Governor Chris Christie’s job approval rating remains high as he prepares to start his second term. At the same time, few New Jerseyans have a clear idea or specific expectations about what he will do with the next four years. The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll also finds that views of President Barack Obama’s performance have dropped in the Garden State, while the state’s newest U.S. Senator, Cory Booker, checks in with an initial net positive job rating.
Currently, Governor Christie holds a 65% approve to 25% disapprove job rating among all Garden State residents. Among registered voters, his rating stands at 65% approve to 27% disapprove. These results are consistent with other polls taken after Superstorm Sandy.
Gov. Christie continues to earn positive reviews from large majorities of Republicans (85%) and independents (73%). Democrats are divided – 47% approve and 45% disapprove – marking the first time since Sandy hit that Christie has not received a significant plurality of support from New Jersey Democrats. Christie earns a 60% approve to 32% disapprove rating among residents of those communities that were hardest hit by Sandy.
“Gov. Christie’s ratings are holding strong fresh off his resounding re-election victory. However, few New Jerseyans have a clear idea about what a second term holds in store,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Stellar approval ratings and no specific expectations from his constituents could give the governor a lot of leeway in carving out his political future.”
Just 23% of Garden State residents say they have a clear idea of the specific policies Chris Christie will pursue in his second term while another 36% have some idea. Four-in-ten say they do not have much of an idea (31%) or have no idea at all (9%) what the governor will do in his second term. Interestingly, public awareness of Christie’s agenda is not much different now than it was when he first took office. As he embarked on his first term in February 2010, 16% of New Jerseyans felt they had a clear idea what Christie would do as governor, 39% had some idea, 32% had not much of an idea and 10% had no idea at all.
The current poll asked New Jerseyans to identify in their own words what they see as the state’s most pressing issues. Job creation tops the list at 35%. The state’s property tax system comes in second at 25% and public education is third at 21%. Other taxes, when combined, account for another 21%, health care is mentioned by 11% and other issues related to the economy clock in at 10%. Superstorm Sandy recovery is mentioned by 8% of residents.
This marks the first time in recent Monmouth/APP polling that jobs and property taxes were not tied as the number one issue on residents’ minds – property taxes was 31% one year ago and jobs was 30%. This poll also marks an increase in concern about education over the past year (up from 10% in December 2012) and a decrease in Sandy recovery (down from 23% in December 2012) as the state’s most pressing issues.
New Jerseyans were asked to choose from among five specific issues what they would like Gov. Christie to focus on for the next few years. As in the top-of-mind question, creating jobs leads the field at 35%, followed by cutting property taxes at 26% and improving schools at 21%. Fewer than 1-in-10 residents say that either cutting income taxes (9%) or rebuilding from Sandy (8%) should be the governor’s top priority.
Job creation is the top issue for 1-in-3 Republicans (36%), independents (36%), and Democrats (34%) alike. About 3-in-10 Republicans (30%) and independents (29%) say that cutting property taxes should be the governor’s focus. They are joined by 21% of Democrats in this sentiment. More Democrats (30%), though, say that improving schools should be the top priority, compared to 15% of independents and 12% of Republicans who feel the same. Residents of towns that received the brunt of Sandy’s impact put jobs (36%), property taxes (27%), and schools (19%) ahead of storm recovery (11%) and income taxes (6%) as the issue they most want Gov. Christie to work on.
Just 27% expect that Gov. Christie will make a lot of progress on their top issue in the next few years. Another 48% feel there will be a little progress and 22% expect no real progress. Fewer than 3-in-10 of those who name schools (29%), jobs (26%), property taxes (22%), or income taxes (19%) expect to see a lot of progress on that issue in the next few years. On the other hand, the few who name Sandy rebuilding as their top issue are more optimistic, with 50% expecting to see a lot of progress.
“Gov. Christie’s re-election campaign was centered on past accomplishments, particularly around his handling of Superstorm Sandy. He was never really pushed, by voters or by his Democratic opponent, to address future plans on these major issues. It shouldn’t be too surprising then, that residents expect little more than incremental change in these areas,” said Murray.
On the issue of Sandy, 2-in-3 New Jerseyans say they are either very (25%) or somewhat (41%) satisfied with the state’s recovery efforts so far. This 66% who are satisfied is down slightly from 76% in September and 73% in April. In the state’s hardest hit communities, 64% of residents are satisfied with the recovery efforts. Also, 79% of residents say their family has fully recovered from the storm, 16% have partially recovered and 5% have barely or not at all recovered. These numbers have been fairly stable over the past ten months.
Other Job Ratings
The poll also finds that President Barack Obama currently holds a 49% approve to 45% disapprove rating among New Jersey residents and a split 47% approve to 47% disapprove rating among registered voters in the state. This result is nominally the lowest New Jersey job rating for Obama since he took office in 2009 and it is statistically similar to the prior low rating of 47% approve to 46% disapprove among New Jersey voters recorded in October 2011.
The state’s senior U.S. Senator, Bob Menendez, currently holds a 47% approve to 27% disapprove rating among registered voters. This is an improvement over the 44% approve to 38% disapprove rating he held among Garden State voters in April.
Cory Booker makes his first Monmouth/APP poll appearance as New Jersey’s newly minted U.S. Senator with a 37% approve to 21% disapprove rating among registered voters. Another 43% of voters say they do not have an opinion of his performance after less than six weeks on the job.
The New Jersey state legislature has a net positive job rating – 43% approve to 36% disapprove among all residents and 44% approve to 38% disapprove among registered voters. This rating is up a few points from September.
TheMonmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 802 New Jersey adults from December 4 to 8, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of+ 3.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).