As Governor Chris Christie prepares to deliver his fifth State of the State address later today, a divided public assails the heretofore sure-footed Republican governor, with more in New Jersey disapproving of his leadership than approving.
By an even wider margin, more residents say the state is headed down the wrong track, according to this morning’s Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll.
Christie’s approval numbers are upside down and virtually unchanged from October, the last time PublicMind queried voters in the state, according to this morning’s poll.
Thirty-nine percent say they approve of the job he’s doing as governor, and 47 percent say they disapprove. Half (49%) express concern over the direction the state is headed, with just over a third (36%) content with its trajectory. Governor Christie’s approval rating remains low, he’s lost the approval of female voters, and New Jerseyans feel he is focused on becoming president and shirking his gubernatorial duties.
“This is the first time Governor Christie faces a public with numbers like these in regard to his leadership,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of PublicMind. “Regardless of what he says, many in the state will receive his words with skepticism given their concerns over his leadership and the overall health of governance in New Jersey. Voters’ increasing pessimism about the direction of the state mirrors their decreasing approval of the governor’s performance. In his State of the State address, he has to make a case not just for himself, but for New Jersey because voter opinion is upside down on both.”
Jenkins found in her polling that Christie’s struggles continue with groups whose support once defined him as a unique politician. Public employee union households, Democrats, and independents align themselves with the governor’s critics, even though they once evaluated him in numbers favorable and enviable to other leaders seeking the panache of bipartisan appeal. Currently, just over a quarter public employee union households (27%) and Democrats (27%), and 40 percent of independents offer approval for the governor’s job performance. Contrast these numbers with those before the Bridgegate story broke: In September 2013, 42 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents, and 38 percent of public employee union households approved of the governor.
Choose to be respected, not loved, Christie’s late mother once advised when counseling her teenage son on how to handle women.
Love will come if respect exists first.
But most women don’t buy it, by the reckoning of PublicMind, which found that they constitute another group who appear to have soured on the governor. Although many of PublicMind’s past surveys have found the gender gap negligible in evaluations of the governor, that is no longer the case. Slightly more than a third of women (34%) approve of Governor Christie, with significantly more men saying the same (44%). A year ago, in January 2014, 48 percent of both men and women evaluated the governor favorably.
“Declining support is normal for any second term governor, especially a Republican in a blue state. And yet, given the governor’s obvious political ambitions, waning support outside his party faithful makes him a tougher sell to voters outside the state who are looking for a bridge builder,” said Jenkins.
Christie’s actions of late appear suspect to many New Jerseyans. By a wide margin, voters believe he is more concerned with a potential run for president (53%) than acting as governor of the state (32%), and 72 percent say his decisions are influenced by his desire to run for the White House most or some of the time, with 31 percent saying most of the time.
“These numbers point to the difficulty the governor is likely to have with the public as the clock moves toward 2016. Governing and campaigning are both full time jobs. Even though he’s technically not doing the latter yet, the public seems to believe he’s already starting to give up on the former,” said Jenkins.
Fairleigh Dickinson University pollsters conducted the survey of of 721 registered voters in New Jersey by telephone with both landline and cell phones from January 5 through January 11. The margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points.