Category Archives: Christie NJ Rating

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.

CHRISTIE CHARACTER TRAITS LEAVE NEW JERSEY VOTERS DUBIOUS;  GOVERNOR SEEN AS LESS TRUSTWORTHY, MORE ARROGANT

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.

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NEW JERSEY VOTERS DON’T SEE GOVERNOR AS GOOD FIT FOR PRESIDENT

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

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.

 

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GOV CHRIS CHRISTIE’S NJ RATINGS: NEW LOWS FOR OVERALL JOB APPROVAL, SANDY, AND TAXES

Today we take our regular look at ratings given to Gov. Chris Christie by NJ voters. The story is pretty similar to February, when his favorability rating hit an all-time low. While that rating ticked back up slightly, the governor’s job performance rating fell some more, and in particular for the first time fewer than half approve his performance on Sandy recovery.

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

CHRISTIE’S NEGATIVE RATINGS CONTINUE; NEW LOWS FOR OVERALL JOB APPROVAL, SANDY, AND TAXES

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds Six in Ten Voters Say Garden State is on the Wrong Track

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As N.J. Gov. Chris Christie increases his focus on a potential presidential campaign, he continues to be met with negativity back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters disapprove of the overall job Christie is doing as governor, while 41 percent approve. Though relatively steady from February, this is his highest job disapproval to date.

On Superstorm Sandy recovery, Christie’s job approval has dropped below 50 percent for the first time: 48 percent now approve, down 7 points from February and far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-four percent currently disapprove his work on Sandy recovery.

Approval ratings for Christie on issues other than Sandy recovery are also low. Christie reaches new depths on taxes (26 percent approve, 65 disapprove) and the state budget (28 percent approve, 61 disapprove), and maintains his low water mark of 31 percent approval on the economy and jobs.

Christie’s overall favorability rating stands at 48 percent unfavorable, somewhat improved from his 53 percent unfavorable rating in February. The 38 percent who are favorable is essentially unchanged from February’s 37 percent favorable.

Negativity toward Christie himself parallels voters’ assessments of the direction of the state itself. Sixty percent of voters say the Garden State is on the wrong track, the highest number since just before Christie’s first election in October 2009. Thirty percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction – a 10-point drop from December 2014 and less than half of the quarter-century high of 61 percent in June 2013.

“Often, as the economy improves, voters feel more positive. But in this state there is now widespread feeling that things are on the wrong track,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While the governor continues to explore a national run, voters back home are expressing more and more concern about what’s happening in New Jersey and the governor’s performance in dealing with these issues.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27- Apr. 3, 2015, 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.

Christie losing Republican support at home

Despite the relative steadiness of Christie’s overall ratings between February and now, there seems to be growing dissent on the governor’s job performance amongst his base. Democrats (24 percent approval) and independents (40 percent approval) remain steady in their assessments. Republicans, however, show a double-digit drop over the past two months; job approval is down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval is up 11 points to 27 percent. Moreover, while 68 percent of GOP voters continue to have a favorable impression of Christie, this is down five points from February.

About a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents have a favorable impression of Christie, with Democrats steady over the past two months and independents up five points.

Republicans continue to be split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, 44 percent approve of his approach while 49 percent disapprove. They are slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve to 44 percent disapprove); Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

On the state pension fund, Christie’s lowest-rated issue with 22 percent approval from all voters, a plurality of Republicans remains in the governor’s corner – 45 percent approve (up 8 points from February) and 34 percent disapprove (down 5 points). On the other hand, Democrats and independents rate performance here worst of all, at 8 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

“It is one thing to lose support among Democrats and even independents, but losing GOP voters is a big problem,” said Redlawsk. “We’re now seeing the decline in support for Christie among Republicans that we predicted in February based on leading indicators. When those who should be Christie’s strongest cheerleaders turn away, things are clearly not going well for him here in New Jersey.”

Christie still receives high marks from Republicans on crime and drugs (69 percent), education (62 percent), and the state budget (54 percent), but 75 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents now disapprove of Christie’s performance on the budget.

Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected

As of February, a majority of New Jersey voters continued to support Christie’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, always his strength. Two months later, even Sandy recovery approval has taken a downward turn for the governor. As recently as October 2014, 60 percent approved of his job performance on Sandy; today, only 48 percent do.

This decline is seen across multiple groups. Republicans’ support is down 11 points to 60 percent, while 31 percent now disapprove of Christie’s efforts. Democrats’ approval on Sandy has fallen 8 points to 39 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. Half of independents express approval on the governor’s recovery efforts – the only issue to reach 50 percent approval among this group – though this is down four points, while 42 percent now disapprove.

Christie also loses support on Sandy in areas where it counts the most – regions particularly affected by the storm two and a half years ago. In shore counties, Christie drew 60 percent approval two months ago, but more of those voters are now negative than positive on Sandy recovery – 46 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove. Urbanites also show a similar drop of 15 points, with approval now at 43 percent, while 49 percent disapprove.

Voters living in the southern region of the state near Philadelphia similarly fell 9 points to 49 percent approve (43 percent disapprove). About half of suburbanites and 54 percent of exurbanites approve of Christie’s job on Sandy.

Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State

While voters’ views on the direction of New Jersey as a whole have not been generally positive since January 2014, the proportion who say the state is on the wrong track hit its highest point in six years, reaching a level of dissatisfaction rarely seen in the past two and a half decades.

Partisans of all stripes show a less positive view on the state over the past two months. Democrats and Republicans who say the state is going in the right direction are both down 7 points, now at 25 percent and 43 percent, respectively; independents are down three points, now at 28 percent. A solid majority of Democrats and independents believe New Jersey has gotten off on the wrong track, as does a plurality of Republicans.

Opinions of both men and women are equally negative: about six in ten say the state is on the wrong track. Declines in assessment of the state’s direction are especially clear among younger voters and seniors: just 28 percent of those 18 to 39 years old (down 14 points from February) and 24 percent of those 65 years and older (down 8 points) maintain a positive outlook.

The state’s voters have grown more negative across all regions. Negative views on Christie are particularly tied to negative views of the state – 79 percent of those unfavorable toward the governor also say New Jersey is off on the wrong track; just 13 percent say the opposite. Those favorable toward Christie are somewhat more split: 54 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 37 percent say wrong track.

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A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Do I Like You, or Do I Know You? The Question of Republicans in 2016

By Robert Cartmell

Robert Cartmell is a Data Visualization Intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a junior at Rutgers University.

It is widely speculated that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but when it comes to the Republicans, no one is completely sure who will come through the primaries to challenge Hillary in the general election. Three of the most frequently talked about candidates are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and New Jersey’s own Governor Chris Christie. The three governors all have different strengths, weaknesses, and ideas on key issues, but one way to attempt to identify a frontrunner is to look at their personal ratings. The latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked New Jersey voters for their impressions of each of these political figures.

At this stage in the presidential game, these three Republican figures are probably most concerned with how they perform among the GOP base. In New Jersey, 73 percent of Republican voters say they are favorable towards Chris Christie; 50 percent of Republicans say the same about Jeb Bush, and 33 percent say it about Scott Walker. Christie appears to have a clear lead in ratings within his own state, but favorability is only half the story. Christie and Bush both have a notable number of Republican voters who feel unfavorably towards them as well – 20 percent for Christie and 24 percent for Bush. Just 5 percent express this kind of negativity for Scott Walker; while he is shown the least favorability, he also garners the least disdain, probably because he is the least know among New Jerseyans.

As for other partisans in the Garden State, majorities of Democrats (70 percent) and independents (55 percent) are unfavorable towards Christie. Bush fairs better among both of these groups; 51 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Independents are unfavorable towards him. While Walker has low unfavorable numbers among these groups, at least six in ten Democrats and independents do not know who he is or have no opinion of him.

For the Republicans in 2016, there still appears to be no clear front-runner yet. We will see whether the nominee turns out to be someone who is seen as more favorable, the most unknown at this point, or the candidate who is somewhere in between. Only time – and a whole lot of campaigning – will tell.

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GOV. CHRISTIE RATINGS FALL TO LOWEST POINT IN RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL

Today we have the first of three releases focused in some way on Gov. Chris Christie: his ratings; New Jerseyan’s attitudes toward his presidential campaign; and a third release on perceptions of Hillary Clinton as a presidential opponent. The latter two will come out next week.

In the meantime we focus today on Christie’s ratings with NJ voters. And the story is not a good one for the governor. He has reached the lowest approval point we have recorded across his entire term, breaking through the 50% negative impressions and job approval barrier. The drop seems to be driven by a huge negative shift among independents.

We also, for the first time ever, asked voters to tell us int heir own words why they think Christie’s ratings had taken a downward trend over the last couple months.   The keys? His personality appears perhaps to be wearing thin on voters, the Bridgegate scandal which remains on their minds, and his focus on national ambitions, rather than on his job as governor. Sometimes it is really interesting to simply record what people say in their own terms. It certainly is here.

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

CHRISTIE’S RATINGS DROP TO ALL-TIME LOWS AS VOTERS CITE GOVERNOR’S ATTITUDE, PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS, BRIDGEGATE AS REASONS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Chris Christie attempts to build a following among national Republicans in preparation for an expected 2016 presidential bid, New Jersey voters have soured on the governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a recent spate of damaging headlines, Christie’s support has collapsed to just 37 percent of registered voters reporting a favorable impression, down seven points in just two months.

For the first time, a clear majority (53 percent) feels unfavorable towards the governor. His overall job approval is also clearly negative: 52 percent disapprove while 42 percent approve, a drop of six points since December.

ChristieFavFeb2015

Voters have definite opinions about reasons behind the slide. Twenty percent mention his attitude, personality, and behavior; 15 percent refer specifically to “Bridgegate” and 10 percent say something about shunning his current duties to pursue presidential ambitions.

“As one respondent said, ‘Christie visiting different states for the presidential race made New Jerseyans not like him,’” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Others used words like ‘arrogance,’ ‘rudeness’ and ‘abrasive’ to explain the turnaround from his high flying post-Sandy days. And of course, all manner of mentions of Bridgegate and other scandals were offered.”

Christie’s slump is reflected in specific issues as well. His job approval on taxes (the top concern for 29 percent of voters) is down three points to 28 percent since the December 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. On the economy – the most important issue for 24 percent – Christie is down four points to 31 percent approval.

And what was already a strikingly low approval rating on handling the pension situation has fallen an additional five points to 19 percent. The largest decline, seven points to 35 percent, has been in respondents’ perception of how he has been handling education. Only approval levels on Sandy recovery (55 percent, the highest of any issue), crime and drugs (48 percent), and the budget (31 percent) have remained steady since the last poll.

Despite Christie’s increasingly negative ratings, voters split on whether he has been a good or bad governor: 38 percent of voters are positive, 33 percent negative, and 29 percent neutral. But voters are increasingly negative on the direction of the state: 35 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 54 percent say it is on the wrong track.

Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie loses independents in overall ratings

A key to keeping Christie’s ratings in positive territory through most of tenure has been ongoing support provided by independent voters. But that has changed. Independent voters now are squarely against a governor they long supported, with favorable impressions falling a record-breaking 16 points since December to 31 percent. Meanwhile, the share of independent voters with an unfavorable impression grew by double digits to 55 percent.

“Christie’s loss of independent support undercuts his efforts to be seen as appealing across the political spectrum,” noted Redlawsk. “This 16-point drop is even larger than we found in the aftermath of Bridgegate, when the decline was 14 points over two-and-a-half months. This would seem to be nothing but bad news as the governor ramps up his national profile. For the first time, independents look more like Democrats than they do Republicans in their assessments of Christie.”

While New Jersey independents show a steep drop, Democrats and Republicans hold steady in their assessments. Democrats are at 24 percent favorable to 70 percent unfavorable, while Republicans are just the opposite, at 73 percent favorable to 20 percent favorable.

Christie’s overall job approval reflects more of the same. Independents’ approval of his performance has completely flipped; just 39 percent now approve (down 13 points), versus 55 percent who disapprove (up 13 points). Just 25 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove, while Republicans remain at 79 percent approval to 16 percent disapproval.

Christie slips among Republican on key issues

Republicans retain their overall positive assessments of Christie, but the story varies on some key issues. While GOP approval of Christie’s performance on taxes remains steady at 47 percent, the same is not true of the economy and jobs, where his 46 percent approval rating among Republicans represents an 11-point decline. More Republicans now disapprove – 48 percent – a huge increase of 19 points since December. Christie also suffers from declines within his base on the state budget, with 55 percent now approving (down nine points), crime and drugs (down six points to 64 percent), and the state pension fund (down six points to 37 percent).

“In December, independents remained more positive than negative overall, despite significant drops on some key issues,” said Redlawsk. “The decline on issues, however, was clearly a leading indicator, as overall support among independents has now plummeted. The question is whether we will see the same dynamic with Republicans, who continue strongly positive overall, but are now trending negative on two major issues: the economy and the state pension fund.”

Voters’ key reasons for Christie’s decline span his past, present, and future

ChristieReasonsWordcloud

Christie’s perennial “Jersey guy” personality, attitude, and behavior – a blessing in the best of times and a curse to him in the worst – is seen by voters as the top reason for his ratings decline, as 20 percent cite this when asked to explain what polls have been showing. The George Washington Bridge scandal is also high on voters’ minds, coming in a close second at 15 percent, along with an additional 4 percent who mention scandals generally.

Christie’s 2016 aspirations have not been lost on voters either. His lack of attention to New Jersey as he focuses on presidential preparations is named by 10 percent, with another 4 percent specifically mentioning Christie’s “excessive” out of state travel.

Some, however, believe Christie’s fall may not be entirely his fault; 6 percent of voters cite news coverage and his portrayal by the media. Others look to specific issues – 5 percent name his handling of the economy and jobs; another 5 percent reference state employees, unions and pensions. Four percent bring up general poor governing, lack of leadership, and not doing enough for the state.

Democrats and independents are much more likely to reference Christie’s personality, attitude and behavior than Republicans (23 percent and 20 percent, respectively, to 12 percent). At 19 percent, Bridgegate is the top reason given among Republican voters. They are also much more likely than Democrats to blame Christie’s downfall on his portrayal in the media (11 percent versus just 2 percent of Democrats).

Mixed views on Christie’s legacy

For the most part, voters are split on how good or bad a governor Christie has been over the past five years. Independents are the most split: 35 percent say Christie has been a good governor, 34 percent say bad, and 31 percent say neither. But 69 percent of Republicans look positively on the governor’s time in office, while 24 percent are neutral; just 7 percent say Christie has been bad.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats differ: 22 percent say Christie has been good, 46 percent say he has been bad, while 31 percent are ambivalent about his performance.

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CLINTON MAINTAINS DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD OVER CHRISTIE IN NEW JERSEY

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

CLINTON MAINTAINS DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD OVER CHRISTIE IN NEW JERSEY

 Large Majority Expects Christie to Hit the Presidential Campaign Trail

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – In a hypothetical 2016 head-to-head matchup between Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New Jersey voters continue to give Clinton a double-digit lead, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Forty-nine percent of registered voters say they would support Clinton over Christie, while 39 percent back Christie. The gap between the two has remained around 10 points through much of the past year.

Clinton is also more positively received by New Jersey voters, with a 56 percent favorability rating, compared to Christie’s 44 percent. While Clinton’s favorability rating is down from 65 percent at the beginning of 2014, Christie’s dropped even more after January’s Bridgegate revelations. Both ratings, however, have remained relatively stable since their declines early in the year.

“It probably makes sense that there is little movement in a hypothetical matchup two years before the actual election,” noted David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Still, Christie starts down double-digits in his home state if both he and Clinton are the nominees.”

Sixty-three percent of New Jersey voters expect Christie to hit the 2016 campaign trail, up six points since last asked in an August Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Voters also think Christie’s decision-making ahead of a potential presidential campaign has not been New Jersey-focused. Instead, 55 percent says the governor’s choices in signing or vetoing bills have been more about a potential presidential run, rather than what’s good for the state. In addition, 41 percent think Christie’s travel schedule outside of the state for fundraising and campaigning has hurt his ability to govern. But 52 percent say his travels have made no difference to his ability to govern.

At this point, about seven in ten Republicans and Democrats name a preference for their party’s nomination, little changed throughout 2014. Republicans and those leaning GOP continue to stick by Christie as their top choice, while Democrats (along with leaners) overwhelmingly still prefer Clinton.

Christie is tops for 32 percent of Garden State Republicans and GOP leaners, down nine points since August. Another nine percent name Christie as their second choice. Former 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney follows with 10 percent naming him as first choice and eight percent listing him second.

In contrast, 54 percent of Democrats and those leaning Democrat choose Clinton as their candidate, down five points from August. For another eight percent, she is the second choice. No other Democrat breaks 10 percent in first choice mentions; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) follows as first choice for six percent and second choice for five percent.

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 adults, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014. The subsample of 646 registered voters reported on here has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.

Clinton continues lead over Christie among most groups

Clinton’s 2016 matchup margin over Christie is half of what it was in January 2014, when she led 55 percent to 34 percent. That lead dropped to 51 percent – 41 percent in March, and is little changed since. While 90 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans side with their potential party nominees, independents split 40 percent Christie to 38 percent Clinton.

A huge gender gap might become evident if Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Today she wins among women by 24 points (58 percent to 34 percent), but loses among men by a 39 percent to 44 percent margin. She also loses among white voters, but scores a solid lead with nonwhite voters.

Clinton’s hypothetical win over Christie is fueled by her 12-point favorability advantage; 78 percent of those favorable towards her say they would also vote for her. She remains in positive territory with key constituencies. Eighty-six percent of voters from Clinton’s own party hold a favorable impression of her, as do 47 percent of independents. Only 26 percent of Republicans feel the same. Sixty-five percent of women are favorable toward her, compared to 45 percent of men. She is viewed more favorably than unfavorably among other key demographic groups, including liberals, moderates, both white and nonwhite voters, and voters of all ages, incomes, education levels, and regions.

Most think Christie will run; Partisanship fuels perceptions of presumed preparations

There is no question in a large majority of New Jersey voters’ minds that Christie will throw his hat in the 2016 ring – more than half of every demographic group tested believes he will. But Christie’s ability to balance his governorship at home with the run-up to 2016 is a source of disagreement.

A bare majority – 54 percent – of Christie supporters believe the governor continues to “do what’s best for the state” with his recent decisions to sign or veto bills, down 9 points since August. A notable 31 percent of this group thinks Christie’s decisions are mostly about an expected run for president. Voters unfavorable toward Christie overwhelmingly (81 percent) say his actions have been about setting up a potential presidential bid, while only 5 percent say he’s doing what’s best for the state.

Partisans take opposite sides on the question as well: 57 percent of Republicans say the GOP governor is doing what’s “best for New Jersey,” versus the 70 percent of Democrats who think his decisions are primarily about a presidential run. Independents lean toward Democrats here; 57 percent seeing his actions as related to a future presidential campaign and just 28 percent believe the opposite.

Opinions are similarly divided over how Christie’s travel schedule affects his ability to govern: 74 percent of Republicans say his frequent trips have no effect, but 42 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats say it has hurt his ability to govern effectively. Those who view the governor favorably (at 74 percent) are much more likely to say there has been no effect, while Christie’s detractors (62 percent) think his travels have impacted his ability to govern New Jersey.

Despite numerous possibilities, Christie, Clinton remain overwhelming partisan favorites

Christie and Clinton continue to dominate their respective New Jersey party bases as presidential candidates for 2016. Among Republicans, Romney comes in a distant second, with 10 percent naming him their first choice (and 8 percent second choice). Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has announced an exploration of a presidential run, follows with six percent of first choice votes, but leads as second choice GOPer with 14 percent.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) at four percent first choice (six percent second choice), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 4 percent first choice (five percent second choice), round out the list of GOP candidates whose combined first and second choice support exceeds five percent. Another nine candidates named by respondents do not breach this level of support.

Among Republican voters who name Christie as their first choice, more than six in ten cannot name a second choice. For the few who do, Bush is their first fallback choice, while Romney follows. “We continue to see a lot of shifting among the bottom rung candidates, given how few name them, as well as big rises for Romney and Jeb Bush, but no one comes very close to Christie among New Jersey Republican voters,” noted Redlawsk.

Democratic voters name fewer potential candidates. Besides Clinton, only Warren is mentioned as a first choice with any frequency, though she trails by a huge margin, at six percent first choice voters and five percent second choice. Vice President Joe Biden has fallen out of what little favor he had in New Jersey. A distant second to Clinton in August, Biden now gets just 1 percent of mentions as a first choice and another 5 percent as second pick. Three-quarters of Clinton supporters do not name a second choice for president; 6 percent say Biden and another 6 percent say Warren is their second choice.

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NEW JERSEY VOTERS DISLIKE CHRISTIE’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY, TAXES

Today we begin the first of two releases relating to NJ Gov. Chris Christie. This release focuses on his ratings with NJ voters. The next one will look at presidential campaign-related perceptions. For reference, we last talked about Christie’s ratings here, back in October.

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

NEW JERSEY VOTERS DISLIKE CHRISTIE’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY, TAXES; GOVERNOR’S FAVORABILITY REMAINS NEGATIVE, RUTGERS POLL FINDS

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With speculation heating up about a Chris Christie presidential bid in 2016, the governor’s ratings with New Jersey voters are lukewarm at best, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Showing little change from October, 44 percent of registered voters feel favorable toward Christie, while 46 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job approval is a little better: 48 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove.

“Voters remain divided on how Christie is doing,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Without any recent marquee policy win and with the bloom of Sandy recovery long gone, we seem to have settled into a stasis where Democrats dislike Christie, Republicans still support him, and independents are mostly split down the middle.”

New Jersey voters say taxes (25 percent) and the economy and jobs (20 percent) remain their top two concerns, followed by corruption/abuse of power and education (tied at 13 percent each). Christie continues in negative territory on most top issues. His job approval on taxes is down two points since October to 31 percent, and down three points on the economy to 35 percent. Also, voters remain negative about Christie’s handling of the budget (down five points to 32 percent approval) and the pension fund (24 percent approval, unchanged since last August). Forty-two percent approve how he handles education.

The governor’s performance on Sandy recovery ties his all-time low, declining seven points in the past two months to 53 percent, a level last seen in April 2014. Approval of his handling of crime and drugs is down six points from October to 46 percent.

Voters are also more negative than positive on the direction of the state as a whole: 40 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction while 49 percent say it is on the wrong track.

“For the most part, these are not particularly good numbers for Governor Christie,” said Redlawsk. “The declines in approval of his performance on a range of specific issues may yet lead to another drop in overall approval in the coming months, unless something changes the trend.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 New Jersey residents, including 646 registered voters contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014. This release reports on registered voters only with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points.

One bright spot: report card gets a small boost

While not even close to his post-Sandy highs, a report card on Christie provides a slight reprieve from other lackluster ratings. Voters are six points more likely to give him a B grade (31 percent) than they were in October. Correspondingly, those who grade him a C dropped six points to 22 percent. At the extremes, 8 percent give Christie an A (virtually unchanged), while the share of Ds and Fs remains essentially stable at 17 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Christie’s B rating improved among partisans of all stripes: 18 percent of Democrats (up seven points), 33 percent of independents (up four points), and 49 percent of Republicans (up eight points) give him this above-average grade. Even among voters who call the economy and taxes the state’s the most important problems and rate Christie’s performance poorly on these issues, B grades predominate at 34 percent among those concerned about the economy and 41 percent of voters focused on taxes.

“We ask a variety of questions about the governor’s performance because people have many ways of thinking about what they like,” said Redlawsk. “Voters have recently become less enamored of him personally and are more likely to disapprove than approve on most specific issues. But Christie’s report card shows the real divide, as 39 percent say he’s an A or B performer and 38 percent would put him at the bottom of the class with a D or F.”

Republican support slips on key issue

Taxes and the economy – voters’ top concerns here – continue to depress Christie’s overall ratings. His approval ratings on both are at their lowest in the nearly two years of polling. Even some Republican voters have taken a step back. While 57 percent approve of Christie on the economy and jobs (29 percent disapprove), GOP voters are much less positive about how he is handling tax issues. His approval on taxes has dropped seven points since October, to 46 percent.

Democrats maintain their negativity toward Christie on these issues. Twenty-seven percent approve (and 64 percent disapprove) of his performance on the economy and jobs. Twenty-two percent approve and 70 percent disapprove on taxes. Christie does not fare well among independents either: 31 percent approve his work on the economy and 32 percent on taxes.

“While the Democrats’ negative views about Christie are to be expected these days, it is a much bigger deal that independents are also negative on these two key issues,” said Redlawsk. “Moreover, the continued loss of Republican approval on taxes is also noteworthy.”

Voters unhappy with Christie performance on top concerns          

Among the quarter of voters who call taxes the most important problem, Christie’s overall rating are surprisingly good: they give him a 59-29 percent favorability rating and a 64-29 percent overall job approval rating. Yet these same voters are strongly negative on Christie’s actual performance on taxes. Since October, Christie has suffered a 10-point drop in his tax performance among these voters, to just 25 percent positive versus 67 percent negative. The key to this paradox, Redlawsk noted, is that Republicans tend to care most about taxes, and they remain positive about Christie overall, even as they are less than positive on some specific issues.

The 20 percent of voters who care the most about the economy give Christie a 48 percent to 47 percent overall job approval rating and split, 50 percent to 47 percent unfavorable on their impressions of the governor. But as with tax-focused voters, these respondents have become more negative on how Christie is handling their top concern. Just under a quarter now approves Christie’s work on the economy, down five points since October, while 69 percent disapprove, an increase of four points.

Economic concerns and New Jersey’s direction

Voters’ concerns about New Jersey’s economy and taxes appear to affect how they view the state’s overall performance. Among those who say the economy is their biggest concern, 37 percent say the state is going in the right direction versus 54 percent who think it is on the wrong track. Those who rate taxes as the top problem in the state are more evenly split, with 45 percent saying it is going in the right direction and 46 percent disagreeing.

Approval of Christie’s work in both of these areas is closely tied to which direction voters think New Jersey is headed. About seven in 10 voters who approve Christie’s performance on taxes and the economy also say the state is going in the right direction. Seventy percent who disapprove of the governor’s handling of the two problems say the New Jersey is on the wrong track.

Overall ratings and partisanship

While Christie’s overall ratings remain relatively stable since October, his job approval – which has usually been higher than his favorability rating – is now more closely in line with voters’ impressions of the governor. Ninety-two percent of those favorable toward Christie also approve of his job performance, while 87 percent of those unfavorable toward Christie do not.

Voters in both parties show little change in their impressions of Christie since October, when the governor’s favorability rating took its first net-negative turn in a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While independents’ feelings about Christie are split, 47 percent favorable to 41 percent unfavorable, Democrats and Republicans take very different positions. Just 21 percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of the governor, versus 69 percent who do not. Republicans are virtually the opposite, at 74 percent favorable and 17 percent unfavorable.

Christie’s overall job approval among Democrats has slipped five points to 22 percent; 73 percent now disapprove. Independents are holding steady at 52 percent approval to 42 percent disapproval. Over eight in 10 Republicans support the job the governor is doing.

Partisan opinions on where New Jersey is headed match closely with the governor’s ratings. More than half of Democrats (57 percent) say New Jersey is on the wrong track; just 31 percent think the state is going in the right direction. Republicans believe the opposite: 62 percent say right direction, while 33 percent say wrong track. Independents, however, are more positive about Christie himself than they are about the state as a whole: 51 percent think the state is on the wrong track, while just 38 percent think things are going in the right direction.

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