Poll: N.J. Registered Voters Show Support for Gay Marriage, Education Reforms

March 2, 2012

New Jersey’s political stalemate over gay marriage appears to have support in the polls: A majority of residents favor the measure, but they also want the chance to decide in a statewide referendum.

The Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday showed that support for same-sex marriage hit a new high, 57 percent, but two-thirds of registered voters said they would rather cast ballots than see the societal change made through legislation.

Voters, to a degree, also appeared to be of split mind on the issue when asked to choose whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, join through civil unions or not be recognized at all.

Responding to that multiple-choice question, less than half, 47 percent, supported marriage rights. One-third, 34 percent, preferred civil unions and 13 percent wanted no recognition. Another 6 percent had no opinion.

Voters’ views on the subject appeared influenced by religion. Half of Catholics and Protestants opposed gay marriage. Voters who attend religious services weekly services were opposed, 54 percent to 39 percent, while two-thirds of those who attend services less frequently support gay marriage rights.

The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, passed a gay marriage bill last month. Gov. Chris Christie, who had vowed to veto it, sent it back with his conditional veto, which offered to create an ombudsman to see whether same-sex couples’ civil rights were being violated. Christie also wants a voter referendum on the matter.

State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset, said the poll showed evidence that it is the Legislature’s obligation to let New Jersey voters decide the issue.

“We do the best service to our residents by eliminating politics from this decision and allowing the people of this state to define their society and culture,” Bateman said in a statement.

Democrats have contended that gay marriage is a civil right and ought to be guaranteed by the state’s leaders as a matter of principle.

Education issues

The Quinnipiac Poll also asked about Christie’s handling of the education reform issue.

Fifty percent of the voters said they approved, while 43 percent disapproved. The approval rating was up from 44 percent last August.

Meanwhile, 57 percent, said they had a favorable opinion of public school teachers, but only 32 percent would say the same of the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association.

Nearly half, 46 percent, said they had an unfavorable view of the NJEA. Among independents, just over half had a negative opinion of the union. Dissatisfaction with the teachers union grew with higher income groups: 55 percent in households that earn more than $100,000 a year said they had an unfavorable opinion.

Seven in 10 backed merit pay for teachers, six in 10 supported limits to teacher tenure and just over half supported more charter schools.

But half said they opposed school vouchers, including 57 percent in urban areas.