About every 5 or 6 months we ask a fairly lengthy battery of questions about what positive and negative traits people ascribe to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie. We’ve been doing this for two years now, and today we release the latest numbers.
As with his general approval ratings post-Hurricane Sandy, Voters’ perceptions of positive traits for Christie soared in November, the last time we asked. Not surprisingly, the use of negative traits dropped, even among Democrats.
Now, five months later, we see little change among most positive traits, and small tick up in negative traits. Interestingly, the single trait that increased the most is “Stubborn” with voters six points more likely to say the word fits Christie “very well.”
The text of the release follows. Click here for full text along with questions and tables.
(Note – release has been revised to reflect correct margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.)
RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL: CHRISTIE CONTINUES TO BE SEEN AS SMART, STRONG LEADER
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – A clear majority of New Jersey’s registered voters continue to see Gov. Chris Christie as “smart” and a “strong leader” despite a six-point decline in overall favorability, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, Christie’s image as a smart leader soared by nearly 15 points, where it remains nearly six months later.
Nearly two-thirds of voters describe Christie as “smart” and a “strong leader. More than half think “effective” and “independent” are among his key traits and 45 percent say “trustworthy” fits Christie very well. Only 38 percent of voters say “fair” fits the governor very well. The positive trait least used is “reformer” at 34 percent.
At the same time, 60 percent of voters say “stubborn” applies very well to the governor, a rebound to pre-Sandy levels. This trait shows the largest increase since November 2012, when only 54 percent thought the description was very apt.
Voters say other negative terms are less descriptive of Christie, continuing a post-Sandy trend: 45 percent and 34 percent, respectively, say “arrogant” and “bully” describe him very well. Thirty-five percent see the governor as “self-centered,” while 34 percent say “impulsive” applies very well.
More than half of voters say Christie makes them “proud” and “enthusiastic,” maintaining large gains in the aftermath of Sandy, with enthusiasm ticking up four points since November. In contrast, “angry” and “worried” show two- and three-point drops, respectively, to 27 percent angry and 30 percent worried, following double-digit declines in both emotions after Sandy hit.
“These questions allow us to better understand why people do or do not support Governor Christie,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Leadership is clearly a key element for most voters and perceptions of Christie as a leader were greatly enhanced by his handling of Sandy. That impression continues strong, and probably accounts for much support from his pre-Sandy opponents.”
Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The sample includes 819 registered voters reported on here, with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.
The governor continues to ride high from his handling of Sandy’s aftermath, although his favorability, job approval, and re-election numbers have shown some decline since the hurricane. Eighty-eight percent say his strong leadership describes Christie at least somewhat well. Only 11 percent say leader does not describe him at all.
“Smart” is applied as often: 63 percent say the word fits Christie very well and 27 percent say somewhat well. This is followed by “independent” (55 percent very well), “effective” (51 percent), “trustworthy” (45 percent), “fair” (38 percent) and “reformer” (34 percent). Among these positive traits, “fair” is the only positive trait to decline since the last time the questions were asked in November, down four points.
Women continue to be much more positive than they were before Sandy hit, and there are few visible differences between men and women across positive traits. Two stand out: women are five points more likely to say that “independent” describes Christie very well (57 percent to 52 percent). On the other hand, female voters are five points less likely than men to think the governor is “trustworthy.” Otherwise, no significant gender differences appear.
One of Christie’s strengths has been in in the positive assessments he gets from Democrats. About half of Democrats call Christie a strong leader and smart. Only 19 percent say Christie is not a strong leader and 10 percent say he is not at all smart. While little change has occurred among Democrats who see the governor as smart, there has been a noticeable five-point drop in those who describe the governor as a strong leader.
“This drop in leadership attributions by Democrats comes as many are now more likely to support Christie’s election opponent, state Senator Barbara Buono,” noted Redlawsk. “This suggests that perceptions of Christie as a leader are key to his re-election, compared to most other traits.”
Positive trait evaluations are extremely high among voters with a favorable impression of Christie and among those who plan to vote for him in the fall. Eighty-five percent of voters who like Christie call him a strong leader and 78 percent call him smart. Similarly, among those who say they will vote to re-elect Christie, 87 percent say strong leader and 80 percent say smart fit him very well.
Governor’s detractors: Christie is stubborn and arrogant
Sixty percent of voters say stubborn describes Christie very well. Another 27 percent call the description somewhat well and 11 percent say the description does not fit. In a distant second place, 45 percent of voters call the governor arrogant followed by self-centered (35 percent applies very well), impulsive (34 percent) and bully (34 percent). Most of these show small increases since November, though stubborn is up the most, with a six-point increase among all voters.
Men are more likely than women to characterize Christie as stubborn with 62 percent of men and 58 percent of women saying the term applies very well), self-centered (38 percent to 32 percent) and impulsive (37 percent to 30 percent.) Among voters who feel unfavorable toward Christie, and among Buono voters, Christie is overwhelmingly seen as stubborn (81 percent and 77 percent) and arrogant (77 percent and 75 percent).
“With the exception of stubborn – which even many supporters of Christie say is the case – voters are more likely to apply positive than negative traits to the governor, consistent with his high ratings,” said Redlawsk. “But the slight uptick in most negative traits, combined with static positive traits suggests some small movement, confirming the slight declines in his overall ratings.”
More Democrats now think stubborn applies very well to Christie – up six points to 69 percent. They are also slightly more likely to describe him as arrogant – an increase of three points to 59 percent and self-centered (also up 3 points to 48 percent). Forty-seven percent of Democrats apply the term “bully” to Christie.
Fifty-seven percent of independents label the governor stubborn, while only 39 percent see him as arrogant and 29 percent as a “bully.” Even 47 percent of Republicans say that stubborn describes the governor very well. Only a quarter say the same for arrogant and 16 percent for bully.
Christie continues to evoke more pride, less anger
Voters’ emotional responses to Christie also reflect a trend that started in November with positive emotions outweighing negative ones. While majorities feel pride (52 percent) and enthusiasm (51 percent), when hearing or reading about Christie, only 30 percent feel worried, and 27 percent angry.
Women continue to be more likely than men to say they are proud of the governor – 55 percent compared to 50 percent, both up slightly from November. At the same time, women are also more likely to feel angry (29 percent) than men (25 percent), as well as worried (33 percent to 27 percent). But gender differences flip for enthusiasm (with men at 54 percent; women 48 percent).
About three-quarters of those favorable toward Christie feel both proud and enthusiastic about him, with only 13 percent angry and 14 percent worried. The numbers reverse for voters with an unfavorable impression, and intensity is much lower: 59 percent who dislike Christie say they feel angry, and 65 percent are worried. The magnitude of positive emotions by Christie voters outweighs the extent of negative feelings by Buono voters.
Pride and enthusiasm for the governor among Democrats has increased four points since November to 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Democrats also record a drop in anger – down five points to 38 percent – and worry, down seven points to 42 percent. Independents (53 percent and 55 percent, respectively) and especially Republicans (81 percent and 82 percent, respectively) are proud and enthusiastic about the governor. A quarter or fewer independents feel angry or worried, as do about half as many Republicans.