| Things to think about
Senators are among the most visible and media recognized of
our elected leaders.
In a two-party system
such as ours, decisions on all public issues are generally boiled
down to voting for a candidate representing one party or the
the numbers have slightly increased, in 1998 only half of us
knew which party controlled the State Legislature; this is a
significant drop from 62 percent in 1975. Such knowledge is
an indicator of the vibrancy and health of our democracy. When
we vote, our opinions on all of the pressing issues of the state
are boiled down to choosing one party or another. How can we
hold government responsible, and have a basis for our voting
decisions, if we do not even know who is in power?
government has a profound impact on the functioning of our economy,
as demonstrated by daily news coverage of what government is
doing to regulate industries and promote economic health. However,
if a majority of citizens lack the knowledge to express themselves
within our government, we cannot be certain that government
actions within the economy will serve our best interests.
stakes are high when our government makes laws on how much pollution
can be released, on where development can take place, on energy
policy, and on other environmental issues. We can make these
decisions reflect what’s best for our environment and ourselves,
but only if we are knowledgeable about the issues and familiar
with our representatives.
Our social structure is based
upon an open and democratic dialogue between citizens and leaders.
Those of us who are unaware of the political party in power
will find it difficult to take part in a democratic dialogue
and hold government accountable for its actions. Without this
kind of interaction, we are hindered as a society in our ability
to respond to New Jersey’s many pressing problems.
The ability to name
the governing party or Senators only represents one form of
citizen engagement. Important measures we do not have include
knowledge of other state and local government leaders and of
current public issues. These survey data are not collected regularly
and have not been updated since 1998.
Source: Star-Ledger/Eagleton Polls