Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Public Opinion: Painting It by Numbers

By Richard A. Lee

Given the dismal state of New Jersey’s fiscal condition, the numbers confronting Governor Christie as he prepares his first state budget can be disheartening.

But a different set of numbers – numbers from public opinion polls – may offer some comfort at he struggles to close a massive deficit and balance the state budget.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed that a majority of New Jersey voters (52 percent) approve of the way Christie has managed the state since he took office in January, and a Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed the new Governor with a 45 percent favorable rating.

On the surface, the numbers are not surprising. Elected chief executives generally enjoy such popularity during the honeymoon period following their inaugurations, but Christie’s poll numbers show some interesting patterns when they are broken down by political party.

In the FDU PublicMind poll, Republicans approved of the job Christie is doing by a margin of 74 to 7 percent, with 20 percent undecided. This is a large margin indeed, but not completely surprising since Christie is a Republican. What is a bit of a surprise is that Democrats who expressed an opinion also gave him a thumbs-up, albeit by a smaller margin of 38 to 33 percent, with 30 percent undecided. The most significant numbers, however, came from independents who approved of his work as Governor by a margin of 43 to 17 percent, with 40 percent undecided. Since New Jersey has more independents than Democrats or Republicans, they key to electoral success lies in capturing those unaffiliated voters.

Of course, the new Governor has not even been in office for two months, and public sentiment can change quickly – and dramatically. For example, in Jim Florio’s first few months as Governor in 1990, he worked with the Legislature to enact laws to reform auto insurance, ban assault weapons and improve health insurance, leading New York Times columnist William Safire to float his name as a potential national candidate. But after Florio signed $2.8 billion of tax increases into law, he was unable to even win re-election to the post held (although he did come close to winning).

Governor Christie already has made it clear that tax increases are not on the table; therefore, a tax revolt such as the one New Jersey experienced in early 1990s is not in the cards. What we are expecting the Governor to propose in order to balance the budget are massive cuts in state programs and services. Such proposals will not be popular with those who use those programs and services, but again Christie has numbers on his side.

In the FDU Public Mind poll, when asked their preference for balancing the budget, respondents favored program cuts over tax increases by a margin of 66 percent to 21. Likewise, polls conducted by Quinnipiac University showed strong support curbing state spending as a means of balancing the budget.

The question then becomes, will Christie, with public opinion on his side, feel empowered to set forth even bolder proposals when he delivers his budget address to the Legislature on March 16?

Public opinion, after all, can be a powerful tool, as pollster Andrew Kohut explained in a chapter contained in The Politics of News: “Public opinion has granted presidents permission to go to war, denied them permission, and even given them limited permission. Public opinion has rescued embattled presidents and condemned others. It has welcomed, if not solicited, some major policy changes and rejected others.”

On the other hand, as we have seen with many leaders, public support can be fleeting—sometimes in reaction to actions undertaken by the leader, such as the tax increases enacted under Governor Florio. In other cases, public support wanes because it was not really there in the first place—something that can happen when candidates are elected because they run successful “I’m not the other guy” campaigns against unpopular incumbents.

For example, in explaining how conservatives won seats in Congress in 1994, but were unable to topple Bill Clinton in the presidential election two years later, Kohut suggests that much of support Newt Gingrich and his colleagues received came from voters who were disenchanted with Democrats as opposed to being enthralled with conservative ideology: “We voted against the Democrats. We did not vote for undermining the school lunch program, shutting down the Department of Education, or weakening the Environmental Protection Agency, and the like.”

In Christie’s case, a significant portion of the votes he received in November were cast not for him, but rather against incumbent Governor Jon Corzine. A National Election Pool/Edison Research exit poll found that 43 percent of those who voted for Christie said they did so as a vote against the other candidates – not in favor of him.

So to paraphrase Kohut, it is quite possible that we may start hearing choruses of “We voted against Corzine. We did not vote for less state money for public schools, for higher NJ transit fares, for funding cuts to health care programs, and the like.”

At this point, it is still too early to predict, but after the budget address is delivered on March 16, we will have a much clearer idea of whether the Governor’s positive poll numbers painted an accurate picture of public opinion – or if on the other hand, voters are singing a different tune.

# # #

Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy — New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Joshua Clottey Keys to Beating Manny Pacquaio

by D.S. Williamson

Joshua Clottey’s trainer, Lenny DeJesus, believes that he doesn’t need to watch any tape in order to come up with a plan to beat Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao, the pound for pound best fighter in the world, will be watching tape, or at least his trainer Freddie Roach will, in order to come up with a plan to beat Joshua Clottey.

But Clottey’s trainer doesn’t believe that he needs to do what Ring Magazine’s 4 time trainer of the year does for every single one of his fighters. DeJesus, who is a locksmith when he isn’t training fighters, which is most of the time, recently stated that he “has the key to beating Manny Pacquiao” and that “he doesn’t need to watch any tapes.”

I almost feel like sending this article to Joshua Clottey because I feel so bad for him. There’s no way to beat Pacquiao without watching tape and coming up with a strategy. Seriously, DeJesus, seriously? Just because you were a cut-man for Pac in 2005 you believe you know how to beat the dude? Maybe, you’ve been sniffing too much of that metal that burns off of the keys you make.

In any case, let’s take a look at Clottey’s keys to victory in his fight against Manny Pacquiao. Clottey is a +450 underdog. So, there is a lot of things he’s going to have to do right to beat Manny.

When: 3/13/2010
Where: Cowboys Staidum, Arlington, Texas
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View

Rush Limbaugh Leaving U.S. For Costa Rica

Rush Limbaugh will be leaving the United States and moving to Costa Rica. The hate-filled radio host listened to by millions of proudly-monikered “dittoheads,” said Monday on his radio talk show,

“I’ll just tell you this, if this passes and it’s five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented — I am leaving the country. I’ll go to Costa Rica.”

We know for a fact that healthcare reform will pass via reconciliation and President Obama will sign it into law.

Of course, if Limbaugh does not move to Costa Rica, he would be a liar, right? Well, practically everything Limbaugh says already makes him a liar, so I suppose that’s a moot point.

I wonder if millions of Rush’s “dittoheads” will buy short-wave radios?

Limbaugh, who has a weekly audience of well-over 13.5 million listeners, and conservatively makes more than $30 million a year on his radio show alone, has been very vocal against many minorities, certainly including the LGBTQ community.

by David Badash on

The President of the World

The majority of American people now believe that the world respected the United States more in the last year of the Bush Administration that it does now.

A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than it was two years ago and think President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, a new poll finds.

The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin — 51 percent to 41 percent — Americans think the standing of the U.S. dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“This is surprising, given the global acclaim and Nobel peace prize that flowed to the new president after he took office,” said pollsters for the liberal-leaning organizations.

Video: Dan Rather Uses “Obama,” “Articulate” And “Watermelons” In Same Anecdote

Dan Rather, longtime anchor at the CBS Evening News and now of HD Net, has been known for his analogies and anecdotes (Ratherisms).

But Newsbusters has caught one that seems to have gone way off the rails during an appearance on the Chris Matthews Show Sunday – involving Pres. Obama and “watermelons.”

In an argument about the 2012 election, Rather was describing what he thinks “Republicans” will say – and what “a lot of independents will buy.” So he’s speaking as Obama’s critics:

The Republicans will make a case and a lot of independents will buy this argument. “Listen he just hasn’t been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death.” And a version of, “Listen he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate,” this is what’s been used against him, “but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”

Sean Penn Suggests Prison Time For Calling Chavez a Dictator

Sean Penn has already displayed his idiocy concerning Chavez on numerous occasions. But now he’s angry. Angry at journalists who call Chavez a dictator:

At the end of a discussion of Haiti on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, actor Sean Penn went on a rant in defense of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, suggesting prison time for American journalists: “every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it! And accept it. And this is mainstream media, who should – truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

6 women hospitalized after bottom-enhancement injections with bathroom sealant

Six women from the Essex County area, New Jersey, who wanted fuller bottoms ended up in hospitals after receiving buttocks-enhancement injections containing the same material contractors use to caulk bathtubs, officials said.

The women checked into hospitals in the county after their procedures, apparently administered by unlicensed providers, went horribly wrong, state health officials said. The women underwent surgery and were given antibiotics. No arrests have been made.

Different from medical-grade silicone, the substance used in the botched procedures was believed to be a diluted version of nonmedical-grade silicone.

"The same stuff you use to put caulk around the bathtub," said Steven M. Marcus, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, who learned about the bizarre procedures through a committee he sits on that monitors outbreaks in the metropolitan area.

Steelers QB attorney: 'No sexual assault occurred'

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — A high-profile defense attorney hired by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Monday disputed a college student's claim that the two-time Super Bowl winner sexually assaulted her at a Georgia nightclub.

The 20-year-old told police Roethlisberger, who had been out barhopping with friends, assaulted her early Friday. Roethlisberger has not been charged.

"The facts show that there was no criminal activity. No sexual assault occurred," attorney Ed Garland said in a statement Monday. "Ben is completely innocent of any crime."

Milledgeville police said at a press conference that they expect to interview Roethlisberger in the next several days. They said they have not taken a DNA sample from him but probably will.

Authorities also said the woman has hired an attorney, though they would not identify him or her. The woman's name has not been released.

They expect to interview about eight people and said they are reviewing video footage obtained from several businesses. They declined to elaborate.

"The investigation is ongoing. It would be premature to make any announcement at this time," said Fred Bright, district attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. "When the facts are in and a decision is made, we will let you know."

Roethlisberger, who owns a home about 30 miles north of Milledgeville on Lake Oconee, is also being sued by a woman who claims he raped her in 2008 at a hotel-casino in Lake Tahoe hotel and casino, an allegation he strongly denies.

Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement Monday that the team is closely monitoring the Milledgeville situation.

"All of us in the Steelers family are concerned about the recent incident involving Ben Roethlisberger in Georgia," the statement said. "We cannot comment on any of the specifics until law enforcement's investigation is concluded."

Garland, Roethlisberger's new attorney, previously represented rapper T.I. on a federal weapons charge and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in a murder case. More serious charges against Lewis were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge.

Police: Man shoots students on Ohio campus kills 1, wounds 2

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Authorities say a shooting on the Ohio State University campus has left one person dead and injured two others.

According to an OSU police dispatcher, the three people were shot inside a maintenance building near the campus' power plant early Tuesday.

Police told WBNS-TV in Columbus that one person was pronounced dead at the scene, and two others were taken to Ohio State University Medical Center, where one victim was in critical condition and another in stable condition. Police say none of the victims were believed to have been students.

Police say the shooting suspect has been taken into custody.