Voters in New Jersey's three Clean Elections districts felt campaigns this year focused more on the issues, but the state has a long way to go to repair public trust in elected officials according to this new poll that takes the temperatures of New Jersey voters following the recent round of in-state elections.
Some key findings:
"Public trust in the Legislature is very low," said Peter Woolley, director of the Fairleigh Dickinson poll. He said voters are "very wary" of the influence of large campaign donations but "they're not quite sure of the merits or demerits of public financing at this point."
The surveys found that in the three "clean elections" districts, where public financing replaced special-interest campaign donations, 41 percent of voters said their races stressed issues, while 42 percent said they focused on the candidates' personalities; 17 percent said they didn't know.
Statewide, just 25 percent said their races were mainly about issues, 45 percent said personalities and 29 percent didn't know. Woolley called that "a huge difference."
"A campaign focused on issues rather than personality is what you hope happens with public financing of elections," Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, said at a Statehouse news conference where the results were released.
[. . .]
"It's going to take more than one or two years of clean elections financing" to change such deep-seated attitudes, Tim Vercellotti, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll, said.