Rutgers-Eagleton: Obama at 60%, Christie at 47% favorability

Sixty percent of N.J. respondents view President Barack Obama favorably, an increase of 10 points since October 2011, according to this morning’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

The president’s favorability rating here is at its highest point in more than 18 months, and only 33 percent of voters say they hold an unfavorable impression of him.

New Jerseyans also give the president higher grades on job performance. Nearly half (48 percent) give him an A or B, compared to 38 percent in October. Negative grades (D or F) have remained static at 30 percent, unchanged from 31 percent four months ago. Those in the middle, giving Obama a C, have declined by 10 points to 22 percent.

“We have seen a continual increase in positive ratings for the president since he bottomed out in New Jersey in August,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “And while voters continue to like him personally better than they like the job he is doing, that gap has been closing.”

In contrast, Gov. Chris Christie’s favorability and job performance numbers remain virtually unchanged. Forty-seven percent rate the governor favorably, virtually no change over the past two years. Forty-three percent grade the governor A or B, and 32 percent assign a D or F. Both numbers are essentially unchanged from October 2011, though improved since August of last year. Another 24 percent give him a C.

“Governor Christie’s favorability ratings in our polls have stayed within a very small range, between 44 percent and 49 percent, since he was inaugurated,” said Redlawsk. “His job performance grade bounces around a bit more, depending on how voters view the particular issues of the day. But where voters prefer Obama personally to his job performance, the two measures are closely tied in the case of the governor.”

Results are from a poll of 914 adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Feb. 9-11. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

Redlawsk said one key to Obama’s rising fortunes in the state is that independent voters are now strongly positive in their personal assessments of the president, with 55 percent reporting a favorable impression, up 14 percent since last October, while 37 percent are unfavorable, down from 47 percent. Even Republicans have shown a softening: 17 percent now view the president with favor, double the October number. Even so, 76 percent remain negative.

“Independent and moderate voters are the key to winning re-election in New Jersey,” said Redlawsk. “If Obama’s numbers continue to tick up among these groups, he will be in good shape in November. It appears that his latest moves to be more assertive against the Republican Congress and to take on his opponents more directly may be paying off, as least here.”

Obama’s job performance grade is also up across all voters: 16 percent say he deserves an A (up six points from October), and 32 percent give him a B (up from 28 percent).

Among the 60 percent of voters who rate the president favorably, 25 percent say he should get an A for his job performance, 50 percent say he deserves a B, and 21 percent say a C reflects his performance most accurately. This is an improvement over the past few months when even those who liked the president rated him less positively on his job performance. Last October, 50 percent of registered voters had a favorable impression of Obama, yet only 19 percent gave his job performance an A while 48 percent graded it B. Thirty percent of those who liked him said his stewardship merited only a C four months ago.

“The important point here is that not only is the president’s favorability and job performance grade improved, but those who like him are now much more likely to like the job he is doing,” said Redlawsk.

While Obama is on the uptick in New Jersey, Christie’s favorability and job performance ratings remain relatively unchanged from October. Looking further back, Christie was viewed favorably by 45 percent of voters in February 2010; today that number is 47 percent. Likewise, job performance numbers have changed little overall, with 16 percent giving him an A and 27 percent a B. On the other side, 14 percent give the governor a D and 18 percent fail him. About one-quarter of voters are right in the middle, grading his job performance as a C.

“When it comes to job performance, Obama and Christie are viewed pretty much the same by voters,” said Redlawsk. “But compared with the president, Christie’s job performance and personal likeability remain much more closely linked.”

Comparing job performance as rated by one’s own supporters, Christie does slightly better than Obama. The governor’s performance is given an A or B by 80 percent of his supporters, compared to the 75 percent of Obama supporters who give him these high marks. In this measure, Obama is catching up to Christie, since the gap was larger a few months ago.

At the same time, Christie no longer outperforms Obama among independents. Unaffiliated registered voters rate the governor’s performance favorably: 41 percent grade him A or B and 32 percent D or F. But among independents, Obama earns an A or B from 47 percent and a D or F from 24 percent.

Redlawsk summed up the findings this way: “The movement we see since our last assessment is chiefly in Obama’s improving fortunes in the Garden State.”

Rutgers-Eagleton: Obama at 60%, Christie at 47% favorability