“Priming” New Jersey Voters
Of course this is spun into bad news for the Kean campaign by the FDU pollsters and the media. FDU’s press release begins, “President Bush and the conflict in Iraq continue to hurt the Republican candidate in New Jersey's senate race.” Not one word in the release is devoted to what’s causing Menendez to trail in the poll.
The Associated Press bypasses the senate race entirely in favor of Poll: New Jerseyans not bullish on Bush. The senate race isn’t even mentioned in the article save for the following vague references, even though there is only one statewide election in New Jersey and that’s the senate race between Kean and Menendez.
Democratic strategist Rick Thigpen said Iraq has become a difficult political problem for any Republican running statewide in New Jersey.Then there’s the “priming” FDU used in the poll:
But Republican strategist Mark Campbell said "media coverage of the conflict will likely never portray anything but bad news coming from the region."
"As a result, liberal Democrats can sound like moderates and get away with it," he said.
In the study, half of the respondents were asked questions about President Bush and the war in Iraq before answering questions about the Senate race, and half were asked about the Senate race first. Among those respondents who were asked about Bush and Iraq first, Menendez held a two point advantage, 41 to 39 percent. But among the respondents who were not primed to think about the war in Iraq, Kean held an 11 point advantage, 47 to 36 percent.The only issues the FDU survey “primed” respondents to think about were President Bush and the war in Iraq. The last Rasmussen poll of New Jersey voters asked respondents to name their top voting issue from a list of six choices:
28% of New Jersey voters name the economy as the top voting issue for this fall. While that’s typical of most states, the second choice was not. Corruption is the top issue for 18% of Garden State voters. The war in Iraq (18%) and national security (14%) are close behind.Curiously, the FDU surveyed failed to “prime” respondents with the top two issues named by New Jersey voters and the ones most unfavorable to Bob Menendez’ positions and record – the economy and corruption.
A June Quinnipiac University poll stated:
In an open-ended question, with any answer allowed, 46 percent of New Jersey voters list taxes as the most important problem facing the state today, higher than any problem listed in any Quinnipiac University statewide or national poll.An earlier Rasmussen poll found:
Sixty percent (60%) of New Jersey voters say that tax hikes hurt the economy. Just 15% say that they help. Kean has a solid lead (56% to 26%) among those who believe tax increases are bad for the economy.As for corruption, Bob Menendez is the poster boy for what ails New Jersey’s politics. When Governor Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to the senate, here’s what the disappointed New York Times had to say:
Mr. Menendez has become a proponent of business as usual. He has long been an entrenched de facto leader of the Hudson County Democratic machine.Since the Times editorial, voters have learned more about Menendez’ ethical lapses and ties to corruption cases: his lucrative relationship with a nonprofit agency to which he steered millions in federal funds, his one million dollar check "error" to a mob related construction contractor, the previously secret $80 million Board of Public Utilities bank account investigation involving the wife of his senate campaign chairman, the Turnpike Authority chairman found guilty of ethics violations who remains the finance chairman of the Menendez campaign.
Mr. Menendez says there is a line between his personal and public lives. But New Jersey voters have a right to wonder why that line seems to exist only to protect politicians from questioning, and never deters them from mixing their private relationships with their official duties.
There have been 75 corruption indictments in New Jersey over the last four years. The public has a right to yearn for a break from the past, and Mr. Menendez does not represent a clean slate.
It makes you wonder what the poll results might have been if respondents had been “primed” with the top issues concerning voters and the men currently in the senate race instead of the one who isn’t?