Monthly Archives: June 2015

Gov. Chris Christie Polling: A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Summary

As NJ Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce a 2016 presidential run today, we decided to summary our last 18 months of polling New Jersey voters about their governor. The details of the polls included here, with graphs and margin of error details, can be found here.  Note that we do NOT have new polling in this release, but rather a compendium of the polling we’ve done on the Governor’s favorability and job ratings, his personality traits and emotional responses to him, and some questions on the prospect of him as president.

Text of the full release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release.



 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie officially tosses his hat into the ring for 2016 today amidst sinking ratings, unflattering perceptions, and skepticism about his presidential chances from home state voters, according to a number of Rutgers-Eagleton polls from the past year.

Discontent among New Jerseyans has been fueled by Bridgegate and other allegations against Christie and his administration dating to January 2014. While Christie was an early frontrunner for 2016 due to unprecedented post-Superstorm Sandy ratings highs – at his peak, Christie had a 70 percent favorable rating in February 2013 – his announcement of a presidential bid comes during his lowest point in public opinion to date as governor.

“Announcing a presidential run with low or declining ratings back home is not unprecedented,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are in similar situations. Voters elsewhere may not care that much about how New Jerseyans feel, but Christie’s decline has to hurt, especially when his original appeal stemmed from his bipartisan efforts and leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”

Christie’s 2016 campaign slogan – “Telling it like it is” – takes advantage of the straight-talking attitude for which he is best known, but New Jersey voters have cooled to his brashness. Negativity toward Christie in the past 18 months has pervaded judgments on Christie as a person (now seen as more bully than trustworthy), his job (no rating crosses the 50-percent mark), and his chances for 2016 (more than four in 10 New Jerseyans said they have worsened recently). Christie was viewed as a beacon of bipartisanship in the Sandy aftermath, but now even Republicans in New Jersey have become less inclined to rally behind him.

All results described here are from previously released Rutgers-Eagleton statewide polls of New Jersey adults, with registered voter subsamples, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones. All past Christie-related releases, ratings, and other reports can be found at: including disclosures and margins of error.

Christie: more stubborn, arrogant and less trustworthy

After benefiting from his unique personal style for a solid year post-Sandy, perceptions of Christie’s positive character traits began to decline following his Bridgegate press conference in January 2014. By April 2015 fewer than half saw the positives: “smart” (49 percent), “strong leader” (39 percent), “effective” (26 percent), “fair” (21 percent) and “trustworthy” (17 percent). The last three reached all-time lows that month, with trustworthy falling furthest since Bridgegate. These were many of the same characteristics that saw large increases for Christie right after Sandy struck.

Negative descriptors, on the other hand, have climbed steadily during this same period, with solid majorities calling him “arrogant” (57 percent) and “stubborn” (64 percent) by April 2015. Nearly half have said he is a “bully” and “self-centered.” At the same time, only 10 percent said the term “presidential” suits Christie “very well.”

Moreover, while half the state’s voters felt proud and enthusiastic about him immediately after Sandy, only 30 percent now feel positive. But 40 percent feel “contempt” or “worry.”

“Christie has always branded himself as a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, and sometimes – like with Sandy, or even his ‘Get the hell off the beach’ moment during Hurricane Irene – it has definitely worked for him,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “But the Jersey tough guy approach seems to have worn thin, and the traits for which he was praised during some of his finest displays of leadership are now working against him.”

Favorability and job approval: post-Sandy highs turn into post-Bridgegate lows

The turn for the worse in perceptions of Christie’s personality is strongly connected to a precipitous decline in Christie’s favorability and job approval ratings. Ratings are now a far cry from when Christie polled at or near the top of the 2016 Republican pack; both favorability and job approval are now more negative than positive (net negative) and at their lowest points ever.

In the April 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Christie’s favorability rating was just 38 percent, while 48 percent felt unfavorable. Fifty-four percent of voters disapproved of his job performance compared to 41 percent who approved. His job grade has similarly taken a big hit, compared to what New Jersey voters awarded him pre-Bridgegate; 70 percent give him a C or lower, with a quarter of this group failing him.

Approval on specific issues has also dropped, including such nationally significant issues as taxes (26 percent approval) and the economy (31 percent), at their lowest levels ever. Approval on Sandy recovery efforts is no exception. This was once the governor’s strongest issue area, garnering almost 90 percent approval, but only about half this number still approved by April 2015.

“For a good while, Sandy was the biggest driver of Christie’s overall ratings,” said Koning. “Despite mediocre approval in other areas, Christie’s leadership immediately before, during and after the storm singlehandedly carried him to unprecedented highs through his re-election in 2013. But as 2014 brought an onslaught of allegations against his administration, the lengthy Sandy bump vanished, and the governor’s numbers have not recovered.”

Growing dissent among Garden State’s GOP base

Following Sandy, Christie commanded support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. This bipartisanship unsurprisingly faded over time, with first Democrats and then independents, to some extent, waning on Christie. But less expected in this era of unabashed partisanship, Republicans recently have cooled on Christie as well.

During the early part of 2015, Democrats and independents remained relatively steady in their negative assessments of the governor. Republicans, however, registered a double-digit approval drop between February and April. Among GOP voters, job approval was down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval up 11 points to 27 percent in April. Republicans’ impression of Christie also took a hit to 68 percent favorable; a far cry from the almost unanimous backing Christie once received from this group. Meanwhile just a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents felt favorable.

New Jersey Republicans have split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, Christie is in the red with GOPers – 44 percent approve of his approach, while 49 percent disapprove, according to the April survey. Republicans have been slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove). By comparison, Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

“Christie losing Republicans in his own state – a group known to be more moderate than Republicans in other parts of the country – can translate into a big problem for him nationally,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the case may be as to why New Jersey Republicans feel this way, Christie now lacks full support from his base at home – not an ideal way to kick off a presidential campaign. Still, Christie is a great campaigner, and early primary state voters reward the kind of personal connections he has been able to make in the past. Christie may be down, but he’s not quite out.”

A bleak view of a “President” Christie

Most New Jerseyans do not see Christie as a good president: in April just 24 percent said he would make a good president; 69 percent said no, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll. But a slim majority of voters most positive toward him do see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie.

New Jersey voters have been mixed on the likelihood of Christie ultimately becoming the Republican nominee. In April, 44 percent believed his chances had worsened in recent months, 46 percent said they were about the same, and just 6 percent said they had improved. “At this point, there is no reason to think anything has changed here in New Jersey,” noted Koning. “The last two months have not been any better for Christie than any of the other months since Bridgegate brought his high flying ratings crashing down. Only time will tell if his campaign can turn it around.”

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NJ Residents Support Legalizing, Taxing, Regulating Marijuana

While we are now on our typical academic summer hiatus, today we are releasing results of some polling we did in April on the legalization of marijuana. These questions were part of our last Rutgers-Eagleton poll, but because we were working with a partner, the NJ Chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, we had not released them before. The results show continuing support in NJ for changing the status of marijuana. As we showed in April 2014, most NJ residents support at least reducing or eliminating penalties for using the drug. The newest poll asks the question a little differently, about support for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over. That provides significant context; as a result we find overall that 58% support this, significantly higher than last year’s 49% who supported “completely legalizing” marijuana.

The Drug Policy Alliance involvement came through an undergraduate survey research class taught by ECPIP Director and professor of political science, David Redlawsk this past semester. In the class, students work with non-profits and interest groups on developing, fielding, and analyzing survey questions, which are added to a standard NJ statewide Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. DPA is an advocacy group, favoring legalization of marijuana. However, while their staff worked with the students to identify the topic for their questions, the final decision on the questions rested, as it always does, with professional ECPIP staff, in order to ensure that the questions asked were done in accordance with best practices to minimize potential bias. As always, we release the full text of the questions so that you can decide for yourself.

The text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text, questions, and tables.



NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A clear majority of New Jerseyans supports legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. Just under one-third of residents strongly support making marijuana use legal, assuming it would be taxed and regulated, while another 26 percent somewhat support the idea. Twelve percent are somewhat opposed while 27 percent are strongly opposed.

An April 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll found that while about two-thirds in New Jersey favored eliminating marijuana possession penalties, just 49 percent supported “completely legalizing” the drug.

“The trend in New Jersey mirrors the nation as support for legalizing marijuana continues to grow,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The question we asked this year is more specific than in the past, specifying that legalization would come with taxes and regulation and would apply to adults 21 and over. That likely accounts for some of the jump from 49 percent support a year ago to 58 percent today. But no matter how it is asked, we have seen a long-term upward trend in support.”

Most New Jerseyans do not consider legalization a priority. While 20 percent call legalization of marijuana a “very important” issue, more than twice as many Garden State residents (45 percent) say it is “not very important.” The rest are in the middle, with 22 percent calling this issue “somewhat important” and 12 percent saying it is “somewhat unimportant”.

New Jersey state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union) has introduced a bill legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for adults. Senate Bill 1896 and its companion in the Assembly, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union) create a system similar to Colorado’s, with marijuana regulated like alcohol at every step of the production and sales process.

“More than 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010 at a cost of more than $125 million dollars,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “But this poll shows a significant majority of New Jerseyans believe in changing this policy so marijuana can be legally taxed and regulated for adults, the same as alcohol.”

The questions about marijuana were developed in consultation with the NJ office of the Drug Policy Alliance. The marijuana support question was the subject of an experiment where some respondents were randomly prompted that marijuana would be regulated “like alcohol,” while others were not. Analyses show that the variation in the question made no significant difference; accordingly this release reports on both versions combined.

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 residents contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27 – Apr. 3, 2015, with a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were completed in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Democrats, independents, millennials strongest supporters

While there are no differences between men and women, or by race in support for legalizing marijuana, there is a noticeable split between Democrats and Republicans. More than six-in-ten Democrats support legalization (39 percent strongly and 25 percent somewhat), but just 41 percent of Republicans agree, with only 18 percent of GOPers strongly supporting the idea. Nearly half of New Jersey Republicans (46 percent) strongly oppose marijuana legalization, double the strong opposition from Democrats. In general, opinions of independents are much closer to those of Democrats than Republicans, with 33 percent strongly and 28 percent somewhat backing legalization.

“Differences between Democrats and Republicans are highly predictable,” said Redlawsk. “But this version of the question – legalizing, taxing, and regulating for adult use – garners much more GOP support than we saw a year ago when we asked about ‘completely legalizing’ marijuana. Then only 28 percent of Republicans agreed; here it is 41 percent. Providing detailed context seems to make much more of a difference to Republicans than Democrats.”

Age also matters: senior citizens are about half as likely as other New Jersey residents to strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana (at 18 percent), and are the most likely to oppose it (13 percent somewhat, 38 percent strongly). Millennials – residents who are 18 to 34 years old – are most likely to show strong support (at 38 percent), though middle-aged New Jerseyans are not far behind, with about one-third of those aged 35 to 64 also strongly supportive of change. Millennials also show the least strong opposition by far of any other age group: just 18 percent oppose, compared to a quarter or more of every other age group. As with other issues, such as same-sex marriage, younger residents are very different from those of the Baby Boom generation.

Issue very important to both strongest supporters and opponents

While a plurality thinks marijuana legalization is not very important, residents with the strongest feelings, whether pro or con, are much more likely to consider the issue very important. One-half of strong opponents of legalization see the issue as very or somewhat important, while 62 percent of residents who strongly support legal marijuana say the same. Those who do not feel strongly about legalization in either direction see the issue as far less important: only about 22 percent of these Garden Staters think legalization is a very or somewhat important issue.

“For many New Jerseyans, the issue is not high on their radar, but for strong supporters and opponents, it really registers,” noted Redlawsk. “This is one reason why laws related to marijuana are tending to lag behind public opinion, as strong supporters and opponents are equally balanced and seem equally motivated, while most other New Jerseyans stay in the background.”

New Jerseyans: Use tax revenue for education

Advocates for legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana regularly emphasize that tax revenue from the sale of marijuana could generate millions of dollars to fund projects across New Jersey. Four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana.

Given a list of uses for new revenue that might come from legalization, 36 percent of residents say education should be the top priority, while 20 percent would first dedicate new revenue to drug treatment programs. Transportation infrastructure comes third, with 15 percent making it a top priority; nine percent would focus on social services, and three percent on corrections and prisons.

There are large racial disparities in preferences for revenue allocation. Almost half of non-white residents – 46 percent – would prefer funds go to education, compared to 30 percent of white residents. On the other hand, non-white residents are less than half as likely as white residents to mention transportation and social services.

While partisans of all stripes agree education should be the top priority, Democrats are most likely to say this, as well as to mention social services. Republicans are just a few points more likely than others to allocate revenue to transportation. Men and women are mostly on the same page, but men are slightly more likely to prefer transportation funding, while women are almost twice as likely to identify social services as the priority.

Education funding is the overwhelming priority with Millennials – at 54 percent – while other age groups are more evenly divided between the options. Seniors are the most likely to say revenue should go to drug treatment programs (31 percent).

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