Christie’s lackluster ratings back home continue to slip; Trump still #1 among NJ GOPers, Christie in distant second

The full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF of the release with text, questions, and tables.

CHRISTIE’S JOB APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW, RATINGS ACROSS THE BOARD CONTINUE TO SLIP

Trump still leads 2016 GOP field in New Jersey, Christie reclaims second

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie may be on the rise in New Hampshire, but his numbers continue to fall with voters back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Christie’s overall job approval has slipped to its lowest point yet: 33 percent of New Jersey registered voters now approve of his performance, a drop of six points since October, and 62 percent disapprove, up six points. This represents voters’ strongest disapproval of Christie’s job performance to date.

Likewise, 33 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, the second lowest rating he has ever received. Christie’s unfavorable rating is back at its all-time high of 59 percent after a small improvement in October. Since August, every poll has consistently found more than half of New Jersey voters in the unfavorable column.

“Governor Christie’s good fortune and favorables may be improving on the national campaign trail, but it’s just the opposite in New Jersey,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Ever since Christie announced his official 2016 run, he has received his lowest ratings as governor – even lower than in the year post-Bridgegate.”

Christie fares no better on individual issues. His rating on the perennial top issue – taxes – hits another new low: now 23 percent approve while 71 percent disapprove. He also reaches new lows on the economy and jobs (30 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (25 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state pension fund situation (21 percent approve, 66 percent disapprove) and education (33 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove).

More voters also disapprove of Christie’s work on crimes and drugs (40 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove), as well as transportation and infrastructure (30 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove). Voters continue to be closely divided on his handling of Sandy recovery – 48 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove – a far cry from the near-unanimous approval he received through most of 2013.

The only bright spot for Christie at home is his return to second place for the 2016 Republican nomination among New Jersey Republican and GOP-leaning registered voters. Christie now stands at 14 percent. Donald Trump remains Republicans’ top choice at 30 percent.

Six in 10 New Jersey Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters continue to prefer former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as their 2016 nominee.

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015, including 700 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.1 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Independents’ criticism of Christie grows

While Christie continues to receive lackluster ratings from most Garden State voters, his Republican base remains in his corner: 69 percent approve of the job he is doing, and 70 percent have a favorable impression of him. Democrats feel just the opposite, holding steady at 16 percent on job approval and 15 percent on favorability.

This time, independents show the most significant shift since last polled in October. Returning to a level of negativity not seen since August, 31 percent of independents now approve of the job Christie is doing, while 66 percent disapprove. This is much different from the split two months ago, 42 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove. Similarly, 30 percent of independents are now favorable toward Christie, down six points in two months. Sixty-three percent are unfavorable, up 14 points.

Christie’s overall ratings increase among white voters, as well as with age and income. The governor still draws his biggest support from exurban and shore counties. Nonetheless, even among these groups, he does not garner a favorable or approving majority.

Christie’s report card has changed little since August. When asked to award the governor a letter grade, more voters than ever now give Christie an F, at 31 percent (up three points since October). For the third time in the past year, just 5 percent give him an A – the lowest number of top grades Christie has received since taking office. Nineteen percent now give Christie a B, 23 percent a C, and another 21 percent a D.

Just 3 percent of Democrats give Christie an A, while 41 percent fail him and another 25 percent give him a D. Just 4 percent of independents give Christie an A. The rest of this group is spread out more evenly among the remaining letter grades – though they are slightly more likely to give him an F (at 35 percent) than any other grade.

Republicans are the only group, besides those favorable toward Christie and those who approve of the job he is doing, whose number of As reaches double-digits. Thirteen percent of Republicans award him this top grade, while another 38 percent give him a B; but Christie still gets a D from 14 percent of his base, and 6 percent give him an F.

Christie’s low marks on individual issues continue across the board

New Jersey voters, who often cite taxes as one of the most important problems in the state, have consistently given Christie some of his lowest scores on this issue, beaten out only by his even lower approval rating on the state pension fund situation.

Christie garners majority approval on taxes from no group. Republicans continue to turn against him on this issue: 44 percent approve of his approach, while 53 percent disapprove. Just 16 percent of Democrats (an improvement of four points) and 20 percent of independents (down six points) approve of Christie’s job in this area.

Approval ratings on the economy and state budget show similar patterns. Republicans are still not fully in Christie’s corner for either; 50 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove of his performance on the economy, while 48 percent approve and 34 percent disapprove of his work on the state budget. Three-quarters of Democrats disapprove of his job in both areas, as do more than two thirds of independents.

Christie does worse on the state pension fund situation, failing to gain majority approval even from those with a favorable impression of him or those who approve of the job he is doing overall. Republicans have now turned against him on state pensions: 33 percent approve of his handling of the issue (down six points), and 49 percent disapprove (up seven points). Just 12 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independents approve of Christie’s job in this area.

On education, Christie receives approval only from his own party base (54 percent), those favorable toward him (60 percent), and those who approve of the job he is doing overall (66 percent). Solid majorities of almost every other group disapprove of his handling of education.

“With the governor mostly out of state on his presidential campaign, these lackluster issue ratings have moved little since August, and when they have, it has typically been downward,” said Koning. “Christie has never done particularly well with voters on some of these issues, but now four times in a row, no single issue polled garners majority approval for the governor.”

NJ 2016 top choices resemble national standings

Trump and Clinton continue to be the top choices for their respective parties. Trump has remained in first place with Republicans in the Garden State since first announcing his candidacy, while Clinton has remained in the top spot among Democrats since the poll first started asking about her party’s preferred 2016 nominee.

Christie has rebounded with his party base in his home state, almost tripling his 5 percent standing in October – which put him in fifth place for a three-way tie – but still far from the 32 percent he garnered this time last year.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio now comes in third with New Jersey Republicans, at 13 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 10 percent; all other candidates rank in the single digits.

Clinton claims three times the support of her closest rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, among Garden State Democrats. Sanders comes in second at 19 percent; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley garners just 1 percent.

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