Category Archives: Economy


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


Filed under Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Economy, Education, Taxes

Are America’s Best Days in the Past: New Jerseyans Weigh In

Today’s release for the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll is NOT about NJ Gov. Chris Christie. But it IS about something at least as important: How do New Jerseyans view the country’s economic future? The answer is they are quite split. A bare majority thinks things will get better, but nearly as many believe America’s best economic times are behind it and the next generation will be worse off.

Such findings are depressing if not surprising, given how the economic recovery has not been particularly robust over the past five years.

We also asked respondents to choose which is the greater problem facing the country: income inequality or too much government. This forced choice question does NOT ask if people think both are significant problems, but instead requires respondents to choose one or the other. In doing so we find the expected partisan differences, but also a small gender gap, with women slightly more likely than men to focus on income inequality.

What’s maybe more interesting is despite the fact that women lean more Democratic, and thus would be expected to be relatively positive about the country’s economic future since a Democrat is in the White House, and people tend support their party leaders, the opposite is true. Women are significantly more likely to say the country’s best economic days are behind it, even as they contradict the other partisan findings that Democrats are generally much more optimistic than Republicans. We speculate that this may be because women have born more of the brunt of the economic downturn or are more connected to the family finances.

For a PDF of the release text along with questions and tables, click here.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – While New Jersey has a reputation as a liberal-leaning state, residents are split over whether America’s greater problem is income inequality or too much government, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Asked to choose between the typically liberal belief that income inequality is a bigger problem and conservatives’ regular assertion that the real problem is too much government, New Jersey residents evenly divide at 48 percent for each.

New Jerseyans also divide over the country’s economic future. A bare majority (51 percent) optimistically asserts that the country’s current economic problems are just temporary, while 45 percent pessimistically thinks America’s best days are in the past and the next generation will have to accept a lower standard of living.

“We recently reported large majorities of Garden Staters support a wide range of liberal social positions, but it’s different when it comes to economic well-being,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “While New Jersey is one of the most affluent states, residents appear quite unsettled about the country’s economic future. Moreover, the liberal focus on income inequality is less prevalent than might be expected, when placed against a desire for smaller government.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 22 to 28, part of a  three-state study carried out by Eagleton (NJ), the Siena Research Institute (NY), and Roanoke College’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research (VA). New Jerseyans fall between New Yorkers, a majority of whom (54 percent) say income inequality is the bigger problem and Virginia, where 52 percent say the problem is too much government.

Partisan divide: Income inequality vs. too much government

Unsurprisingly, Garden State Republicans argue that too much government is the greater problem, while Democrats think it is income inequality. Among GOP backers, 79 percent say the former is the greater problem, versus 18 percent who see income inequality as a bigger issue.

But more than two-thirds of Democrats endorse the liberal argument that income inequality is the larger problem, with 31 percent citing bigger government. The even split across the full population comes because independents – the largest political segment in the state – are split, with 45 percent focused on income inequality and 48 percent on bigger government.

“These two problems define current classic partisan divide in America so the big picture is a bit misleading,” said Redlawsk. “Looked at overall, opinions look muddled since New Jerseyans appear evenly divided. But partisans definitely hew their party lines, and it is these same partisans who care most about these questions.”

Reflecting the same partisan divide, supporters of President Barack Obama are highly likely to say income inequality is the greater of the two problems, while a majority of those unfavorable toward the president think the problem is too much government.

There appears to be a weak link between a pessimistic view of the country’s future and believing that too much government is a bigger problem than income inequality. A slight majority of those who think America’s best economic days are in the past side with the conservative view that too much government is the problem, while a slight majority of those optimistic about the economic future thinks income inequality is a more critical issue.

A small gender gap exists as well. Just over half of women side with income inequality, while just over half of men side with too much government. Age also shows some divisions: 56 percent of residents under 30 year old see the problem as income inequality, while older groups are more likely to feel government is too big. While there is no clear trend by income bracket, a focus on income inequality increases with increased levels of education.

Democrats, Obama supporters more optimistic about economic future

While New Jerseyans overall are split between whether the nation’s current economic problems are temporary or reflect a long-term decline, some groups are much more divided.

Sixty-two percent of Democrats say the current economic situation is temporary, with 35 percent see the country’s best days in the past. Independents lean pessimistic: half say the country’s best days are in the past, while 46 percent expect the economy to rebound. Republicans feel similarly: 51 percent are pessimistic, but 44 percent say economic problems are temporary.

Obama supporters and detractors show similar patterns. Almost two-thirds of supporters say problems are temporary, while 60 percent of detractors believe America will never regain its economic strength. Likewise, 58 percent of those for whom income inequality is the greater problem think that the economy will regain its strength. However, respondents who say too much government is the problem express a pessimistic view of the economic future, 53 percent to 45 percent.

Almost three-quarters of New Jerseyans who see the U.S. as on the right track call the current economic situation temporary. Those who say the country is going in the wrong direction are less positive, with 57 percent view current economic problems as permanent, versus 40 percent who are more optimistic. Fifty-four percent of residents who think the Garden State is on the right track say the current economic situation is temporary. Those who feel the opposite are equally split, 48 percent optimistic to 50 percent saying the best days are behind us.

Men are much more optimistic about the future than women; 58 percent call the current economic malaise temporary and 38 percent says America’s best days are behind it. While 45 percent of women think conditions will improve, just over half say the country’s best days are past.

“These differences in opinion are not what we necessarily expected,” noted Redlawsk. “Obama’s supporters probably transfer their good feelings about Obama to their perceptions of his work on the economy, and thus see the future as bright. What’s interesting is that the president’s detractors are not unrelentingly negative about the future – more pessimistic than optimistic, perhaps, but not completely on one side or the other.”

Redlawsk added that the gender gap on this question seems to operate in an unexpected direction. “Women, who typically lean more Democratic and more liberal, are nonetheless more pessimistic about the economic future. This may be due to experiencing a gender pay gap that has proven especially painful in this economy. Or, being typically more likely to handle everyday household finances, women may have a better grasp on how difficult things are today compared to before the recession, and thus are less likely to see light at the end of the economic tunnel.”

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