OVAL OFFICE, CHRISTIE PERFECT TOGETHER? NEW JERSEY VOTERS DON’T SEE GOVERNOR AS GOOD FIT FOR PRESIDENT
Majority thinks he will run but 58 percent say ‘presidential’ is not apt description
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to host town hall events in New Hampshire, scene of the first 2016 presidential primary, an increasing number of New Jersey registered voters think Christie would not make a good president, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 24 percent think Christie would be a good president, while 69 percent say he would not, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll.
Voters are mixed on the likelihood of Christie becoming the Republican nominee. Forty-four percent say the governor’s chances have worsened over the past few months, 46 percent say they are about the same, but only 6 percent say they have improved.
Moreover, given a range of character traits, 58 percent of voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie “at all,” versus 28 percent who think it describes the governor “somewhat well” and 10 percent who say “very well.”
Still, most voters do not think these declining prospects will deter New Jersey’s governor: 57 percent still believe he will become a candidate, 32 percent do not, and 11 percent are unsure. In December 2014, 63 percent thought he would try for the GOP nomination and 25 percent did not.
“Voters who know Gov. Christie best simply do not see him as president,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “New Jerseyans have watched him in good times and bad. While his strengths were on display after the Sandy disaster, he was seen as just another politician after the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations it spawned, and he has never recovered.”
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.
Only his staunchest supporters envision ‘President Christie’
A Christie presidency is difficult to envision for most groups. Belying Christie’s claims that he appeals to Democrats and independents, 85 percent of the former group and 68 percent of the latter say the governor would not make a good president. Seventy-one percent of women, 66 percent of men, 79 percent of nonwhite voters, and 72 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) feel the same. Given the governor’s attacks on public employee unions, it is not surprising that 80 percent of voters in public union households say Christie would not make a good president.
Likewise, a majority of most groups would not describe Christie as presidential. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents say this does not describe Christie at all; another 21 percent and 29 percent, respectively, say it describes him somewhat well.
A surprisingly small majority of his most likely supporters can see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie. Twenty-five percent of GOP voters think presidential describes Christie very well and another 40 percent “somewhat well.” Thirty-two percent say the word does not describe him at all.
“It does seem that Christie’s better shot at the presidency might have been in 2012,” noted Redlawsk. “While New Jersey voters were also not keen on him running when we asked in 2011, the national environment was very different, with many Republican leaders begging him to run. Four additional years in office have not helped his case, even with his near-universal support right after Superstorm Sandy. It’s a different Republican pool, and a Bridgegate-damaged Chris Christie.”
Voters still expect a Christie Campaign
Despite declining job ratings at home and his apparent status as an also-ran in national Republican polls, a majority of respondents – 58 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Republicans – still expect Christie to run for president. Age and levels of education are more significant variables than political affiliation. Expectations that Christie will run decrease with age: 68 percent of voters, 18 to 34, say he will, compared to 41 percent of voters 65 and older. Belief that Christie will run increases among more educated voters: 49 percent among those with a high school education or less to 66 percent of those with graduate work.
Those who say Christie would make a good president are slightly more likely to say he will run, 65 percent compared to 55 percent who say he would not make a good president. Voters who believe “presidential” aptly describes Christie are also more likely than those who do not to believe he will seek the Republican nomination.
Mixed views on Christie’s presidential chances
Given relatively little positive press for the governor’s presidential efforts over the past few months, the vast majority of New Jersey voters do not think Christie has made any further gains towards 2016. Only Republicans (at 12 percent) and supporters of Christie and the job he is doing (at 10 percent) reach double-digits in believing that his presidential chances have improved.
Instead, voters are mostly split between whether Christie’s chances have worsened or remained the same. About the same share of independents (44 percent), Democrats (48 percent) and Republicans (48 percent) think his chances have not changed in the past few months. But 46 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents say Christie’s chances have worsened, along with 38 percent of Republicans.
Even voters with a favorable impression of Christie do not think things have improved for him in terms of 2016. Fifty-seven percent of his supporters say that Christie’s chances remain unchanged; another 26 percent say they have worsened. But the large majority of those unfavorable toward Christie see his chances declining: 60 percent think they have gotten worse, while 37 percent say his chances are holding steady. Only 2 percent think things have gotten better for the governor.
Voters who believe Christie will run in 2016 are more evenly split on his chances – 44 percent say they have worsened, 47 percent say they remain about the same. Voters who think Christie will not run are slightly more likely to say things have gotten worse: 51 percent to 46 percent who say his chances have not changed. Even those who believe Christie would make a good president and consider him “presidential” are squarely in the “unchanged” camp.