For all its contentiousness, and the prospect that it’s unconstitutional, the idea of the state borrowing billions of dollars is the approach most favored by New Jersey adults for balancing the budget, says a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll.

That’s not to say the idea of borrowing nearly $10 billion for the state budget is wildly popular, but FDU Poll director Krista Jenkins said some other alternatives are supported by small numbers of people.

“Not a great degree of clarity as to what people believe is an acceptable choice that the state should make in order to shore up our budget woes,” Jenkins said.

“The only two choices that we gave people that got more than 50% of support would be reducing the number of government employees. We found that 52% endorse that idea,” she said. “And a little more than that, or 56%, support what the state is currently doing or planning to do which is taking on federal loans and issuing some bond offerings.”

Thirty-eight percent endorsed consolidating school districts. Thirty-one percent would reduce the contribution to the public worker pension systems. And 29% say they would support a reduction in state services.

Combined with the finding that there’s no consensus view on whether to reopen schools or stick with virtual learning, Jenkins said the takeaway is that there “is a lot of uncertainty.”

“No one quite has the answer for how to basically make our financial bottom line in this state better,” she said. “And people are really cautious about going into places that could really help the economy.”

The survey finds that, absent a COVID-19 vaccine or available treatment, only 23% of New Jersey adults would consider going to a movie theater and less than half would visit an indoor mall.

“If you build it, will they come? I don’t know,” Jenkins said. “From these numbers, it looks like there’s still a lot of hesitation out there about how much risk are people willing to take on in order to resume their kind of creature comforts and get back to life before COVID. It looks like there’s a lot of concern out there.”

The only establishments a majority of people say they are willing to visit are personal care salons, such as spas, hair and nail salons and massage, and restaurants, including those offering outdoor dining.

Thirty-nine percent said they would go to a church, mosque, synagogue or other place of worship before there is a vaccine or treatment, compared with 45% who would not.

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The poll was conducted from June 18 to 30. The sample included 809 adults, slightly more than two-thirds of whom were reached on a cell phone and the balance on a land-line phone. A sample that size has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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