Gov. Chris Christie is riding high this week after his dalliance with a presidential run as his poll numbers are showing a robust increase in voter approval.
According to the latest Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll, Christie’s approval rating hit 54 percent against just 38 percent disapproval in the week following his announcement that he would not seek the presidency, his highest rating since taking office 20 months ago.
The number is even higher among registered voters, 55 percent of whom give the governor a favorable rating versus just 37 percent who are unimpressed with the job Christie is doing.
The numbers top the 50 percent approval rating Christie received in August coming off his victory on pension and benefits reform.
Christie’s approval rating among partisan voters has stayed relatively unchanged as 84 percent of Republicans approve of his performance so far, against just 12 percent who give the governor a negative rating. Among Democrats Christie is upside down with 39 percent giving him a thumbs up against 59 percent who disapprove of the job Christie is doing.
But it’s independents who seem to be warming to Christie’s tough talk and bull-in-a-China-shop demeanor. A full 58 percent of independents give Christie a favorable rating against 34 percent who disapprove.
Those numbers follow Christie’s September response to tropical storm Irene and his October speech at the Reagan library and subsequent announcement that he will not throw his hat in the ring for the GOP presidential nomination.
“The buzz around Chris Christie’s fundraising trip and speech at the Reagan Library has reaped dividends for the governor, not only in elevating his national stature but in improving opinion among his constituents back here in New Jersey,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
In a sign that the softened stance employed by the Christie message machine may be working, women have begun to warm up to the governor. The latest poll shows women approve of Christie 53% to 40%, a huge bump from the 45% approve to 48% disapprove rating he received in August.
As Christie crisscrossed the country appearing at fundraisers on the West Coast, Democrats tried to paint the governor as an opportunistic and overly ambitious leader who was neglecting his job at home.
Poll numbers show that message was largely ineffective as two out of three respondents said his flirtation with the presidential bid had no effect on his job performance.
But the Democrats are not the only ones whose message may be getting lost. In his speech at the Reagan library, Christie presented a message of a Legislature that was working with him to achieve common goals. While the kumbaya bi-partisanship rang hollow to some at home, it played well with the national audience.
In New Jersey however, 54 percent of respondents say the branches of government are not working well together versus 32 percent who bought into the governor’s narrative.
Among those who feel the two sides are not working well together, 29% blame Christie more, 19% blame the Democrats more, and 50% blame both sides equally. The number of residents who put more blame on Christie is up by 10 points from August, while the number who blame Democratic legislators more is up by 3 points.
“During his travels, the governor talked a lot about the sense of bipartisanship he’s fostered in New Jersey. The significant shifts in these particular poll questions suggest now that Chris Christie has gone national, Republicans want to support their governor’s claim, whereas Democrats want to shoot it down,” said Murray.
And while Christie himself may have benefitted from his moment in the national sun, many resident say the state also saw a boost. More New Jerseyans say that the national attention generated by Christie has been good (47%) rather than bad (16%) for the state’s reputation. Another 33% say it has had no effect.
One response that should make the governor happy this morning was one on his weight. More than three of every four respondents said that if a candidate is overweight, it would not be a factor in their choice of who to vote for.
Talk of Christie’s weight and its affect on his chances at the presidency were rampant during the week he was reconsidering a run. At a news conference announcing his intent to stay out of the race, Christie chided pundits who opined on his weight calling them “ignorant” and saying his weight, while a health issue, has no bearing on his fitness for the country’s top elected post.
The Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll was conducted by telephone with 817 New Jersey adults from October 5 to 9, 2011. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.4 percent.