NEW JERSEY VOTERS EXPECT CHRISTIE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT; THINK HIS TOUGH TALK WORKS HERE, BUT MAY NOT ‘PLAY IN PEORIA’
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A clear majority of New Jersey’s registered voters expect Gov. Chris Christie to run for president in 2016, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. As voters geared up for last week’s gubernatorial election, 59 percent said Christie would run, while 19 percent thought he would not. Twenty-two percent were unsure.
Forty-five percent of voters thought Christie will resign to run, and 33 percent expected him to finish his term, including those who said he would run without resigning. Twenty-three percent were uncertain whether the governor will complete his second term.
Yet in last week’s election, very few voters were influenced by these expectations: more than three-quarters said Christie’s future plans would have no impact on their vote. Only 8 percent said an anticipated run made them more likely to vote for Christie, while slightly more –13 percent – said his presidential ambitions made them less likely to vote for him.
“Here is the most direct evidence yet that Sen. Barbara Buono’s attack on Christie’s apparent presidential ambitions was misguided,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Voters think he is going to run, but most didn’t see that as a reason to oppose him, even while many expect him to resign before the end of his term.”
Most voters see no conflict between Christie considering a presidential run and New Jersey’s needs. A plurality (44 percent) views Christie’s stance on issues and extensive nationwide travel as “doing what’s best for New Jersey.” But a third thinks Christie is more focused on running for president. Another 10 percent say Christie has been doing a bit of both, while 13 percent are undecided.
“Many voters agree with Christie’s assertion that, when it comes to governing New Jersey while considering a 2016 presidential run, he can ‘walk and chew gum at the same time,’” said Redlawsk.
As for Christie’s famously confrontational style, voters agree with the governor, by a 2 to 1 margin, that it shows leadership and helps him get things done at home. Only 30 percent say it is disrespectful and hurts his ability to lead in the state.
At the same time, voters are much less sure that the tough-guy attitude will go over well on the national stage. Thirty-six percent think it will, but 46 percent say voters across the country will not like his attitude. Just 4 percent say it will not make a difference, and another 14 percent are unsure.
Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 28 – Nov 2.
Tough talk and the electorate
While Christie’s tough talk approach to politics was often questioned by his opponent and the media, most voters think it reflects leadership and helps him get things done. However, Democrats are not so sure. They are slightly more likely to think Christie’s style is disrespectful and hurts his ability to lead, by a 47 percent to 42 percent margin. On the other hand, 76 percent of Republicans stand by the governor’s tough style; only 15 percent believe it hurts his ability to lead.
Independents also like Christie’s approach, and 64 percent say his blunt style works in the Garden State, while 23 percent dissent. Christie supporters overwhelmingly think his attitude helps him govern (78 percent), while 61 percent of Buono voters say the opposite.
But a tough-guy attitude may take the governor only so far, at least in the eyes of many New Jerseyans, 46 percent of who are dubious that the rest of the country will like Christie’s style.
Republicans are the most positive on this score. Just over half think Christie’s approach will go over well, but a third disagrees. Independents are evenly split on the matter, with 40 percent on either side. Democrats do not think Christie’s brashness is well suited for the national stage; 62 percent think the rest of the nation will not appreciate his approach, while 22 percent think others will accept it. Even 36 percent of the governor’s supporters think his attitude will not play out well on the national stage.
Also, beliefs about Christie’s tough-guy approach bring out a gender gap. Women are five points less likely to say Christie’s confrontational style helps him govern and are 10 points less likely to think his style will serve him well on the national stage.
Partisanship prevails on consequences
Majorities of registered voters of every political persuasion expect Christie to run for president, including just over 60 percent of both Christie and Buono voters, and about the same share of those with either favorable or unfavorable views of the governor.
Eighty percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents reported that a potential Christie run would have no effect on their vote on Election Day. Twelve percent of Republicans and 10 percent of independents saw his presidential ambitions as a reason to vote for Christie. Democrats, however, were more negative: although 73 percent said a possible run did not matter, 20 percent said the talk was making them less likely to choose the governor. Of those who planned to vote for Buono, 28 percent said the potential presidential run made them less likely to support Christie.
“Buono’s message did not resonate with many voters, but among her supporters, some were drawn by the expectation Christie will leave the state,” noted Redlawsk. “But, for the most part, this attack made little difference.”
A majority of Democrats expect Christie to resign to run for president; just 28 percent think he will finish his new term. Forty-three percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents also expect a resignation at some point, while about one-third of each group says Christie will stay in office. Christie voters give a slight edge to finishing over resigning, 38 percent to 36 percent.
By more than a 2 to 1 margin, voters who think Christie is already running for president say he will leave Trenton. Buono voters also expect him to step down.
Partisanship is clearly evident about whether Christie’s travel and actions in office have been in New Jersey’s best interests. Sixty-three percent of Republicans believe the governor is more focused on the good of the state, while 14 percent see him as more focused on running for president. Independents are more divided; 44 percent think Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey, and 32 percent think he is more focused on holding higher office.
A plurality of Democrats (45 percent) say Christie is preoccupied with presidential aspirations, while 32 percent see him focused primarily on what is best for New Jersey. Sixty-three percent of Christie voters say the governor is doing what’s best for the state, while 70 percent of Buono backers disagree.