Today we begin our next series of press releases from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. The latest poll was in the field from April 3-7, and has a total of 923 NJ adult respondents, along with 819 registered voters. Our first focus is on our governor. We continue to see very high ratings for Gov. Christie both in terms of his favorability and his job performance. But, five months after Hurricane Sandy we also see our first significant downward tick in his ratings. It appears most of it is due to Democrats who are starting to moderate their opinion of the governor. As we would expect, before Sandy Democrats on the whole were quite negative. Since Sandy hit, they have been uncharacteristically positive. Now we see that softening a bit. But, at the same time Christie’s support is holding up well with independents, and of course Republicans are solidly in his camp as they mostly were before the storm.
This time around we gave voters a chance to tell us in their own words why they are favorable or unfavorable toward Christie. Hurricane Sandy is a big reason for his support, especially for Democrats. Interestingly, virtually no Republicans named Sandy as their reason for liking Christie. On the other hand, for those who feel unfavorable, we find words like “bully” and reactions to his education reforms and battles with the teachers’ union leading the way.
The text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF with the full release text, along with questions and tables.
(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)
FIVE MONTHS AFTER SANDY CHRISTIE STILL GOING STRONG,
BUT RATINGS SHOW SOME SLIPPAGE, RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL FINDS
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Five months after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey voters continue to give Gov. Chris Christie high marks for his job performance, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. However, weak spots have emerged and in general, Christie’s ratings have dropped slightly since February.
While overwhelmingly approving (87 percent) Christie’s post-Sandy recovery efforts, only 42 percent of voters approve of his handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs and only 37 percent approve of his tax policy. About 50 percent approve of Christie’s efforts on education, the budget, and crime.
Christie’s work on Sandy recovery drives up his general approval ratings despite unhappiness about economic issues: 68 percent approve his overall job performance, 64 percent have a favorable impression, and 60 percent grade Christie A or B.
Polling has shown Christie all but invincible in the gubernatorial race, but there is some evidence his ratings are coming down from his record highs. Overall job performance is down five points and favorability is down six points from a February Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s approval on both the economy and taxes has fallen three points.
“Christie still has ratings any governor would love, but all-time highs generally come back toward earth over time,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “With Sandy recovery helping drive overall approval and voters all but ecstatic at his efforts there, Christie remains in great political shape.”
Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. A subsample of 819 registered voters reported on here has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.
Twenty-six percent of voters maintain an unfavorable impression of Christie, up 6 points from February, while 64 percent of voters have a favorable impression. Democrats are most responsible for the overall decline, showing a 14-point drop to 45 percent. Independents (71 percent favorable) and Republicans (90 percent) show no significant change.
Favorability among men declined from 74 percent in February to 65 percent, while women’s admiration decreased by four points to 62 percent. Christie continues to receive very high favorability ratings from areas hardest hit by Sandy – northwest exurban (72 percent) and shore (75 percent) counties.
Among those viewing the governor favorably, one quarter use a range of character terms such as honest, integrity, and frankness to explain why they like him. Many mention how Christie “speaks his mind,” is a “straight shooter,” and “sticks to his beliefs.” But the single most named reason (18 percent) for liking Christie is his post-Sandy recovery work. Another 10 percent mention his governing and policy decisions.
Among the 26 percent who dislike Christie, 30 percent name similar traits as supporters: but they question his character, honesty, and integrity, with many calling him a bully. The single most often named issue focuses on teachers and education (18 percent). Sixteen percent say Christie is uncaring, has the wrong priorities and is hurting the state and its citizens, and 10 percent cite his handling of such economic matters as the budget, taxes and fiscal responsibility.
Democratic Christie supporters are mostly driven by Sandy (35 percent) and by perceptions of the governor’s honesty and integrity (20 percent). But only 3 percent of Republicans cite Sandy as their primary reason. For GOP voters, honesty and integrity drive support at 28 percent, followed by Christie’s leadership (14 percent) and policy positions (12 percent). Among independents, 27 percent name honesty as their top reason for liking Christie, followed by Sandy recovery work at 16 percent.
Democrats’ unfavorable views of the governor are driven mostly by dislike of his education policies (18 percent) and impressions of Christie as confrontational (14 percent). Another 14 percent believe the governor does not care about New Jersey’s citizens.
“Christie’s natural Republican constituency likes his attitude and policies and sees him as a strong leader,” said Redlawsk. “Sandy doesn’t matter much to them. But for Democrats, we see clear evidence that the Sandy recovery is critical to support and probably also contributes to their sense of his integrity and honesty. Without those Democrats, Christie’s ratings would be much closer to where they were before Sandy hit.”
Christie job approval still high but dropping among Democrats
Almost six-in-10 voters (58 percent) continue to think New Jersey is headed in the right direction. Just over one-in-three (35 percent) continue to say the state is on the wrong track. Even so, the respondents’ approval of Christie’s overall job performance has dropped five points to 68 percent, while disapproval has risen slightly to 26 percent.
Democrats are clearly responsible for the decline; their approval has dropped 11 points since February to 51 percent. Three-quarters of independents and 93 percent of Republicans remain steady in their approval.
“This decline among Democrats is not surprising as we enter an election season,” noted Redlawsk. “As long as independents are strongly on Christie’s side he will continue to draw very positive ratings. If they move away, things could get interesting.”
While strongly backing Christie’s response to Sandy, more voters disapprove than favor his performance on the economy and jobs, 49 percent to 42 percent. More men (46 percent) than women (39 percent) like Christie’s economic performance. His highest approval on the economy comes from the exurban (54 percent) and Jersey Shore (47 percent) regions of the state.
Voters’ views on taxes show a similar, but more negative pattern. Overall, just 37 percent approve of the job Christie is doing on taxes while 56 percent disapprove. Sixty percent of women disapprove of Christie’s handling of taxes, and men are now more likely to disapprove (51 percent) than approve (42 percent).
Approval of the governor’s performance on education, an area of strength in February, is now more tenuous; 49 percent approve (down five points) and 44 percent who disapprove (up five points). Christie does better on the state budget, with 50 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving of his performance – appraisals that have remained steady over the past two months. Voters are much more positive on crime: 55 percent approve and 29 percent disapprove of his performance on this issue.
Christie continues strong in Hurricane Sandy approval ratings – 87 percent approve compared to only 9 percent who disapprove and 4 percent who are unsure. He continues to gets high marks from many of his usual detractors: those who view him unfavorably (75 percent approval), Democrats (87 percent), women (87 percent), black voters (82 percent), Hispanic voters (87 percent) and public union households (87 percent).
When asked to grade Christie’s efforts, 21 percent award an A, while another 39 percent give a B. Democrats have become their most critical graders since Sandy – 43 percent grade him A or B, down from 52 percent in February. Independents have held steady with 64 percent awarding A or B, while 88 percent of Republicans (the same percentage as in November 2012) assign top grades, an increase of 8 points. Christie continues to get his highest marks from storm-battered exurban and shore regions, though down six and seven points respectively from the last poll.