Click here to read this release on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website.


Redlawsk to focus on Iowa Caucuses and 2016 nomination campaign for fall semester

 NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Ashley Koning has been named assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, ECPIP director David Redlawsk announced today. As assistant director, Koning will be responsible for the day-to-day management for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Koning had been a graduate assistant for ECPIP for the past three years and is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Rutgers.

“Ashley has already developed many innovations, including our extensive internship program, in her three years at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll,” said Redlawsk. “And she’s especially skilled at explaining complex findings to the public. As a New Jersey native, Ashley has a keen understanding of politics and policy in our state. In her new role, her responsibilities will expand to overseeing all aspects of the Poll, including media relations.”

Koning holds a master’s degree in political science from Columbia University and a BA in government from Franklin & Marshall College. Prior to arriving at Rutgers, she held a private sector survey research position, followed by an assistantship at Siena Research Institute, home of the Siena New York Poll. Koning has co-authored multiple book chapters and papers on public opinion, issue framing, and survey experiments, and her dissertation work has been recognized by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). She holds positions on the boards of both the New York and Pennsylvania/New Jersey chapters of AAPOR. She also teaches an undergraduate course on public opinion at Rutgers.

Redlawsk also announced that he will spend the fall academic semester as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. At Drake he will focus on the presidential nomination process during the run-up to the February 1, 2016 Iowa Caucuses.

A nationally recognized expert on the Iowa Caucus process, Redlawsk is lead author of the book Why Iowa? (University of Chicago Press, 2011) which examines the outsized role the Iowa Caucuses play in the presidential nomination process While in Iowa, Redlawsk will remain available for commentary on the shape of the 2016 presidential campaign,, and in particular on N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s bid to secure the Republican nomination.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, founded in 1971, will celebrate its 200th New Jersey poll in December, continuing its traditional focus on New Jersey policy and politics. During the upcoming academic year polls will be released approximately every two months. The next Rutgers-Eagleton Poll will be in the field from July 25–31, with results announced during the first two weeks of August. ECPIP is a charter member of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative.

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Gov. Chris Christie Polling: A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Summary

As NJ Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce a 2016 presidential run today, we decided to summary our last 18 months of polling New Jersey voters about their governor. The details of the polls included here, with graphs and margin of error details, can be found here.  Note that we do NOT have new polling in this release, but rather a compendium of the polling we’ve done on the Governor’s favorability and job ratings, his personality traits and emotional responses to him, and some questions on the prospect of him as president.

Text of the full release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release.



 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie officially tosses his hat into the ring for 2016 today amidst sinking ratings, unflattering perceptions, and skepticism about his presidential chances from home state voters, according to a number of Rutgers-Eagleton polls from the past year.

Discontent among New Jerseyans has been fueled by Bridgegate and other allegations against Christie and his administration dating to January 2014. While Christie was an early frontrunner for 2016 due to unprecedented post-Superstorm Sandy ratings highs – at his peak, Christie had a 70 percent favorable rating in February 2013 – his announcement of a presidential bid comes during his lowest point in public opinion to date as governor.

“Announcing a presidential run with low or declining ratings back home is not unprecedented,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are in similar situations. Voters elsewhere may not care that much about how New Jerseyans feel, but Christie’s decline has to hurt, especially when his original appeal stemmed from his bipartisan efforts and leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”

Christie’s 2016 campaign slogan – “Telling it like it is” – takes advantage of the straight-talking attitude for which he is best known, but New Jersey voters have cooled to his brashness. Negativity toward Christie in the past 18 months has pervaded judgments on Christie as a person (now seen as more bully than trustworthy), his job (no rating crosses the 50-percent mark), and his chances for 2016 (more than four in 10 New Jerseyans said they have worsened recently). Christie was viewed as a beacon of bipartisanship in the Sandy aftermath, but now even Republicans in New Jersey have become less inclined to rally behind him.

All results described here are from previously released Rutgers-Eagleton statewide polls of New Jersey adults, with registered voter subsamples, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones. All past Christie-related releases, ratings, and other reports can be found at: http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/governor-christie/ including disclosures and margins of error.

Christie: more stubborn, arrogant and less trustworthy

After benefiting from his unique personal style for a solid year post-Sandy, perceptions of Christie’s positive character traits began to decline following his Bridgegate press conference in January 2014. By April 2015 fewer than half saw the positives: “smart” (49 percent), “strong leader” (39 percent), “effective” (26 percent), “fair” (21 percent) and “trustworthy” (17 percent). The last three reached all-time lows that month, with trustworthy falling furthest since Bridgegate. These were many of the same characteristics that saw large increases for Christie right after Sandy struck.

Negative descriptors, on the other hand, have climbed steadily during this same period, with solid majorities calling him “arrogant” (57 percent) and “stubborn” (64 percent) by April 2015. Nearly half have said he is a “bully” and “self-centered.” At the same time, only 10 percent said the term “presidential” suits Christie “very well.”

Moreover, while half the state’s voters felt proud and enthusiastic about him immediately after Sandy, only 30 percent now feel positive. But 40 percent feel “contempt” or “worry.”

“Christie has always branded himself as a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, and sometimes – like with Sandy, or even his ‘Get the hell off the beach’ moment during Hurricane Irene – it has definitely worked for him,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “But the Jersey tough guy approach seems to have worn thin, and the traits for which he was praised during some of his finest displays of leadership are now working against him.”

Favorability and job approval: post-Sandy highs turn into post-Bridgegate lows

The turn for the worse in perceptions of Christie’s personality is strongly connected to a precipitous decline in Christie’s favorability and job approval ratings. Ratings are now a far cry from when Christie polled at or near the top of the 2016 Republican pack; both favorability and job approval are now more negative than positive (net negative) and at their lowest points ever.

In the April 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Christie’s favorability rating was just 38 percent, while 48 percent felt unfavorable. Fifty-four percent of voters disapproved of his job performance compared to 41 percent who approved. His job grade has similarly taken a big hit, compared to what New Jersey voters awarded him pre-Bridgegate; 70 percent give him a C or lower, with a quarter of this group failing him.

Approval on specific issues has also dropped, including such nationally significant issues as taxes (26 percent approval) and the economy (31 percent), at their lowest levels ever. Approval on Sandy recovery efforts is no exception. This was once the governor’s strongest issue area, garnering almost 90 percent approval, but only about half this number still approved by April 2015.

“For a good while, Sandy was the biggest driver of Christie’s overall ratings,” said Koning. “Despite mediocre approval in other areas, Christie’s leadership immediately before, during and after the storm singlehandedly carried him to unprecedented highs through his re-election in 2013. But as 2014 brought an onslaught of allegations against his administration, the lengthy Sandy bump vanished, and the governor’s numbers have not recovered.”

Growing dissent among Garden State’s GOP base

Following Sandy, Christie commanded support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. This bipartisanship unsurprisingly faded over time, with first Democrats and then independents, to some extent, waning on Christie. But less expected in this era of unabashed partisanship, Republicans recently have cooled on Christie as well.

During the early part of 2015, Democrats and independents remained relatively steady in their negative assessments of the governor. Republicans, however, registered a double-digit approval drop between February and April. Among GOP voters, job approval was down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval up 11 points to 27 percent in April. Republicans’ impression of Christie also took a hit to 68 percent favorable; a far cry from the almost unanimous backing Christie once received from this group. Meanwhile just a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents felt favorable.

New Jersey Republicans have split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, Christie is in the red with GOPers – 44 percent approve of his approach, while 49 percent disapprove, according to the April survey. Republicans have been slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove). By comparison, Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

“Christie losing Republicans in his own state – a group known to be more moderate than Republicans in other parts of the country – can translate into a big problem for him nationally,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the case may be as to why New Jersey Republicans feel this way, Christie now lacks full support from his base at home – not an ideal way to kick off a presidential campaign. Still, Christie is a great campaigner, and early primary state voters reward the kind of personal connections he has been able to make in the past. Christie may be down, but he’s not quite out.”

A bleak view of a “President” Christie

Most New Jerseyans do not see Christie as a good president: in April just 24 percent said he would make a good president; 69 percent said no, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll. But a slim majority of voters most positive toward him do see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie.

New Jersey voters have been mixed on the likelihood of Christie ultimately becoming the Republican nominee. In April, 44 percent believed his chances had worsened in recent months, 46 percent said they were about the same, and just 6 percent said they had improved. “At this point, there is no reason to think anything has changed here in New Jersey,” noted Koning. “The last two months have not been any better for Christie than any of the other months since Bridgegate brought his high flying ratings crashing down. Only time will tell if his campaign can turn it around.”

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NJ Residents Support Legalizing, Taxing, Regulating Marijuana

While we are now on our typical academic summer hiatus, today we are releasing results of some polling we did in April on the legalization of marijuana. These questions were part of our last Rutgers-Eagleton poll, but because we were working with a partner, the NJ Chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, we had not released them before. The results show continuing support in NJ for changing the status of marijuana. As we showed in April 2014, most NJ residents support at least reducing or eliminating penalties for using the drug. The newest poll asks the question a little differently, about support for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over. That provides significant context; as a result we find overall that 58% support this, significantly higher than last year’s 49% who supported “completely legalizing” marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance involvement came through an undergraduate survey research class taught by ECPIP Director and professor of political science, David Redlawsk this past semester. In the class, students work with non-profits and interest groups on developing, fielding, and analyzing survey questions, which are added to a standard NJ statewide Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. DPA is an advocacy group, favoring legalization of marijuana. However, while their staff worked with the students to identify the topic for their questions, the final decision on the questions rested, as it always does, with professional ECPIP staff, in order to ensure that the questions asked were done in accordance with best practices to minimize potential bias. As always, we release the full text of the questions so that you can decide for yourself.

The text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.



NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A clear majority of New Jerseyans supports legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. Just under one-third of residents strongly support making marijuana use legal, assuming it would be taxed and regulated, while another 26 percent somewhat support the idea. Twelve percent are somewhat opposed while 27 percent are strongly opposed.

An April 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found that while about two-thirds in New Jersey favored eliminating marijuana possession penalties, just 49 percent supported “completely legalizing” the drug.

“The trend in New Jersey mirrors the nation as support for legalizing marijuana continues to grow,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The question we asked this year is more specific than in the past, specifying that legalization would come with taxes and regulation and would apply to adults 21 and over. That likely accounts for some of the jump from 49 percent support a year ago to 58 percent today. But no matter how it is asked, we have seen a long-term upward trend in support.”

Most New Jerseyans do not consider legalization a priority. While 20 percent call legalization of marijuana a “very important” issue, more than twice as many Garden State residents (45 percent) say it is “not very important.” The rest are in the middle, with 22 percent calling this issue “somewhat important” and 12 percent saying it is “somewhat unimportant”.

New Jersey state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union) has introduced a bill legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults. Senate Bill 1896 and its companion in the Assembly, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union) create a system similar to Colorado’s, with marijuana regulated like alcohol at every step of the production and sales process.

“More than 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010 at a cost of more than $125 million dollars,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “But this poll shows a significant majority of New Jerseyans believe in changing this policy so marijuana can be legally taxed and regulated for adults, the same as alcohol.”

The questions about marijuana were developed in consultation with the NJ office of the Drug Policy Alliance. The marijuana support question was the subject of an experiment where some respondents were randomly prompted that marijuana would be regulated “like alcohol,” while others were not. Analyses show that the variation in the question made no significant difference; accordingly this release reports on both versions combined.

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 residents contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27 – Apr. 3, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were completed in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Democrats, independents, millennials strongest supporters

While there are no differences between men and women, or by race in support for legalizing marijuana, there is a noticeable split between Democrats and Republicans. More than six-in-ten Democrats support legalization (39 percent strongly and 25 percent somewhat), but just 41 percent of Republicans agree, with only 18 percent of GOPers strongly supporting the idea. Nearly half of New Jersey Republicans (46 percent) strongly oppose marijuana legalization, double the strong opposition from Democrats. In general, opinions of independents are much closer to those of Democrats than Republicans, with 33 percent strongly and 28 percent somewhat backing legalization.

“Differences between Democrats and Republicans are highly predictable,” said Redlawsk. “But this version of the question – legalizing, taxing, and regulating for adult use – garners much more GOP support than we saw a year ago when we asked about ‘completely legalizing’ marijuana. Then only 28 percent of Republicans agreed; here it is 41 percent. Providing detailed context seems to make much more of a difference to Republicans than Democrats.”

Age also matters: senior citizens are about half as likely as other New Jersey residents to strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana (at 18 percent), and are the most likely to oppose it (13 percent somewhat, 38 percent strongly). Millennials – residents who are 18 to 34 years old – are most likely to show strong support (at 38 percent), though middle-aged New Jerseyans are not far behind, with about one-third of those aged 35 to 64 also strongly supportive of change. Millennials also show the least strong opposition by far of any other age group: just 18 percent oppose, compared to a quarter or more of every other age group. As with other issues, such as same-sex marriage, younger residents are very different from those of the Baby Boom generation.

Issue very important to both strongest supporters and opponents

While a plurality thinks marijuana legalization is not very important, residents with the strongest feelings, whether pro or con, are much more likely to consider the issue very important. One-half of strong opponents of legalization see the issue as very or somewhat important, while 62 percent of residents who strongly support legal marijuana say the same. Those who do not feel strongly about legalization in either direction see the issue as far less important: only about 22 percent of these Garden Staters think legalization is a very or somewhat important issue.

“For many New Jerseyans, the issue is not high on their radar, but for strong supporters and opponents, it really registers,” noted Redlawsk. “This is one reason why laws related to marijuana are tending to lag behind public opinion, as strong supporters and opponents are equally balanced and seem equally motivated, while most other New Jerseyans stay in the background.”

New Jerseyans: Use tax revenue for education

Advocates for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana regularly emphasize that tax revenue from the sale of marijuana could generate millions of dollars to fund projects across New Jersey. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana.

Given a list of uses for new revenue that might come from legalization, 36 percent of residents say education should be the top priority, while 20 percent would first dedicate new revenue to drug treatment programs. Transportation infrastructure comes third, with 15 percent making it a top priority; nine percent would focus on social services, and three percent on corrections and prisons.

There are large racial disparities in preferences for revenue allocation. Almost half of non-white residents – 46 percent – would prefer funds go to education, compared to 30 percent of white residents. On the other hand, non-white residents are less than half as likely as white residents to mention transportation and social services.

While partisans of all stripes agree education should be the top priority, Democrats are most likely to say this, as well as to mention social services. Republicans are just a few points more likely than others to allocate revenue to transportation. Men and women are mostly on the same page, but men are slightly more likely to prefer transportation funding, while women are almost twice as likely to identify social services as the priority.

Education funding is the overwhelming priority with Millennials – at 54 percent – while other age groups are more evenly divided between the options. Seniors are the most likely to say revenue should go to drug treatment programs (31 percent).

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NJ Voters Not Particularly Positive about Christie Traits

Today we release results from our roughly  every six months assessment of how NJ voters view a set of positive and negative traits that might be ascribed to Gov. Chris Christie. The last time we did this was in October, 2014. At that time positive traits were moving down and negatives moving up. As it turns out the trend has continued. Perceptions of Christie as trustworthy, fair, effective, and reformer are all at new lows. Meanwhile negative trait perceptions continue to become stronger – in particular arrogant, bully, and impulsive are all at new highs. What do we learn from questions like these? Mostly we get another perspective on what might underlie the decline in Gov. Christie’s overall ratings, beyond how voters think he’s doing on the issues. While issues do matter, so do perceptions of a politician as a leader. Unfortunately for the governor, those perceptions are also declining significantly.

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


Most see governor as ‘stubborn’ with weaker positive traits: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As a kinder, gentler Chris Christie wooed New Hampshire Republicans last week in a visit that included two town hall meetings, New Jersey voters are less likely than ever to apply positive personality and leadership traits to their governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 17 percent now say “trustworthy” describes the governor “very well,” while 44 percent say it does not apply at all. Another 36 percent think it applies only “somewhat well.”
Besides the decline in trustworthiness, three other positive traits have reached new lows since last polled in October 2014. Only one in five voters now thinks the terms “reformer” or “fair” describe Christie very well, and only a quarter say the same for “effective.”

The perception of Christie as a “strong leader,” which two-thirds of voters thought described Christie very well throughout 2013, has dropped to 39 percent, its lowest point since August 2010.

“These declines in how New Jersey voters see Christie’s positive traits are clearly part of what is driving the continued declines we have reported in his favorability and job ratings, and in views of him as a good president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While issues matter – and Christie’s numbers keeps hitting new lows there as well – voters are very much attuned to personality and leadership traits.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll recently reported that only 24 percent of New Jersey voters think Christie would make a “good president,” and 54 percent disapprove of his job performance.

Perceptions of Christie’s negative traits have not changed quite as dramatically as his positives. The new poll records further upticks in voters who say “arrogant” (57 percent) “bully” (45 percent) and “impulsive” (43 percent) describe the governor very well, with all three at new highs. In addition, while easing slightly since October 2014, 64 percent still say “stubborn” applies very well, and 46 percent continue to think “self-centered” is a very apt descriptor for the governor.

“Governor Christie needs to convince Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire that he’s not the arrogant bully that many back home seem to think he is,” said Redlawsk. “He is in a tough position, though. Voters want leaders, but they want a certain humbleness at the same time. While Christie gets kudos in the press for last week’s warm and fuzzy New Hampshire town halls, there are an awful lot of YouTube videos showing something very different in New Jersey over the past five years.”

After last year’s Bridgegate scandal destroyed a year of Sandy-induced positivity, voters are feeling slightly more “angry” about Christie (now at 40 percent) while 43 percent are “worried.” An even stronger emotion, contempt, is felt by one-third of New Jersey voters, the first time this question has been asked.
As for positive emotions, Christie has experienced some slippage: about three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic.” Both are down four points since October.

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 to April 3, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans sour on positive perceptions of Christie

Similar to Christie’s overall ratings, the declines in positive trait perceptions are driven, in part, by his own party base. Trustworthiness shows an 11-point drop among Republicans over the past six months, to 37 percent who now say the label describes him very well. Independents show a decline of six points to 15 percent, while the number of Democrats who trust Christie remains stable at just 8 percent.

Republican support for Christie as a strong leader in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy has also declined precipitously. While 60 percent of GOP voters still say the trait describes the governor very well, this is down 15 points since October. By comparison, independents are down 12 points to 36 percent, with Democrats holding relatively steady at 31 percent.

GOP support for two other positive Christie characteristics declined by double digits. Forty-five percent of GOP voters now think effective applies very well, while 44 percent see the term “fair” in the same light. Both are down 10 points since last polled.

Only 18 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Independents now say effective applies very well, and 11 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of independents say the same for fair.

A larger number of partisans regardless of party still believe Christie is independent and smart. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats, 43 percent of independents, and 65 percent of Republicans say independent describes the governor very well; 40 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of independents, and 71 percent of Republicans say the same about smart.

Negative perceptions increase slightly

Voters’ perceptions of negative traits that might apply to Christie have changed only incrementally since a significant increase in the immediate Bridgegate aftermath. More than half of all partisans continue to say stubborn – dubbed the most apt description of Christie – describes him very well: 77 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans take this position.

Arrogant shows more of a divide. While 73 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents say this describes Christie very well, 42 percent of Republicans say the same. But that doesn’t mean the rest of Republicans think the trait does not apply at all – just 22 percent say this, compared to another 35 percent who say it fits him somewhat well.

The infamous trait of bully has ticked up most noticeably for Republicans, with 26 percent now saying this describes the governor very well (up seven points). Sixty-two percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents say the same, little changed from October. A similar pattern emerges on self-centered, with 60 percent of Democrats, 45 percent of independents, and 26 percent of Republicans saying the traits suits him very well.

Impulsive has also seen a notable jump among GOP voters – up nine points to 34 percent. Forty-one percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats now believe the governor is impulsive.

“Assuming Christie continues to show a ‘softer’ side in his responses to challengers at town hall meetings, some of these negative trait perceptions may be reversed,” noted Redlawsk. “Many of them reflect that the governor has been seen to publicly attack even average citizens who disagree with him. Backing away from the direct confrontations that have defined him for New Jerseyans could be a very good strategy if he pursues a national run.”

Partisans’ emotions

While emotional responses to reading or hearing about Christie have moved only slightly overall since October, partisan patterns resemble the ups and downs seen with traits. GOP voters especially show a decline in more positive emotions towards the governor – pride is now at 56 percent (down 13 points) and enthusiasm is now at 49 percent (down 15 points).

The already low numbers for Democrats and independents are little changed: one in five Democrats feel either positive emotion, while one in three independents do.
Negative emotions show less movement, with all partisans relatively stable since October. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans feel angry. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 37 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Republicans feel worried.

Asked for the first time in this series, the feeling of contempt is expressed by one-third of voters overall and shows virtually no partisan split. While 37 percent of Democrats say they feel contempt thinking about Christie, so do 35 percent of Republicans, and 30 percent of independent voters.

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


Majority thinks he will run but 58 percent say ‘presidential’ is not apt description

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to host town hall events in New Hampshire, scene of the first 2016 presidential primary, an increasing number of New Jersey registered voters think Christie would not make a good president, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 24 percent think Christie would be a good president, while 69 percent say he would not, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll.

Voters are mixed on the likelihood of Christie becoming the Republican nominee. Forty-four percent say the governor’s chances have worsened over the past few months, 46 percent say they are about the same, but only 6 percent say they have improved.

Moreover, given a range of character traits, 58 percent of voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie “at all,” versus 28 percent who think it describes the governor “somewhat well” and 10 percent who say “very well.”

Still, most voters do not think these declining prospects will deter New Jersey’s governor: 57 percent still believe he will become a candidate, 32 percent do not, and 11 percent are unsure. In December 2014, 63 percent thought he would try for the GOP nomination and 25 percent did not.

“Voters who know Gov. Christie best simply do not see him as president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “New Jerseyans have watched him in good times and bad. While his strengths were on display after the Sandy disaster, he was seen as just another politician after the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations it spawned, and he has never recovered.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 to April 3, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Only his staunchest supporters envision ‘President Christie’

A Christie presidency is difficult to envision for most groups. Belying Christie’s claims that he appeals to Democrats and independents, 85 percent of the former group and 68 percent of the latter say the governor would not make a good president. Seventy-one percent of women, 66 percent of men, 79 percent of nonwhite voters, and 72 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) feel the same. Given the governor’s attacks on public employee unions, it is not surprising that 80 percent of voters in public union households say Christie would not make a good president.

Likewise, a majority of most groups would not describe Christie as presidential. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents say this does not describe Christie at all; another 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively, say it describes him somewhat well.

A surprisingly small majority of his most likely supporters can see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie. Twenty-five percent of GOP voters think presidential describes Christie very well and another 40 percent “somewhat well.” Thirty-two percent say the word does not describe him at all.

“It does seem that Christie’s better shot at the presidency might have been in 2012,” noted Redlawsk. “While New Jersey voters were also not keen on him running when we asked in 2011, the national environment was very different, with many Republican leaders begging him to run. Four additional years in office have not helped his case, even with his near-universal support right after Superstorm Sandy. It’s a different Republican pool, and a Bridgegate-damaged Chris Christie.”

Voters still expect a Christie Campaign

Despite declining job ratings at home and his apparent status as an also-ran in national Republican polls, a majority of respondents – 58 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans – still expect Christie to run for president. Age and levels of education are more significant variables than political affiliation. Expectations that Christie will run decrease with age: 68 percent of voters, 18 to 34, say he will, compared to 41 percent of voters 65 and older. Belief that Christie will run increases among more educated voters: 49 percent among those with a high school education or less to 66 percent of those with graduate work.

Those who say Christie would make a good president are slightly more likely to say he will run, 65 percent compared to 55 percent who say he would not make a good president. Voters who believe “presidential” aptly describes Christie are also more likely than those who do not to believe he will seek the Republican nomination.

Mixed views on Christie’s presidential chances

Given relatively little positive press for the governor’s presidential efforts over the past few months, the vast majority of New Jersey voters do not think Christie has made any further gains towards 2016. Only Republicans (at 12 percent) and supporters of Christie and the job he is doing (at 10 percent) reach double-digits in believing that his presidential chances have improved.

Instead, voters are mostly split between whether Christie’s chances have worsened or remained the same. About the same share of independents (44 percent), Democrats (48 percent) and Republicans (48 percent) think his chances have not changed in the past few months. But 46 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents say Christie’s chances have worsened, along with 38 percent of Republicans.

Even voters with a favorable impression of Christie do not think things have improved for him in terms of 2016. Fifty-seven percent of his supporters say that Christie’s chances remain unchanged; another 26 percent say they have worsened. But the large majority of those unfavorable toward Christie see his chances declining: 60 percent think they have gotten worse, while 37 percent say his chances are holding steady. Only 2 percent think things have gotten better for the governor.

Voters who believe Christie will run in 2016 are more evenly split on his chances – 44 percent say they have worsened, 47 percent say they remain about the same. Voters who think Christie will not run are slightly more likely to say things have gotten worse: 51 percent to 46 percent who say his chances have not changed. Even those who believe Christie would make a good president and consider him “presidential” are squarely in the “unchanged” camp.


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Today we take our regular look at ratings given to Gov. Chris Christie by NJ voters. The story is pretty similar to February, when his favorability rating hit an all-time low. While that rating ticked back up slightly, the governor’s job performance rating fell some more, and in particular for the first time fewer than half approve his performance on Sandy recovery.

The full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the full text of the release, questions, and tables.


Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds Six in Ten Voters Say Garden State is on the Wrong Track

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As N.J. Gov. Chris Christie increases his focus on a potential presidential campaign, he continues to be met with negativity back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters disapprove of the overall job Christie is doing as governor, while 41 percent approve. Though relatively steady from February, this is his highest job disapproval to date.

On Superstorm Sandy recovery, Christie’s job approval has dropped below 50 percent for the first time: 48 percent now approve, down 7 points from February and far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-four percent currently disapprove his work on Sandy recovery.

Approval ratings for Christie on issues other than Sandy recovery are also low. Christie reaches new depths on taxes (26 percent approve, 65 disapprove) and the state budget (28 percent approve, 61 disapprove), and maintains his low water mark of 31 percent approval on the economy and jobs.

Christie’s overall favorability rating stands at 48 percent unfavorable, somewhat improved from his 53 percent unfavorable rating in February. The 38 percent who are favorable is essentially unchanged from February’s 37 percent favorable.

Negativity toward Christie himself parallels voters’ assessments of the direction of the state itself. Sixty percent of voters say the Garden State is on the wrong track, the highest number since just before Christie’s first election in October 2009. Thirty percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction – a 10-point drop from December 2014 and less than half of the quarter-century high of 61 percent in June 2013.

“Often, as the economy improves, voters feel more positive. But in this state there is now widespread feeling that things are on the wrong track,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While the governor continues to explore a national run, voters back home are expressing more and more concern about what’s happening in New Jersey and the governor’s performance in dealing with these issues.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27- Apr. 3, 2015, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie losing Republican support at home

Despite the relative steadiness of Christie’s overall ratings between February and now, there seems to be growing dissent on the governor’s job performance amongst his base. Democrats (24 percent approval) and independents (40 percent approval) remain steady in their assessments. Republicans, however, show a double-digit drop over the past two months; job approval is down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval is up 11 points to 27 percent. Moreover, while 68 percent of GOP voters continue to have a favorable impression of Christie, this is down five points from February.

About a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents have a favorable impression of Christie, with Democrats steady over the past two months and independents up five points.

Republicans continue to be split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, 44 percent approve of his approach while 49 percent disapprove. They are slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve to 44 percent disapprove); Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

On the state pension fund, Christie’s lowest-rated issue with 22 percent approval from all voters, a plurality of Republicans remains in the governor’s corner – 45 percent approve (up 8 points from February) and 34 percent disapprove (down 5 points). On the other hand, Democrats and independents rate performance here worst of all, at 8 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

“It is one thing to lose support among Democrats and even independents, but losing GOP voters is a big problem,” said Redlawsk. “We’re now seeing the decline in support for Christie among Republicans that we predicted in February based on leading indicators. When those who should be Christie’s strongest cheerleaders turn away, things are clearly not going well for him here in New Jersey.”

Christie still receives high marks from Republicans on crime and drugs (69 percent), education (62 percent), and the state budget (54 percent), but 75 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents now disapprove of Christie’s performance on the budget.

Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected

As of February, a majority of New Jersey voters continued to support Christie’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, always his strength. Two months later, even Sandy recovery approval has taken a downward turn for the governor. As recently as October 2014, 60 percent approved of his job performance on Sandy; today, only 48 percent do.

This decline is seen across multiple groups. Republicans’ support is down 11 points to 60 percent, while 31 percent now disapprove of Christie’s efforts. Democrats’ approval on Sandy has fallen 8 points to 39 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. Half of independents express approval on the governor’s recovery efforts – the only issue to reach 50 percent approval among this group – though this is down four points, while 42 percent now disapprove.

Christie also loses support on Sandy in areas where it counts the most – regions particularly affected by the storm two and a half years ago. In shore counties, Christie drew 60 percent approval two months ago, but more of those voters are now negative than positive on Sandy recovery – 46 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove. Urbanites also show a similar drop of 15 points, with approval now at 43 percent, while 49 percent disapprove.

Voters living in the southern region of the state near Philadelphia similarly fell 9 points to 49 percent approve (43 percent disapprove). About half of suburbanites and 54 percent of exurbanites approve of Christie’s job on Sandy.

Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State

While voters’ views on the direction of New Jersey as a whole have not been generally positive since January 2014, the proportion who say the state is on the wrong track hit its highest point in six years, reaching a level of dissatisfaction rarely seen in the past two and a half decades.

Partisans of all stripes show a less positive view on the state over the past two months. Democrats and Republicans who say the state is going in the right direction are both down 7 points, now at 25 percent and 43 percent, respectively; independents are down three points, now at 28 percent. A solid majority of Democrats and independents believe New Jersey has gotten off on the wrong track, as does a plurality of Republicans.

Opinions of both men and women are equally negative: about six in ten say the state is on the wrong track. Declines in assessment of the state’s direction are especially clear among younger voters and seniors: just 28 percent of those 18 to 39 years old (down 14 points from February) and 24 percent of those 65 years and older (down 8 points) maintain a positive outlook.

The state’s voters have grown more negative across all regions. Negative views on Christie are particularly tied to negative views of the state – 79 percent of those unfavorable toward the governor also say New Jersey is off on the wrong track; just 13 percent say the opposite. Those favorable toward Christie are somewhat more split: 54 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 37 percent say wrong track.

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


Today we are out with new polling on last week’s indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on charges of corruption. We had planned to be in the field beginning March 27, so added a series of questions on perceptions of corruption in New Jersey, along with two questions about the then-rumored allegations against the Senator. While we were in the field the rumors became fact on April 1.  One question was designed to see how much people had heard about the rumors/indictment, while the other asks if the Senator should resign immediately because of the allegations. After the indictment, both the Star Ledger and The New York Times called on Menendez to step down.

We had initially asked the questions in terms of “rumors” so we had to change them to reflect the new reality, which provides us an interesting natural experiment, where we can see if the news of the actual indictment makes much difference in responses. The answer seems to be “maybe”.

Because our original goal was focused more on corruption generally than on Menendez specifically, we embedded a question experiment in our survey which resulted in having only half the sample asked specifically about whether Menendez should resign immediately, or stay unless/until convicted. The other half was asked a generic question about “officials” charged with corruption, in order to directly compare to a question on a previous poll. So while we have 860 respondents with a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points, our subsamples on Menendez staying or going has a margin of error of +/-5.2 percentage points. Even so, since 58 percent say he should not resign on allegations alone, and 34 percent say he should quit, we are quite confident that a majority of New Jerseyans support him staying in office for the time being.

Some may wonder why we didn’t ask the public whether they think Menendez is guilty. The simple answer is that we figured a) the public doesn’t really know, and b) the result was likely to be strongly partisan, with Democrats saying not guilty and Republican guilty. Better to let a trial decide in any case.

The full text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF with the full text, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite last week’s multi-count federal indictment of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on alleged corrupt dealings with a wealthy ophthalmologist friend and campaign donor, New Jerseyans are not yet ready to throw the Senator out of office. Fifty-eight percent of Garden State residents say Menendez should stay unless he is proven guilty, while 34 percent want him to leave immediately, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Half of the poll sample was asked specifically about Menendez, while the other half was asked a generic question from an earlier poll. As with Menendez, New Jerseyans generally believe a politician should not leave office until found guilty, with two-thirds taking this position. Just 29 percent prefer that an accused official quit immediately. This is a sharp departure from October 2009, when a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that half of New Jersey residents demanded that accused officials quit when charged, while 42 percent thought they should wait it out.

In the wake of initial rumors, and then the indictment itself, 34 percent of residents have a favorable impression of Menendez – down a mere three points compared to February 2015. Twenty-seven percent are unfavorable towards the Senator (up four points), while 38 percent have no opinion.
But the quarter of Garden Staters who have heard a lot about the charges are decidedly more negative: 47 percent are unfavorable, compared to 35 percent favorable; just 18 percent have no opinion. Similarly, residents asked after Menendez’s actual indictment are more negative than those asked in the days when the charges were only rumors.

“The last time we asked about corruption was in the wake of the July 2009 ‘Operation Bid Rig’ scandal. At that time, people seemed more adamant that an accused official should immediately leave office than they are today,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Either New Jerseyans are more accepting of such accusations than they once were, or the Menendez case has not yet sunk in. But opinions on Sen. Menendez’s future may also be less harsh because this case does not seem as cut and dry as Bid Rig.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27 – Apr. 3, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. The margin of error for the subsamples asked about Menendez or generic officials is +/- 5.2 and +/- 5.3 percentage points respectively. Interviews were completed in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Menendez should stay unless convicted, residents say

The poll was ongoing as rumors that Menendez would be indicted changed to reality. Residents interviewed following the indictment, while less favorable toward the Senator, also tended to be more likely to say he should stay in office unless found guilty than those who were asked earlier. The difference – 65 percent supported remaining in office post-indictment, compared to 55 percent before the announcement – while large, is not statistically significant due to the relatively small number asked this question after the indictment was made public.

While those who have heard a lot about the allegations are more unfavorable toward Menendez overall, nearly two thirds of these most aware residents also say the Senator should remain in office unless he is convicted.

“Once the indictment was announced, we made an appropriate change in the question; the result seems to be more support for the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ even as the Star Ledger and New York Times have called for Menendez to quit,” said Redlawsk. “Perhaps the Senator’s strong response that he will fight the charges had some initial effect as the story was breaking.”

The idea that Menendez, or any official, should not be forced from office before corruption charges are substantiated is supported by both Republicans and Democrats. While 63 percent of Democrats and those leaning Democrat asked specifically about Menendez say he should stay unless convicted, 61 percent of Republicans and GOP leaners agree, little different from the results of the generic question not naming any official. Independents not leaning toward either party are less supportive: only 48 percent say Menendez should remain in office, far fewer than the 65 percent who say the same about a generic official.

A slight ratings slip post-indictment?

Menendez’s favorability ratings have stayed relatively steady across the years he has been in office; in June 2006, one of the first times Rutgers-Eagleton asked about him, 36 percent had a favorable impression. His current rating of 34 percent favorable is indistinguishable from his ratings across the past decade and little changed from last February.

However, the announcement of the actual indictment appears to make a difference: those asked to rate the Senator prior to his indictment were less likely to have an unfavorable impression (23 percent) than those asked after (36 percent), as well as more likely to say they had no opinion or did not know Menendez (41 percent before and 33 percent after the indictment). The share of residents favorable towards Menendez also shows a slight slip post-indictment – 36 percent prior, compared to 31 percent after charges were announced.

“Our pre-indictment sample is much larger than the sample after, which makes us less certain of the changes we see,” explained Redlawsk. “But if the trend continues, the drop in favorability may eventually lead to more people preferring that Menendez step down rather than fight. For now, though, many may be giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

While little partisan difference is evident in whether any accused official should immediately quit, the usual party differences appear in Menendez’s ratings. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 43 percent have a favorable impression, compared to 27 percent of independents and 25 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners. But 38 percent of Democrats, 47 percent of independents, and 31 percent of Republicans still do not express an opinion about the Senator.

Menendez’s job approval follows a similar pattern. While his approval is basically unchanged from February, disapproval is up 8 points. After the indictment, disapproval increased by 11 points to 36 percent, compared to before the announcement of charges, while approval remained steady (37 percent before, 35 percent after). As with favorability, disapproval increases with attention to coverage of the corruption case.

New Jersey not seen as more corrupt

Most Garden Staters say there is a lot (51 percent) or some (35 percent) corruption in New Jersey politics, but this is little changed from the last time they were asked in October 2009. The apparent leniency toward Menendez and other officials accused of corruption may instead be influenced by the majorities who say the state is no more corrupt than in the past nor compared to other states. Just 20 percent think New Jersey has become more corrupt in the past five years, while 54 percent say nothing has changed, and 17 percent think corruption has declined. At the same time, the 52 percent who think New Jersey is just like other states represents a sharp decline from a February 2014 poll, when 67 percent saw no difference.

Despite perceiving corruption as the norm in politics, residents nonetheless prefer an honest politician, even if he or she may have trouble making things happen, over a politician who might be corrupt but could get things done – 67 percent versus 26 percent. New Jerseyans also see corruption as a major problem in the state: 15 percent mention government corruption and abuse of power as the most important issue in New Jersey, ranking third overall only behind taxes and the economy.

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