Back in NJ, Christie Not Seen as Strong Leader, Effective, Trustworthy

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

NEW JERSEYANS HAVE CHRISTIE BACK, BUT DON’T SEE HIM AS STRONG LEADER, EFFECTIVE, OR TRUSTWORTHY

 Majorities continue to view him as arrogant, self-centered, stubborn

 Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie’s February 16th budget address.

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie may be back for good in the Garden State, but New Jersey voters have few nice things to say upon his return, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Asked how well a series of personality and leadership traits describe the governor, registered voters are less likely than ever to apply positive descriptors.

Thirty percent now say “strong leader” describes Christie “very well” – an all-time low, down 36 points since his reelection in 2013, 26 points since Bridgegate erupted in January 2014, and 10 points since August 2015. This is the single largest decline over time of any of the traits. Another 31 percent now think the trait applies only “somewhat well,” and 37 percent say it does not apply at all.

Even fewer say “effective” describes the governor very well: only 22 percent, a new low. Thirty-nine percent say this describes him somewhat well, and 36 percent say not at all.

Christie continues to suffer most when it comes to issues of honesty and authenticity. Just 15 percent say “trustworthy” describes him very well (33 percent somewhat well, 49 percent not at all), another new low, surpassing previous lows following the George Washington Bridge scandal. When it comes to sincerity, the pattern holds: 22 percent say “sincere” fits him very well, 29 percent somewhat well, and 44 percent not at all.

Fewer voters now ascribe “smart” to Christie – 44 percent, seven points lower than last August. Only 10 percent say “presidential” fits Christie very well, a number that remained virtually steady throughout his campaign.

“It is no coincidence that New Jersey voters give Governor Christie some of his lowest character ratings to date upon his return home,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “With the governor spending the last several months on the campaign trail, positive perceptions of him have taken a hit across the board in his absence – especially leadership, a trait that has usually been his strong suit since taking office.”

Perceptions of Christie’s negative traits have not changed quite as dramatically as his positives. Voters are slightly more likely to say “arrogant” describes the governor very well, now at 62 percent (up four points). Sixty-five percent still call him “stubborn,” and 53 percent say “self-centered” is an apt descriptor. Half say “bully” suits the governor very well, and 41 percent say the same about “impulsive.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 889 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 to 15, 2016, including 758 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans, independents spur new lows on positive traits

Belief that Christie is a strong leader has suffered most during Christie’s presidential run – especially with independents and Republicans. While Democrats remain stable in their views on the trait since August (17 percent say it fits Christie very well), Republicans and independents drive the overall double-digit decline. A bare majority of GOP voters – 52 percent – now say “strong leader” fits Christie very well, down 12 points since August. Among independents, 29 percent now say the same – a 14-point drop.

Republicans and independents are both less likely to ascribe “smart” to the governor in the past six months: 65 percent of Republicans (down six points) and 43 percent of independents (down 11 points) now say “smart” describes Christie very well. Democrats again hold steady in their views here, at 33 percent.

Republicans are also markedly more negative on whether “effective” describes Christie very well – now at 41 percent, a 13-point drop since August. Ten percent of Democrats say the same (down five points), as do 22 percent of independents (down two points).

Increased negativity on “trustworthy” – one of the traits consistently ascribed least to Christie since Bridgegate – is driven by independents this time: 12 percent now say this suits him very well (down 11 points), while Democrats and Republicans remain virtually steady in their views at 7 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

“Independents and Republicans had a more positive outlook on Governor Christie’s character back in August, but now, they are the ones driving the decline,” said Koning. “As the governor gets back to business in the Garden State, increasing favorable perceptions of himself among these two groups is crucial to what he can accomplish in his remaining two years, his legacy as governor, and any ability to tout his bipartisan appeal should he run for national office again.”

Negative perceptions hold steady

Unlike their positive counterparts, negative perceptions of Christie have changed little in the past six months. “Arrogant” achieves a new overall high due to a modest increase among independents (now at 65 percent, up five points) and Republicans (now at 37 percent, up four points); Democrats hold steady, with 73 percent saying this describes Christie very well.

On most other negative traits, voters are about as likely to ascribe them to the governor as they were in August. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats (down six points), 68 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Republicans say that “stubborn” suits Christie very well. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents, and 26 percent of Republicans say the same about “bully.” Sixty-six percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Republicans believe “self-centered” is a very fitting description.

While Democrats are nearly as likely as they were in August to say Christie is impulsive (now at 51 percent), independents and Republicans are slightly less likely to do so – now at 40 percent (down six points) and 27 percent (down seven points), respectively.

Voters lack pride, enthusiasm more than ever

Voters continue to feel “angry” about Christie (now at 41 percent), while 45 percent are “worried,” and 37 percent feel “contempt.” Just a quarter say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic”; both emotions are down about 20 points since Christie’s re-election in 2013 and another 10 points since news of Bridgegate first broke in January 2014.

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