Nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans (65%) say that county political parties should not award preferential ballot positions, known as organization lines, to help their endorsed candidates win a primary election, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released today.
Just 19% of the state believe parties should have control.
“New Jersey political parties have been better able to hold on to their influence than parties almost anywhere else,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the executive director of the poll. “The push to make changes to the system has been coming from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to push the state’s Democratic establishment to the left.”
The poll comes as a group of unsuccessful progressive candidates and New Jersey Working Families are suing state election officials in a bid to declare organization lines to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Zahid Quaraishi rejected a bid by a group of county clerks to dismiss the lawsuit.
“The big question isn’t whether voters like the current system. It’s whether it’s a voting issue for people,” Cassino said. “If it’s not driving people to vote differently, it’s going to be hard to convince parties to give up this kind of influence.”
The survey asked, “New Jersey is the only state in the country where county political parties can officially endorse candidates in primary elections and give those candidates preferential placement on the ballot, helping them win. What do you think? Should county parties be allowed to favor some candidates in primary elections?”
Democrats oppose control by county political organizations by a 61%-18% margin, while Republicans oppose it, 68%-22%. Independents, who don’t vote in primaries, feel most strongly against better ballot positions for organization candidates, 74%-18%.
Asian Americans feel most comfortable with political parties having control (30%-50%), while Blacks are at 29%-57%, Whites at 18%-39%, and Hispanics at 17%-60%.
“For most of the country, the era of strong parties ended a long time ago,” Cassino stated. “But that doesn’t mean that politics have gotten better since the parties in most places stopped being able to pick candidates.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted between October 24 to November 1 with a sample size of 801 New Jersey residents and a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.