Rene Polanco III and Alexa Marzocca are Rutgers undergraduates and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling public relations/social media interns. Following is their analysis of younger voters and support for Gov. Chris Christie.
The other week, our results showed Governor Chris Christie still riding high in terms of favorability and job approval. Sixty percent of all New Jersey registered voters favor the governor and 66 percent approve of the job he is doing.
Taking a closer look by age shows some interesting – and perhaps even unexpected – patterns. Among 18-39 year-olds, 68 percent approve of the job Christie is doing overall. More than half of these younger voters (52 percent) also specifically approve of Christie’s handling of New Jersey’s economy and jobs, which they rank as the most important issue facing New Jersey. Both 40-64 year-olds and those older than 65 also say the economy and jobs is the top problem facing the state, but approval of Christie within this issue area is not as high among these older voters. Only 38 percent of each older group approve of how the governor is handling this issue.
Despite the high approval rating from younger voters, New Jersey’s economy has continued to struggle. A recent CNN article reported that New Jersey has the 7th worst unemployment rate in the country at 8.6 percent. The state’s poverty rate has reached a 52-year high, with nearly 25 percent of residents living under the poverty level. In some counties, more than 30 percent of the populations are living under the poverty line.
Given New Jersey’s reputation as a “blue state” and its high unemployment rate, it is interesting to note how these age groups view this issue differently and how some of the most positive ratings for it are coming from younger voters. Are younger voters doing better in New Jersey’s job market than older voters? Is it because some of them are more likely to still be in school or not as likely to have a family to support yet? Or perhaps it is because these younger voters are more influenced by name recognition and the amount of media coverage the governor receives.
After all, younger voters show the lowest favorable ratings for Buono among all age groups (23 percent), but they also are more likely than others to have no opinion on the Democratic candidate or to be unfamiliar with her (59 percent). With 18 percent unfavorable, there is no groundswell against Buono, just a lack of awareness.
But six in ten younger voters are favorable toward Christie, on the other hand, with just about 10 percent saying they have no opinion on the governor. As a result many more are negative about him than Buono as well as positive. The governor is visible to these voters but Buono is not. This may account as much as anything for their attitude toward Chris Christie.