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Christie’s No-Tax Austerity Message Wins With Voters, Poll Says

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New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie
New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

March 3 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s calls for paring budgets are winning over voters, as majorities embrace cuts and oppose higher taxes, according to a Rutgers University poll.

Voters surveyed after Christie’s Feb. 22 budget speech were less likely than a year earlier to oppose cuts in local aid, easier environmental regulations and reduced college and university support, said the Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. The survey showed rising resistance to tax increases.

“The take-home is a little different from last year,” David Redlawsk, the poll’s director, said in a statement with the results. “After a year of hearing how bad things are, voters are more willing to accept program cuts to balance the budget. But for the most part they are still completely uninterested in paying more,” he said.

Voters in the most recent survey were 8 percentage points less likely to oppose municipal-aid cuts than in a survey taken in March 2010, poll results show. Respondents were also 10 percentage points less supportive of protecting environmental programs, while opposition to college and university funding reductions slid 12 percentage points.

The same survey showed that 72 percent of voters backed reauthorizing a lapsed tax increase on residents with incomes of $1 million or more, according to results released March 1. Voters split on Christie’s $29.4 billion budget, with 45 percent “pleased” to 48 percent “displeased,” a difference that was within the poll’s error margin.

Past Opposition

After Christie slashed $820 million in school aid last year, 57 percent of those surveyed by Rutgers pollsters said they opposed such cuts. Today’s poll shows half of respondents remain opposed to them. In his fiscal 2012 budget, to start July 1, Christie would boost the assistance by $250 million.

A higher income tax drew the strongest opposition, at 73 percent, the survey said. A rise in the gas tax was opposed by 70 percent, while 61 percent were against applying sales taxes to clothing, the poll said. A highway toll boost was panned by 57 percent and more than half rejected raising business taxes.

Respondents were more inclined to back higher levies on sales of luxury goods if they had greater income, the poll showed. While those making less than $50,000 a year supported such taxes, 81 percent of those earning more than $150,000 backed them, the survey said.

“New Jerseyans seem happy to ask the rich to pay more,” Redlawsk said. “It is interesting that high-income voters are even more supportive. Maybe they also recognize the need to share the pain of the state’s financial troubles.”

Researchers at New Brunswick-based Rutgers surveyed 811 registered voters by landline and mobile telephone from Feb. 24-26. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton, New Jersey, at tdopp@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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