Category Archives: Chris Christie


Today we begin releasing results from our latest poll. We start with what’s now become a regular feature – polling on Bridgegate and its releated issues. The quick story is that Gov. Christie appears to have stemmed the decline in his favorability and job approval ratings, but that there has been no rebound. NJ voters remains skeptical of the explanation given by the governor and do not see the recently released internal report as objective. They also believe former staffers who are withholding materials from the legislative committee investigating the scandal should be required to provide them, despite 5th Amendment claims.

Click here for a PDF of the text of the release along with questions and tables.



Large majorities negative about internal review’s objectivity, Port Authority 9/11 controversies, and administration officials withholding records

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Nearly three months into the George Washington Bridge lane closing controversy, New Jersey registered voters remain skeptical of the response by Gov. Chris Christie and his administration to the burgeoning scandals, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While Christie has stemmed the fall in his personal ratings after a double-digit drop in the wake of “Bridgegate”, voters are generally negative about Christie’s truthfulness and recent developments in the investigation.

Half of voters have a favorable impression of the governor while 42 percent feel unfavorable, essentially unchanged since February. Job performance numbers also show little change: 55 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove. But, just 22 percent fully believe Christie’s explanation regarding the lane closures while 26 percent say they somewhat believe him. The largest group, 49 percent, says they do not believe him at all. As for the recent taxpayer-funded report commissioned by the governor’s office that cleared Christie of all wrongdoing, nearly two-thirds say the internal review does not offer an objective assessment, versus three in ten who say it does.

In addition, a large majority says former Christie administration officials who are refusing to respond to a state legislative committee subpoena should be required to do so despite invoking their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves. Two-thirds say they should be required to provide the records anyway, while 27 percent believe they should be allowed to withhold them.

Voters overwhelmingly condemn the Port Authority’s alleged use of September 11 artifacts, including steel from the twin towers, as gifts to towns with mayors whose endorsement Christie wanted to win for his 2013 re-election, as reported by The New York Times. Three-quarters say this was not appropriate, while only 14 percent say it was and another 10 percent are unsure.

Taken altogether, almost seven in ten voters see the set of issues surrounding the developing investigations as serious: 26 percent say they are extremely serious for Gov. Christie, while another 41 percent sees them as very serious. Only a quarter of voters say the allegations are not very serious, and just 7 percent say they are not serious at all.

“Governor Christie appears to have stemmed the decline in his personal and job performance ratings, following their precipitous drop with Bridgegate, but he is not out of the woods yet,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Not only has he failed to regain any lost ground, but the news that the U.S. Attorney has convened a grand jury investigation ramps up the stakes. Given the underlying skepticism about the administration’s actions, Christie’s continued positive ratings may not hold up for the long term.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 731 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Republicans back the governor on scandals; Democrats and independents less so

For the most part, Republicans continue to stick by their fellow GOP governor as the scandals plaguing Christie’s administration continue to develop. Just under half of GOP voters say they fully believe Christie’s explanation for the lane closures while another 31 percent say they somewhat believe him. Only18 percent of Republicans do not believe Christie at all.

This is in stark contrast to the three-quarters of Democrats and 41 percent of independents who do not believe the governor at all. Only 9 percent of Democrats say they believe him fully, and another 13 percent say somewhat. Independents are somewhat more positive, with 22 percent fully and 34 percent somewhat believing.

“Republicans remain fairly convinced the governor has not done anything wrong,” noted Redlawsk. “Even so, they are not nearly as upbeat about Christie as they were before Bridgegate. Democrats are completely dubious about all of this; whatever reservoir of good will Christie once had with them is simply gone.”

A majority of Republicans back Christie’s recently released internal review, with 56 percent seeing the report as an objective assessment of the events and the governor’s role compared to 34 percent who do not. The numbers flip for both Democrats and independents, with 78 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents saying the report is not objective.

Even Republicans condemn alleged political use of 9/11 artifacts

Republicans are not so much on Christie’s side when it comes to some past actions of the Port Authority and refusals by former Christie officials to hand over documents to the legislative committee investigating the scandals, joining Democrats and independents in condemning both, though to differing degrees. Half of GOP voters say it was inappropriate if Port Authority officials used 9/11 artifacts as gifts to help Christie’s reelection, while 34 percent find it permissible and 16 percent are unsure. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly see such an action as improper – at 87 percent and 78 percent, respectively.

Results are similar regarding former Christie staff members who are claiming their Fifth Amendment right to be able to withhold documents. Seventy-six percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and even 57 percent of Republicans say that these officials should be required to provide records anyway.

Scandals issues seen as serious for Christie

Between the allegations of Bridgegate, claims about favoritism by the Christie administration in providing Sandy relief funds, the use of the Port Authority to further the administration’s political aims, and conflicts of interest for Christie appointees to the Port Authority, it is unsurprising that most voters see this set of issues as problematic for Christie. Democrats, unsurprisingly, are most likely to believe these allegations are serious: 39 percent say they are extremely serious, while 42 percent see them as very serious. Just 17 percent do not think the issues are particularly serious.

Independents share Democrats’ views for the most part. One quarter says the situation is extremely serious and another 40 percent very serious; 25 percent say not very serious, while just 6 percent say not at all serious. Republicans are not as worried, but almost half still say the allegations are serious, though only 9 percent say extremely so; 35 percent say they are not very serious, and 14 percent say not at all serious.

Christie’s ratings steady; some see a change in his governing tone post-Bridgegate

Christie’s favorability and job numbers have settled back into their pre-Sandy state, with Democrats mostly against and Republicans mostly in support of him. Independents generally continue to support Christie and his performance, though not nearly to the extent that Republicans do. After a large drop in Christie’s Sandy-specific rating, the governor has stabilized at 53 percent approving of his job on Sandy – somewhat better than his now-lukewarm or even negative ratings on other issues like taxes (39 percent approval), education (46 percent approval), the state budget (43 percent approval), and crime and drugs (50 percent approval).

Some observers have suggested that Gov. Christie has become less aggressive in the way he governs now than he was before Bridgegate but most voters see no real change. A quarter of voters say Christie has become less forceful in his tone, while 6 percent say he has become more forceful. But 61 percent say his tone is the same.

The current scandals have also significantly influenced voters’ views of the most important problem facing New Jersey today. While most voters continue to see the economy and jobs (25 percent) or taxes (27 percent) as most important, as usual, 15 percent report that government corruption and abuse of power is the number one issue. In comparison, only 3 percent name Sandy recovery as most important.

“The continuing saga of Bridgegate and its related allegations has become a ‘new normal’ for New Jersey voters,” said Redlawsk. “Christie is weathering this on a personal level, and in the overall perception of his performance. But he has lost Democrats, and overall there has been an increase in disapproval on specific issues. Combined with the fact that Sandy recovery is no longer the positive narrative it was for voters, the governor will likely find getting bipartisan agreement for his agenda harder than it was when he was riding high.”

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Analysis of Rutgers-Eagleton 2013 Pre-election Polls Released

Following inaccurate results for final pre-election polls in October 2013 (NJ Special Senate) and November 2013 (NJ Governor), the Eagleton Institute of Politics commissioned an outside study by Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates of New York to identify reasons for the outcomes of these polls. Today, The Eagleton Institute of Politics and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling are releasing this analysis to the public as part of a commitment to transparency and education.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll reported a final pre-election poll for the special Senate election between then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Republican former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan in which Booker held a 22-point lead. Booker ultimately won by 11 points. In the final November gubernatorial pre-election poll, Rutgers-Eagleton had Republican Governor Chris Christie ahead of his Democratic challenger state Senator Barbara Buono by 36 points: Christie won by 22.

The Langer report identifies the primary reason for the inaccurate results as the failure to put the “head-to-head” questions, which asked respondents for their vote intention, at or near the beginning of the questionnaire. Because these questions were asked after a series of other questions, it appears that respondents were “primed” to think positively about Governor Chris Christie in the November survey, which then may have led Democrats and independents in particular to over-report their likelihood of voting for the Governor. A similar process occurred with the October Senate poll, where voters were first reminded of how little they knew about Lonegan and how much they liked Booker before being asked the vote question.

Ruth B. Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics stated that, “In response to these results, Eagleton chose to contract with an independent, highly respected, outside survey research firm to review its recent work and offer suggestions for improvement.” She added, “The Institute is committed to contributing to political knowledge in New Jersey and nationally with credible, impartial data. When we saw we had a problem, we knew we had to learn why and what to do about it.”

“Gary Langer and his colleagues spent many hours examining multiple aspects of our polling to understand what went wrong,” said David Redlawsk, director of Eagleton’s Center on Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and professor of political science at Rutgers. “We are grateful for the efforts they put in and the advice they have provided, both in terms of this specific issue and general operations of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The results of this report will make what we do even better.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has been a valued source of information about the views of New Jersey residents for over 40 years. As an academic-based survey research organization, ECPIP strives to be transparent and accessible. “We have a special obligation to take our educational mission seriously, which includes informing the public as well as learning from our own errors.” Redlawsk notes that survey research results released by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, for example, aim to meet the transparency standards set by the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). Further, in recent years, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has been providing open informal insights and perspectives about survey research from Redlawsk and members of his staff through its blog at And for many years full data from the Poll has been freely available, generally after a one-year period, at

Langer’s major finding is that the order in which the head-to-head ballot test questions were asked most likely added inadvertent bias to the results in both the October and November Polls, although the results came out in opposite partisan directions in the two polls. Decisions made by ECPIP to maintain the standard set of questions about political figures including Cory Booker and ratings of Chris Christie at the beginning of the questionnaire worked to particularly prime Democrats in the November poll and Republicans in the October poll to support the candidate from the other party – Christie or Booker.

Redlawsk noted that the cause was a decision to maintain an ongoing four-year series of questions about Governor Christie that have been asked at the very beginning of a Rutgers-Eagleton NJ Poll since the governor’s inauguration. “We made this decision purposefully to maintain the integrity of our time series,” said Redlawsk. “This long-term research has greatly informed our understanding of public opinion about Governor Christie, and we had concerns that moving these questions after a head-to-head vote question would bias those results for the same reason we ended up biasing the vote questions.”

Most pre-election head-to-head polls focus only on the election and do not include long batteries of additional questions. The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was unable to field separate pre-election surveys and thus combined the head-to-head polls with the regular surveys of New Jersey public opinion. “In retrospect, this was the wrong choice when one goal was to be as accurate as possible with pre-election numbers,” noted Redlawsk. “We should have either fielded a separate poll or just focused on our long-term work, rather than trying to do both at the same time.”

The Langer report on the cause of the pre-election poll mis-estimates is available to the public now on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website at (PDF).


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For a PDF of the full release, with text, questions, and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite a reboot of his town hall meetings, and even with no significant new revelations in the Bridgegate scandal, perceptions of Gov. Chris Christie’s personal traits remain at a low point in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Following a sharp, negative turn in opinions of key Christie traits in January, New Jersey registered voters now rate his “trustworthiness” at an all-time low with just 23 percent saying “trustworthy” applies very well to Christie, down 20 points from October 2013. Another 38 percent say trustworthy fits Christie just somewhat well, while 35 percent say it does not fit him well at all.

While more than half of voters still say “strong leader” describes Christie “very well”, even that trait which has been key for Christie since Superstorm Sandy, is at a low point. Voters are more divided on the extent to which “sincere” describes the governor: 31 percent say it fits him very well, 35 percent say somewhat well, and 30 percent say Christie is not sincere at all.

“The Bridgegate and Sandy allegations continue to take their toll on perceptions of the governor’s positive personality traits,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “In particular, trustworthy was one of Christie’s hallmarks, especially given voters’ normal cynicism about politicians. Losing the trust of voters puts Christie into the category of an ordinary politician. At the same time, his overall New Jersey ratings remain pretty good for a Republican in this blue state.”

The number of respondents who see Christie as a bully – 37 percent – has fallen since January’s all-time high of 43 percent. And just under half say “arrogant” fits Christie very well.

Emotional responses toward Christie show little change from January. Pride in and enthusiasm about the governor remain nearly steady at 36 percent after double-digit declines in January. But 40 percent of voters are angry, and 45 percent are worried when they think about the governor.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 22 to 28. Within this sample are 729 registered voters reported upon in this release, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Bridgegate believers most likely to distrust Christie

The decline in assessments of Christie’s trustworthiness is significantly driven by partisan differences and views on the George Washington Bridge (GWB) scandal. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats say trustworthy describes Christie very well, while 52 percent of Republicans are still in this camp. While partisan perceptions have stayed fairly steady, independents are even less trusting than they were in January: just 20 percent say trustworthy fits Christie very well, down 10 points in the last five weeks and 24 points lower than in October.

Voters’ beliefs about whether Christie knew of his staff’s alleged involvement in closing bridge access lanes from Fort Lee last September influence whether they still trust the governor. Thirty-seven percent find it very unlikely Christie was unaware ahead of time of what his staff allegedly planned, and an additional 15 percent think it is somewhat unlikely, while 44 percent say it is at least somewhat likely he did not know.

Among those who think it is very likely Christie did not know ahead of time of his staff’s actions, more than half (52 percent) see Christie as trustworthy. In contrast, just 7 percent of voters who say it is very unlikely the governor was unaware of the plan agree with this assessment.

Assessments of Christie’s January 9 press conference about the traffic tie-up also affect how trustworthy Christie appears. The one in six voters who fully believe Christie’s explanation of what happened in Fort Lee are three times as likely to say trustworthy fits him very well (76 percent), compared to the third who somewhat believe him, where only 22 percent ascribes trust to Christie. And a mere 4 percent of the 44 percent who completely disbelieve Christie’s explanation see him as trustworthy; 69 percent of this group says the term does not apply to Christie whatsoever.

As for the Sandy-related allegations thrown at the governor, 41 percent think they are false, but 45 percent believe the claims. Those who think the allegations are false are more trusting of Christie than others: 44 percent say trustworthy describes Christie very well, 44 percent say somewhat well, and only 10 percent say not well at all. Just 6 percent of those whole believe the allegations think trustworthy describes the governor very well; 61 percent says it does not fit at all.

The term “sincere,” asked here for the second time, shows similar partisan divisions as in January: 16 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans say this word describes Christie very well, little changed. But there has been an 11 point drop to 28 percent of independents who now think that adjective describes Christie very well. Voters who believe Christie was aware of the lane closures and those who think his administration purposely withheld Sandy funds, are significantly less likely to call him sincere.

While just over half of all voters still see Christie as a strong leader, the numbers have taken a slight dip among Democrats (five points to 35 percent) and independents (six points to 54 percent). Eight in 10 Republicans, however, continue to say that the trait describes their governor very well.

As Bridgegate quiets, negative labels stabilize

With the absence of major new allegations in recent weeks, opinions on some of the most negative descriptors applied to Christie have stabilized. Opinions on “bully” are steady or improved among partisans of all stripes. Half of Democrats now say bully fits Christie very well, a nine-point drop from January. Independents are now at 35 percent, while only 17 percent of Republicans still feel the same. More than half of Republicans say the governor is not a bully, a feeling shared by 17 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents. Those skeptical of Christie’s claims Bridgegate and who think Sandy aid decisions were political are much more likely to label him as a bully. And voters using the GWB at least weekly are 11 to 13 points more likely to say bully fits Christie very well, compared to voters who never cross it.

Democrats particularly find Christie “arrogant,” with 62 percent saying the term describes Christie very well, although this is a nine-point drop over the last five weeks. Forty-six percent of independents feel the same, as do 25 percent of Republicans. Seven in ten voters who think it is very likely Christie knew about his staff’s alleged actions believe arrogant fits him very well, compared to just over a third of other voters. Likewise, three-quarters of those who completely disbelieve Christie’s explanation say arrogant fits very well, compared to 30 percent who somewhat believe him and just 18 percent who fully believe him. As with bully, voters who think the Sandy-related allegations are true are about three times more likely to say arrogant describes him very well than those who disbelieve the claims.

Anger and worry over Christie continue

Voters continue to experience more negative emotions toward Christie than they did pre-Bridgegate. Anger and worry remain up, and pride and enthusiasm are still down, all back to pre-Sandy levels. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans and 35 percent of independents say Christie makes them feel enthusiastic, while 61 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents say he makes them feel proud. Democrats have rebounded from large dips in January, up nine points to 23 percent for pride and up five points to 22 percent for enthusiasm.

Positive emotions are significantly lower among those less likely to believe Christie had no knowledge of his staff’s involvement with the GWB lane closures, those less likely to believe his explanation and those who believe allegations over Sandy funds are true.

Partisans have remained relatively steady in their feelings of anger and worry toward the governor since January. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans feel angry. Similarly, 59 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of independents, and 24 percent of Republicans are worried about Christie. About half of frequent GWB users are worried and angry, compared to about 40 percent of those who use it less frequently or not at all. Sixty percent of those who say it is very unlikely Christie was unaware of the lane closures, those who do not believe his explanation, and those who believe in the Sandy-related allegations say they feel anger and worry toward the governor.

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The Latest Numbers on Bridgegate, Sandy, and Gov. Christie

Today we release the latest numbers on how Bridgegate and to some extent Sandy recovery issues are effecting the standing of Gov. Chris Christie. As the release below details, the governor’s overall ratings have stayed essentially stable since our last poll after Bridgegate broke in January. Both his favorability and overall job performance ratings are slightly higher than they were in January (though the difference is NOT statistically significant) while remaining far below his peaks in 2013. But from our perspective the more interesting story here is the collapse in job approval ratings for Christie’s Sandy recovery efforts. Throughout 2013, NJ votes gave the governor extremely high approval for post-Sandy efforts; at times more than 80% approved his job performance on Sandy even as a plurality or more disapproved other areas, like taxes and the economy.

We find approval of Gov. Christie on Sandy recovery has now dropped to 54%. Yes, it is still a majority, but the difference is quite dramatic. We see this driven in part by a nearly even split in whether voters believe allegations that the administration withheld Sandy aid from towns where Democratic Mayors did not endorse Christie’s re-election. Those who believe this have reversed course on Sandy, while those who do not remain as positive about the governor’s Sandy work as ever.  In the end, this may actually be more of a problem for Christie than Bridgegate, and we may well have settled back to the pre-Sandy status quo – about half the state approving and half not approving how the governor is doing.

One quick note. Starting this this poll, we are adjusting our reported margin of error to include what are called “design effects” related to weighting the data to better match the population. All public telephone polls report weighted results – the raw sample is rarely an exact fit for the population. So we use statistical processes to adjust to known factors in the population – in our case generally age, race, ethnicity, and gender. In making this adjustment we add more uncertainty to the results, which increases the margin of error of our estimates. However, few polls seem to clearly report this effect (the design effect). If you read the disclosure statement at the end of the PDF of the poll, you will see where we made this adjustment, increasing our reported margin of error for the registered voter sample from +/-3.7 percentage points for the raw sample to +/-3.8 percentage points for the weighted sample. It isn’t much, but it does make the margin of error more accurate.

Full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF with the text, questions, and tables.

Overall favorability – steady since January – remains much lower than 2013 highs

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Bridgegate continues to dominate Gov. Chris Christie’s second term, and with new questions about how Superstorm Sandy funds have been managed, New Jersey voters have dramatically changed their perception of Christie’s job performance on Sandy recovery, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 54 percent now approve Christie’s efforts on Sandy, down 15 points since the mid-January poll and a 26-point drop from November 2013. Thirty-six percent disapprove, up 10 points from January, while 10 percent are unsure.

“These new numbers are a far cry from the nearly unanimous praise the governor had received for post-Sandy leadership,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “We’re seeing a real impact from recent claims involving withheld Sandy aid as political payback, as well as accusations of uneven and inappropriate distribution of recovery funds. This could have a more significant long-term impact than the Fort Lee lane closing scandal that opened Christie’s second term.”

While Sandy job approval has taken a big hit, Christie’s favorability rating (49 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable) is statistically unchanged from January’s 46 to 43 percent rating. Overall job approval is also stable at 55 percent; 39 percent disapprove, versus 53-41 six weeks ago.

“Positive views of Christie’s Sandy performance kept his overall ratings high throughout 2013,” noted Redlawsk. “The decline in Sandy approval has returned Christie to the pre-Sandy status quo, when about half of voters supported him and the other half did not or was unsure.”

The double-digit descent in Christie’s Sandy rating is heavily influenced by the 45 percent of voters who believe the administration withheld Sandy aid from some mayors in retaliation for not receiving their re-election support. Just 41 percent of voters think the allegations are false, while another 13 percent are uncertain.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 22 to 28. Within this sample are 729 registered voters reported upon in this release, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Christie’s Sandy support erodes

Where Christie once enjoyed across-the-board approval for his post-Sandy leadership, divisions have opened. A majority of Democrats no longer praises the governor: just 46 percent now approve his efforts, down 15 points during the past six weeks. Disapproval has jumped to 47 percent of Democrats. But support is also eroding among independents and Republicans. Fifty-four percent of independents continue to approve of Christie’s Sandy work, down 17 points from January. Republican approval dropped a surprising 13 points, to 69 percent.

Approval of Christie’s Sandy performance was once so strong that even those with an overall unfavorable impression were supportive. That is no longer true. One-third of voters unfavorable toward Christie now approve of how he has handled Sandy recovery, down 18 points from 51 percent approval in January. Nearly two-thirds of this group now disapproves.
Christie still does well among voters with a favorable overall impression, with almost three-quarters approving his work on Sandy, but this too is down, by 15 points in the last six weeks.

“When even Republicans show eroding support of a key Christie selling point – his management of the largest natural disaster to hit the state – things are not going well, even if overall favorability ratings look stable for now,” said Redlawsk.

Among the recent Sandy-related allegations against the administration have been claims that benefits were withheld from towns where Democratic mayors failed to endorse Christie’s re-election; 45 percent of voters believe these to be true. Among those voters, only 38 percent approve the governor’s performance on Sandy, while 54 percent disapprove. Those who do not believe the claims strongly support Christie’s Sandy work: 73 percent approve, while 17 percent disapprove.

All this may boil down to partisan preferences since beliefs about the allegations themselves are heavily divided by partisanship: two-thirds of Democrats say Christie’s administration withheld the funds purposely, versus seven in 10 Republicans who say the opposite. Independents are evenly split on the question – 43 percent (true) and 42 percent (false).

Bridgegate continues to roil New Jersey voters

The division over Sandy performance parallels views on the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. Just over half of voters suspect Christie had knowledge of his advisers’ actions in the closures, while 44 percent do not. Only 16 percent fully believe the governor’s Jan. 9 press conference explanation regarding Bridgegate, down from the 22 percent who said this in January.

Another 35 percent say they somewhat believe Christie; 44 percent do not believe him at all. In January, 32 percent somewhat believed the governor, and 42 percent did not.

Democrats are most apt to say it is very unlikely Christie did not know of his staff’s actions (51 percent), as well as to disbelieve Christie’s explanation at all (64 percent). Republicans are more supportive: 31 percent say it is somewhat likely and 32 percent say it is very likely Christie was unaware. Just over a third of Republicans fully believe his explanation, while another 41 percent somewhat believes it.

Voters who cross the George Washington Bridge at least once a week are more likely than less frequent bridge users to think Christie was unaware: 47 percent think it is very unlikely Christie did not know about the plan, and 52 percent do not believe at all the governor’s explanation.

Asked about the investigation, 38 percent say the state Legislature should continue its effort, but another 30 percent say it should defer to the U.S. Attorney. Almost a quarter says no investigation is needed.

More than half of Democrats want the Democratically-controlled Legislature to continue its efforts while 27 percent say the U.S. Attorney should take over. Twelve percent say no investigation is needed. Forty percent of Republicans say all investigations should be ended, while 31 percent say the U.S. Attorney should take the lead. Twenty percent support the Legislature continuing its probe. Independents are more split, with just over a quarter preferring no investigation at all and a third siding with each of the other options. Surprisingly, 37 percent of those who cross the George Washington Bridge at least once a week say no further investigation is necessary, although a plurality (40 percent) would prefer the state to continue.

Despite challenges, most Christie voters would stick by him

Even with the developing scandals, New Jerseyans are nowhere near ready to trade in their governor. Just one in five voters think Christie should resign in the face of the investigations, but nearly three-quarters says he should stay in office. Even Democrats are not calling for the governor’s head; just a third says he should resign. Just over three-quarters of independents and 92 percent of Republicans say Christie should remain in office.

Almost 90 percent of Christie voters say they would still vote for the governor if they had the chance to vote again. But this does not mean most would vote for him for president. Christie still trails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 41 percent to 51 percent, in a 2016 New Jersey head-to-head matchup, although this is a significant improvement from his 34 to 55 percent deficit in January. Asked to name the one person they most want to see as the next president, Christie comes in a distant second to Clinton, drawing fewer than half of the mentions she does.

On issues other than Sandy, Christie’s ratings have remained divided. Just over four in 10 approve his work on the economy and taxes and almost half approve his performance on education.

“In the end, Governor Christie still has a solid base of support among New Jersey voters, even if it is no longer at the record levels we once saw,” said Redlawsk. “In retrospect, it was always unreasonable to expect his post-Sandy ratings would last forever, though we never anticipated how they would fall. Christie’s future may now depend on how well he can pivot to issues that have helped him in the past, including his recent focus on public worker pensions and health care costs. Many New Jerseyans remain happy to stay in his corner, at least for now.”


Note:  On Monday we reported results in conjunction with polls done by Siena and Roanoke where we all ran a group of the same questions across three states. In that release, Christie is shown with a 48%-40% favorability rating in NJ. Today’s release reports a 49%-40% rating. Why the difference? It is because the other two centers combine “refusals” into the “don’t know” category, where we routinely drop them out. There were 3 respondents in this poll who refused to answer the Christie favorability question. Taking them out as we normally do rounds the favorable number up to 49% instead of down to 48%. But the joint report on Monday included the approach used by Siena and Roanoke. Today’s report reverts to our normal approach so we can compare to the past. These numbers are estimates, of course, with a margin of error, and the difference is meaningless in terms of substance.



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Results of a Joint Poll with Siena and Roanoke Released Today

Over the last week we carried out our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of New Jersey with an interesting twist. In conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers we fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states. Today we release the results in a lengthy report that summarizes the interesting differences and similarities between the three states of New York (Siena Research Institute), Virginia (Roanoke Institute for Policy and Opinion Research) and Rutgers-Eagleton. The report speaks pretty much for itself, but if you want to see the full set of questions and crosstabs for all three institutions, you can find them here.

For a PDF of this release with the New Jersey tables and crosstabs, click here.

Full text of the release follows.

Roanoke/Rutgers-Eagleton/Siena College Study:  Simultaneous Polls – Virginia, New Jersey, New York
Majority in 3 States Favorable on Hillary Clinton; Give Former Sec of State 2016 Lead over Christie, Paul & Ryan

Voters in NJ, NY & Virginia in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage, National Gun Registry, Keystone Pipeline, Minimum Wage Hike, Med Marijuana; States Mixed on Obamacare, Unemployment Extension

Cuomo Stronger in NY than Christie in Jersey or McAuliffe in Virginia

NY & NJ Voters see Global Climate Change; Virginians Mixed

Loudonville, NY; New Brunswick, NJ; Roanoke, VA. – A majority of voters in New York (64 percent), New Jersey (59 percent) and Virginia (56 percent) have a favorable view of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and name her most often in each state as the one eligible person that they would most like to see as the next President according to simultaneous identical polls conducted by Roanoke College in Virginia, Rutgers-Eagleton in New Jersey and Siena College in New York.  In early 2016 Presidential horseraces in each state, Clinton tops New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan by over 35 points in New York, 8 (Christie) to 14 (Paul) points in Virginia and even leads Christie by 10 in New Jersey while up there by 25 to 29 over Ryan and Paul.

“It’s early, very early, but in these three states worth 56 of 270 electoral votes needed to win, Hillary Clinton is well-liked, the top choice by margins of 4 or 5 to one in New York and Virginia and named more than twice as often in Governor Christie’s home state.  Head to head, she is untouchable in New York, has majorities in New Jersey and a lead in the potential battleground state of Virginia over not only two lesser known Republican hopefuls, Paul and Ryan, but over Christie who can no longer muster 50 percent favorable in any of the three states,” according to Don Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute.

Asked to vote in favor of or opposed to 12 national initiatives, a majority of voters in all three states support seven and oppose one.  Overwhelming majorities are in favor of raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; legalizing the use of marijuana in all 50 states for medical purposes; approving a path to citizenship for people who are in the U.S. illegally, but are working, have no criminal record and pay taxes; approving the Keystone Pipeline to bring oil from Canada to the U.S.; using federal funds to make free Pre-Kindergarten education available to all children; and establishing a national gun registry.

Legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states is strongly supported in New Jersey and New York while Virginians are in favor by 53 to 40 percent.  Large majorities, greatest in Virginia, oppose allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to tap domestic phone lines in the interest of national security.


“We tend to spend more time focusing on how voters differ across states, but here we find that despite differences in geography, racial and religious makeup, and partisanship, there is more agreement than not in these three states on seven current issues. Apparently voters share more opinions than the media leads us to believe with their focus on a hyper partisan world,” according to David Redlawsk, Director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

“Given a huge disparity in gun ownership rates – half in Virginia compared to one in seven in the two northern states – the much smaller differences on support for a national gun registry are surprising.  Virginians are less supportive of stricter gun laws, but those differences are relatively small. New York and New Jersey have much tougher restrictions on guns and gun owners; perhaps those differences are a factor in shaping opinion,” according to Harry Wilson, Director of Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.

On four current issues – the Affordable Care Act, abortion, standardized testing and an extension for unemployment benefits – the voters of New Jersey, New York and Virginia do not speak with the same decisiveness nor the same mind.  Given the opportunity to vote in these polls on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a majority of Virginians are in favor, a small majority of New Jerseyans agree, but a similarly small majority of New Yorkers oppose repeal.  On two other current hot button issues, both New York and New Jersey support both reinstituting unemployment benefits beyond the initial 26 weeks of coverage and to a lesser degree, using nationally standardized tests to assess the quality of public schools, while in Virginia, both issues find voters split.

The one issue on which voters of each state are closely divided is making abortion illegal 20 weeks after conception, a proposal currently being advanced by some in Congress.  Voters in all three states lean towards opposing this measure, but only in Virginia does opposition reach beyond the margin of error and in no instant does opposition reach 50 percent.

“While voters in these three states agree on and endorse initiatives covering a wide range of issues – same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, the Keystone Pipeline and the minimum wage – voters both within these three states and across borders cannot come to any consensus on some of the key issues that are drawing the political battle lines today including abortion, Obamacare and unemployment benefits.  In fact, asked whether the greatest problem we face today is too much government or income inequality, New Yorkers say ‘it’s inequality,’ Virginians say ‘too much government’ and New Jersey is split,” Levy notes.

“Another line in the sand is climate change.  New Jersey and New York emphatically say that they think that the major storms that have hit the East Coast over the last two years are the result of global climate change while Virginians are not convinced,” Wilson adds.

Rating the Governors, States and Country

Of the three Governors, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Cuomo has the strongest favorability ranking in his own state at 59 to 34 percent followed by McAuliffe’s 47 to 33 percent and Christie’s 48 to 40 percent.  Away from their home state, Christie is best known but gets breakeven favorable/unfavorable scores in both New York and Virginia.  McAuliffe, the Governor with the shortest tenure, is little known outside of Virginia while Cuomo is seen favorably in New Jersey, 47 to 19 percent but is neither well known nor popular in Virginia at 27 to 33 percent.

Another point of agreement across these three states is that voters say that the country is headed in the wrong direction rather than being on the right track by nearly identical scores – NJ 56/32, NY 54/36, Virginia 59/32.  And when asked to assess the direction of their own state, voters are more positive about their home than the nation but no state makes it to 50 percent saying ‘right track.’  While Virginians are guardedly optimistic at 47 percent right track to 40 percent wrong direction, New Yorkers and New Jerseyans lean negatively.


“Still, given a chance to vote with their feet when asked across all three states to choose where they would most like to live, a large majority – ninety percent in Virginia, two-thirds in New York and almost six in ten in New Jersey, say, despite any warts, home is sweet home.  Among those with a wandering eye, Virginia calls most loudly as a quarter of both New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are ready to head south,” Redlawsk added.

“Whether we describe our politics as hyper-partisan, divided or gridlocked, this three-state study shows that large majorities of voters from New Jersey, New York and Virginia agree on many issues.  Still, given their sobering agreement on the country currently moving in the wrong direction, they appear more frustrated than optimistic.  At the same time, on some issues including Obamacare, the role of government and abortion, deep divides are evident.  The 2016 Presidential election is a political eternity away.  While some of the issues in this study may be decided by then, it is more likely that Hillary Clinton and the other candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, will need to address both the areas of agreement as well as those on which Americans disagree when the campaign heats up.”


Filed under Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Education, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Health Care, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Obama NJ Rating, President Obama

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Christie for President?

Most Say Christie Will Still Run, But No Match for “Favorite” Hillary Clinton

By Caitlin Sullivan, Gabriela Perez, and Jingying Zeng

Caitlin Sullivan is the head data visualization intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a senior at Rutgers University. Gabriela Perez, a senior, and Jingying Zeng, a junior, are also data visualization interns at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

 In the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge scandal, Gov. Christie has not only taken a hit in his personal ratings but also in his presidential chances for 2016, at least with New Jersey voters. In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll January 14-19, 2014, NJ registered voters give a clear lead to Hillary Clinton over Christie, while making it close between Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, when asked about potential 2016 matchups.

Clinton is a clear favorite in the “blue” state of New Jersey. Only 34 percent of NJ registered voters say that they would vote for Christie if the election were today, while 55 percent support Clinton. The potential Christie-Cuomo race, on the other hand, is neck-and-neck: 41 percent favor Christie while 42 percent would vote for Cuomo.

Christie’s second place position to Clinton and virtual tie with Cuomo stems from the governor’s significant favorability ratings drop. Once more supportive of Christie, only 46 percent of voters have a favorable impression of the governor, compared to 47 percent who have a favorable impression of Cuomo. But Clinton really shines with NJ voters right now: 65 percent have a favorable impression of her, a level Christie enjoyed before Bridgegate. While Republicans and Democrats stick by their respective partisan candidates, independents give a slight edge to Christie in favorability: 55 percent are favorable of the governor, versus 54 percent for Clinton and 45 percent for Cuomo.

Despite his problems, Christie does not lose his GOP base in the head-to-head tests; he still retains the support of 77 percent of Republican voters versus Clinton and 82 percent of Republicans versus Cuomo.

But Democrats and independents portray different stories. Independents are split in the Christie-Clinton race, 41 percent for Christie to 46 percent for Clinton. But Christie is the clear choice for independents against NY Gov. Cuomo, 46 percent to 30 percent.

Not surprisingly, overwhelming majorities of Democrats side with the Democratic candidates: 85 percent would support Clinton against Christie, and 70 percent would support Cuomo.

Women voters give the edge to the Democratic candidate in both matchups, especially when it comes to the one who could potentially be the first woman president. Clinton takes 60 percent of women, versus 30 percent for Christie, a 30-point gap. Cuomo also wins women, but by a narrower margin: 46 percent to 34 percent for Christie. A large gender gap emerges, where men support Clinton by only eight points, 48 percent to 40 percent for Christie. And men prefer Christie over Cuomo by 12 points, 49 percent to 37 percent.

Asked about whether Christie is focused more on his potential presidential campaign or more on doing what’s best for the state, just over half of voters believe Christie’s main concern is his potential presidential campaign, while a little more than a third say the governor puts the state first and foremost in his decisions. Opinions are divided across partisan lines, of course: two-thirds of Republican voters believe Christie makes decisions that are best for the state, versus 39 percent of independents, and 22 percent of Democrats.

Voters have mixed feelings on whether Christie running for president will be good or bad for New Jersey, with a plurality (45 percent) saying it will make no difference. The rest of voters are split between whether it would affect the state positively or negatively, 28 percent to 21 percent. Forty-two percent of Republicans say a Christie presidential run would benefit the state – which is more than double the share of Democrats and 13 points more than independents who say the same.

In spite of this negative outlook for Christie in his home state – which, after all, is much more Democratic than Republican overall – most still say they expect Christie to run for president in 2016. Sixty percent of all voters think he will run, including a majority of partisans of all stripes (57 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents, and 67 percent of Republicans).

Christie for President Tables February 2014

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A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Attitudes on Gov. Christie’s State of the State Proposal for a Longer School Day and School Year

By John Masusock and Steven Galante

John Masusock is a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a sophomore at Rutgers University. Steven Galante is a Graduate Eagleton Fellow through the Eagleton Institute of Politics, a research intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, and a Masters student at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information.

Despite escalating scandals, Gov. Chris Christie put forth some new proposals in his State of the State address a few weeks ago – perhaps the most noteworthy of which was a call for a longer school day and school year.  But support for Christie’s proposal is mixed among New Jerseyans.  In a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll January 14-19, 2014, respondents were asked whether they support both a longer day and year, support a longer year but not longer day, support a longer day but not longer year, or oppose both options.

A plurality of New Jerseyans – 41 percent – opposed both lengthening the school day and the school year, while 31 percent side with the governor and support extending both.  Another 15 percent agree with a longer year but not longer days, while 9 percent favor longer days but not more of them.

Unusually for issues in New Jersey, partisanship does not have any effect on opinions towards Christie’s proposal. Instead, opinions of Christie himself and how he is handling the issue of education do.  More than half of those who are unfavorable toward Christie oppose both a longer school day and year, compared to just 31 percent of those who feel favorably toward him.  Conversely, those with a favorable impression of the governor are 15 points more likely than those who are not to support Christie’s call for a longer school day and year (38 percent to 23 percent).

Even bigger disparities are evident between those who approve and disapprove of Christie’s job performance on education.  While 41 percent of those who approve of Christie’s handling of ”education and schools” support both a longer day and year, only 19 percent who disapprove Christie’s education performance feel the same.  The sentiment is switched for opposition to the plan: 29 percent of those who approve oppose both extensions, versus 57 percent of those who disapprove.  While disapprovers are split on whether there should just be longer days or just longer years, approvers are more than twice as likely to support a longer year than day.

Age additionally plays a big role.  The oldest respondents (65+) are almost twice as likely as the youngest respondents to say they support the plan for both a longer day and year; almost half of 18-29 year olds oppose both, compared to 32 percent of those 65 and over.  With the exception of the youngest age group, those New Jerseyans in the middle on the issue are slightly more likely to support extending the school year but not the school day.

Level of education also seems to have some influence.  Those New Jerseyans with a high school degree or less are least likely to support the proposal – only a quarter supports both a longer day and year versus half who support neither. Those with some college or more are more likely than high school graduates to at least support either a longer day (with the exception of those with graduate work) or longer year, as well as to support both.

America is always competing for the best test scores and education ranking against the rest of the world, and there is competition on the local level, too, with districts constantly ranked in official school quality reports. A longer time in school could have many positive effects on students and their well-being.  But there are many details that have not yet been divulged about Christie’s new proposal that will surely be an issue: building maintenance, meal schedules, busing, teacher compensation, and the additional costs to taxpayers – just to name a few.  Whatever the outcomes here, the majority of opinion does not seem to be on Christie’s side for enacting both options together, but there is some support for some variation of an extended school year or school day.  Just in case, students should try to enjoy those long summers while they still can …

Christie Education Proposal Tables February 2014

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Bases for Impressions of Christie Now Dominated by Mentions of “Bully” and Scandals Among New Jerseyans, Less So by Superstorm Sandy 

By Ashley Koning

Ashley Koning is Manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University.

As we reported the other week, our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows Christie’s favorability rating among registered voters now virtually split at 46 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable, a double-digit drop from his 65 percent favorability rating just before his landslide re-election. But what we have not yet reported is the additional step we took on that same poll to more thoroughly investigate just why New Jerseyans felt this way.

We probed impressions of Gov. Christie, given recent events and allegations surrounding the George Washington Bridge, by asking those who said they had a favorable or unfavorable impression of the governor a follow-up open-ended question about why they felt this way:

In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?

Today’s blog post reports these results, including all respondents, and they seem quite interesting, especially when we turn the open-ended responses into word clouds.

Clear patterns emerge in the reasons given for viewing the governor favorably or unfavorably. Not surprisingly, words related to Christie as a “bully” take the top spot in descriptions of why people feel the way they do – though this is virtually entirely due to those who say they are unfavorable toward him.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Our first word cloud just lumps all of our respondents into one group, which helps us see the relative frequency of the ideas people include in their responses from either direction. Out of everyone who answered this follow-up, about one in ten respondents said “bully” was a reason for their feelings toward the governor. A combination of phrases involving the recent allegations – “George Washington Bridge,” “Bridgegate,” and “scandal” – is also very prominent among all responses. While Superstorm Sandy and Christie’s job as governor overall still play large roles – especially for those feeling positively about him – they do so to a lesser extent than in the past and pale in comparison to the number of times New Jerseyans mention “bully.”

Of course, since we asked the question differently depending on whether a respondent is favorable or unfavorable toward Gov. Christie, it is more appropriate to look at each group independently. For those with a positive view of the governor, we find that Christie’s handling of Superstorm Sandy has faded a bit into the background with just 7 percent mentioning the storm as their primary reason for liking Christie. Instead, favorable respondents are more likely to mention something very general about Christie’s overall good job of governing and making policy decisions (the first thing mention for 22 percent), that he is doing a lot for New Jersey and improving the state (the first thing mention for 11 percent), and that he is straightforward (the first thing mention for 10 percent) and honest (the first thing mention for 9 percent).

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

We get a fascinating partisan difference, however, as shown in the next set of word clouds. Sandy is a much bigger factor for Democrats who still like Christie, as well as for independents, than it is for Republicans. In fact, Sandy barely gets mentioned at all by Republicans, while the storm is the second biggest reason among the small number of favorable Democrats; Democrats mention almost nothing else in detail, instead focusing on generic “good job” type comments.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Independents are more likely than Democrats to mention other positive reasons beyond the storm, such as focusing on Christie’s character.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Republicans, instead of mentioning Sandy, give many other reasons for liking the governor – including that he is doing a good job, cares about and is doing a lot for New Jersey, and is straightforward and honest.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

So what about those who dislike Gov. Christie? As we noted, that number has grown substantially in the wake of the “Bridgegate” scandal. In fact, the influence of the George Washington Bridge Scandal is very evident. The single most mentioned idea is Christie as a “bully”, with 18 percent making this their main reason for disliking him. “Bully” has always been right up there among the unfavorables, but respondents now say this with more frequency than ever before. Another 16 percent mention something negative about his character or attitude, such as his arrogance or untrustworthiness. Other top reasons from the past, like the way Christie treats teachers and handles the issue of education, are now slightly less likely to be mentioned than things like the “George Washington Bridge,” “Bridgegate,” and “scandal.” “George Washington Bridge” is in fact the second most evident phrase in respondents’ reasons for their negative feelings.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Partisanship does not, however, show the different patterns we might expect. Democrats, independents, and Republicans who feel unfavorably toward the governor all most often say it is because he is a “bully,” followed by – to varying degrees of importance – something about the George Washington Bridge. Democrats are much more likely than their counterparts to say they also feel negatively because they do not like Christie’s policies or his arrogance. Sandy plays more of a role in negativity for independents and especially for Republicans. Unfavorable Republicans, though still a very small number, are also likely to say they don’t like his policies and seem particularly annoyed by Bridgegate, with many saying Christie is arrogant and dishonest.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

The drop in Christie’s support seen this past month has clearly been driven by the unfolding George Washington Bridge scandal – particularly among those who feel negatively toward the governor. The temporary – albeit prolonged – hold Christie had over Democrats this past year through reelection was mostly a byproduct of Superstorm Sandy. As Christie’s Sandy efforts become a talking point of the past and Bridgegate takes center stage, these Democrats – as well as some independents – who were in Christie’s corner after the storm now have little else about the governor to support. Just as Sandy made New Jerseyans perceive the best qualities in Christie, Bridgegate is now very clearly making many of them perceive the worst.

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Click here for a PDF of the full release plus questions and tables.


 Note: Two-thirds of this poll was completed before the recent allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy aid was withheld from her city due to her unwillingness to support a development linked to Gov. Christie’s allies.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie battles “Bridgegate” and other allegations, perceptions of his personal characteristics have taken a negative turn among registered voters in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s most infamous trait – “bully” – is at an all-time high: 43 percent say bully describes him very well (up nine points) while another 21 percent feel it fits somewhat well. Only about a third does not view Christie as a bully.

But the trait voters say describes Christie above all is “fighter” – a word the governor himself has used. Two-thirds of voters say the word fits him very well, while another one in five say fighter is somewhat fitting; only 8 percent do not see Christie as a fighter at all.

Christie’s controversies seem to be taking a toll on voters’ trust. Use of “trustworthy” as a trait description is at an all-time low with just 27 percent saying the term applies very well, down 16 points from October 2013. Voters are now more inclined to say “stubborn” fits very well, up 10 points to 64 percent. Further, half sees Christie as “arrogant” (up five points) and “self-centered” (up 11 points). 

Most positive trait words, on the other hand, show clear declines since October. While more than half still say “strong leader” describes Christie very well, this is down 10 points while “fair” has declined by 11 points to 30 percent. Application of the word “smart” has declined five points, to 58 percent while “effective” has dropped 6 points to 44 percent.

“Bridgegate has taken a toll on perceptions of Christie,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Positive views of his leadership buoyed ratings post-Sandy but negative traits are becoming more prevalent in light of recent events.”

Emotional responses show similar patterns. Pride in and enthusiasm about the governor have taken double-digit hits, both down to 35 percent. Voters, on the other hand, are angrier (at 40 percent, up 12 points) and more worried (41 percent, up 10 points) when they think about Christie.

Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19. Included are 757 registered voters reported here, with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Still a fighter, but also more of a bully

In a response to the bully label in a CBS Sunday Morning interview in late September, Christie demurred, saying, “No, I am not a bully. But what I am is a fighter.” Voters continue to agree: two-thirds say fighter describes the governor very well. Agreement cuts across party lines: 59 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans agree that Christie is a fighter.

Partisan opinions on bully are more divided. For Democrats, it is a top trait; 60 percent say bully fits very well, but only 17 percent of Republicans feel the same. Forty percent of independents say the word applies very well. Republicans have remained steady in their unwillingness to call the governor a bully, but both Democrats and independents are 11 points more likely to feel this way.

In a clear reflection of Bridgegate, voters using the George Washington Bridge (GWB) at least weekly are 23 points more likely to say bully fits Christie very well, compared to voters never using it.

Negative impressions increase in Bridgegate aftermath

As with Christie’s favorability and job performance, trait perceptions have turned significantly more negative with Bridgegate, returning to levels last seen before Superstorm Sandy. Democrats are a driving factor, though not solely responsible. This is particularly evident with stubborn, the trait Democrats most ascribe to Christie: 76 percent think it fits very well (up 17 points), compared to 60 percent of independents (little changed) and half of Republicans (up nine points). 

Large majorities of Democrats find Christie arrogant (71 percent) and self-centered (65 percent), while 45 percent say impulsive describes him very well. Independents and Republicans are much less likely to agree. Among the former, 43 percent say arrogant applies very well, 39 percent say self-centered, and 31 percent impulsive. About three in 10 Republicans say the same for each trait.

While GWB usage does not greatly affect opinions on Christie as stubborn, it does appear to influence perceptions on arrogant, self-centered, and impulsive, with more frequent bridge commuters more likely to say these traits fit him very well.

Positive traits fall, even with GOPers

Since Superstorm Sandy’s assault on the state 16 months ago, voters have increasingly identified Christie with more positive characteristics, but that pattern has reversed in Bridgegate’s aftermath. Like with negative traits, partisanship is a driving factor.

The starkest example is trustworthy, now rated lowest of all positive traits. Just 12 percent of Democrats say the term describes Christie very well, down 12 points. Fifty-three percent of Republicans say the same, an even larger 22-point decline. Independents are down 14 points to 30 percent. Women are nine points less likely than men to find Christie trustworthy, but the trait does not differ by GWB usage.

“Trust in most politicians has been very low in recent years, but Christie has enjoyed comparatively high trust post-Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “That appears to have evaporated outside of the GOP while dropping significantly among Republicans as well.”

Interestingly, Democrats show no change in calling Christie a strong leader or smart, but independents and Republicans show notable declines. Eighty percent of GOPers say strong leader applies very well, down 13 points, and 75 percent say smart describes the governor, down 11 points. Sixty percent of independents feel the same, each down 13 points. The 40 percent of Democrats calling Christie a strong leader remains steady from October. They are now more likely to say smart applies very well (49 percent, up eight points). About half of the most frequent GWB users agree.

The term “sincere,” asked for the first time, gets similar ratings. Sixteen percent of Democrats, 39 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans say this describes Christie very well. About a quarter of regular GW Bridge users say the same, compared to a third of other voters.

More anger, worry become evident

Voters are also experiencing more negative emotions toward Christie than they did pre-Bridgegate. Feelings of pride and enthusiasm are at all-time lows while voters are angrier and more worried than in October, though not yet as much as they were during Christie’s first year in office. 

Feelings of pride and enthusiasm are down across the board. While 67 percent of GOPers say Christie still makes them proud, this is an 11-point drop. Only 39 percent of independents are proud (down 10 points) and just 14 percent of Democrats feel pride in Christie, down 14-points. Women are 10 points less proud than men, and more frequent GWB commuters are 10 points lower than those not using the bridge. Just 17 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic (off eight points), as are 38 percent of independents (down 7 points). While 63 percent of GOPers remain enthusiastic, this is down 19 points.

Negative feelings have increased for independents: over a third feel both angry and worried, double-digit increases for both emotions. Over half of Democrats now say Christie makes them worried (up seven points) and angry (up 13 points). Just one in five Republicans feels worried or angry toward the governor, increases of five and nine points, respectively. Women are 10 points more likely than men to say the governor worries them, but there is no gender difference for anger. Half of those who use the GWB most frequently are worried and angry, compared to about 40 percent of those who use it less.

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A PDF of Questions, Tables, and Full Text of this release is available here


  Favorability and Job Ratings Drop to Pre-Sandy Levels

Note: Two-thirds of this poll was completed before the recent allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy aid was withheld from her city due to her unwillingness to support a development linked to Gov. Christie’s allies.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following a second week of revelations about “Bridgegate,” Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval and favorability ratings have dropped dramatically among New Jerseyans, with Democrats driving the decline, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following more than a year of strong bipartisan support, Christie’s favorability rating is now 46 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable, down from 65 percent favorable just before his landslide re-election. This drop in support is led by a 26-point decline among Democrats.

Voters are slightly more positive about Christie’s performance as governor, with 53 percent approving how he handles the job. But this is down 15 points since November; well below the 66 to 73 percent support Christie had enjoyed throughout the year since Superstorm Sandy. Asked to grade the Governor, 43 percent now award Christie an A or B – down 16 points– and 29 percent assign either a D or F, compared to just 18 percent two months ago.

Christie’s ratings drop is driven by a very large decline among Democrats while most Republicans – and many independents – continue to stand by the Governor. In November, 45 percent of Democrats were favorable, but with new challenges to Christie’s bipartisan leadership, only 19 percent of Democrats are now positive. Democratic approval of Christie’s job performance has dropped  from 51 percent to 29 percent. While noticeably down from November, Republicans are still very positive: 78 percent feel favorable, and 83 percent approve of the job Christie is doing. Independent support has also dropped, but a majority continues to favor Christie.

Christie’s ratings are noticeably lower among those who travel across the George Washington Bridge at least once a week, at 37 percent favorable. Those who use the bridge less often are more positive, with 45 percent favorable, compared to 51 percent favorable among voters who never use the bridge. His job approval follows a similar pattern for these commuters.

“Other polls taken immediately after the bridge scandal broke showed relatively small effects,” noted David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But with another week of revelations, damage appears to have been done. The good will the Governor built up among Democrats with his handling of the Sandy aftermath is gone, at least for now.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 826 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Jan 14 – 19. Within this sample are 757 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

“Bridgegate” sinking in

Christie’s ratings have been negatively affected by the “Bridgegate” revelations and the resulting media onslaught. Only five percent of New Jerseyans say they have heard nothing about the scandal. Overall, residents are generally skeptical of Christie, with more than half saying it is somewhat or very unlikely that his advisors acted without his knowledge. And more than half do not believe the explanation Christie gave at his January 9 press conference.

The scandal has created clear partisan differences over what happened. Republicans mostly support Christie: two-thirds think the Governor was likely unaware of what his staff was doing, and 80 percent at least partially accept his explanation. But only a quarter of Democrats think Christie was unaware of his aides’ actions; instead, over half say it is very unlikely Christie was out of the loop. Moreover, 62 percent of Democrats do not believe at all Christie’s explanation for what happened.

“The re-emergence of strong partisan differences in believing the Governor returns us to a pre-Sandy political environment,” said Redlawsk. “Before the storm, Governor Christie’s term was defined by sharp splits, with Democrats generally negative and Republicans very positive. Once Christie proved his leadership after Sandy, partisan differences became quite small right through the election in November. But Democrats are once again very unhappy with the Governor.”

Whether or not they think Christie is telling the truth, New Jerseyans overwhelmingly blame Christie’s “tough-guy” persona for the conduct of his staff: more than 70 percent say the Governor’s attitude contributed at least somewhat to his staff’s reported behavior.  Even six in ten Republicans believe Christie’s demeanor has at least somewhat encouraged these events.

But New Jerseyans are split on whether the state legislature should continue investigating the claims: 49 percent say continue, while 47 percent say the legislature should move on to more important issues. More than half of Democrats want the investigation to continue (57 percent) but majorities of both independents (53 percent) and Republicans (59 percent) want the legislature to move on.

Impact on presidential hopes

More than half of New Jerseyans feel Christie’s lengthy mea culpa was more about damage control for a future presidential run than a sincere apology, and half also think the scandal sheds light on how a future President Christie and his team would act once in the Oval Office.  Again, Republicans mostly stick by the Governor, with nearly half seeing Christie’s apology as heartfelt. But 70 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disagree with GOPers, believing the apology was more about a presidential run. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Republicans do not believe the scandal provides insight into a Christie presidency, but just as many Democrats say that it does.

More than two-thirds of all New Jerseyans think the scandal has been at least somewhat damaging to Christie’s presidential hopes; even 55 percent of Republicans see some damage.  At the same time, most report little effect on their likelihood of voting for Christie if he runs for president. Only 23 percent of registered voters say the scandal would lower at least somewhat their chance of supporting Christie. But another 17 percent say they would not have voted for him in any case. Even with recent events, sixty percent of voters nonetheless think Christie will run in 2016.

Perhaps summarizing the effects of events over the past two weeks, Christie does poorly in a head-to-head matchup with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Among registered voters, Christie loses New Jersey 34 percent to 55 percent for Clinton. “It remains very early in the 2016 presidential cycle,” said Redlawsk. “If the Governor can put this behind him within the next couple of months, and assuming events transpired as he says, then there is every reason to think he can recover in time to mount a strong 2016 campaign. But if it goes on much longer than that, or if allegations continue to build, Christie will have his hands full right here in New Jersey.”

GWB having little effect in most key areas; but Sandy ratings take a hit

With the media focusing on the bridge scandal, the Governor’s favorability and job performance ratings have taken a significant hit. But no significant change has occurred in New Jerseyans’ assessments of Christie’s performance in several key areas, including the economy, taxes, and crime.

On the economy and jobs, 45 percent of voters approved Christie’s performance in November. Today approval stands at 44 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Taxes tell a similar story: 42 percent approved of the way Christie was handling taxes in November, dropping only slightly to 38 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval. Half continue to approve of Christie’s performance on crime and drugs, compared to 53 percent two months ago.

A more significant shift has occurred on approval of Christie’s performance on education, down six points to 48 percent approval. The Governor announced his desire for a longer school day and year in his State of the State speech, placing some brief focus on the issue.

Further, perceptions of Sandy recovery performance have also dropped significantly, from 80 percent approval in November to 69 percent approval now.

“Changes in perceptions of the Governor’s Sandy performance are probably due to the shift of Democrats away from the Governor’s camp and the recent claims by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Sandy recovery aid was tied to supporting a development linked to Christie’s allies,” noted Redlawsk. “Zimmer’s claims may have particularly influenced respondents we talked to on Saturday and Sunday after that story broke.”


Filed under 2016 President, Bridgegate, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters