Ian McGeown, Liz Kantor, and Max Mescall are Rutgers undergraduate students who work as interns for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following is their analysis of continuing support for Gov. Chris Christie in the Shore region of New Jersey.
In the months following Hurricane Sandy, Governor Chris Christie’s re-election numbers have been consistently high. Our most recent poll shows that Christie has a 20 point lead with likely voters over State Senator Barbara Buono, 55 percent to 35 percent. As you might expect, Christie’s numbers are even higher along the Jersey Shore, the area most directly affected by the Governor’s recovery efforts; we find that an overwhelming 70 percent of voters living in the shore region would vote for Governor Christie if the election were held today. While Christie’s favorable re-election prospects are often attributed to his leadership on Hurricane Sandy, especially within those areas hardest hit by the superstorm, this may not be the whole story.
The Jersey Shore has a history of voting Republican in general elections. In fact, for this upcoming election, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by more than 30,000 in Ocean County and are just 4,000 registered voters shy of an outright majority in Monmouth County. These areas have long supported Republican candidates, as affiliation with the Republican Party has been stronger there than much of the state over the years, as these data from 1998 show. The numerical advantage that the Republicans have in these counties gives the GOP a rare stronghold in an otherwise pretty Democratic state.
We found that this holds true in our own numbers. Looking at the breakdown of party identification for our latest poll, there is noticeable disparity among regions. About 29 percent of likely voters along the shore are Republicans, second only to voters in exurban areas, where 32 percent affiliate with the Republican Party. This is around double the rate of urban areas, where only 15 percent of likely voters identify with the GOP. These differences in partisan breakdown by region are statistically significant at the .01 level, indicating a very low likelihood that these disparities are just by chance.
While it makes sense to attribute Christie’s high re-election numbers to recent events like Sandy, especially in the regions that suffered the most from the storm, it is just as important to consider the way that historical voting patterns continue to affect elections. Traditional Republican ties along the Jersey Shore have certainly had some influence on the higher-than-usual re-election numbers that Christie is hoping will carry him to a landslide victory in the upcoming gubernatorial election.