I am not a pollster, so I have no expertise at judging the numerical accuracy of the recent Eagleton Polls regarding Governor Chris Christie.
I must note, however, the irrelevancy of some of the poll’s questions and the incomprehensible emphasis and significance given to them by Eagleton Poll Director David Redlawsk in his press release of April 12, 2011. Specifically, I speak of three questions: 1) Does the word “arrogant” describe Governor Christie well? 2) Does he make you feel angry? 3) Does he make you feel worried?
I could not help but think that if somebody asked these questions of my wife, Lynne regarding me, she would give an emphatic affirmative response to all three. Yes, she would accurately say, my husband is an arrogant, egotistical, insufferable man who often makes me angry and worries the hell out of me. I believe, however, that she would still give me a positive favorability rating – as long as I stayed out of her way while she prepares the kitchen and house for Passover.
Regarding Chris Christie, these three questions appear to be somewhat vacuous.
The Governor is a highly self-confident individual – thank God. It takes such a high degree of self confidence for a Governor to have the courage to take on special interests in his pursuit of property tax controls and pension and health benefit reforms. Self-abnegation may be a desirable trait in a clerical figure, but not in a Governor who is attempting to implement the most comprehensive reform agenda in modern New Jersey history.
If voters misperceive the Governor’s self-confidence for arrogance, they still will support him for reelection if he succeeds in implementing policies of which they approve. Chris Christie came to Trenton to govern. He did not seek to enter a Miss Congeniality contest. New Jersey voters judge the bottom line. If the voters feel that Christie has governed effectively, they will not concern themselves with whether his sense of pride borders on arrogance.
Even more irrelevant is the Eagleton question of whether Christie makes the voters angry.
There has never been a President or Governor who pursued an ambitious reform agenda without generating anger from special interests and large groups of voters opposed to such measures. In pursuing extensive education reform and long range revisions to New Jersey’s teachers and public employees pension and health benefit plans, Chris Christie cannot help but engender anger on the part of members of the two most powerful unions in the state – the New Jersey Education Association and the Communications Workers of America.
The issue is one of whether the electorate supports the Governor’s education reform initiatives and pension and health care plan amendments. If the Governor succeeds in generating sufficient public support to secure legislative passage of his proposals, the anger of his opponents will be a matter of major insignificance.
Finally, there is the almost laughable Eagleton Poll question of whether the Governor makes the voters feel worried. Candidly, I have a hard time understanding the meaning of this question.
Every President and Governor, including those for whom I campaigned most fervently, has in some fashion or other made me feel worried. I worried about the health of the chief executives I supported and the political consequences of their failure to enact their proposals. The fact that they made me feel worried in no way reduced my support for them.
The real significant polling story regarding Christie is that he has consistently outpolled other Republican governors facing similar budgetary and public employees issues, such as Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. I attribute this to the superiority of Christie’s communication skills and political judgement.
Ultimately, Christie’s reelection prospects will be determined by his success in controlling property taxes and generating new job creation over the next two years. His place in history will be determined by his success in enacting education reforms and amendments to public employees pension and health benefit plans.
When Chris Christie announced his candidacy for governor in January, 2009, he pledged that 1) he would govern as if he would be only a one-term governor; and 2) he would not be influenced by polls. The Governor has truly kept these promises.
If Chris Christie continues to govern in this fashion, I am quite confident that his reelection prospects and his place in history will both be favorable and secure.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He currently serves on the political science faculty of Monmouth University.