Our latest polling shows NJ Gov. Chris Christie at his best favorability rating since taking office, the first time he has hit 50 percent in one of our polls. A favorability rating is just what it sounds like – the question is whether the respondent has a “favorable” or “unfavorable” impression of a given political figure. Other polls have had Christie’s job rating above 50 percent a couple times, but that’s a different question. In any case, he is now up in favorability, 50 percent to 39 percent, a net favorable rating of +11. This is up from late March when the score was 49 percent to 42 percent for a +4 point net favorable rating. This puts the governor close to where he was last October and November, before his favorability declined over the winter.
Interestingly, though, the improvement is entirely driven by men – women remain evenly split at 43 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable, where they have been for quite some time. Men have jumped 7 points, to 56 percent favorable, with only 31 percent unfavorable.
At the same time, NJ voters are more positive about the direction of the state with 51 percent saying it is going in the right direction. But, a follow up question suggests a lot of voters feel pretty neutral about where NJ is going – just over half of those saying right direction, think it is because things are getting better. The rest say its the right direction just because things are not getting worse! Likewise, of the 40 percent who say the state is still on the wrong track, only 30 percent say it is because things are getting worse. Two thirds say the wrong track is because things are simply not getting better. Put it all together, and half of NJ voters say things are neither getting better nor worse, while 26 percent think they are getting better, and 12 percent say things are getting worse in New Jersey. So not overly optimistic, but not all that pessimistic either.
The text of the full release is below. Click here for a PDF of the release with relevant questions and tables.
CHRISTIE RATING CLIMBS TO 50 PERCENT IN RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL
Governor’s highest favorability since taking office but gender gap grows
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Gov. Chris Christie’s favorability and job performance ratings are at their highest since he became New Jersey’s chief executive in January 2010, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. For the first time, 50 percent of registered New Jersey voters feel favorably toward Christie – an increase of four percentage points since late March. Those with an unfavorable opinion have declined to 39 percent, while 11 percent continue to hold no opinion.
Christie’s job performance grades also have improved as voters become more favorable toward him. The governor received an A or B grade from 46 percent of respondents, up 3 points. Those grading him as D or F fell three points to 29 percent. Almost one-quarter (24 percent) continue to grade him C, which is unchanged since March.
Completing the trifecta of improved ratings, just over half now say New Jersey is going in the right direction, up four points. Meanwhile, “wrong track” responses remain steady at 40 percent, while 9 percent are unsure about how the state is doing. Half of voters also believe things have gotten neither better nor worse.
“After some weakening between November and March, Governor Christie’s favorability rating has rebounded to as positive as we’ve seen,” said Poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers. “Despite recent controversies over plans for Rutgers and less-than-positive economic news, voters are trending toward more positive ratings for the governor and the state. But more improvement will probably require more voters to think things are getting better, not just standing still.”
Results are from a poll of 1,191 adults with a subsample of 1,065 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from May 31-June 4. The registered voter subsample has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.
As Christie ratings improve, gender gap grows
Men primarily have boosted Christie’s favorability; women remain much less positive. The result is a near doubling of the gender gap since the last poll. In late March, 49 percent of men and 43 percent of women were favorable toward Christie. Now, 56 percent of men feel the same while women have barely budged to 45 percent favorable, resulting in an 11 point gap, up from 6 points just over two months ago.
“The gap between men and women on the negative side is even larger,” said Redlawsk. “Only 31 percent of men feel unfavorable, compared to 45 percent of women. The governor has simply not been able to win over women as well as he has men.”
Some groups now more favorable toward Christie, but divides remain
Independent voters have also driven up Christie’s favorability ratings. The group’s positive feelings have increased by 12 percentage points to 55 percent since March. Only 27 percent of Democrats view the governor favorably, and GOP support has actually declined from 85 percent to 79 percent. This most likely simply reflects a “ceiling effect,” since the vast majority of Republicans do support Christie, Redlawsk said. “Interestingly, while Democrats have shown little change, self-described liberals are actually 10 points more positive, at 29 percent,” he added.
The poll also finds that both those who are least educated and voters with a college degree became 10 points more favorable, as did voters under 30. Voters at both ends of the income scale have become much more favorable, while those in the middle becoming somewhat less so.
“The recent intense focus on tax cuts may be one reason high-income voters who would benefit the most see the governor in a better light,” said Redlawsk. “But lower income voters also have become more positive. This makes sense given that earlier polling we’ve done shows low-income voters likely to overestimate how much they would gain from the tax cut proposals.”
While changes in the governor’s favorability rating show great variation across groups, his job performance grade remains relatively steady across the same groups. For example, while independent voters are 12 points more favorable, this increase does not translate into a significant grade improvement. Half of independents give Christie an A or B, up only three points since March. Although Republicans seem to feel somewhat less favorable, they show little change in grades, with 72 percent giving an A or B, compared to 75 percent in March.
“Most interesting is how lower income voters – now 47 percent favorable – remain harsher in their grading, with only 38 percent giving an A or B, while 36 percent give a D or F,” noted Redlawsk. “With this group, favorability does not translate to a good job performance grade.”
Partisan and gender gap in views of state’s direction
While most respondents say New Jersey is headed in the right direction, the gender gap apparent in Christie’s ratings shows up as well: 58 percent of men say the state is heading in the right direction, and 33 percent disagree. But women are evenly split, with 45 percent positive about New Jersey’s direction and 46 percent negative.
Fifty-three percent of Democrats believe New Jersey is on the wrong track, while 53 percent of independents and 74 percent of Republicans say the opposite. Voters in either public or private union households are more likely to disapprove of the state’s direction: 58 percent of those in public union households and 49 percent in private union households think the state is on the wrong track. However, 56 percent of non union households are positive about where New Jersey is headed.
Voters approve state’s direction because things are not getting worse
Regardless of the state’s direction, half the voters think that New Jersey’s situation has basically remained unchanged since March. To determine their views, respondents were asked different questions depending on their positive or negative feelings.
Among the 51 percent of voters who view the state’s direction positively, about half report they are positive because “things are changing for the better” while 46 percent say New Jersey’s direction is positive “simply because things are not getting worse.” At the same time, among the 40 percent who say the state is on the wrong track, two-thirds say this is “simply because things are not getting better,” while 30 percent say it is because “things are changing for the worse.”
“The follow-up questions tell us that voters feel only somewhat positive,” said Redlawsk. “Across all voters, only 26 percent think things are actually getting better, while 12 percent say they are getting worse. Most are somewhere in the middle.”
Beliefs about the state’s direction are intertwined with favorability toward Christie, as 47 percent of those favorable toward the governor say New Jersey is changing for the better, compared to just 4 percent of those who are unfavorable. However, this latter group does not necessarily believe New Jersey is changing for the worse, since 61 percent say they see little change for better or worse.
Unsurprisingly, partisan divisions follow a similar pattern, with Democrats and independents more likely to believe little is changing in New Jersey (57 percent and 51 percent, respectively), while almost half of Republicans (48 percent) say the state is changing for the better.