White                                                    49%                 N = 257

Black                                                    15%                 N = 86

Hispanic/Latino/a                          21%                 N = 106

Asian                                                    9%                   N = 40

Other/Multi-racial                         3%                   N = 15

No college degree                          61%                 N = 495

College degree or more              39%                 N = 324

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

 

Question Wording and Order

First off, we’d like to ask you a few questions about the government here in New Jersey.

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]

NJ2. [Shuffle Order of Arguments] The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?

  1. Yes, should limit access to public records
  2. No, should keep the system as it is
  3. [Vol] Don’t Know/Refused

Further Questions Held for Future Release

Release Tables

 

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?
  All Dem Indp Rep
Yes, should limit access to public records 14% 15% 15% 11%
No, should keep the system as it is 81% 79% 78% 85%
[Vol] Don’t Know/Refused 5% 6% 7% 4%

 

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?
  All No College Degree College Degree
Yes, should limit access to public records 14% 16% 10%
No, should keep the system as it is 81% 79% 83%
[Vol] Don’t Know/Refused 5% 5% 7%

 

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?
  All 30 and under 31-44 45-64 65+
Yes, should limit access to public records 14% 15% 12% 15% 12%
No, should keep the system as it is 81% 76% 82% 82% 81%
[Vol] Don’t Know/Refused 5% 9% 6% 3% 7%

 

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?
  Northwest Northeast Urban Core South Coast
Yes, should limit access to public records 15% 18% 12% 16% 10%
No, should keep the system as it is 79% 77% 81% 80% 87%
[Vol] Don’t Know/Refused 6% 5% 7% 4% 3%

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?
  All White Black Asian Hispanic
Yes, should limit access to public records 14% 12% 25% 5% 18%
No, should keep the system as it is 81% 83% 71% 82% 73%
[Vol] Don’t Know/Refused 5% 5% 4% 13% 9%

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