STATE — Garden State residents are poised to head to the polls in November knowing little about an important bond issue on the ballot. According to the most recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 87 percent of registered voters have heard “little” or “nothing” about the bond on the November ballot that would allocate $750 million dollars for college and university infrastructure in New Jersey. The money would be used to fund new building and renovations at New Jersey institutions of higher learning.
“Voters have a lot to consider in November beyond whom to support for the presidency and Congress,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of the poll. “This issue, coupled with the proposal before voters to amend the state constitution in order to require judges to contribute more to their benefits, requires that voters consider the fiscal health of the state along with supporting higher education and judicial reform. Our poll suggests that voters are in need of some basic information, at least as it relates to offsetting costs to higher education through the sale of state issued bonds.”
Despite the limited awareness among Garden State voters of this issue, a plurality are favorably inclined. Forty-eight percent of registered voters say they support the bond measure, with an additional third (34%) opposed and about a fifth (18%) who remain unsure.
“The fact that almost a fifth remain unsure provides a meaningful opportunity for those on both sides of the issue to make their case,” said Jenkins. “This degree of uncertainty, coupled with the limited information that voters seem to have about the bond, means that neither side can coast as we head into the election.”
Among those most likely to say they’re in favor of the $750 million bond proposal are college graduates and the under 50 crowd. More than half of college graduates (52%) are favorably inclined, compared with just four in ten of those with some college (44%) and those with a high school diploma (43%). Similarly, those who are under the age of 50 – and the most likely to either be connected to colleges and universities through their own education or that of their children – are significantly more supportive. A majority of those between the ages of 18 and 34 (57%) and 35 to 49 (54%) are in favor. Fewer than half of older age cohorts respond similarly.
“A recent experience with colleges and universities is clearly key,” said Jenkins. “It’s likely that these people recognize the value of investing in New Jersey’s higher education system more so others who may not have had a recent encounter with a public or private institution. Conversely, those who are opposed may be more concerned about the state adding to its existing debt through the sale of these bonds.”
Support for the bond also falls along traditional party lines, with Democrats more in favor (58%) than self-described independents (44%) and Republicans (36%). “Fiscal restraint comes through loud and clear on this issue for Republicans, while Democrats are more comfortable with borrowing money in order to invest in higher education,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University statewide poll of 901 registered voters was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from September 6, 2012 through September 12, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.