Category Archives: NJ Voters

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.

 

‘PRESIDENT’ CHRISTIE?
2016 ANNOUNCEMENT FOLLOWS YEAR OF INCREASINGLY NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS AND FALLING RATINGS FOR GOVERNOR

 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: http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/governor-christie/ 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans sour on positive perceptions of Christie

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

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

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

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

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

Negative perceptions increase slightly

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

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

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

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

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

Partisans’ emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christie losing Republican support at home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected

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

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

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

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

Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State

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

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

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

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

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TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE? NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

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.

TIME FOR A WOMAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE?
NEW JERSEYANS AGREE COUNTRY IS READY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

Mixed views on Christie’s legacy

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

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

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NEW JERSEYANS SEE NEW CONGRESS CHANGING COUNTRY’S DIRECTION

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.

NEW JERSEYANS SEE NEW CONGRESS CHANGING COUNTRY’S DIRECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One bright spot: report card gets a small boost

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

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

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

Republican support slips on key issue

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

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

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

Voters unhappy with Christie performance on top concerns          

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

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

Economic concerns and New Jersey’s direction

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

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

Overall ratings and partisanship

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

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

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

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

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