Category Archives: NJ Voters

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context alters attitudes toward Christie resignation

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

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

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

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

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

Voters see Candidate Christie as putting New Jersey second

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

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

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

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

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

“Governor” Guadagno?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Differences across, within partisanship on positive traits

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

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

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

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

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

Independents spur new negative trait highs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Partisanship drives emotions

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

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

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Gov. Christie’s Ratings Continue to Fall

Tuesday evening we learned that NJ Gov Chris Chrisite made it into tonight’s primetime debate sponsored by Fox News. It was somewhat touch and go; Christie was in 9th place in the poll averaged used by Fox, and thus he made the top 10. As we reported on Monday, New Jerseyans expected him to make the debate and anticipate he will be able to hold his own. But as today’s release shows, the governor’s ratings among New Jersey voters continue to drop; his favorability rating is down 8 points since our last poll in April to just 30 percent. That puts him below former Gov. John Corzine right before Christie beat the incumbent in 2009, who recorded 33% favorability in our October 2009 poll.

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



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

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Gov. Chris Christie campaigns to win over voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, voters back home are more dissatisfied with him than ever, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 30 percent of New Jersey registered voters have a favorable opinion of Christie, an eight-point drop since April and less than half his favorable rating following his November 2013 re-election; 59 percent are now unfavorable, an 11-point increase since April. Christie’s favorability has mostly been on a downward spiral since August 2014.

“Governor Christie has not experienced any kind of 2016 announcement ‘bump’ in ratings from voters back home – in fact, quite the opposite,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While he has yet to challenge the record low job approval of 17 percent logged by Brendan Byrne in April 1977, he is edging toward the lowest ratings recorded for any New Jersey governor over 45 years of Rutgers-Eagleton Polls.”

Voter dislike for Christie stems from defining traits that have proved both a blessing and a curse for him since taking office. Asked to justify their negative assessments, 18 percent cite his character, attitude, and image as reasons for their unfavorable feelings; another 10 percent use such terms as untrustworthy, deceitful, and liar. Among the 30 percent who are favorable, 28 percent point to his honesty and straightforwardness, 15 percent like his overall governing style and performance, and 14 percent each cite his personality and his attempts to better New Jersey.

Christie’s overall job approval shows a similar collapse over the past year, also reaching a new low after a steady decline since August 2014. He now stands at 37 percent approve (down four points) to 59 percent disapprove (up five points).

Christie fares no better on individual issues, reaching a new low on approval for Superstorm Sandy recovery – now at 46 percent approve, far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-seven percent currently disapprove of his work in this area.

Christie also falls to new lows on education (34 percent approve, 58 percent disapprove) and crime and drugs (43 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove). He remains at his low point on the economy and jobs (31 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove), and continues to receive substantial disapproval for his efforts on taxes (28 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove), the state budget (30 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove), and the state pension fund situation (22 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove).

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

Christie’s favorability drops across the board

Christie’s favorability has reached new lows in virtually every demographic, seeing declines among his usual supporters and detractors alike. His Republican base seems to be growing more weary, with just 61 percent of GOPers now having a favorable impression of the governor, down seven points since April and “miles” from the near-unanimous party support he received pre-Bridgegate. Views among Democrats have sunk even lower, with just 11 percent now favorable toward the governor – less than half of the favorable rating four months ago; 78 percent are unfavorable. Independents also show a six-point drop in favorability, now at 30 percent, versus 59 percent who are unfavorable.

Christie now does worse with men than with women, reversing the typical gender gap that Christie has faced as a Republican – down 10 points to 29 percent favorable among the former, and down five points to 32 percent among the latter. His favorability has also dropped among both white (seven points to 36 percent favorable) and non-white voters (11 points to 18 percent favorable).

Middle-aged voters show an especially large decline compared to other age groups: now 28 percent favorable (down 18 points), versus 24 percent favorable among millennials and 40 percent among senior citizens.

Even many of Christie’s strongest supporters in shore and especially exurban counties have pulled away from him, with about four in 10 now feeling favorably– an 11-point drop since April for exurbanites. Residents of urban, suburban, and southern counties – traditionally more Democratic regions – show further drops in their already lower favorability rating.

The attitude, the bullying, perception of lies

When New Jersey voters are asked why they feel favorable or unfavorable toward the governor, Christie’s most famous traits spur both positive and negative views. His “tell it like it is” campaign seems to be working at least on some Garden State voters, with a few respondents directly referencing the slogan to explain their positivity. Among the 28 percent who feel similarly, his “frankness,” “no nonsense” approach, ability to “speak his mind,” and being “a man of his word” are frequently mentioned. The 15 percent who give his performance as governor as a reason for their favorable views think Christie is doing a “good job” and is “trying” and “working hard.” Favorable voters also mention a range of positive personal attributes, calling him respectful, caring, nice, and courageous – and even appreciate his tough guy, bully approach. Christie’s policy decisions and actions, his Superstorm Sandy leadership, and his effectiveness and ability to get things done are mentioned as positive reasons as well, but each come in at single digits.

Christie’s most infamous personal traits – some of the very same mentioned by Christie supporters – take the top three spots among reasons given by unfavorable voters. In the words of one voter among the 18 percent who mentioned Christie’s personality, “I am tired of the loudmouth Jersey guy routine.” Among those unfavorable voters who mention something pertaining to honesty, the second-highest reason at 10 percent, many outright call Christie a “liar” and believe he “does not keep his promises.”

Another 9 percent specifically mention “bully” as why they dislike him, the same percentage that cites his treatment of teachers and the education system. Other reasons for voter dislike include: Christie’s handling of state workers, unions, and the pension system (8 percent); his overall governing and apathy toward New Jersey and its citizens (each at 7 percent); his ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishments (5 percent); ,and his policy decisions (5 percent). His out-of-state traveling and campaigning for president, as well as scandals such as Bridgegate, actually rank low among voters’ reasons for discontent (3 percent each).

“While there have been both highs and lows in the trajectory of Chris Christie as governor, voters are more focused on Christie’s personal qualities than specific events,” said Koning. “In his heyday, Christie was the tough Jersey guy you wanted on your side, the refreshing straight-talker who ‘tells it like it is.’ But at his lowest moments, these same traits have been used against him and are painted in a much more unflattering light. Voter explanations of their views – especially negative ones – have more to do with the governor himself and his personal style than anything else.”

Negativity grows among Christie’s base

Though slightly higher than his favorability, Christie’s overall job approval as governor has nevertheless reached a new low. While 69 percent of Republicans are still in his corner, only 19 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents approve of his performance as governor. Since April, backing from many of his typical supporters has fallen: male voters to 36 percent (down seven points), white voters to 41 percent (down five points), those who are middle-aged to 34 percent (down 13 points), and exurbanites to 44 percent (down 10 points).

Christie’s approvals by issue fare no better. On Republicans’ top concern, taxes, just 38 percent approve of his approach, while 54 percent disapprove – the first time a majority of Christie’s base has given him disapproval on the issue. Twenty percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents approve Christie’s job in this area; similar numbers feel the same on his handling of the economy and jobs. Christie does better with Republicans on the economy, at 50 percent approval.

Republicans are also mostly responsible for Christie’s new lows on education (52 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 10 points) and crime (57 percent of GOP voters now approve, down 12 points), whereas Democrats and independents have fluctuated little. Republican voters also show growing disapproval with how the governor has handled the state pension fund: 32 percent of Republicans now support Christie here (down 13 points), while 45 percent disapprove. Only 14 percent of Democrats (up six points) and 23 percent of independents approve.

Views on Sandy recovery efforts and the state budget are virtually steady since April.

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

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

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

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


Trump stands atop list for NJ Republicans; Christie distant second

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christie supporters most hopeful about his debate chances

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

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

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

Little faith in a Christie presidency

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

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

NJ Republicans want … President Trump?

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

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

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

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

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


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Gov. Chris Christie Polling: A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Summary

As NJ Gov. Chris Christie prepares to announce a 2016 presidential run today, we decided to summary our last 18 months of polling New Jersey voters about their governor. The details of the polls included here, with graphs and margin of error details, can be found here.  Note that we do NOT have new polling in this release, but rather a compendium of the polling we’ve done on the Governor’s favorability and job ratings, his personality traits and emotional responses to him, and some questions on the prospect of him as president.

Text of the full release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release.



 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie officially tosses his hat into the ring for 2016 today amidst sinking ratings, unflattering perceptions, and skepticism about his presidential chances from home state voters, according to a number of Rutgers-Eagleton polls from the past year.

Discontent among New Jerseyans has been fueled by Bridgegate and other allegations against Christie and his administration dating to January 2014. While Christie was an early frontrunner for 2016 due to unprecedented post-Superstorm Sandy ratings highs – at his peak, Christie had a 70 percent favorable rating in February 2013 – his announcement of a presidential bid comes during his lowest point in public opinion to date as governor.

“Announcing a presidential run with low or declining ratings back home is not unprecedented,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are in similar situations. Voters elsewhere may not care that much about how New Jerseyans feel, but Christie’s decline has to hurt, especially when his original appeal stemmed from his bipartisan efforts and leadership in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.”

Christie’s 2016 campaign slogan – “Telling it like it is” – takes advantage of the straight-talking attitude for which he is best known, but New Jersey voters have cooled to his brashness. Negativity toward Christie in the past 18 months has pervaded judgments on Christie as a person (now seen as more bully than trustworthy), his job (no rating crosses the 50-percent mark), and his chances for 2016 (more than four in 10 New Jerseyans said they have worsened recently). Christie was viewed as a beacon of bipartisanship in the Sandy aftermath, but now even Republicans in New Jersey have become less inclined to rally behind him.

All results described here are from previously released Rutgers-Eagleton statewide polls of New Jersey adults, with registered voter subsamples, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones. All past Christie-related releases, ratings, and other reports can be found at: including disclosures and margins of error.

Christie: more stubborn, arrogant and less trustworthy

After benefiting from his unique personal style for a solid year post-Sandy, perceptions of Christie’s positive character traits began to decline following his Bridgegate press conference in January 2014. By April 2015 fewer than half saw the positives: “smart” (49 percent), “strong leader” (39 percent), “effective” (26 percent), “fair” (21 percent) and “trustworthy” (17 percent). The last three reached all-time lows that month, with trustworthy falling furthest since Bridgegate. These were many of the same characteristics that saw large increases for Christie right after Sandy struck.

Negative descriptors, on the other hand, have climbed steadily during this same period, with solid majorities calling him “arrogant” (57 percent) and “stubborn” (64 percent) by April 2015. Nearly half have said he is a “bully” and “self-centered.” At the same time, only 10 percent said the term “presidential” suits Christie “very well.”

Moreover, while half the state’s voters felt proud and enthusiastic about him immediately after Sandy, only 30 percent now feel positive. But 40 percent feel “contempt” or “worry.”

“Christie has always branded himself as a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy, and sometimes – like with Sandy, or even his ‘Get the hell off the beach’ moment during Hurricane Irene – it has definitely worked for him,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “But the Jersey tough guy approach seems to have worn thin, and the traits for which he was praised during some of his finest displays of leadership are now working against him.”

Favorability and job approval: post-Sandy highs turn into post-Bridgegate lows

The turn for the worse in perceptions of Christie’s personality is strongly connected to a precipitous decline in Christie’s favorability and job approval ratings. Ratings are now a far cry from when Christie polled at or near the top of the 2016 Republican pack; both favorability and job approval are now more negative than positive (net negative) and at their lowest points ever.

In the April 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Christie’s favorability rating was just 38 percent, while 48 percent felt unfavorable. Fifty-four percent of voters disapproved of his job performance compared to 41 percent who approved. His job grade has similarly taken a big hit, compared to what New Jersey voters awarded him pre-Bridgegate; 70 percent give him a C or lower, with a quarter of this group failing him.

Approval on specific issues has also dropped, including such nationally significant issues as taxes (26 percent approval) and the economy (31 percent), at their lowest levels ever. Approval on Sandy recovery efforts is no exception. This was once the governor’s strongest issue area, garnering almost 90 percent approval, but only about half this number still approved by April 2015.

“For a good while, Sandy was the biggest driver of Christie’s overall ratings,” said Koning. “Despite mediocre approval in other areas, Christie’s leadership immediately before, during and after the storm singlehandedly carried him to unprecedented highs through his re-election in 2013. But as 2014 brought an onslaught of allegations against his administration, the lengthy Sandy bump vanished, and the governor’s numbers have not recovered.”

Growing dissent among Garden State’s GOP base

Following Sandy, Christie commanded support from Democrats, independents and Republicans. This bipartisanship unsurprisingly faded over time, with first Democrats and then independents, to some extent, waning on Christie. But less expected in this era of unabashed partisanship, Republicans recently have cooled on Christie as well.

During the early part of 2015, Democrats and independents remained relatively steady in their negative assessments of the governor. Republicans, however, registered a double-digit approval drop between February and April. Among GOP voters, job approval was down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval up 11 points to 27 percent in April. Republicans’ impression of Christie also took a hit to 68 percent favorable; a far cry from the almost unanimous backing Christie once received from this group. Meanwhile just a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents felt favorable.

New Jersey Republicans have split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, Christie is in the red with GOPers – 44 percent approve of his approach, while 49 percent disapprove, according to the April survey. Republicans have been slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove). By comparison, Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.

“Christie losing Republicans in his own state – a group known to be more moderate than Republicans in other parts of the country – can translate into a big problem for him nationally,” said Redlawsk. “Whatever the case may be as to why New Jersey Republicans feel this way, Christie now lacks full support from his base at home – not an ideal way to kick off a presidential campaign. Still, Christie is a great campaigner, and early primary state voters reward the kind of personal connections he has been able to make in the past. Christie may be down, but he’s not quite out.”

A bleak view of a “President” Christie

Most New Jerseyans do not see Christie as a good president: in April just 24 percent said he would make a good president; 69 percent said no, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll. But a slim majority of voters most positive toward him do see Christie as a good president: 53 percent of Republican voters and 55 percent of those with a favorable impression of Christie.

New Jersey voters have been mixed on the likelihood of Christie ultimately becoming the Republican nominee. In April, 44 percent believed his chances had worsened in recent months, 46 percent said they were about the same, and just 6 percent said they had improved. “At this point, there is no reason to think anything has changed here in New Jersey,” noted Koning. “The last two months have not been any better for Christie than any of the other months since Bridgegate brought his high flying ratings crashing down. Only time will tell if his campaign can turn it around.”

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NJ Voters Not Particularly Positive about Christie Traits

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans sour on positive perceptions of Christie

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

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

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

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

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

Negative perceptions increase slightly

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

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

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

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

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

Partisans’ emotions

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 27- Apr. 3, 2015, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Christie losing Republican support at home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected

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

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

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

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

Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State

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

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

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

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

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Today’s release focuses on Hillary Clinton, while (spoiler alert!) we will have a similar release about Chris Christie tomorrow. We decided to split the releases because there is simply too much information to jam into one. For both Clinton and Christie we asked a series of questions about whether they seem presidential compared to other potential (and unnamed) competitors from their own parties,  and whether they would make a good president overall. For this release on Clinton, we additionally asked whether the country is “ready” for a women president and whether New Jersey voters want to see a woman president in their lifetimes.

The topline? Clinton currently cleans up in New Jersey – with huge leads over Christie, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker in head-to-head tests, and New Jersey voters overwhelmingly think the country is ready for a woman president. Half also say they want to see a women president in their lifetimes, but half says this does not matter to them. Not surprisingly, since the potential woman president who comes universally to mind is Clinton, Republicans aren’t particularly interested, and Democrats really, really want this to happen. Especially female Democrats.

One interesting sidelight – questions like “is the country ready…” are often thought to stand in for the kind of direct questions that maybe cannot be asked. If we ask people directly if they are ready for a women president, few will directly admit to any gender bias on this score. But when we ask indirectly, we may be getting some insight into the respondent’s own preferences.  In this case, however, 80% of New Jersey voters say the country is ready, which suggests even on the individual respondent level, there is relatively little bias in New Jersey against such an event. In the end this is all the more interesting since during Clinton’s 2008 run, a CNN poll found Americans more “ready” for a Black president than they were for a woman. Maybe times have changed?

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


Clinton clobbers Christie, other GOP hopefuls in NJ matchups, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With all signs pointing to a second presidential campaign by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 80 percent of New Jersey voters say Americans are ready for a woman in the Oval Office, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 16 percent think the country is not yet ready for such a groundbreaking event.

Further, half of Garden State voters hope to see a woman become president in their lifetime, although the other half says it does not matter to them personally.

For many, hope for a woman president is apparently related to being “ready for Hillary.” A large majority of New Jersey voters has a positive view of Clinton and her potential, with 63 percent saying she would make a good president overall. Respondents are very upbeat about Clinton: 70 percent say she has the right “look” to be president, 74 percent say she has the right “demeanor and personality” and 83 percent say she has the right amount of “experience” when considered against other potential Democratic contenders.

“During Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for president, there was a great deal of talk about how voters would respond to her gender,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In January 2008, a CNN poll found Americans more ‘ready’ for a black president than a woman. Fast forward seven years and New Jerseyans, at least, have little doubt that the country is now ready for a woman president.”

Clinton continues to command high favorability ratings here. Her 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable rating puts her well ahead of any other figures the poll tested, including President Obama (53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable). One result of her strong showing is that she easily crushes potential 2016 Republican opponents in New Jersey head-to-head matchups. She tops Gov. Chris Christie, 58 percent to 35 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 58 percent to 32 percent; and Wisc. Gov. Schott Walker, 60 percent to 29 percent.

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.

Partisanship, gender and a woman president

Democrats (85 percent) and independent voters (83 percent) overwhelmingly believe the nation is ready for a woman president. Republicans are less certain, with 67 percent agreeing and 31 percent disagreeing. Partisanship plays an even stronger role when it comes to personal hopes regarding a woman in the Oval Office. Two-thirds of Democrats want to see a woman in the White House in their lifetime, but 70 percent of Republicans say such an historic event does not matter to them. Independents are split – 47 percent hope for a woman president, while 53 percent say it does not matter.

“Of course, asking about the potential for a woman president brings only one candidate easily to mind for most – Hillary Clinton,” noted Redlawsk. “Voters are influenced by who they can imagine in the White House, so Republicans are dramatically less likely to want it to happen any time soon. Given a strong female Republican candidate, we would no doubt see a significant shift among GOP supporters.”

Men and women also differ in their expectations about a future woman president. Men are more likely to say the U.S. is ready to elect one, 84 percent to 77 percent. Women are 16 points more likely to personally hope to see a woman elected in their lifetime, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Given Hillary Clinton’s prominence, the desire to see a woman president is especially driven by Democratic women voters. More than 70 percent want to see a woman elected in their lifetime, compared to just over 50 percent of Democratic men. There is no gender gap among Republicans: about 30 percent of each gender personally hopes to see a woman elected during their lifetime.

But regardless of party, women are less likely to think the country is ready for one of their own as president, with the same gap between men and women evident for Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“Women are more likely to see gender discrimination, which probably makes them more cautious about the prospects for a woman president, said Redlawsk. “On the other hand, Democratic women in particular want to see their gender finally represented in the White House, something that doesn’t resonate the same way with men of any partisan stripe. These patterns track with national averages.”

Clinton’s presidential prospects high among voter base

Even as an unannounced candidate, Clinton has most New Jersey voters believing in her capabilities, especially voters most likely to be among her base. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents agree Clinton would make a good president overall. Only 27 percent of Republicans feel the same. Women are more likely to agree than men (66 percent versus 59 percent). Nonwhite voters and those under 65 years old are more likely as well.

As for particular presidential qualities, Clinton does well even with Republicans, half of whom agree that she has the right “look” to be president; 86 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents say the same. As for her presidential “demeanor and personality,” 92 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans agree with the statement. Additionally, 95 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans concur that Clinton has the right “experience” to be president.

Men and women share similar views on these questions. Nonwhite and younger to middle-age voters resemble Democrats in their assessments. Even a fair share of those unfavorable toward Clinton herself say she has the right look (42 percent), demeanor (35 percent) and especially experience (61 percent) – though only 16 percent of this group say she would make a good president.

“While they are not particularly interested in her becoming president, even Republicans see Hillary Clinton as experienced and of presidential character compared to other unnamed Democratic candidates,” said Redlawsk. “More importantly, she does well on these characteristics among independents, crucial to any general election.”

Top GOP candidates no match in New Jersey

Clinton’s favorability rating has remained well above 50 percent throughout the past year, after an initial slip from 65 percent in January 2014. Democrats are overwhelmingly favorable toward Clinton, at 88 percent. More than over half of independents agree, but just over one in five Republicans feels the same.

Women are 11 points more likely to have a favorable impression of her than men (64 percent to 53 percent). Nonwhite voters are much more likely than white voters to feel favorably towards Clinton – 79 percent versus 50 percent.

Tested head-to-head with Christie, Bush or Walker, Clinton maintains large leads across a wide range of New Jersey voters. Christie does slightly better than Bush and Walker but still loses to Clinton by wide margins among most groups, except Republicans and conservatives. Walker does the worst of all three GOP governors among independents and Republicans when pitted against Clinton. Bush sees the largest gender gap in his matchup.

Those who say Clinton has the right look, demeanor, and experience, and would make a good president overall, are much more likely to say they would vote for her in each matchup. Just under two-thirds of those who think the U.S. is ready for a woman president prefer Clinton in all matchups, as do about three-quarters of those who hope to see a woman president in their lifetime.

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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 look back at the midterm elections. While little changed in New Jersey, the election of course resulted in Democrats losing control of the U.S. Senate.  That word got out pretty far and wide – 8 in 10 New Jerseyans know Republicans are taking over (far more than the 30-something percent that actually voted in November).  There is some expectation that the new Republican-led Congress will change the country’s direction and limit Obama’s ability to get things done (although, since the poll was done we have seen Obama flex his muscles in areas he can direct). New Jerseyans, however, do not expect a rise of bipartisan compromise, as much as they would like to see it.

We also asked people to tell us in a word or two the most important issue they would like the new Congress to “fix” and whether they expect a fix to happen. At the top is the economy (22%) and people are surprisingly optimistic something will get done. Many other topics came up, but for the most part those raising them do not expect much to happen on their most important issue.

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


Rutgers Poll: Nearly half of Garden Staters say GOP majority will limit Obama agenda

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As 2014 winds down, New Jerseyans see both change and continuity for Congress, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. More than half of the state’s residents believe Republican control of the Senate will change the country’s direction, with 19 percent saying things will change a lot, and 38 percent seeing some change coming. About a quarter think GOP control will not make much difference and 16 percent think nothing will change.

The poll, completed before the president’s announcement on normalizing relations with Cuba, also shows limited expectations for the Obama administration’s final two years. Nearly half think Obama will not be able to accomplish much of his agenda in the remainder of his term, while 16 percent expect him to get nothing done at all. Some are more optimistic: 32 percent see Obama getting some things done over the next two years, and 5 percent say he will get a lot done.

“The vast majority of New Jerseyans know control of the Senate is flipping to the Republicans next year, so their expectations are informed by that,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Despite the president’s recent flexing of his executive muscles, it is not unreasonable to think he will have a hard time accomplishing his goals.”

Asked to name their top priority for the new Congress, respondents say the economy and jobs. The 22 percent who want Congress to fix the economy first are somewhat hopeful it might happen. Only two percent say a fix for the economy is “very likely” and another 62 percent say it is somewhat likely Congress will make progress here.
However, 32 percent are dubious, and think action on the economy is not at all likely. But across a full range of issues named by New Jerseyans they are less hopeful: just three percent think it is very likely their most important issue will be addressed, while 43 percent see it as somewhat likely. A plurality, 48 percent, expects no real action on their key issue.

New Jerseyans strongly endorse the idea that compromise is needed in Congress. Two-thirds think compromise is more important than for lawmakers to stick to their individual beliefs. Having said that, residents simultaneously predict there will be little improvement in relations between the parties. Fifty-seven percent say relations will stay the same, 29 percent think they will get even worse, and just 12 percent believe they will get better.

Slightly more registered voters say they voted for a Democrat over a Republican in November’s congressional elections, but they are negative about both parties. Thirty-five percent of all residents hold a positive view of Democrats compared with 28 percent toward Republicans.

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 adults, including 646 registered voters, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014, with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points. The registered voter subsample has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.

Residents give GOP upper hand, question Obama’s effectiveness

After November’s GOP tidal wave, Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the Republican takeover of the Senate will “change the way things are going in this country.” Most Republicans predict at least some change, with 23 percent expecting “a lot” of change and 55 percent expecting “some” change.

A quarter of Democrats also expect a lot of change, while 30 percent think there will be some change. Independents are slightly less certain of the impact of GOP control of the Senate: just 12 percent say it will have a lot of impact on the country, while another 38 percent say some impact.

The same pattern occurs regardless of views about Obama, the parties in Congress, respondent ideology or the midterm congressional vote; across all of about half or more New Jerseyans say that GOP Senate control will change things in the country, at least to some extent.

Views on Obama’s effectiveness during his remaining time in office are more directly tied to political preferences. Among Democrats, 40 percent think the president will be able to accomplish some of his agenda, but only 7 percent say he will be able to do a lot. Republicans are far more negative: only a quarter expect Obama to accomplish even some of what he wants in his last two years. Half expect little to happen, and another 20 percent see none of Obama’s preferences being implemented. Independents resemble Republicans: one-third think Obama will get at least something done – four percent say “a lot” – while two-thirds believe he will not get much, if anything, accomplished.

Those favorable towards Obama and Democrats in Congress, as well as those who voted for Democrats this past election, are also more likely to believe the president will get something done in the next two years. Surprisingly, those who say GOP control of the Senate will have an impact are slightly more likely than those who feel the opposite to say Obama will have some impact as well.

Doubt about congressional ability to fix top concerns

New Jerseyans say the most important issues for a GOP-led Congress to fix are a blend of perennial and more recent concerns. The economy and jobs is the most frequently mentioned, at 22 percent. Second – probably due to Obama’s executive order just as the poll was taken – is immigration at 12 percent. Health care and taxes tie for third, at nine percent each. Eight percent mention something about bipartisanship or compromise, but only two percent mention gun and crime-related issues. Another two percent name social issues, including race relations.

The economy is tops for all New Jerseyans, but Democrats (at 28 percent) are more likely to name the issue as the top concern compared to Republicans and independents, by eight and nine points, respectively. On the other hand, Republicans and independents are more likely to mention taxes, immigration and Obamacare as their top concern, compared to Democrats.

Those for whom a congressional fix of the economy is most important are somewhat optimistic that it will actually get done, but New Jerseyans with other top concerns do not agree. While the heavy focus on the economy means relatively small numbers of respondents named other issues, among those who did, the trend is toward much less optimism. One-third of immigration advocates doubt anything will happen, while about six in 10 who care about taxes expect nothing to get done. Similarly, half of those who mention health care anticipate no progress on the issue.

“While the small subsamples focused on issues other than the economy mean that we are much less certain of the results, the trends seem pretty clear,” noted Redlawsk. “There is simply more optimism among those who care most about economic issues than anyone else. This may reflect recent news that the economy is, in fact, improving.”

Little expectation for bipartisanship despite desire for compromise

Though many New Jerseyans see change on the horizon, most do not foresee a new era of bipartisanship being ushered in with GOP control of Congress. This is not for lack of desire for lawmakers to work together. Solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents think it is more important for legislators to compromise to get laws passed than to stick to their own beliefs. Democrats, probably mindful of the new political landscape, however, are more likely to want comprise, 74 percent compared with 65 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans.

More than half of Democrats, Republicans and independents are pessimistic about improved relations in the coming year. But Republicans and, to some extent, independents are about twice as likely as Democrats to say relations will improve. Democrats, instead, believe relations between the two sides will grow even worse; 38 percent say this, compared to about 25 percent of Republicans and independents.

“Things may be changing in Congress in January, but overall, New Jerseyans are uncertain what to expect,” said Redlawsk. “They believe some things may change, but they also remain uncertain about the basic underlying dynamics of Washington getting any better.”

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Filed under Congress, Midterm Elections, NJ Voters, President Obama