As we always do, we once again asked about whether New Jerseyans view President Obama and Gov. Christie “favorably” or “unfavorably”. We also asked our job performance question, which we switched to a report card some months ago. Other polls have been out lately showing Gov. Christie’s “approval” rating up, and actually higher than we get for a “favorable” rating. While our magnitudes are different – probably because we ask different questions, and perhaps because of question placement, the story is about the same. Gov. Christie continues to have his best favorability and job ratings that we have seen over his term. Pres. Obama, on the other hand, is clearly suffering a job performance gap. Where 49 percent of NJ registered voters tell us they have a favorable impression of Christie, Obama’s number is slightly higher, at 52 percent (though within the margin of error.)
What’s interesting, and we detail below, is that for Chistie, favorability = job performance. There is almost no gap, as 46 percent grade him A or B.
But the President is a different story. Well people feel favorable toward him, they are far less positive about how he’s doing his job. Only 37 percent give him an A or B, and only 11 percent of Democrats actually give him an A. Republicans stand by their guy, 34 percent give him an A, three times the percentage of Democrats who do the same for Obama.
What does this mean for Obama in New Jersey? Well, maybe a lot, maybe not so much. His campaign will need to generate enthusiasm in order to get people to the polls, and it’s hard to get people enthusiastic who seem lukewarm about how you’re doing. But at the same time, evaluation is NOT choice. That is, faced with an actual CHOICE, voters may respond quite differently than they do in giving a general evaluation. New Jersey is still a blue state; the question is can the Obama campaign remind voters of why they voted for him in the first place?
The release text follows. Click here for a PDF of the text plus questions and tables for this release
RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: NEW JERSEYANS LIKE PRESIDENT OBAMA, LESS SO HIS JOB PERFORMANCE;
GOV. CHRISTIE’S POSITIVE RATINGS GROW STRONGER
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – President Obama continues to make a favorable impression on New Jersey registered voters, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than half (52 percent) now view the president favorably, significantly better than in August, when his popularity stood at 44 percent. Thirty-seven percent view him unfavorably.
However, the Nov. 8 legislative elections uncovered some risk for Obama: those who actually voted are slightly less positive, with 50 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable. While New Jerseyans generally like the president, his job performance is much weaker – only 37 percent of respondents grade him “A” or “B” and 32 percent assign a “D” or “F.”
In contrast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gets higher ratings from those who voted and has substantially better job performance numbers than the president: 46 percent grade the governor A or B, while 30 percent assign a D or F. While 49 percent of registered voters view Christie favorably, 54 percent of actual voters feel positive. Christie is viewed unfavorably by 37 percent of registered and 36 percent of actual voters.
“Both Obama and Christie have seen improved ratings since the summer, but Christie in particular is doing well in this otherwise blue state,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Even as his favorability ratings remain stable, Christie’s job performance numbers are improving most likely because New Jerseyans credit his leadership credit his leadership through several recent crises, including the October snowstorm. But people appear to like Obama himself better than they like his job performance.”
Results are from a survey of 753 respondents drawn from a list of New Jersey registered voters, including 392 respondents who voted in the Nov. 8 legislative races. The survey was conducted from Nov. 9-12. The sample of registered voters has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points, while the voter sample has a margin of +/-5.0 percentage points.
Grading Obama’s job performance
While 52 percent of registered voters hold a favorable impression of Obama, only 15 percent give his job performance an A. Another 48 percent grade it B. One-third says his stewardship merits only a C. Conversely, 43 percent of those with an unfavorable impression of the president fail Obama’s job performance and another 32 percent assign him D. Only 22 percent of Obama’s detractors say his job performance rates as high as C.
“Many New Jerseyans who like the President personally are less than thrilled with his job performance, while those with an unfavorable impression are brutally negative,” said Redlawsk. “This suggests an enthusiasm gap, where negative job ratings are reinforced by a personal dislike of Obama, while positive views of him are offset by doubts about his performance.”
Obama’s job performance is viewed even more skeptically by those who actually voted in the recent election: 37 percent of registered voters grade the president A or B but 32 percent of actual voters give him top marks. Thirty-two percent of registered and 35 percent of actual voters handed out grades of D or F.
“While the difference is relatively small, an electorate less positive about the president means a tougher time getting re-elected,” said Redlawsk. “We know turnout will be substantially higher than in this off-year election, likely drawing more Democrat-leaning voters. Obama’s chances are at least in part dependent on how much enthusiasm he can generate, and right now that’s a real challenge for him.”
Democrats show positive, but relatively weak support for Obama’s job performance; 43 percent grade him B, only 11 percent A. One in six Democrats is decidedly negative, grading Obama’s job performance D or F. Support among registered voters unaffiliated with either party is evenly split, with 33 percent awarding an A or B and 31 percent a D or F. Among independents who voted last week, the president does noticeably worse, with 22 percent positive awarding A or B grades and 33 marking him D or F.
“This reinforces the point that turnout makes a difference,” said Redlawsk. “Casual voters seem more inclined to be positive toward Obama, but it also takes more work to get them to the polls.”
Christie’s ratings a study in contrast to Obama
Despite the loss of one Republican seat in the New Jersey General Assembly and the failure of GOP candidates to win any of the senate races in which he campaigned, post-election Christie has maintained the improved ratings he has received since August. His favorable rating matches well with his job performance rating. With a 49 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable rating, the governor is given an A or B by 46 percent of respondents while only 30 percent give a D or F, a 16-point net positive margin compared to Obama’s five-point margin.
Christie is doing much better than Obama among independents. Unaffiliated registered voters rate the governor’s performance favorably: 45 percent grade him A or B and 33 percent D or F. Independents who voted are even stronger supporters of the governor’s job performance with nearly half (49 percent) giving him at least a B.
Christie’s job performance is also more highly rated by his own party than is Obama’s. Just over a third of registered Republicans award the governor an A compared to the 11 percent of Democrats who do the same for Obama. Nearly 40 percent more give him a B. Crossing party lines, Democrats rate Christie much better than Republicans do Obama: 33 percent A or B by Democrats for Christie compared to 11 percent of Republicans giving those positive grades to Obama.
Those who have a favorable impression of Christie back that up with strong support for his job performance. More than one-third (35 percent) award Christie an A, more than twice the percentage of Obama supporters who give the President an A. About half (48 percent) give Christie a B. Thus, more than eight in 10 of those favorable toward Christie are also positive about his job performance, much more than Obama’s 63 percent.
“By and large, Christie seems to have solidified his support, both in terms of general favorability as well as job performance,” said Redlawsk. “The contrast with the president is very clear. Where Obama’s supporters seem lukewarm about his job performance, Christie supporters are quite clear about how pleased they are right now.”