Category Archives: 2016 President

Happy Presidential Debate Night!! To celebrate, the latest 2016 numbers from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll …

There is a lot going on in New Jersey right now: the Bridgegate trial, casino expansion, questions about infrastructure and replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund, debates over minimum wage and pension fund payments, reassessment of school funding formulas, and November elections of our own … just to name a few.  We here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll have been doing our best to cover many of these important issues in the Garden State; you can see our latest release on Gov. Christie and NJ issues here.

But with the first 2016 presidential debate a little over an hour away, it’s a good time to take a look at how New Jersey voters feel about the race to the White House and the country as a whole.  New Jersey has not been a swing state for quite some time, typically pretty solidly blue since the Clinton years (Bill Clinton, that is).  On our latest poll, we asked New Jersey registered voters about who they would vote for if the election were held today – both with and without Johnson and Stein in the mix.  When all candidates are included, Clinton leads by double digits: 50 percent to 29 percent for Trump, 6 percent for Johnson, and 4 percent for Stein.  When those who picked someone besides the two main party candidates are asked to choose between Clinton and Trump, the results are slightly more in Clinton’s favor by a few points: 59 percent Clinton to 35 percent Trump.

Even though Clinton leads, her favorability ratings continue to not be anywhere close to what they once were in New Jersey pre-2016.  Nevertheless, she has regained some ground since spring, now at 44 percent favorable (up five points) to 47 percent unfavorable (down three points).  Trump continues to do poorly in the state (though still slightly better than New Jersey’s own governor): 27 percent favorable to 66 percent unfavorable.  New Jersey voters are somewhat split on the direction of the country: 43 percent say it’s going in the right direction, and 53 percent say it is off on the wrong track.

Stay tuned to our Twitter account tonight for some more tidbits on how the 2016 race looks in the great Garden State!  Click here to see a PDF of full results – questions and tables: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll 2016 Election Head to Head September Tables.

Results are from a statewide poll of 802 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 6 to 10, 2016, including 735 registered voters reported on in this release. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Polling in Iowa; Does it Mean Much Yet?

For the last few months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Read below for Dave’s take on how Iowans tend to make up their minds late.

Iowa Caucus Goers are late deciders: Still Plenty of Room for Change

It’s just over 60 days to the Iowa Caucuses. Polling continues to show Donald Trump on top of the GOP pack here in the Hawkeye State. But, as I write this two recent polls show something changing under the Trump umbrella. Ben Carson, who had been running a close second to Trump appears to be falling; perhaps his time is over. Taking his place is Ted Cruz, who has doubled his support to just over 20%, while Carson has fallen below that mark. Trump himself remains in the 25%-30% range, where he has been stuck for months. Nothing seems to change for Trump in Iowa; all the action is in second and third.

Meanwhile the media remains obsessed about whether Trump’s support is real, or whether it will fade as voters get “serious”. Nate Silver just suggested the media needs to “stop freaking out” over Trump. He argues, as I have since at least August in Twitter comments and on the news app Sidewire, that Trump’s numbers remain stagnant at about a quarter of GOP voters. We’re seeing this in Iowa as well as nationally. In fact, a poll in August had Trump at 23% in Iowa; today he is around 25%.

The basis of Silvers sanguine attitude toward a Trump nomination is the claim that voters in places like Iowa do not make up their minds until quite late. Silver uses public exit polls from the 2008 and 2012 caucuses to show this.

Here I want to reinforce that point, using a completely different dataset. In 2008, Caroline Tolbert, Todd Donovan (my co-authors on Why Iowa?) and I administered an in-caucus survey of both parties. This is NOT an exit poll. Instead, with the cooperation of both parties, we placed a single survey instrument in EVERY Iowa precinct with instructions to the Caucus Chair to give it to the person whose birthday was closest to a random date on the packet. This allowed us to randomize the survey and also to potentially cover every precinct in Iowa. While we didn’t get them all back, our return rate was over 60% for the GOP and over 70% for the Democrats.

So what can we learn from the GOP and Democratic caucus goers of 2008, the last time both parties had wide open nominations?

First, YES, Iowans do not rush to make Caucus decisions. Across both parties in 2008, 54% of those filling out the survey told us they had made their candidate choice only in the final month, and 5% came in the door that night undecided. Just a quarter had decided at least three months before the caucuses.

And first time attendees were not any faster or slower making up their minds: 56% had done so in the final month, compared to 52% of repeat attendees, an insignificant difference. Not surprisingly though, those who had caucused before were a little more likely to be early deciders: 27% decided before October 2007, compared to 22% of first timers.

We also see no differences in gender – men and women were equally likely in 2008 to make late decisions.

Of course, some Iowa Caucus goers are party activists, but in 2008 a surprising number (nearly 60% in our survey) were not, something I would expect will be the case again this year. No one should be surprised that activists make up their minds earlier: across both parties nearly 60% of the most active has made a decision more than a month before, as had over half of those who called themselves “somewhat active” in their party. In contrast only slightly more than one-third of less active voters made an early decision.

While the above combines both parties, we can dig further into our data and look for differences between Republicans and Democrats. What we find is that in 2007-08, GOP voters were slower to decide. While 47% of Democrats with a preference entering the caucuses, waited until the last month to decide this rises to 62% of GOP voters that year. Nearly 30% of Democrats had decided before October, but only 19% of Republicans had settled on a choice that early.

A group of particular importance to GOP candidates is Evangelical Christians. But guess what? Once again we see no real differences in decision time. Evangelicals were just as likely to make a late decision as any other Iowa Caucus goer in 2008.

What’s the takeaway from this deeper dive into Iowa Caucus goers’ decision timing? Simply, there is a lot of room for candidates to play in the final weeks before Iowans cast their First in the Nation votes. The lesson for 2016 may be exactly what Silver and others are saying. There remains fluidity, and the inevitability of Donald Trump in Iowa (or anywhere else) is not at all certain. If the past holds any indicators for today, at two months ahead of the caucuses a very large share of the vote is still in play, no matter what people tell pollsters today. And in particular, given that GOP voters appear to make later decisions even in 2008 when both parties had large fields, there is every reason to think we have a lot more ups and downs to watch before this whole thing is over. Some people are committed, but most are still shopping, even as their choice set gets smaller and the shopping days fly by.

Final note: The data we collected with our 2008 in-caucus, along with the survey instruments, are available for anyone to examine at


Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Iowa Caucues

A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Senator Cory Booker: On the Rise to 2016?

As we gear up for our next Rutgers-Eagleton Poll – the big 200th in 44 years of polling New Jersey! – our student staff takes a closer look at some of the data from our October survey that we have not yet had a chance to fully explore.

Senator Cory Booker: On the Rise to 2016?

By Evan Covello

Evan Covello is a sophomore at Rutgers University. Evan is a research assistant with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.


With only a few months to go until the primaries are underway, speculation regarding potential running mates will be heating up as the parties narrow down their fields. New Jersey’s own U.S. Senator Cory Booker, has emerged as a potential 2016 running mate for Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who currently leads the national polls for the Democratic nomination. As such, it is a good time for us to revisit Sen. Booker’s numbers – at least within his home state.

In his home state of New Jersey, 54 percent of registered voters have a favorable opinion of Senator Booker, with only 21 percent unfavorable toward him. Race influences Booker’s high favorability; Booker’s favorability is higher among those who identify as being non-white (59 percent) as opposed to those who identify as white (52 percent). Specifically, 80 percent of those who identify as black are favorable of Senator Booker, with only 8 percent saying they are unfavorable.

Age is also a large factor in Booker’s high favorability. Those who fall between the ages of 18-29 are favorable of Senator Booker at 51 percent, with 13 percent unfavorable, and 36 percent responding that they have no opinion or do not know. Although Booker’s favorability rises with age, so do negative feelings toward him, and the gap between those who view him favorably and unfavorably decreases. For example, those 50-64 years old have a higher favorability of Senator Booker (54 percent), but 26 percent are unfavorable – a 28-point gap, compared to a 38-point gap among millennials. Millennials – who, just like the Senator, are know for their tech savvy ways – have been a key demographic for Sen. Booker during his time in New Jersey.

Another demographic that one would normally expect to be a large support base for Democratic candidates would be women. The Center for American Women and Politics addresses the issue of the gender gap between the two political parties, showing that women are more likely to register as Democrats than as Republicans and are more likely to register as Democrats than men. With Booker being a Democrat, we would expect support among women to be a strong factor in his high level of favorability. Gender is not statistically significant for Sen. Booker, however, as there is very little difference between men (53 percent) and women (54 percent) who are favorable toward him.

With strong ratings throughout New Jersey – especially among those groups that make up a large portion of the Democratic base – Sen. Booker may be a great addition to a Clinton presidential ticket for 2016, especially with key demographics.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Cory Booker, Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized

Eagleton in Iowa Series: Trump in Iowa

For the last few months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Read below for Dave’s take on frontrunner Donald Trump.

Donald Trump: Superman with a Super Will

I think I get it now. I mean, I got it intellectually before. People are angry, frustrated, looking for something. But after attending a Donald Trump event in Burlington recently, I get it emotionally. At least I can see what the feeling of Trump means to the true-believer Trumpites.

Trump is about a future that is much better than today and more importantly about the force of will to make it so. Most candidates have some future-looking aspect to their campaign which they claim they will pursue if elected. But Trump really seems different, so bombastic in his praise of himself and his abilities that you almost have to believe it could be true.

Trump1The rally is being held in Burlington, Iowa’s Memorial Auditorium, which hulks along the Mississippi River. The Auditorium was opened nearly 80 years ago, and according to its website was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the depression-era agency that was responsible for massive public works projects around the country. Inside, the space is perfect for this kind of rally. Big open space in front of the stage, surrounded by seating on multiple levels for those of us who did not want to stand for hours.

Ironically, perhaps, the WPA was a government effort to rebuild America, physically, while putting people to work. It succeeded at least in terms of the schools, libraries, auditoriums, and the like it left behind. It was a previous era’s attempt to recover from malaise and make America great again. But it was an effort that required hard work and sacrifice. Not so the make it great again of Donald Trump.Trump2

Waiting for the main event, the nearly overflowing crowd – 2,000+ people – is excited and anticipatory, waiting on the man that many see as a potential savior of our country, of our future. What fascinates me, and challenges logic, is that this savior is not one of them, did not rise out of the masses to come to save us, but instead is himself part of the moneyed elite that candidates on both sides are spending a great deal of time attacking of the aisle spend attacking. Somehow, the fact that Trump is not one of us adds to his power; it is plausible to think since he’s traveled in those rarefied circles he fully understands how to make the world do what he wants.

Tana Goertz, Trump’s Iowa co-chair gives a short warm up speech reminding folks that they have to caucus for anything to happen. Given the location, many of those at the event were from Illinois rather than Iowa, so the pitch made for filling out Trump commitment cards was lost on them. But both the call for committing to caucus and an additional enticement of a Trump T-shirt for signing up as a precinct leader provided some evidence that the Trump campaign in Iowa has pivoted to the necessary ground game. But that’s neither here nor there right now.

Goertz closes by calling out to the crowd in a way that almost felt chilling to me: The Trump train will steamroll anything in its way to the White House. While this may or may not be the case – the day after the rally the first poll showing Ben Carson ahead of Trump was released, and more have come since – the crowd responds with a roar.

What I feel in that roaring crowd is a palpable sense of desire for something, anything, that will somehow change things. What things? Well, that’s not so clear. In many cases people have specifics on their mind. And Trump himself, once he gets past the first 20+ minutes reading his poll results, does address a few issues. But for the most part, that’s not what people are excited about. Oh, sure, they cheer Trumps’ claim that he will lower taxes and simplify the tax code (“It will be beautiful,” he says.) And they seem to like the other policies he touches on. The crowd also appreciates the idea that, as Trump says, “Nobody controls me.” And they really go wild when he says “I’m a good Christian, when I’m president we will say Merry Christmas again.

But they aren’t really there for all that.

What they are there for is to see Trump as Trump, the ultimate salesman, who tells us that he is running because he’s tired of others failing. In particular he calls out Mitt Romney, saying Romney failed, so I have to do it myself. Trump, who no matter how much is spent against him will prevail because he is literally superman. He knows how it all works, and he will cut through it all by the force of his outsized will.

Trump3As Trump goes on with an hour-long stream-of-consciousness speech, I decide that the crowd basically just likes the language. They like the superlatives, the self-referential ego-driven commentary, and yes, the demagoguery. It touches them emotionally and in the end, the effect seems to be to make people feel good about themselves just because they were there to hear it all. The rhetoric hits home. American is losing, and keeps losing.

It is a depressing message and one other candidates use as well. I’m thinking here particularly of Bobby Jindal’s talk about the loss of the “idea of America.” But in Trump’s world that losing will end. Not might end, not might be fixed a little, but, as simply put by Trump, “We won’t lose any more. I will make us great. Hillary won’t have a clue about what’s happening with jobs going to other countries. Hillary would say we don’t like it, but would be hit by lobbyists. I’ll be hit, but they won’t have a chance, it’s over.” He goes on to say that he has the best people, and the best people can fix it. And the crowd continues to cheer. All that is needed to make this happen is the best people, and the best of the best is Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is superman. And like Star Trek’s Captain Picard, Donald Trump just has to say it to “make it so.” The will to make it happen is the power to make it happen. All that’s missing in Washington and America is someone who has the will to just fix it, and Donald Trump tells us he has it. Who wouldn’t want that?

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President

Eagleton in Iowa: Is 2016 the Last 1st in the Nation Iowa Caucus?

For the last two months, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling Director David Redlawsk has been in Iowa, studying the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses, following up on work he and colleagues did in 2007-08 for the book Why Iowa?.

What follows is another in our occasional series of blog posts from him about his experiences and about the campaigns for president. These posts were originally published on the Drake University Caucus Blog; Dave is in residence as a Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement. In addition to these posts, he is tweeting @DavidRedlawsk as he attends events and watches the process unfold.

Today’s post is in response to what has become a regular game: threatening the position of Iowa and New Hampshire as the first in the nation states. Some people think Iowa is at risk.  Read below to see why Dave’s not so sure that’s the case.

RNC Chair Suggests Iowa and New Hampshire Might not be First Next Time

And so it begins. The quadrennial effort to change the status quo where Iowa leads the presidential nomination process with the caucuses, followed by New Hampshire’s primary, is underway. And like all efforts before it, this one seems unlikely to succeed.

DSC08661Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus recently commented that as the planning begins for 2020, the early “carve-out” states are not sacred cows, as he put it. Instead, Priebus seems to suggest that a more regional or even national approach might be considered.

Since 1976, the Iowa Republican and Democratic parties have zealously guarded their leadoff slot, even to the extent of writing it into state law, which requires that Iowa be the first event. New Hampshire also requires that it be first, but since Iowa does not hold a primary, that state has been content to be the first primary state. Every four years someone, or a number of someones, threatens the status of these two states; through all of it Iowa and New Hampshire’s positions have been maintained. And for good reason.

As my colleagues and I describe in Why Iowa?, a regional or national primary is no panacea and would probably bring a different set of problems and its own unintended consequences. Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the more recent carve-out states of South Carolina and, to a lesser extent, Nevada, require a kind of retail politics that we think makes candidates better. Instead of just sound-bites, airport tarmac speeches, and massive TV ad campaigns, candidates today must meet actual voters, answer questions, and explain themselves. In a regional, and even more so in a national, primary, candidates would almost never get out of the campaign bubble and never be forced to respond to voters. And trust me, responding to the media does not take the place of talking to voters. Grassroots campaigns allows voters to better check candidate quality than a TV based campaign, where there is no direct feedback loop from meeting voters in small groups. One of the greatest strengths of Iowa and New Hampshire is that it is possible for candidates to meet and shake the hands of a large percentage of those who will actually be supporting them at the polls. Voters learn from this and candidates do, too.

And to solve what problem? That these early states are somehow too influential? Of course they matter, because they go first. And agreed, a regional or national approach would limit their influence, but it would also limit the influence of all voters as candidates focus on media, as well as bias the process toward the very large, vote-rich states, leaving most states out in the cold. Candidates who might have something to offer, but haven’t spent years building up superpacs and huge war chests, would have less than no opportunity to be heard in an ad-driven large-scale campaign. We would trade one set of concerns for another, and for an untested new system with few obvious benefits.

IMG_1100There is a place for large-scale campaigns, of course, and we do get something akin to them during so-called “Super Tuesdays,” when a number of states bunch up on a particular primary date. The ability of candidates to personally campaign in front of a large share of the voters is limited, but the TV ads and media campaigns are not.

At the same time, there may be some value to limiting the lengthy sequential nature of the process. In Why Iowa? we proposed a hybrid – what we call a “caucus window/national primary” system. The process would start with a caucus window running for several weeks, during which no primaries would be held, but any small state that wanted to hold a caucus could. These caucuses would most likely get media attention as the first tests of candidate organizing ability and would presumably maintain the grassroots politics benefits of the current system. The results would be informative to voters; in essence the caucuses would be an initial vetting of the candidates.

Once that window closes, all states would hold simultaneous primaries – a national primary – at which delegates would be elected. Many details (such as delegate allocation and what to do if no one wins a majority) would need to be worked out, but the basic idea (expanded on in more detail in Why Iowa?) would preserve the benefits of the grassroots caucus process while allowing more voters in more states to have a real say in what happens.

But what about the chances of things actually changing, either in the direction we suggest or along the lines of the RNC Chairman’s musings? I would suggest the odds are Slim to None, and Slim has left the room (as we used to say back home). The simple reason is that the national parties actually have relatively little direct control over when primaries and caucuses are held. Sure, there are national rules, and supposedly sanctions can be applied, but the evidence so far is that rules and sanctions have very limited effects. But it is state parties – and in many cases state legislatures – that set the actual dates, and they do so based on their own calculations.

Second, and maybe more importantly, one Bill Gardner pretty much outweighs everyone else combined. Gardner is New Hampshire’s Secretary of State, and under state law he has the absolute power to set the date of the NH primary. He has made it clear, year after year, that NH will hold the first primary whenever it has to be held. And Iowa, which has a similar state law requiring the caucuses to be the first non-primary event, has not been shy to move its date either. Thus in 2008 and again in 2012, the Iowa caucuses were on January 3.

It seems likely that no matter what rules the RNC (and presumably the Democrats as well) establish about the order of nominating events, dislodging Iowa and New Hampshire will take more than the musings of the RNC Chair or even votes of the entire Republican National Committee. Of course, neither state cares all that much what comes after them; as long as the rules allow a carve-out for them, they will be happy. And if the rules don’t, they will probably violate the rules and go first anyway.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Iowa Caucues

NJ Voters to Christie: Resign since you’re running for President

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


Many say Christie Abandoning New Jersey; Lt. Gov. Seen as Prepared to Take Over

Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday, August 6th.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As NJ Gov. Chris Christie builds his presidential campaign, a majority of registered voters in the Garden State say he should resign as governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. But when told that Democratic state legislators want to pass a law forcing Christie – and all future governors – to resign upon making an official bid for president, voters change their tune.

Forty-five percent of voters told of the Democratic proposal say Christie should be “forced” to resign, while 52 percent say he should be allowed to remain as governor. Among those not given this additional information, 54 percent want Christie to step down, while 41 percent believe he should continue to serve.

“New Jerseyans want the governor to resign now that he is officially in the 2016 primary race – but they want him to do it on his own terms,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While those here at home show little love for Christie or his presidential run, they are nevertheless against his Democratic opposition ousting him from office.”

Support for a Christie resignation stems, at least in part, from a belief that the governor has all but abandoned New Jersey – literally and figuratively. Just 8 percent of respondents thought Christie was physically in New Jersey on the day they were surveyed; 44 percent believed he was out of state. Nearly, half, however, were unsure of Christie’s whereabouts. Even on July 30, the one day of polling when Christie was in the state according to WNYC’s “The Christie Tracker,” voters were no more likely to think he was here.

Fifty-three percent of voters think the constant out-of-state traveling hurts Christie’s ability to be an effective governor, the highest percentage ever recorded by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. However, 39 percent say it has no effect at all. Moreover, 59 percent believe Christie’s issue positions and decisions to sign or veto bills are more about his presidential run than about what is best for New Jersey; 27 percent say the opposite.

Half of voters view Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno as at least somewhat prepared to take over as governor, if necessary; just 15 percent say she is not prepared, and another 35 percent are unsure. Still, few voters have any impression of Guadagno: 15 percent are favorable, 14 percent unfavorable, and the remainder either does not recognize her name or have no impression at all.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Context alters attitudes toward Christie resignation

One-half of poll respondents were asked the straightforward resignation question without any context: should Christie resign now that he is running for president. The others received additional information about the Democrats’ proposed legislation that would “force” Christie into resignation.

While a majority of those getting the question without context says Christie should quit now, voters who were told the Democrats want to force him from office are nine points less likely to support Christie leaving and 11 points more likely to support him staying.

Partisans of all stripes are less likely to say Christie should be “forced” to resign, though to varying degrees: Democrats are seven points less likely (at 61 percent resign when given additional information), independents six points less likely (at 45 percent), and Republicans 13 points less likely (at 22 percent).

A majority of Republicans agrees Christie should continue to serve in both versions but are much more likely to say so when told about the Democrats’ bill – 62 percent compared to 76 percent in the latter scenario. Just over half of independents stand by Christie continuing as governor in the Democratic legislation version, 52 percent compared to 43 percent without the context. Even Democrats show a nine-point spike in support for Christie between the two versions: 26 percent say he should not resign in the straightforward question, while 35 percent say he should not when presented additional information.

“Identifying Democrats as the bill’s authors and its provision to “force” Christie to resign causes independents to completely switch sides and boosts support among Republicans for Christie to remain as governor,” said Koning. “It even suppresses support for resignation among Democrats.”

Voters see Candidate Christie as putting New Jersey second

Christie receives a slight post-presidential announcement boost in views about whether he is putting New Jersey ahead of his presidential run. Voters are five points more likely to say he is focused on New Jersey than they were last February, but a clear majority still says the governor is more focused on his campaign. Christie’s own GOP base remains split over his priorities. Forty-four percent of Republicans say his words and deeds have been about what is best for the Garden State, down 13 points over the past eight months, while 40 percent think Christie is making decisions that would benefit his presidential run, up 13 points.

Just 16 percent of Democrats believe Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey; 72 percent do not. Independents’ views of Christie’s motivations are also negative: 28 percent think he’s acting for the state, versus 60 percent who say decisions are about a presidential run.

Voters also increasingly feel that Christie’s travels – whether for the Republican Governor’s Association last year or for his lead up to and eventual run for president this year – negatively impact his ability to govern here. This number has now surpassed the 50-percent mark for the first time since initially being asked in November 2013.

Republican voters still give Christie the benefit of the doubt: 59 percent say his frequent trips have no impact, while 36 percent now saying they hurt his ability to govern effectively.

But independents and Democrats see things differently: 52 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats say his travels hurt his governorship.

“Governor” Guadagno?

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno continues to remain mostly unknown, even among Republicans: while only 9 percent of her base has an unfavorable opinion of her, just 23 percent has a favorable one. Sixty-eight percent either has no opinion or does not know who she is. About seven in ten Democrats and independents are unaware of or uncertain about the lieutenant governor.

This does not stop half of New Jersey voters, however, from believing she is at least somewhat prepared to take Christie’s place as governor if it were necessary. Guadagno garners the most support from GOP voters: 16 percent think she is very prepared to take over, and another 40 percent say somewhat prepared. Democrats and independents give her similar credit for her experience; 46 percent of the former and 50 percent of the latter say she would be at least somewhat ready for the job. A large percentage of Republicans (30 percent), Democrats (39 percent), and independents (35 percent) remain unsure.

Those who know and like Guadagno definitely see her as ready: 34 percent say she is very prepared and 52 percent say somewhat prepared. Those with a negative opinion of the lieutenant governor are more split, with 39 percent seeing her as prepared, 38 percent seeing her as not prepared, and 23 percent unsure. Those with no opinion or awareness of Guadagno are most likely to say they are uncertain of her preparedness to take over, at 44 percent, but another 35 percent of this group say she is somewhat prepared and 8 percent say very.

“While Christie assures he is still in charge while out of state, the State Constitution makes Guadagno ‘acting governor’ whenever he is away,” noted Koning. “Since Christie has been gone 55 percent of the time this year, maybe voters feel she can handle the job simply because she has already been doing it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Kim Guadagno, NJ Voters

No “Announcement Bump” for Christie’s Character: NJ Voters Still Don’t See Him as Presidential … Instead, More Arrogant, Self-Centered, and a Bully

We continue with our numbers on Gov. Chris Christie this week – this time once again polling several questions on his character traits and how he makes NJ voters feel. We have been asking these questions since right around when the governor first took office. The ups and downs of these numbers are pretty remarkable: positivity about the governor’s character skyrocketed between Sandy through his 2013 re-election, peaking to the highest numbers ever recorded, but starting in January 2014, this came to an abrupt end in the aftermath of the George Washington Bridge Scandal. Voters in the Garden State have had an increasingly negative outlook on the governor’s character and how he makes them feel ever since then, with double-digit shifts (all turns for the worse) in all categories between his re-election and now.

Christie actually fares the worst on our newest trait – “presidential.” Up just four points from April, only 14 percent of NJ voters now think this attribute suits Christie very well. Only time will tell if the debate has changed this perception.

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


Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted prior to Gov. Chris Christie qualifying as a participant in Fox News’ first Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday, August 6th.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Over a month into Gov. Chris Christie’s official 2016 run, voters back home still do not see him as presidential material, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie at all, versus 29 percent who think it describes the governor somewhat well and just 14 percent who say “very well.” These numbers are little changed since April, as have other positive traits that would be considered important to his presidential run.

About half still believe “smart” describes him very well; another third, somewhat. Four in 10 say “strong leader” is very apt (another quarter, somewhat). “Effective” and “trustworthy” continue to suffer post-Bridgegate: 27 percent now feel the former describes him very well (40 percent, somewhat), and 21 percent say the same about the latter (31 percent, somewhat).

Negative perceptions of Christie continue to inch up, with “arrogant” (58 percent very, 25 percent somewhat), “self-centered” (52 percent very, 24 percent somewhat), and “bully” (49 percent very, 25 percent somewhat) reaching new highs. Two-thirds continue to describe Christie as very “stubborn,” (another 22 percent, somewhat). Forty-four percent think “impulsive” is very fitting; 28 percent say somewhat.

“Views on Christie’s character go hand-in-hand with his falling ratings here in the Garden State and are undoubtedly, at least in part, an expression of New Jerseyans’ feelings about his presidential run,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Christie receives no character boost from his official 2016 announcement over a month ago and has yet to recover from post-Bridgegate fallout, which has spurred double-digit shifts in perceptions of him since the overwhelmingly positive responses he drew between Sandy and his re-election in 2013.”

Voters continue to feel “angry” about Christie (now at 43 percent), while almost half are “worried,” and a third even feel “contempt.” About three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic,” but both are down by double digits since Christie’s re-election in 2013, each a six-point drop since Bridgegate alone.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Differences across, within partisanship on positive traits

Christie gets virtually no “announcement bump” from Democrats, independents, or Republicans in being perceived as presidential. Just 6 percent of Democrats continue to say this trait suits him very well, as do 12 percent of independents; a majority of both groups say it does not fit him at all (73 percent and 52 percent, respectively). Twenty-eight percent of Republicans think “presidential” is a very apt descriptor for Christie, on the other hand, while another 42 percent say somewhat and 28 percent say not at all – little changed since measured pre-announcement in April.

Other positive trait perceptions of Christie overall seem to have stabilized for now after 18 months of consistent declines, but some partisan fluctuation continues. Democrats’ positive outlook continues to drop: just 22 percent say strong leader fits Christie very well, down nine points since April, and 34 percent say the same for smart, down six points. Democrats remain virtually steady in their ratings of Christie’s effectiveness (now 15 percent) and trustworthiness (now 7 percent).

Independents, on the other hand, are more likely to ascribe positive qualities to Christie since April: up eight points on both smart (to 54 percent) and leader (to 43 percent) and eight points on trustworthy (to 23 percent). This group remains about the same in saying effective fits Christie very well, at 24 percent.

After helping drive declines in positive perceptions of Christie in April, Republicans now have a somewhat improved outlook on the governor. Among GOP voters, 64 percent say strong leader fits Christie very well, up four points, and 54 percent say the same for effective, up nine points. Republicans are stable in their views of Christie as very smart (71 percent) and trustworthy (38 percent).

“This reprieve from Christie’s free fall on positive characteristics benefits the governor – especially as he gains back some positivity from independents and Republicans,” said Koning. “But Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike continue to budge little in their lackluster views on Christie as presidential. Only time will tell if his debate participation and continued campaigning will alter this perception, but as of now, not even the governor’s home state seems to think he’s right for the Oval Office.”

Independents spur new negative trait highs

In April, Christie’s own party base was a major reason for increasingly negative perceptions about the governor, but this time around, independent voters are mainly the culprits.

On arrogance – now at its highest point ever – just over seven in 10 Democrats still say the trait describes Christie very well; Republicans actually show a nine-point decline in the trait’s aptness, now at 33 percent. The trait jumps with independents to 60 percent, up eight points from a few months ago.

Independents once again show the largest increase in calling Christie very self-centered, up 10 points to 55 percent. But Democrats and Republicans show small increases on this trait as well, the former up five points to 65 percent and the latter up three points to 29 percent.

Independents also take a double-digit leap on their application of bully – up 11 points to 51 percent. Democrats, on the other hand, hold steady at 63 percent, saying bully fits Christie very well, while 25 percent of Republicans feel the same.

These patterns continue for both stubborn and impulsive. Three-quarters of Democrats think stubborn fits Christie very well, compared to about half of Republicans. Sixty-seven percent of independents view the governor as stubborn, a six-point jump since April.

Independents are slightly more likely to now believe Christie is more impulsive as well. Forty-six percent of that group now says this describes Christie very well, up five points. Democrats actually show a small decrease here, down five points to 48 percent. A third of Republicans continue to think impulsive is very fitting.

“This increase in independents’ application of negative traits is troubling for the governor, especially as a presidential candidate who prides himself on his across-the-aisle appeal and hopes to win New Hampshire,” said Koning. “And while Christie certainly had a solid debate performance last Thursday, his spat with Rand Paul, his constant campaigning out of state, and his recent remarks about wanting to punch teachers in the face will not diminish perceptions of him as arrogant and a bully – at least not in New Jersey.”

Partisanship drives emotions

While emotional responses to reading or hearing about Christie have moved only slightly overall, Democrats show noticeable changes since April. Just 11 percent now say Christie makes them proud, down nine points since a few months ago; 30 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans feel the same. Democrats show a 6-point decline in enthusiasm, now 14 percent; 28 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic. Democrats are also six points angrier than they were in April – now 60 percent. Twenty percent of Republicans and 40 percent of independents feel similarly.

It is only on worry and contempt that Democrats have remained steady – now at 63 percent for the former and 39 percent for the latter. Worry has increased 10 points among independents, to 47 percent. Yet it has subsided a bit for Republicans, now at 22 percent (down six points). Independents feel about the same amount of contempt as in April (34 percent), while Republicans have significantly cooled on this feeling as well, down 12 points to 23 percent.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters

Trump leads among NJ GOP; Voters expect Christie to do well in debate, but they say it won’t matter

With the first official GOP debate just days away, we asked New Jersey voters about how they think Gov. Chris Christie will do, IF he is one of the top ten candidates who will be invited. Voters in our state expect Christie to be on the Cleveland, OH debate stage, and think he is likely to do at least as well, if not better, than the other candidates. But they also think it really won’t matter much, that the governor’s best chance for the presidency is in the past. In fact, like the rest of the country, it seems, New Jersey GOP voters are looking carefully at Donald Trump, who now leads Christie as their first choice. One important point about this head-to-head test is that we do NOT ask voters to pick from a list of 17 names. Instead, we ask them to tell us who they would like to see as the nominee, without giving them the names. This is not, of course, how a ballot looks in an election, and it requires people to think of names. So given all the media attention, it is not surprising that Trump rises to the top. But we suspect no matter how we asked it, we would have seen the same result.

This release also represents a temporary transition for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. As we announced last week, Ashley Koning is our new assistant director, and over the next six months she will be the primary spokesperson for the Poll. Director David Redlawsk will be away from Rutgers on a research project focused on the presidential nomination process, spending most of the rest of this year in Iowa. He will return next semester.

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


Trump stands atop list for NJ Republicans; Christie distant second

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie clings to the last spot in national polling for Thursday’s primetime Republican presidential debate, most New Jersey voters expect him to make the top 10, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just under a quarter of registered voters say Christie is very likely to be on the stage, while another 43 percent say it is somewhat likely he will make the event. Just 28 percent think Christie will miss the cutoff for the big debate.

New Jersey voters see Christie as a good debater. If he makes the cut Thursday, a third of voters say he will give one of the strongest debate performances, while about half say he will do at least as well as the other contenders. Only about 10 percent think Christie would be one of the weakest debaters.

But optimism about Christie and the debate does not translate into good will toward a potential Christie presidency. Seven in 10 voters say Christie would not make a good president, and 55 percent think Christie’s best chance for getting the GOP nomination has already come and gone. Only about one-third of New Jersey voters say he still has a shot, while 6 percent say he never had one in the first place, and 5 percent are unsure.

“About the only thing New Jersey voters and Gov. Christie agree on is their belief that he will make the top 10 Thursday night,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “New Jerseyans also respect the governor’s ability to hold his own if he does join the debate. But they remain sour about the thought of a ‘President’ Christie and don’t expect him to snag the nomination. Most share the growing belief that Christie missed his chance to run for president at the height of his popularity.”

Christie is also no longer the top choice among New Jersey Republican voters for the nomination. Just as in national polls, Trump fever has spread to Garden State GOPers, with 21 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters naming the businessman as their candidate of choice. Christie comes in a distant second at 12 percent.

Yet Trump is held in low esteem in New Jersey: just 27 percent of New Jersey voters say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 59 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 15 percent are unsure.

Results are from a statewide poll of 867 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 25 to August 1, including 757 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie supporters most hopeful about his debate chances

While New Jersey voters are mostly positive about the governor’s prospects in this week’s GOP debate, optimism about Christie’s participation and performance is especially strong among those who generally support him. A third of Republicans believe it is very likely Christie will make the top 10 Thursday night, compared to 23 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats. Republicans are also most positive when it comes to predicting how Christie would do in the debate itself, with 51 percent saying he would be one of the strongest debaters; 35 percent of independents and 26 percent of Democrats say the same, with another half of each group saying his performance would be about average.

Half of voters who say Christie will very likely be in the debate also say he will be one of the strongest candidates that night.

“Love him or hate him, few in New Jersey think Gov. Christie is completely out of it just yet – at least when it comes to this first debate – and if he makes it, no one thinks he will be put in a corner by the other candidates on stage,” said Koning. “The governor is known for his public speaking skills, his confidence and his quick-on-his-feet rebuttals. The opportunity to be on the stage could give Christie the boost he so desperately needs to stand out. And New Jerseyans seem to agree there is a chance he will be there and will succeed.”

Little faith in a Christie presidency

But New Jersey voters still resist the idea of “President” Christie in general, with views on how he would do as president virtually unchanged since April. Despite Christie’s claims of working effectively across party lines, 84 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents say the governor would not make a good president. Even Republicans remain mixed, with 50 percent saying he would and 45 percent saying he would not.

Seventy percent of men and women alike, 80 percent of nonwhite voters, and about 70 percent of voters under 65 feel the same about a Christie presidency. Exurban and shore residents have a more positive outlook than others, with about a third saying he would make a good Commander in Chief. Given the governor’s crusade against public employee unions, it is not surprising that 75 percent of voters in public union households say Christie would not make a good president.

NJ Republicans want … President Trump?

In what is now a fading memory, when asked in December 2014 to name the candidate they would support for president, 32 percent of New Jersey Republican voters named Gov. Christie as their top choice. Mitt Romney came in far behind at 10 percent and Jeb Bush a distant third at 6 percent.

Half a year later, the field looks very different, and some New Jersey GOPers – much like their fellow partisans in the rest of the country – have turned toward a candidate who has recently been trumping all others in the race: Donald Trump. The entrepreneur is named by a fifth of Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the Garden State as their top pick. Christie garners just over half that number, at 12 percent – now just 2 points ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

But just because Republicans name Trump as their top choice does not mean they have an overwhelmingly favorable view of him. Republican views of him are somewhat mixed, with 47 percent assessing him favorably while 35 percent are unfavorable. Trump is far less liked among Democrats (11 percent favorable, 79 percent unfavorable) and independents (29 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable).

Trump is also viewed more negatively by women (62 percent unfavorable), non-white voters (66 percent unfavorable), those who have done graduate work (68 percent unfavorable), and urbanites (68 percent unfavorable). Not a single group gives the business tycoon a favorable majority.

“Since Trump threw his hat in the ring in June, he has been all over the media and – to perhaps the shock of many – leading both state and nationwide polls,” said Koning. “So when we ask Republicans in the Garden State to name their top candidate, it is no wonder Trump is at the forefront of their minds. Whether it is because Trump’s name comes up most often in an unprecedentedly large Republican field, or because they share ‘The Donald’s’ views, New Jersey Republicans are looking much like Republicans everywhere – now largely abandoning their own governor for the other ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ candidate from across the river.”


1 Comment

Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Donald Trump, NJ Voters

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, New Jersey, NJ Voters, Uncategorized

NJ Voters Not Particularly Positive about Christie Traits

Today we release results from our roughly  every six months assessment of how NJ voters view a set of positive and negative traits that might be ascribed to Gov. Chris Christie. The last time we did this was in October, 2014. At that time positive traits were moving down and negatives moving up. As it turns out the trend has continued. Perceptions of Christie as trustworthy, fair, effective, and reformer are all at new lows. Meanwhile negative trait perceptions continue to become stronger – in particular arrogant, bully, and impulsive are all at new highs. What do we learn from questions like these? Mostly we get another perspective on what might underlie the decline in Gov. Christie’s overall ratings, beyond how voters think he’s doing on the issues. While issues do matter, so do perceptions of a politician as a leader. Unfortunately for the governor, those perceptions are also declining significantly.

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


Most see governor as ‘stubborn’ with weaker positive traits: Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As a kinder, gentler Chris Christie wooed New Hampshire Republicans last week in a visit that included two town hall meetings, New Jersey voters are less likely than ever to apply positive personality and leadership traits to their governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 17 percent now say “trustworthy” describes the governor “very well,” while 44 percent say it does not apply at all. Another 36 percent think it applies only “somewhat well.”
Besides the decline in trustworthiness, three other positive traits have reached new lows since last polled in October 2014. Only one in five voters now thinks the terms “reformer” or “fair” describe Christie very well, and only a quarter say the same for “effective.”

The perception of Christie as a “strong leader,” which two-thirds of voters thought described Christie very well throughout 2013, has dropped to 39 percent, its lowest point since August 2010.

“These declines in how New Jersey voters see Christie’s positive traits are clearly part of what is driving the continued declines we have reported in his favorability and job ratings, and in views of him as a good president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While issues matter – and Christie’s numbers keeps hitting new lows there as well – voters are very much attuned to personality and leadership traits.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll recently reported that only 24 percent of New Jersey voters think Christie would make a “good president,” and 54 percent disapprove of his job performance.

Perceptions of Christie’s negative traits have not changed quite as dramatically as his positives. The new poll records further upticks in voters who say “arrogant” (57 percent) “bully” (45 percent) and “impulsive” (43 percent) describe the governor very well, with all three at new highs. In addition, while easing slightly since October 2014, 64 percent still say “stubborn” applies very well, and 46 percent continue to think “self-centered” is a very apt descriptor for the governor.

“Governor Christie needs to convince Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire that he’s not the arrogant bully that many back home seem to think he is,” said Redlawsk. “He is in a tough position, though. Voters want leaders, but they want a certain humbleness at the same time. While Christie gets kudos in the press for last week’s warm and fuzzy New Hampshire town halls, there are an awful lot of YouTube videos showing something very different in New Jersey over the past five years.”

After last year’s Bridgegate scandal destroyed a year of Sandy-induced positivity, voters are feeling slightly more “angry” about Christie (now at 40 percent) while 43 percent are “worried.” An even stronger emotion, contempt, is felt by one-third of New Jersey voters, the first time this question has been asked.
As for positive emotions, Christie has experienced some slippage: about three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic.” Both are down four points since October.

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 to April 3, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Republicans sour on positive perceptions of Christie

Similar to Christie’s overall ratings, the declines in positive trait perceptions are driven, in part, by his own party base. Trustworthiness shows an 11-point drop among Republicans over the past six months, to 37 percent who now say the label describes him very well. Independents show a decline of six points to 15 percent, while the number of Democrats who trust Christie remains stable at just 8 percent.

Republican support for Christie as a strong leader in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy has also declined precipitously. While 60 percent of GOP voters still say the trait describes the governor very well, this is down 15 points since October. By comparison, independents are down 12 points to 36 percent, with Democrats holding relatively steady at 31 percent.

GOP support for two other positive Christie characteristics declined by double digits. Forty-five percent of GOP voters now think effective applies very well, while 44 percent see the term “fair” in the same light. Both are down 10 points since last polled.

Only 18 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Independents now say effective applies very well, and 11 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of independents say the same for fair.

A larger number of partisans regardless of party still believe Christie is independent and smart. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats, 43 percent of independents, and 65 percent of Republicans say independent describes the governor very well; 40 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of independents, and 71 percent of Republicans say the same about smart.

Negative perceptions increase slightly

Voters’ perceptions of negative traits that might apply to Christie have changed only incrementally since a significant increase in the immediate Bridgegate aftermath. More than half of all partisans continue to say stubborn – dubbed the most apt description of Christie – describes him very well: 77 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans take this position.

Arrogant shows more of a divide. While 73 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents say this describes Christie very well, 42 percent of Republicans say the same. But that doesn’t mean the rest of Republicans think the trait does not apply at all – just 22 percent say this, compared to another 35 percent who say it fits him somewhat well.

The infamous trait of bully has ticked up most noticeably for Republicans, with 26 percent now saying this describes the governor very well (up seven points). Sixty-two percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents say the same, little changed from October. A similar pattern emerges on self-centered, with 60 percent of Democrats, 45 percent of independents, and 26 percent of Republicans saying the traits suits him very well.

Impulsive has also seen a notable jump among GOP voters – up nine points to 34 percent. Forty-one percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats now believe the governor is impulsive.

“Assuming Christie continues to show a ‘softer’ side in his responses to challengers at town hall meetings, some of these negative trait perceptions may be reversed,” noted Redlawsk. “Many of them reflect that the governor has been seen to publicly attack even average citizens who disagree with him. Backing away from the direct confrontations that have defined him for New Jerseyans could be a very good strategy if he pursues a national run.”

Partisans’ emotions

While emotional responses to reading or hearing about Christie have moved only slightly overall since October, partisan patterns resemble the ups and downs seen with traits. GOP voters especially show a decline in more positive emotions towards the governor – pride is now at 56 percent (down 13 points) and enthusiasm is now at 49 percent (down 15 points).

The already low numbers for Democrats and independents are little changed: one in five Democrats feel either positive emotion, while one in three independents do.
Negative emotions show less movement, with all partisans relatively stable since October. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 21 percent of Republicans feel angry. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 37 percent of independents, and 28 percent of Republicans feel worried.

Asked for the first time in this series, the feeling of contempt is expressed by one-third of voters overall and shows virtually no partisan split. While 37 percent of Democrats say they feel contempt thinking about Christie, so do 35 percent of Republicans, and 30 percent of independent voters.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 President, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, NJ Voters