By Art Gallagher, [email protected]
UPDATE 4:15PM: Murray says Magyar/NJSpotlight mischaracterised his analysis. Read the next chapter here.
Murray is quoted by Mark Magyar in a NJSpotlight piece posted this morning saying emphatically that his next poll will have negative results.
“The Mastro report raised more questions than it answered about what is going on in the Christie administration,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, noted. “Now, the release of the memos has raised even more questions, including questions about the credibility of the Mastro report itself.”
Murray said he could not imagine what Christie and his top advisers were thinking when they settled on their current legal and political strategy. “Every time they put something out, they undercut their credibility,” he said. “Everything they do provides fodder that keeps this investigation alive and keeps this story alive. The report was overly protective of the governor, and now everyone is looking through the memos to see what the report left out. Nothing gets settled, everything looks worse.”
A Quinnipiac Poll released last week showed that 56 percent of New Jerseyans regarded the report as a “whitewash” and only 36 percent believed it to be a “legitimate investigation.” Even more ominously, 65 percent of voters knew of the Hoboken case, and 57 percent of that group believe Zimmer’s allegation that the Christie administration improperly withheld Sandy aid from her city because she refused to support the Rockefeller Group development.
Murray said he expected to see similar results in his next Monmouth Poll. “It will be negative. This is not going to be positive,” Murray stated emphatically, asserting that the controversy over the Mastro report clearly resonated with voters. “The question now with Christie is, ‘Have we hit a floor where a certain percentage of people will defend him no matter what, and everyone else will attack him?’” (emphasis added)
Murray enjoys a well-earned reputation for producing polls that most accurately match the results of elections in New Jersey. However, his declaration of a poll’s results before he’s asked a question raises serious questions about his credibility as a political scientist and the perceived “independence” of his analysis.
In fairness I should point out that it is possible that Murray already conducted his survey and hasn’t reported the results yet.
This morning Murray released a poll under the Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press banner with data that is more than two weeks old reporting that New Jersey adults are growing dissatisfied with the pace of Sandy recovery and that we blame the Christie Administration more than we blame the Obama Administration for the delays in distributing federal aid.
The Quinnipac poll Murray said his next poll would mirror was produced with fresher and broader data than Murray’s poll released today. Murray surveyed 803 New Jersey adults between March 31 and April 1. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,356 New Jersey voters between April 2 and April 7.
The April 9 Q poll release reported that 56% of New Jersey voters think the Mastro Report is a “white-wash” and 46% think the Joint Select Committee investigating Bridgegate is a “witch-hunt.” The numbers in that Q poll also indicated that Christie’s approval ratings in NJ exceed those of President Obama, Senators Menendez and Booker and the entire state legislature, but you’d have to had read the poll’s tabs yourself, or MMM to know about the relative strength of Chrisite’s numbers.
Murray’s poll release about Sandy recovery with stale data this morning reporting does not mirror the Q poll released on Monday with the fresher broader data. In the April 14 Quinnipac release, which was produced from the same survey as the April 9 release, NJ voters give the Christie Administration higher marks for their handling of Sandy relief than they give FEMA and insurance companies.
Murray has not returned my call asking him to explain how he can emphatically know the results of a poll before he’s conducted the survey or if he is going to release a memo based on stale data.
The Mastro Report is the result of the internal investigation commissioned by Christie at taxpayers’ expense into the GWB lane closures and Hoboken Mayor Zimmer’s allegations that Lt Governor Kim Guadagno and DCA Commissioner Richard Constable threatened to withhold Sandy relief dollars from the city unless a Rockefeller Group development was approved. Randy Mastro, a Democratic former federal prosecutor and former New York Deputy Mayor during the Giuliani Administration, lead a team of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher attorneys in conducting the investigation. On March 26 Mastro released the a report of the investigation that exonerated Christie of having any prior knowledge of the GWB lane closures or the motives into the stunt. The report and Mastro’s public comments debunked Zimmer’s allegations.
On Monday, April 14, Mastro, at Christie’s direction, released a list of 75 people interviewed during the investigation and confidential memos from the attorneys who conducted the interviews. The interview memoranda were given to U. S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s investigators and to the Joint Legislative Select Committee on Investigation that is looking into the GWB lane closures and Zimmer’s allegations.
NJSpotlight’s piece by Magyar has a decidedly anti-Christie, anti-Mastro spin regarding the Interview Memoranda. CHRISTIE’S MASTRO MISTAKE: REPORT BACKFIRES POLITICALLY, LEGALLY relies on an interview with Robert Del Tufo, President Jimmy Carter’s U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and Governor Jim Florio’s Attorney General, for the legal analysis and Murray the political analysis that concludes that Mastro’s report and the release of the memoranda are backfiring on Christie.
Ironically, Murray was one of the 75 people interviewed for the Mastro Report, a fact that Magyar did not report in his piece. The Mastro Memorandum summarizing Murray’s interview (page 289) is used to discredit Mayor Zimmer’s allegations against DCA Commissioner Constable. The secondary theme of the Magyar piece is spin that the memoranda support Zimmer’s allegations.
Hopefully Murray was misquoted by Magyar. He’s too important a figure in New Jersey’s media and political establishment to be damaging his credibility like this. If he calls me back with that explanation, this post will be so updated.