Today’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll release focuses on Gov. Chris Christie’s job performance and perceptions of his likelihood of running for president in 2016. As most willr ecall, before the George Washington Bridge and related scandals occurred, the governor was riding high in job performance ratings following what was almost unanimously considered good work on the Superstorm Sandy recovery. But along came the Ft. Lee lane closings, claims on favoritism in Sandy relief efforts, and investigations by various prosecutors. The Governor’s favorability and overall job ratings took a huge hit in January, returning to pre-Sandy levels. At the same time, his ratings on individual issues (other than Sandy) dropped much less, but except for Sandy they were never very high to start with. Essentially, his overwhelmingly positive Sandy performance held up his overall ratings regardless of how people felt about specific issues.
Today’s release shows little recovery, but relatively little continued decline either. Notably, 52 percent say they approve of Christie’s overall job performance, but except for Sandy recovery(ticking up 6 points to 59 percent approval), no other issue area we ask about gets majority approval. And a couple have dropped even further: ratings on budget (38 percent approval) and taxes (34 percent approval) dropped 5 points since April. And while little changed, Christie’s rating on the economy and jobs is nothing to trumpet, as just 39 percent approve his work there. We also asked about the “state’s pension crisis” and found just 24 percent approve how Christie is handling that task.
The full text of the release follows. You can get a PDF of the release with text, tables, and questions by clicking here.
SLIM MAJORITY OF N.J VOTERS APPROVE CHRISTIE’S OVERALL JOB PERFORMANCE, REMAIN LESS POSITIVE ON MOST INDIVIDUAL ISSUES
Despite ratings voters think Christie already preparing for 2016 run
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ramps up his travel schedule to states like Iowa and New Hampshire, back home his overall job approval continues to hover just above 50 percent, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Remaining well below his post-Superstorm Sandy high of 73 percent, 52 percent of registered New Jersey voters now approve of the job Christie is doing overall, a slight dip from his 55 percent approval in April. Forty-one percent disapprove and 7 percent are unsure.
But voters’ approval of the job Christie is doing on specific issues is a different story, with more disapproving than approving in most areas. At 59 percent approval, Hurricane Sandy recovery is Christie’s highest rating, though a far cry from his high of 87 percent in April 2013. Perceptions of Christie’s performance on the state pension fund crisis, asked for the first time this poll, are particularly negative, with 53 percent disapproving of Christie’s handling of the issue; only 24 percent approve.
Despite lukewarm job ratings and an embattled past few months for the governor, 57 percent of voters expect Christie to run for president in 2016; only 29 percent believe he will not, while another 14 percent are unsure. Most say Christie’s preparations for a possible presidential bid are influencing how he does his job: 48 percent say his decisions on state issues are more about his potential candidacy while 38 percent say he is only doing what is best for New Jersey.
More than half see Christie’s travelling and fundraising for the Republican Governors Association – which has conveniently taken him to some must-visit locations for 2016 – as having no effect on his job as governor, but just over a third say that this has hurt his ability to effectively carry out his current duties.
“As Governor Christie clearly lays the groundwork for a possible presidential run, the results in New Jersey are a mixed bag,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While Christie gets a positive overall rating – one that is pretty good for a Republican in an otherwise Democratic state – concerns about specific issues are quite high and have the potential to drive down his overall support over time.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 871 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 750 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.
GOP voters less positive on specific issues
While voters have a generally positive opinion on Christie’s job performance, they are much more negative on many specific issues. Beyond the 59 percent positive Sandy recovery ratings, which are much lower than before the Bridgegate scandal, things go downhill with fewer than 50 percent approval in all other areas examined: pension fund crisis, 24 percent approval; taxes, 34 percent; state budget, 38 percent; economy/jobs, 39 percent. More positively, 45 percent approve Christie’s performance on education, and 48 percent approve his work on crime and drugs.
Approval ratings on Christie’s efforts on education, crime, and the economy have held steady since the last Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in April. But ratings on the state budget and taxes have declined by 5 points over the past four months. Over the same time, positive assessments of the governor’s performance on Superstorm Sandy recovery have rebounded 6 points.
Democrats are least positive about Christie’s job performance on the state budget (22 percent), taxes (18 percent), and the pension fund crisis (11 percent). They are positive only about Sandy recovery, 49 percent approve while 40 percent disapprove.
More than half of Republicans approve of Christie in most of the issue areas examined, with the highest approval, 71 percent, going for Sandy. The only exception is Republicans’ mixed views on the state pension fund crisis, where only 42 percent approve how Christie is handling the issue, while 36 percent disapprove, and another 23 percent are unsure. Independents are least likely to approve of Christie on this issue: 27 percent approve to 52 percent disapprove. According to Redlawsk, while Republicans remain more positive about specific issues than do Democrats and independents, even they report less positive ratings on the individual issues than they do overall.
Christie’s ratings moving in narrow band
Post-Bridgegate, Christie’s overall job approval continues to trend over a very small range: just over 50 percent among all voters, with Democrats remaining mostly against (60 percent approve) and Republicans mostly in support (78 percent approve). Independents continue to generally approve Christie’s job performance, 57 percent to 37 percent. Redlawsk noted that before Superstorm Sandy, Christie’s favorability ratings never went above 50 percent or below 44 percent, and his job performance grades were similar. “We seem to be back to the same basic pattern,” Redlawsk added. “Over the past six months, overall job approval for Christie has ranged between 52 and 55 percent, with little variation, essentially resetting to pre-Sandy numbers.”
Women voters are less positive about Christie’s job performance: 49 percent approval to 44 percent disapproval. Men are more positive; 56 percent approve while 37 disapprove. Millennials are more divided than any other age group, with 47 percent approving Christie’s work while 44 percent disapprove. Christie continues to score higher ratings among Sandy-battered regions that are also Republican strongholds, with 55 percent of exurban area voters and 61 percent of shore-dwellers approving his overall performance.
Partisanship, overall views affect attitude toward Christie’s 2016 preparations
With the buzz that currently surrounds Christie and recent activities hinting he will run, more than half of every demographic group tested believes Christie will throw his hat in the ring for 2016. Whether his recent decisions are about a potential run or more about what is right for the state is the source of some disagreement.
Not surprisingly, just over six in 10 Christie supporters believe the governor continues to “do what’s best for the state” with his recent decisions to sign or veto bills, even as he prepares for a possible GOP primary run. But nearly eight in 10 of voters who are negative about Christie say his actions have been more about setting up a potential presidential bid.
Partisans take opposite sides; 62 percent of Republicans take the “best for New Jersey” view, versus the 61 percent of Democrats who think his decisions are about a presidential run. Independents are more split. Forty percent say Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey; 47 percent see his actions as related to a presidential campaign. Half of women believe Christie’s decisions are in preparation for 2016, compared to 45 percent of men. Thirty-three percent of women think he’s doing what’s best for the state, while 44 percent of men feel the same.
Opinions are similarly divided regarding how Christie’s travel schedule has affected his ability to govern: 75 percent of Republicans say his frequent trips have no effect, but more than a third of independents and 45 percent of Democrats say it has hurt his ability to govern effectively.
Those who view the governor favorably and approve of his job performance overall (both at 73 percent) are much more likely to say there has been no effect. Christie’s detractors (56 percent) and those critical of his job overall (57 percent) think differently.
“Christie is clearly gearing up in case he decides to run,” said Redlawsk. “There is no other good reason for a governor of New Jersey – even one leading the Republican Governor’s Association – to spend the time he has in Iowa, New Hampshire and even Mexico. Voters seem to recognize this, and while Republicans in New Jersey are pretty upbeat about it, Democrats and independents are much less so, and much more certain that the choices Christie makes today are about his future tomorrow.”