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"Numbnuts" Is Never Acceptable, Say Most NJ Voters [AUDIO]

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me unless you call me numbnuts. That’s one of the obvious findings in a new Fairleigh Dickinson University-Public Mind poll released this morning.

NJ Assembly Democrats / Getty Images

Earlier this year during the lead up to the ultimately failed vote to legalize gay marriage in the Garden State, Governor Chris Christie famously called Assemblyman Reed Gusciora a “numbnuts.”

Today’s survey shows 87% of New Jersey voters say politicians should lay off the name-calling completely. Just 10% say it’s OK for pols to make a strong point by calling their opponent a name.

When the respondents given were a choice of 14 names, it becomes abundantly clear that not all names are equal: 23% of Garden State voters say calling an opponent “dishonest” is never acceptable. And 24% say “corrupt” is never acceptable. Only 25% say “radical” is never acceptable, but half (50%) say “unpatriotic” is never allowed and Two-thirds (67%) say “fascist” is never acceptable.

Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll says, “Topping the ‘never acceptable’ list are; ‘ignoramus’ at 78%, ‘jerk’ at 83% and the winner, ‘numbnuts‘ at 84%.”

In general, Republicans are more lenient about name-calling than Democrats. While a majority of Democrats (57%) say it’s not acceptable to call an opponent “unpatriotic,” only 38% of Republicans agree. A third of Democrats (34%) say “hypocrite” is off-limits, but only two of five Republicans (22%) agree.

“People really do want civility in political discourse,” says Woolley. “The problem is that civility doesn’t sell any advertising, and it doesn’t necessarily energize voters. People want a spark.”

Voters who approve of Christie are generally more accepting of names than those who don’t approve of the governor, but with some notable exceptions. “Snob” can be acceptable to 43% of those who approve of the Governor’s handling of his job, and 46% of those who disapprove. “Dishonest” is OK at least sometimes for three-quarters of approvers (75%) and a similar proportion of disapprovers (77%). Most important, “bully” can be acceptable to 58% of those who approve of the governor and 52% of those who disapprove of him.

Woolley explains, “The Governor’s critics who call him ‘bully’ are just as much name-calling as anyone else. It’s just a matter of which names you will allow as appropriate. Apparently, many voters don’t like the name ‘bully’ either.”

Women are more likely than men to declare any of the 14 names tested as “never acceptable.” For example, a third of men (32%) say “liar” is never alright, but twice as many women (62%) say “liar” is never OK. A quarter of men (27%) say “flip flopper” is not acceptable ever, while 42% of women say “flip flopper” is never acceptable. Some exceptions are “jerk” where three-quarters of men (76%) agree with nine of ten women (89%) that’s it is never acceptable, and “numb-nuts,” where four of five men (79%) agree with nine of ten women (89%).

“Any job where you can call someone numb-nuts or write about someone calling someone numb-nuts is a good job,” says Woolley. “I’m thankful to the voters of the state of New Jersey and to my university, who made all this possible.

The survey of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from March 5 through March 11, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

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