David M Rothschild on Posted on

Quinnipiac does high-end random-digit dialing polling in New Jersey, which they make publicly available here. We thought New Jersey, with its 2017 election, would be an interesting place to track with our MRP+ methodology. We can do polling there at roughly 1/10 the cost and 1/3 the time of standard polling. Further, our methods, both data collection and analytics, provide more depth. And, while we cannot say for sure who is right and wrong, we can show that our polling tracks similarly to the Quinnipiac poll, where we believe it should.

Poll was run by PredictWise with Pollfish on June 29-30, 2017 (before Christie closed the state beaches and then used them himself). The full dataset can be found here. All answers are broken down into 81 different demographic sub-groups. Future iterations will include Congressional Districts.

When it comes to comparing to Quinnipiac (Q Poll) the key difference we expect is that live polling gets a lot less people to answer “Do not know” (ignorance) or “Neither Approve nor Disapprove” (ambivalence); live polling stresses positive answers (sometimes not even offering these “outs” as suggestions, but online/mobile polling must specifically provide these outs). This is least important on questions where people have a lot of information or strong opinions: we had 26 percent approval for Trump with 66 percent disapproval, while Q Poll (in its June 7-12 poll) 28 percent approval and 66 percent disapproval. So, that looks good. For the three state leaders we canvassed, much less well known to average citizens, we are not surprised to see similar net approval, but a lot more ambivalence or ignorance: we had Senator Cory Booker at +23 (Q Poll at +30), Senator Rob Menendez at +8 (Q Poll at +9), and Governor Chis Christie at -25 (Q Poll at -66). Obviously, the only real split here is Christie, something for us to investigate further.

The final overlap is the governors race where we are showing a slightly larger lead for Democrat Phil Murphy 52 percent to 16 percent, versus 55 percent to 26 percent in the Q Poll. Whether he is up by 36 percent of 29 percent, Murphy is in a commanding position.

So, validation looks good, but we like to expand past voting outcomes into policy and knowledge, and we choose four topics to pursue: healthcare, taxes, access to NYC, and criminal justice reform. The first two are big national issues, while the second two have unique New Jersey roots.

There is widespread support for increasing taxes on household income over $250,000 per year (60 percent support to 30 percent opposition) and providing either the ability to buy-into (52 percent support to 28 percent opposition) or get subsidized (71 percent support to 17 percent opposition) Medicaid or Medicare for all Americans. These are counter-intuitive set of positions to investigate while Congress and President Trump debate massive tax cuts for the households with income over $250,000 and massive cuts to Medicaid. But, solid blue New Jersey would be strongly behind their representatives pushing in the other direction. This bodes well for Murphy, Booker, and Menendez, and the Democratic Congressional challengers in 2018. Two key leaders of the GOP/Trump healthcare bill are in very close districts, MacArthur led the push to drop coverage for Essential Benefits and Frelinghysen reversed his vote on the bill from no to yes on MacArthur’s amendment.

There is also widespread support for criminal justice reform. “Do you support having non-violent drug offenders spend LESS time in prison?” 70 percent are supportive. And, to show this a stable response, we also asked “Do you support making it HARDER to get bail for non-violent drug offenders?” and only 28 percent support this. Senator Booker with his bi-partisan work on sentence reform and Governor Christie with his work on opiod addiction have both address this. Does it resonate with the voters: “Has any NJ politician has been particularly involved in reforming the criminal code for non-violent drug offenders?” 59 percent “do not know”, 10 percent “no one”, 16 percent Christie, and 6 percent Booker. Clearly, at this point, there is not much knowledge from the average voter.

For a lot of the state there is an impending disaster looming with the troubled tunnels into New York City. This summer will preview that disaster with several lines stopping at Hoboken as Amtrak performs emergency repairs on the tracks heading into New York’s Penn Station. “Who do you blame most for the problems with NJ Transit access to New York City?” 33 percent “do not know”, 28 percent Christie, 15 percent “New York politicians”, 14 percent “no one”. The senators get none of this blame. “Who is doing the most to fix the problems with NJ Transit access to New York City?” 38 “do not know”, 24 percent “no one”, 13 percent “New York politicians”. No one has really claimed the mantle of owning the future of this issue.

New Jersey voters are uniquely informed on major national issues. 48 percent know that the rate of uninsured would go up under President Trump and Republican’s ObamaCare replacement bill (it would add 22+ million uninsured raising rate from about 10 to 17 percent). And, 42 percent know that the majority of the money in President Trump’s proposed tax cut go to households with income over $250,000 (earlier version of proposal had half of the money going to households over $700,000). But, that still means that 42 percent of Democrats did not know that uninsured rate would go up; they knew that, they would have no reason to hide it. Further, 51 percent of Democrats did not know that the majority of the Trump’s tax cuts would go to households with income over $250,000. Even New Jersey voters could learn some more basic facts, especially with their strong support for tax increases and more access to government healthcare.

The PredictWise and Pollfish survey received responses on June 29-30 through online and in-app polling methods. We do not report margin of error because we do not believe it can be accurately estimated.

Tobias Konitzer is a PhD candidate in communication at Stanford University. Find him on Twitter @KonitzerTobias.
Sam Corbett-Davies is a PhD candidate at Stanford University in computer science. Find him on Twitter @SCorbettDavies.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. Find him on Twitter @DavMicRot.