Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential ambitions might be earning him national headlines this week, but the Republican’s support at home is continuing a “lukewarm” streak, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds.
The poll shows little change from a similar poll in October, which found 44 percent of registered voters feel favorable toward Christie, while 46 percent feel unfavorable. Christie’s overall job approval is a little better, with 48 percent of voters showing their approval and 47 percent showing disapproval — but his performance on issues that voters say they care deeply about is more bleak.
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 poll results come on the heels of ongoing media frenzy over former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s announcement this week that he’ll actively explore a run for the 2016 Republican nomination — a development that many argue could greatly complicate Christie’s own plans, as Bush is widely seen as Christie’s most formidable challenger.
“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.”
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. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.3 percentage points.