Category Archives: Christie NJ Rating

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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Filed under Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Economy, Education, NJ Voters, Uncategorized

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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A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … Chris Christie and the Intersectional Gender Gap

By Elizabeth Kantor

Elizabeth Kantor, a junior at Rutgers University, is the Lead Data Archivist and a methodological intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

In voting behavior and political attitudes, there exist consistent and predictable differences between men and women, known as the “gender gap.” According to the Eagleton Institute of Politics’ own Center for American Women and Politics, since the 1980s, women have been more likely than men to identify as and vote for Democrats, less likely than men to approve of the job performance of Republicans, and more likely than men to approve of the job performance of Democrats. Yet New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seems to defy the odds once again. In our own numbers on the governor’s overall job approval from our most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the gender gap seems nonexistent. As we reported, 50 percent of women in New Jersey approve of Christie’s job performance compared to 47 percent of men – a statistically insignificant difference that runs counter to gender gap expectations.

But in actuality, the gender gap is not a simple dichotomy. When Christie’s job approval is broken down by race and gender simultaneously, a more accurate interpretation of the gender gap emerges. This kind of analysis, resembling an analytical approach in women’s and gender studies called “intersectionality,” looks at the impact of the intersections of multiple identities, such as race, class, and gender, rather than of each identity alone.

As noted earlier, when looking solely at gender, women are more likely than men to say they approve of Christie’s job performance. When Christie’s approval is looked at solely by race, 55 percent of white New Jerseyans approve, compared with only 34 percent of non-white New Jerseyans; we would expect this, given that Republicans are less racially diverse than are Democrats. When looking at race and gender together, we find that while 57 percent of white women approve of Christie’s job performance compared to 53 percent of white men, only 28 percent of non-white women approve of Christie’s job as governor compared to 39 percent of non-white men.

Thus, the lack of a gender gap in Christie’s job approval can be explained by the fact that, while non-white women are 11 points less likely than non-white men to express approval of Christie, gender differences function in the opposite direction for white respondents, who make up a larger portion of the weighted sample (69 percent white vs. 31 percent non-white); thus, white women have more than twice as much influence on the overall distribution of opinion. While of course only limited conclusions can be drawn due to small sample sizes, intersectional analysis sheds light on how race and gender interconnect to create a more complete picture of New Jersey voters’ views of their governor, specifically, and on political figures and issues, more generally.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

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NEW JERSEY VOTERS SEE KEY CHRISTIE TRAITS IN LESS POSITIVE LIGHT

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

NEW JERSEY VOTERS SEE KEY CHRISTIE TRAITS IN LESS POSITIVE LIGHT
Perceptions of governor’s trustworthiness, other positive traits, continue to decline

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Trust in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has continued to decline further after hitting an all-time low last March, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 22 percent of Garden State voters now say “trustworthy” describes Christie “very well.” Another 35 percent think it applies only “somewhat well.” Nearly 40 percent say the character trait no longer applies to the governor.

By comparison, 43 percent said trustworthy applied to Christie very well a month before his November 2013 re-election, and 32 percent said somewhat well. Only 20 percent thought it did not apply at all. Immediately following January’s “Bridgegate” revelations, the share of voters holding this position plunged 16 percentage points; it has since declined an additional five points.

“Not that long ago, voters were very likely to see Christie as trustworthy. This was especially noteworthy given how little people trust most politicians,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Bridgegate, of course, changed that view for many. And once trust is lost, it can be hard to recover.”

Perceptions of Christie as a “strong leader,” “effective,” and “fair,” which all took significant hits immediately after the G.W. Bridge lane-closing story broke, have also continued to decline.

Nearly half (47 percent) of voters still say strong leader applies very well to Christie, but this is down 19 points since October 2013 with half the drop coming immediately after Bridgegate. Views of Christie as effective are also down 19 points to 31 percent of voters who now say the word applies very well, but two-thirds of that decline has come in the past several months. The 27 percent who say fair fits very well is a 14-point drop since October 2013, with most of the decline coming immediately following the news about Bridgegate.

“The controversy surrounding the lane closures in Ft. Lee had an immediate impact on nearly every assessment of Christie, with positive trait assessments continuing to fall since,” said Redlawsk. “This may be a key to the governor’s overall favorability and job performance ratings decline. People care about issues but they also look for important character traits in assessing their leaders.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Negative perceptions of Christie stable since January

Besides seeing Christie as less trustworthy and effective, voters have lowered their opinion of the governor regarding other positive character traits since January. Fifty-three percent now say “smart” fits him very well, a decline of five points. Only 25 percent, a new low, call “reformer” a very apt label, and just under half still see Christie as “independent.” Sixty-two percent still consider “fighter” a very appropriate description, but even this represents a 10-point drop in the past year.

Unlike positive traits, voters’ perceptions of negative traits that might apply to Christie have changed little since an initial increase in the immediate Bridgegate aftermath. Sixty-seven percent of respondents now say “stubborn” fits very well, the highest total to date and a 13-point increase during the past 12 months. The change has been only three points since January, however.

More than half (54 percent) of voters now think “arrogant” applies very well to Christie, just three points higher than in January, but up eight points in a year. “Self-centered” is unchanged from January’s poll, when an 11-point increase brought the total to 47 percent who thought the description applied very well. Perceptions of Christie as a bully are now at 42 percent, nearly flat since January, when they had climbed nine points to 43 percent who saw the term as applying very well.

Voters’ emotional responses to Christie also remain steady since January, after significant decreases in positive feelings and increases in negative feelings following Bridgegate. About a third of voters say they are proud and enthusiastic when they read or hear about the governor, similar to January. Worry, at 45 percent of voters, is up a few points, and anger, at 37 percent, has subsided a bit since earlier this year.

A closer look at three traits

While the poll examined a wide range of positive and negative traits, Redlawsk said what voters most want their officeholders to be are “effective, trustworthy, and strong leaders.”

“As perceptions of these traits become less positive – especially among independents and co-partisans – leaders can lose key bases of support. We may be seeing exactly that over what has become a long year for Christie since last fall’s victory,” he said.

Trustworthy

Republicans and men are significantly fueling the declines in perceptions in Christie’s trustworthiness. Republicans show the biggest drop since last October: 27 points to 48 percent saying it fits very well today. Most of this damage occurred right after Bridgegate. Among independents, trust as a particularly apt descriptor dropped 23 points in the past year, to 21 percent. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats, who always have had misgivings about Christie, still ascribe trustworthiness to him.

Unlike the 19-point drop in trustworthiness among women, most of which came between October 2013 and January 2014, the 23-point drop among men has occurred more gradually. Today, 23 percent of women and 20 percent of men think trustworthy applies very well to the governor.

Effectiveness

Republicans, at 55 percent, are now 23 points less likely to say the label effective applies very well to Christie than one year ago. Independents’ perceptions of effectiveness have dropped 22 points in the same period, to 31 percent. Democrats show a 12-point decline, with 19 percent now saying effective describes Christie very well.

Perceptions of effectiveness among men, who typically have been stronger Christie supporters than women, have dropped by 22 points; for women the drop has been 15 points. Among the former group, most of the decline has been in recent months.

Strong Leader

Perceptions of Christie as a strong leader, which skyrocketed following Superstorm Sandy, are down 25 points (to 48 percent saying the term fits very well) over the past year among independent voters. Among Republicans, the drop is 18 points, although 75 percent still say strong leader describes Christie very well. Just 29 percent of Democrats agree, down 15 points since last October. For Republicans, unlike Democrats and independents, most of this drop occurred immediately after Bridgegate.

Only 48 percent of men now say strong leader fits Christie very well, a decline of 22 points in a year. During the same period, women show a 17-point decline to 46 percent, all but erasing the small gender gap that once existed.

“After Bridgegate crushed Christie’s overall ratings, we saw a small rebound this past spring and summer,” said Redlawsk. “But the continuing loss of support on these key traits, especially among Republicans and men, appears to have caught up with overall perceptions of the governor’s favorability and job performance, helping to drag down both of these ratings.”

 

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CHRISTIE FAVORABILITY NEGATIVE FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER THREE YEARS

Today we release the first of two analyses of assessments of NJ Gov. Chris Christie we carried out as part of our new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. In today’s release we focus on Christie’s favorability ratings and job performance. The former has dropped to lowest point we have yet recorded for the governor; 42 percent of NJ voters have a favorable impression while 45 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job performance rating is also down, but remains slightly positive at 50 percent approval to 46 percent disapproval. Perhaps more critically, approval of Christie’s performance on a range of top issues is quite negative and declining. On taxes, just 33 percent approve the governor’s job performance, with 38 percent approving his work on the economy and 39 percent on education. The numbers are simply not good for a governor who a year ago was riding high toward an overwhelming re-election.

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

CHRISTIE RATINGS NEGATIVE FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER THREE YEARS

Governor’s favorability among registered voters drops seven points in two months

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – For the first time since August 2011, more New Jersey voters have an unfavorable impression of Gov. Chris Christie than a favorable one, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Following a seven-point decline during the past two months, just 42 percent of registered voters now feel favorable toward the governor, while 45 percent feel unfavorable.

“This is the lowest favorability rating we have ever recorded for Christie, below the 44 percent of August 2011,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “What had seemed like a small rebound following Christie’s Bridgegate ratings collapse now looks more like a temporary blip.”

While remaining slightly positive, Christie’s overall job approval rating is also dropping, falling three more points to 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproving, up five points.
Voters say taxes (24 percent), and the economy and jobs (21 percent) are the top two concerns, followed by corruption and abuse of power (16 percent) and education (12 percent). Underlying Christie’s decline is a roughly eight-month drop on three of these top issues: taxes (down 10 points to 33 percent approval), the economy (down three points to 38 percent) and education (down 10 points to 39 percent).

In addition, voters remain negative about Christie’s handling of the budget (down six points from a January 2014 poll, to 37 percent approval) and the pension crisis (24 percent approval, unchanged since first asked in August 2014.)

Only approval of Christie’s performance on Sandy recovery has shown significant improvement, rebounding to 60 percent from 54 percent last February. Approval of his handling of crime and drugs is up an insignificant two points to 52 percent over nearly the same period.

“The last time New Jerseyans were more negative than positive toward Christie the pension reform bill had just been signed, Christie had begun pushing a voter-supported teacher-tenure package and, there had been no Superstorm Sandy,” noted Redlawsk. “But the good will he piled up after acting on those voter supported issues, and his handling of Sandy, has vanished. By nearly every measure we have, Christie is losing support.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Top problems: taxes and the economy

Analysis of voters’ two top concerns shed some light on Christie’s ratings decline. While Republicans remain about 20 points more positive than negative on the governor’s performance on taxes and the economy, Democrats and independents have a different perspective. On taxes, 20 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of Christie’s performance; 74 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents disapprove. On the economy and jobs, 27 percent of Democrats approve and 68 percent disapprove. Thirty-seven percent of independents approve, 53 percent do not.

Among the 24 percent who call taxes the most important problem, Christie does quite well: a 60-29 percent favorability rating, and a 63-33 percent overall job approval rating. Yet these same voters are very negative on Christie’s actual performance on taxes: 35 percent approve of his work while 57 percent disapprove.

A similar pattern emerges on the economy; the 21 percent who care the most give a 50-46 percent overall job approval rating and split 44 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable on impressions of Christie. But like voters focused on taxes, these respondents hit Christie hard on their key issue: 29 percent approve Christie’s work on the economy while 65 percent disapprove.

Redlawsk identified GOP voters’ strong overall support for Christie as a cause of this odd pattern. “For Republicans, partisan preference overrides specific job performance,” he said. “We see a huge 25-point-plus gap between Republicans’ overall ratings of Christie and their evaluations on taxes and the economy. They may be much less supportive of the governor’s actions on these issues, but this does not interfere with supporting their fellow Republican.”
Democrats, and to a lesser extent independents, have become more consistent in connecting their general ratings of the governor with disapproval of his specific performance on issues, Redlawsk added. “The much smaller gap between job approval and assessments on top issues for these voters leads to the very negative ratings we find when we look at all voters who care most about taxes and the economy.”

Partisanship and ratings

The share of Democrats with a positive impression of Christie has fallen seven points to 21 percent since last August and 37 percent since a high point in February 2013. Since August, favorability among independents has dropped eight points to 44 percent, and among Republicans five points to 74 percent. At Christie’s high point 20 months ago, 71 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans, respectively, felt favorably.

“The partisan favorability gap has skyrocketed to 53 points, as Democratic negativity has greatly increased since Bridgegate,” said Redlawsk. “But Christie is also losing independents at a growing rate, which threatens to undermine his image as a leader with broad support.”

Because some voters who dislike Christie still give him positive job ratings, his general job approval remains more positive than negative. But this partisan gap has also grown to 53 points: 80 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and just over half of independent voters approve.

Where support weakens

Christie’s favorability and job support ratings among men have each fallen nine points the past two months; approval and disapproval of his overall job performance each stand at 47 percent, while 41 percent of men feel favorable about him. His favorability among women has declined four points to 44 percent, while they still approve of his job performance, 50 percent to 46 percent, virtually unchanged since August. Among urban voters, Christie’s job approval now stands at 31 percent, an 11-point tumble since August; 65 percent disapprove. Over the same period, suburban voters’ approval of Christie’s job performance fell seven points to 44 percent. Half of suburban voters now disapprove of how the governor does his job.

Christie’s report card: New lows

Since a pre-Bridgegate poll in November 2013, Christie’s job performance grades have plunged: only 10 percent now award him A, his smallest-ever share of the top grade and an 11-point drop. One-quarter of registered voters grade him B, also among the lowest total ever. C grades now dominate at 28 percent. The percentage of voters assigning D (16 percent) and F (19 percent) grades has climbed since last November, when only 8 percent of respondents failed the governor.

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Some other Favorability Ratings in NJ

In most of our regular Rutgers-Eagleton Polls we usually have a few additional questions that do not make it into one of our press releases. In particular, we ask favorability ratings of a range of political actors but don’t always have a place to report them.

In today’s blog post, we take a quick look at those ratings from our most recent poll. In addition to Gov. Chris Christie and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s ratings, which we already reported (especially our extensive battery on Christie) in earlier releases about our July 28 – Aug. 5 poll, we also asked about:

President Barack Obama
U.S. Senator Cory Booker
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeffrey Bell
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno

The overall favorability question is asked at the very beginning of the survey:

First, I’d like to ask about some people and groups. Please tell me if your general impression of each one is favorable or unfavorable, or if you do not have an opinion. If you do not know the name, just say so. [RANDOMIZE ORDER]

Ratings0814Several things jump out at us immediately. First, while President Obama’s national job performance ratings are in the 40s at best, voters in New Jersey still feel more favorable about him than not. In fact, Obama and Gov. Christie have nearly the same favorability ratings here in New Jersey, an interesting dynamic in a state that is much more Democrat than Republican.

Second, Hillary Clinton has the highest favorability rating of this group (54%) – NJ voters are 22 points more favorable than unfavorable about her, versus a 9-point favorable margin for Christie and a 7-point margin for Obama. But Cory Booker has the highest net-favorable rating, +32 points, due mainly to the fact that few feel unfavorable toward him. But nearly a third have no opinion on Booker, a seemingly high number for someone who has been such a media darling.

Third, while Christie of course is known by virtually every voter, and most have an opinion, the same cannot be said for the other two Republicans on this list. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, despite having served with Christie for nearly 5 years, is virtually unknown. More than 7 in 10 NJ voters either have no opinion or don’t recognize her name. The quarter or so who do are split evenly, suggesting perhaps guessing as much as anything. The result for Jeffrey Bell, who is challenging Booker for the U.S. Senate seat, suggests he is maybe even less visible – almost 80% have no opinion, and the other 20% split evenly, as with Guadagno.

A couple of interesting things appear when we examine some groups – particularly party identification and gender.

There is no surprise in partisan reactions to Obama: 82% of Democrats feel favorable toward him while 83% of Republicans are unfavorable. This is polarization at its most stark. Clinton generates nearly as much variation – 83% of Democrats like her, while 68% of Republicans feel unfavorable toward her.

But when we turn to Booker, we see somewhat less polarization, with 65% of Democrats feeling favorable, along with 35% of Republicans, “just” a 30-point gap, versus a 71-point gap in favorability toward Obama between Republicans (11% favorable) and Democrats (82%).

Even Christie’s partisan favorability gap is 51 points – while 79% of Republicans like him, only 28% of Democrats do. So Booker seems to be in a somewhat different place compared to the others.

When we look at the gender differences, we see some interesting results. On Obama, men are evenly split at 45%-45% but women are 12 points more favorable (52%) than not (40%). For Clinton, the gap is much larger. Men are favorable by a 9-point margin, 47% – 38%, but women show a 32-point net favorable rating, 59% – 27%.

Booker, on the other hand, shows a different kind of gender gap in favorability ratings. Men (51%) and women (49%) have about the same level of favorability, but men a much more unfavorable (24%) than women (12%). Instead, women are far more likely than men to have no opinion on Booker.

Unlike most Republicans, Christie’s favorable ratings show no gender gap at all of any kind. Men rate favorability at 50% favorable to 40% unfavorable, while women are 49% – 41% favorable toward Christie, no statistical difference between them.

Finally, turning back to Guadagno and Bell, we see similar partisan dynamics between the two. While Republicans are of course more likely to be positive toward both of them, the key story is that even among Republicans, they are unknown, with more than 60% of GOP voters saying they have no opinion or don’t know either one. While Bell has just burst back on the scene after 30 years away, and thus we would not expect even Republicans to know him, the fact that they also do not know Guadagno, the state’s sitting Lt. Governor, is a sign of just how much Christie takes the spotlight and how little she has been visible even to her own partisans.

We have asked some of these ratings regularly, so here are a few trend charts in case anyone is interested.

Christie0814Obama0814 Booker0809Clinton0814

 

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VOTERS REMAIN NEGATIVE ABOUT ‘BRIDGEGATE,’ OTHER ALLEGATIONS; BUT HALF SAY CHRISTIE IS PUTTING SCANDALS BEHIND HIM

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

Voters Remain Negative about ‘Bridgegate,’ Other Allegations; But Half Say Christie is Putting Scandals behind him

 Most say allegations are politics as usual, investigation a waste of time

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Seven months after the George Washington Bridge scandal burst Gov. Chris Christie’s ratings bubble, almost half of New Jersey voters continue to doubt the governor’s explanation of what happened. According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 47 percent of registered voters say they do not believe Christie at all, while another 24 percent say they somewhat believe him and just 23 percent say they fully believe him. Six percent are unsure.

More than half of respondents say Bridgegate and allegations of misuse of Port Authority and Sandy funding are serious for Christie, with 39 percent saying “very serious” and 17 percent saying “extremely serious.” But 27 percent say the allegations are not very serious, while 14 percent say not serious at all. Despite the net negative view, voters have shifted slightly in Christie’s favor since April. The percentage thinking the allegations are extremely serious has dropped nine points, while “not at all serious” is up seven points.

There has not been the same shift on how damaging Bridgegate and other issues have been to Christie’s presidential ambitions, however. Almost seven in 10 voters still think these allegations are either very (20 percent) or somewhat (48 percent) damaging. Only 18 percent believe they are not very damaging and just 11 percent say not damaging at all.

Nevertheless, 51 percent of voters think the governor has been mostly successful in putting these allegations behind him, though 40 percent disagree. Nearly three-quarters of voters call the allegations “just politics as usual” and not unique to the Christie administration; 60 percent think the ongoing legislative investigation is a waste of time.

“Governor Christie is trying very hard to put all of this behind him as he appear to be exploring a presidential campaign,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Whether he is succeeding is still unclear. Most voters agree that the legislative investigation is a waste of time, but they also think the allegations are serious and have potential to derail him. If any indictments related to the various allegations come down, all bets are off. If not, Christie may well become a GOP front-runner again.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 871 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 750 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

Republicans stand by their governor but see damage to 2016 aspirations

Christie’s believability in the “Bridgegate” scandal has not recovered since voters generally panned the January press conference where Christie said he was unaware of the lane closings. They remain skeptical and see the mounting allegations as problematic for Christie. Views on Christie’s role and its repercussions are, of course, particularly divided by partisanship: 11 percent of Democrats fully believe the governor’s explanation and another 16 percent somewhat believe him, while 68 percent do not at all. Republicans say just the opposite – though to a slightly lesser extent – split between fully (47 percent) and somewhat believing (35 percent). Independents resemble the population as a whole. Christie also has more credibility with those favorable toward him and who approve of the job he is doing overall, but again to a lesser extent than the total disbelief of his more passionate detractors.

“The fact that fewer than half of GOP voters fully believe Christie is a problem waiting to happen,” said Redlawsk. “He needs a strong party base to run for president. If Republican voters in New Jersey are even somewhat skeptical, there might be an opening for his GOP challengers to define him by these allegations. It’s important to remember that a full-blown presidential campaign has not yet started, and the inevitable attacks have not begun in earnest.”

Perceptions of how serious the various allegations are for Christie also depend on the same set of factors. Just under three-quarters of Democrats believe the allegations are at least somewhat serious. GOP voters now believe the events to be less serious than they did earlier this year, a positive sign for the governor. Four in 10 Republicans say the claims of wrongdoing are not very serious for Christie and another quarter say they are not at all. Those unfavorable towards Christie, who disapprove of the job he is doing, or do not believe his explanation are stronger in their belief that the allegations are serious than Christie’s supporters are that they are not serious.

Christie’s potential 2016 run may be hampered because voters of all partisan leanings are at least somewhat likely to think the allegations are damaging to a campaign for president. Almost 80 percent of Democrats see the ongoing controversies as somewhat or very damaging to Christie’s aspirations, as do 62 percent of independents. But even a majority of Republicans agree, with 52 percent seeing this as somewhat damaging while another 12 percent find the allegations very damaging to his potential campaign. Over half of every demographic thinks this has all been at least somewhat damaging to the governor’s 2016 hopes, even among Christie’s biggest supporters.

“Voters still do not fully believe the governor’s claims, and while most Republicans do not see the events as very serious, they do think his potential presidential campaign has been damaged,” said Redlawsk. “In this context, the views of Republicans are most important, since Christie has to first survive what is likely to be a brutal Republican 2016 primary season, before worrying about what Democrats think.”

Christie, voters want to leave scandals behind

Even as they say the allegations are serious and his campaign has been damaged, voters nonetheless think Christie himself has been mostly successful in putting the potential scandals behind him, most likely due to his continual and adamant denials and even his playful brushing aside of the controversies on late night television. Three-quarters of Republicans and just over half of independents say Christie has been mostly successful, as do 35 percent of Democrats. Fifty-five percent of Democrats take the opposite view. At least a plurality of nearly every other key demographic group says he has been mostly successful. Among detractors, Christie gets at least a third vouching for his successful dismissal of the scandals. “Perhaps Christie’s dancing and joking with Jimmy Fallon has made some difference,” suggested Redlawsk.

Voters also seem to be growing tired of the legislative investigation. While the desire to continue investigating is somewhat determined by personal views of Christie, even 41 percent of Democrats say it’s time for the Legislature to move on. Eighty-two percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents feel the same. Fifty-five percent of Democrats want the investigation to continue.

Even those who do not believe Christie’s Bridgegate explanation at all are split – 51 percent say keep investigating, versus 47 percent who say it is a waste of time.

The governor’s supporters and detractors alike agree that these scandals are not unique to the Christie administration. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats think this is just politics as usual. Even those unfavorable toward Christie, disapproving of him, and most skeptical of his explanation feel the same.

“At some level, voters probably expect political scandals here in New Jersey, so maybe this just doesn’t seem particularly different,” noted Redlawsk. “Moreover, most of the claims are about ‘payback’ in some form or another, and voters already tend to think politicians act this way on a regular basis.”

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SLIM MAJORITY OF N.J. VOTERS APPROVES CHRISTIE’S OVERALL JOB PERFORMANCE, REMAIN LESS POSITIVE ON MOST INDIVIDUAL ISSUES

Today’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll release focuses on Gov. Chris Christie’s job performance and perceptions of his likelihood of running for president in 2016. As most willr ecall, before the George Washington Bridge and related scandals occurred, the governor was riding high in job performance ratings following what was almost unanimously considered good work on the Superstorm Sandy recovery.  But along came the Ft. Lee lane closings, claims on favoritism in Sandy relief efforts, and investigations by various prosecutors. The Governor’s favorability and overall job ratings took a huge hit in January, returning to pre-Sandy levels. At the same time, his ratings on individual issues (other than Sandy) dropped much less, but except for Sandy they were never very high to start with. Essentially, his overwhelmingly positive Sandy performance held up his overall ratings regardless of how people felt about specific issues.

Today’s release shows little recovery, but relatively little continued decline either. Notably, 52 percent say they approve of Christie’s overall job performance, but except for Sandy recovery(ticking up 6 points to 59 percent approval), no other issue area we ask about gets majority approval. And a couple have dropped even further: ratings on budget (38 percent approval) and taxes (34 percent approval) dropped 5 points since April. And while little changed, Christie’s rating on the economy and jobs is nothing to trumpet, as just 39 percent approve his work there. We also asked about the “state’s pension crisis” and found just 24 percent approve how Christie is handling that task.

The full text of the release follows. You can get a PDF of the release with text, tables, and questions by clicking here.

 

SLIM MAJORITY OF N.J VOTERS APPROVE CHRISTIE’S OVERALL JOB PERFORMANCE, REMAIN LESS POSITIVE ON MOST INDIVIDUAL ISSUES

Despite ratings voters think Christie already preparing for 2016 run

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ramps up his travel schedule to states like Iowa and New Hampshire, back home his overall job approval continues to hover just above 50 percent, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Remaining well below his post-Superstorm Sandy high of 73 percent, 52 percent of registered New Jersey voters now approve of the job Christie is doing overall, a slight dip from his 55 percent approval in April. Forty-one percent disapprove and 7 percent are unsure.

But voters’ approval of the job Christie is doing on specific issues is a different story, with more disapproving than approving in most areas. At 59 percent approval, Hurricane Sandy recovery is Christie’s highest rating, though a far cry from his high of 87 percent in April 2013. Perceptions of Christie’s performance on the state pension fund crisis, asked for the first time this poll, are particularly negative, with 53 percent disapproving of Christie’s handling of the issue; only 24 percent approve.

Despite lukewarm job ratings and an embattled past few months for the governor, 57 percent of voters expect Christie to run for president in 2016; only 29 percent believe he will not, while another 14 percent are unsure. Most say Christie’s preparations for a possible presidential bid are influencing how he does his job: 48 percent say his decisions on state issues are more about his potential candidacy while 38 percent say he is only doing what is best for New Jersey.

More than half see Christie’s travelling and fundraising for the Republican Governors Association – which has conveniently taken him to some must-visit locations for 2016 – as having no effect on his job as governor, but just over a third say that this has hurt his ability to effectively carry out his current duties.

“As Governor Christie clearly lays the groundwork for a possible presidential run, the results in New Jersey are a mixed bag,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While Christie gets a positive overall rating – one that is pretty good for a Republican in an otherwise Democratic state – concerns about specific issues are quite high and have the potential to drive down his overall support over time.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 871 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 750 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

GOP voters less positive on specific issues

While voters have a generally positive opinion on Christie’s job performance, they are much more negative on many specific issues. Beyond the 59 percent positive Sandy recovery ratings, which are much lower than before the Bridgegate scandal, things go downhill with fewer than 50 percent approval in all other areas examined: pension fund crisis, 24 percent approval; taxes, 34 percent; state budget, 38 percent; economy/jobs, 39 percent. More positively, 45 percent approve Christie’s performance on education, and 48 percent approve his work on crime and drugs.

Approval ratings on Christie’s efforts on education, crime, and the economy have held steady since the last Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in April. But ratings on the state budget and taxes have declined by 5 points over the past four months. Over the same time, positive assessments of the governor’s performance on Superstorm Sandy recovery have rebounded 6 points.

Democrats are least positive about Christie’s job performance on the state budget (22 percent), taxes (18 percent), and the pension fund crisis (11 percent). They are positive only about Sandy recovery, 49 percent approve while 40 percent disapprove.

More than half of Republicans approve of Christie in most of the issue areas examined, with the highest approval, 71 percent, going for Sandy. The only exception is Republicans’ mixed views on the state pension fund crisis, where only 42 percent approve how Christie is handling the issue, while 36 percent disapprove, and another 23 percent are unsure. Independents are least likely to approve of Christie on this issue: 27 percent approve to 52 percent disapprove. According to Redlawsk, while Republicans remain more positive about specific issues than do Democrats and independents, even they report less positive ratings on the individual issues than they do overall.

Christie’s ratings moving in narrow band

Post-Bridgegate, Christie’s overall job approval continues to trend over a very small range: just over 50 percent among all voters, with Democrats remaining mostly against (60 percent approve) and Republicans mostly in support (78 percent approve). Independents continue to generally approve Christie’s job performance, 57 percent to 37 percent. Redlawsk noted that before Superstorm Sandy, Christie’s favorability ratings never went above 50 percent or below 44 percent, and his job performance grades were similar. “We seem to be back to the same basic pattern,” Redlawsk added. “Over the past six months, overall job approval for Christie has ranged between 52 and 55 percent, with little variation, essentially resetting to pre-Sandy numbers.”

Women voters are less positive about Christie’s job performance: 49 percent approval to 44 percent disapproval. Men are more positive; 56 percent approve while 37 disapprove. Millennials are more divided than any other age group, with 47 percent approving Christie’s work while 44 percent disapprove. Christie continues to score higher ratings among Sandy-battered regions that are also Republican strongholds, with 55 percent of exurban area voters and 61 percent of shore-dwellers approving his overall performance.

Partisanship, overall views affect attitude toward Christie’s 2016 preparations

With the buzz that currently surrounds Christie and recent activities hinting he will run, more than half of every demographic group tested believes Christie will throw his hat in the ring for 2016. Whether his recent decisions are about a potential run or more about what is right for the state is the source of some disagreement.

Not surprisingly, just over six in 10 Christie supporters believe the governor continues to “do what’s best for the state” with his recent decisions to sign or veto bills, even as he prepares for a possible GOP primary run. But nearly eight in 10 of voters who are negative about Christie say his actions have been more about setting up a potential presidential bid.

Partisans take opposite sides; 62 percent of Republicans take the “best for New Jersey” view, versus the 61 percent of Democrats who think his decisions are about a presidential run. Independents are more split. Forty percent say Christie is doing what is best for New Jersey; 47 percent see his actions as related to a presidential campaign. Half of women believe Christie’s decisions are in preparation for 2016, compared to 45 percent of men. Thirty-three percent of women think he’s doing what’s best for the state, while 44 percent of men feel the same.

Opinions are similarly divided regarding how Christie’s travel schedule has affected his ability to govern: 75 percent of Republicans say his frequent trips have no effect, but more than a third of independents and 45 percent of Democrats say it has hurt his ability to govern effectively.

Those who view the governor favorably and approve of his job performance overall (both at 73 percent) are much more likely to say there has been no effect. Christie’s detractors (56 percent) and those critical of his job overall (57 percent) think differently.

“Christie is clearly gearing up in case he decides to run,” said Redlawsk. “There is no other good reason for a governor of New Jersey – even one leading the Republican Governor’s Association – to spend the time he has in Iowa, New Hampshire and even Mexico. Voters seem to recognize this, and while Republicans in New Jersey are pretty upbeat about it, Democrats and independents are much less so, and much more certain that the choices Christie makes today are about his future tomorrow.”

 

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Correction for our August 7 Release

A routine review of the processes we are using to create weights for our data for the current poll has turned up a problem that affected the release on NJ voters attitudes toward Gov. Chris Christie and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton as 2016 presidential candidates we put out on August 7 (see the corrected release here.) Fortunately, the error resulted in no change to our analysis of the results of the poll, but we do see some of our point estimates move up or down a small amount, primarily due to rounding up where we previously rounded down. We routinely round to the nearest percentage point, so if a point estimate is 39.4, we report 39%, while if it is at 39.6, we round up to 40%. We round like this because given a roughly 4-point margin of error, tenths of a percentage are inappropriate precision, especially because each tenth represents less than one person in our typical sample.

The somewhat technical details are these. The error crept in because of the change we reported in how we calculate our weights. Previously we only weighted based on demographics. Starting with EP193 we are now creating an initial “frame weight” that adjusts for the fact that we include both cell and landline phones in the sample, and thus some people have a greater likelihood of being chosen than others (those with both, versus those with only one or the other.)

The frame weight starts by examining the share of all cell and landline phones that are represented in our sample, and this is where the error occurred. Due to an inadvertent oversight, the baseline for the total number of cell phones and landline phones in New Jersey was incorrectly entered into the calculation.  As a result the weight given to cells versus landline phones in our frame weight was incorrect. This error was perpetuated through the rest of the weighting process, throwing off our point estimates by very small, but sometimes noticeable, amounts.

Even though the effects are small and our analyses of the results remains unchanged, it is important that we note and correct this error. The corrected release now contains the following at the end.

Advisory: This release is a corrected version of the release of August 7, 2014. Due to an inadvertent error in calculating weights, some results were reported incorrectly. Most results were correct; while a few numbers used in the original release changed less than one percentage point. However, because of rounding to the nearest percentage point, some results moved up or down one or two points. Key changes include revising the Clinton-Christie match-up from 50%-40% to 51% to 40%. Clinton’s favorable rating should have been reported at 54% favorable instead of 53%, while Christie’s favorable rating should have been reported at 49% instead of 50%. In addition the reported weighted demographics of the sample have changed slightly, including increasing the rounded share of Democrats by 2 points to 33%, and decreasing the share of independents by 2 points to 48% and Republicans by one point to 19%.  Women should have been reported as 54% of the sample instead of 52% and men 46% instead of 48%. These corrected demographics actually better represent NJ voters than did the original reports.

We are sorry about the error and are redoubling our efforts to ensure such errors do not occur again. This particular error only occurred in our latest poll and its first data release. The weighting has been corrected and subsequent releases will use the correct weights.

David Redlawsk
Director, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling

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