More than a dozen student journalists at Rider University conducted exit polling for Planet Princeton today as part of their news reporting and writing class at the school.
Students learned how to design poll questions and how to approach voters. They also got a crash course in the history of consolidation referendums in Princeton Borough and Township.
The students polled more than 100 voters in the borough and township mid-day, visiting eight polling places.
Their unscientific results from a sample that was dominated by voters over the age of 45:
In the township, voters polled supported consolidation by a 3-1 margin.
In the borough, voters opposed consolidation by a 2-1 margin.
Because the sample was skewed toward older voters and does not include absentee ballots, it does not represent a good sample to prediction the election outcome.
The most interesting findings in the poll were that there was no partisan divide on the issue. The students also asked for top reasons for a position on consolidation and asked open-ended questions in the anonymous poll, and received some interesting answers on people’s views.
Virtually no voters cited the issue of moving the Dinky station as their main reason for how they voted, though some officials had worried that the Dinky issue could be a flashpoint for or against consolidation.
One borough resident said the case for consolidation was too weak.
“I don’t think there’s enough info to justify it, there’s a lot of unsupported stuff,” he said. “I’m not willing to change it if it isn’t broken. There were points made that may have been valid, but they weren’t strong enough.”
Another reason some borough residents seem to want to remain on their own is because they fear merging into a bigger township will overwhelm them and take away their representation.
“I want my voice heard,” one resident said. “My intuition is telling me the more power for the right wing, the better the chance our taxes will be raised. I’ve lived here for 30 years, why change something that works?”
One couple polled has lived in the borough for 10 or more years and both agreed that they like the way things are now and that consolidation of the township and the borough would reduce the identity of the community. The two residents also were afraid of losing free garbage pick up they had become accustomed to.
“I disagree with the way both governments are doing things,” one voter said. “Why bring them together?”
Although the majority of the township voters were for consolidation, there was a significant amount against it.
The voters polled who were against the merger did not believe consolidation would save enough money, and they were concerned about a reduction of public safety officials if the borough and township were combined.
“Consolidation is unnecessary,” one female voter said, adding that the school system, municipal system, roads, and once again garbage pickup system are fine just the way they are and do not need to be altered.
Many residents from the township see the consolidation as a positive from an economic point of view.
“It’s ridiculous how people are fighting consolidation, the identities of both the borough and the township will remain the same. It’s not like we’re combining a rich town with a desolate town.”
Another township resident said consolidation would bring less redundancy because he thinks that currently there is “too much duplication of services.” He did not believe that there is currently enough money saved in either the Township or borough, so consolidation would help financially. He said consolidation should also be applied to New Jersey state counties in the future.
Another woman thinks the merge is what simply makes the most sense.
“This is just ridiculous!” a voter said, “I’m so tired of trying to figure out whether or not my neighbor lives in the township or the borough. We all live in Princeton and that’s all that matters.”
“Doughnuts are good for eating but not for living in!” another said.
One woman from the borough agreed that consolidation is long overdue.
“It’s time, I live on a split street and it’s confusing to figure out which public works go where. I’d like to have my street have one municipality telling us who’s coming and what’s being done.”
“We can come together and erase the invisible line that separates us,” a voter said. “I can only see the positives that will come out of consolidating.”
“I voted against it last time, but I see what’s happened since then, and this time I’m all for it,” one borough resident said.