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Whitman Rips Pollsters Who Failed To Predict Her Victory With AM-Elections Rdp, Bjt

November 4, 1993

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Christie Whitman opened her first Statehouse news conference as governor- elect Wednesday with a swipe at pre-election polls that showed her badly trailing Gov. Jim Florio.

″The voters of New Jersey did a couple of things yesterday, one of which was prove that pollsters and political pundits were wrong,″ Whitman said as supporters roared.

As it became clear Tuesday night that Whitman was narrowly defeating Florio, her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, told reporters, ″The first thing we want to do is fire the head of the Eagleton poll.″

The Eagleton Institute at Rutgers, the state university, put its reputation for survey research on the line by doing election polls for the state’s largest newspaper in Newark.

The Star-Ledger-Eagleton poll published Sunday said Florio was leading 48 percent to 39 percent with 13 percent undecided. The Record of Hackensack poll published Sunday had Florio leading 51 percent to 41 percent, with 7 percent undecided. The Asbury Park Press’ poll Sunday said the two were tied, 38-38, with a huge 22 percent undecided.

The unofficial result was 49-48 percent, with the rest for independents.

Poll directors blamed their inability to predict the outcome on the volatility of an election in which neither candidate had strong approval ratings and many voters were casting ballots against an opponent.

Allocation of ″soft″ support to the candidates also accounted for the appearance of a lead for Florio in two of the surveys, pollsters said.

″We did see the Florio trend going down, but it wasn’t going to her, it was going undecided,″ said Eagleton poll director Janice Ballou, whose survey stopped on Saturday.

She said in addition to noting the number of undecided voters, the poll found 15 percent of its respondents said they’d changed their mind in the past once they got in the voting booth.

An exit poll of more than 1,900 voters by Voter Research & Surveys found 12 percent made up their minds as late as Saturday. Of them, 60 percent went for Whitman and 40 percent for Florio.

Asbury Park Press poll director Gary Deckelnick said he expected a lot of late deciders.

″Our poll showed that people clearly felt Florio was most competent on things like crime, but people had known him for four years and frankly didn’t like him,″ Deckelnick said. ″In the final week of the campaign, Whitman’s ads were reminding people of the things they didn’t like, but they were not sure they were going to vote for her.″

David Blomquist, director of The Record Poll, said he stopped polling Oct. 27, but saw clear movement toward Whitman, although he did not anticipate it would be enough for her to overtake Florio.

Since the news media in New Jersey are highly competitive, polls in the off-year election were frequent and influential. A late September New York Times-WCBS-TV showed Whitman trailing by 21 points, leading her to replace her brother with Rollins as manager and attack Florio more aggressively.

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