With the stakes high for Governor Chris Christie the most recent statewide survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds few in New Jersey approve of his job performance, and many think his leadership warrants nothing more than a middling grade. Moreover, a majority rates his performance as only fair or poor in the Republican debates.
Only a third (31%) of New Jersey voters approve of Governor Christie’s job performance, with 59 percent who say they disapprove. These numbers have remained stagnant for months, with his approval having dropped below 40 percent in 2015, remaining there through the beginning of 2016. Christie’s approval rating peaked at 77 percent in November 2012, immediately after Superstorm Sandy.
“These numbers are not welcome news for this presidential candidate,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science. “Voter unhappiness and serious concern about the direction of New Jersey make him vulnerable to other candidates.” Sixty percent of New Jersey voters are worried about the state’s overall health with only 30 percent who believe all is well in the Garden State. Jenkins added “So, even if things go well in New Hampshire for the Governor, he faces challenging and press- worthy trends back home.”
The new poll also finds 60 percent are worried about the state’s overall health with only 30 percent believing all is well in the Garden State.
From an historical perspective, the poll shows New Jerseyans view Christie similarly to past governors. When asked if Christie has been one of the best, the worst, or about the same as past governors, 62 percent say Governor Christie is indistinguishable from his Republican and Democratic predecessors, with only 11 percent rating him better than average. More than double that (24%) say the opposite.
PublicMind last asked this question a year ago and events in 2015 did little to move the needle for Christie. As then, partisanship offers little in the way of assistance in distinguishing between those who hail or criticize the governor relative to past Governors. A majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents believe the Governor is neither better nor worse than his predecessors. Those from union households and Democratic respondents are the most likely to rate the governor as the worst, with Republicans the most likely to say he’s been among the best.
“He may have low job approval, but apparently this doesn’t make him any different from those who served before him,” said Jenkins.
As for how his constituents back home evaluate his performance on the campaign trail, he and others seeking the Republican nomination are being followed closely by a majority of Garden State voters. Three quarters (73%) say they have followed the Republican debates very or somewhat closely, with a full 29 percent who say closely. The Republican contest is interesting to everyone, as 67 percent of Democrats are following the debates very or somewhat closely.
“The Republican debates are getting stratospheric numbers of viewers nationwide and New Jersey is no different. Even though the Garden State’s June primary date is late in the process, people are still paying close attention,” said Jenkins.
Opinion is divided over how the Governor has done in the debates. Around a third (35%) believes he’s done an excellent or good job, with 63 percent who rate his performance as fair or poor. Half of Republicans believe he has shined during the numerous debates so far (50%).
Finally, 56 percent believe the Governor’s run for the White House has done nothing to change the image that outsiders have of the Garden State. Fourteen percent believe it has helped New Jersey’s image, with 23 percent who believe he’s hurt it.
“It looks like most Garden State voters believe New Jersey’s image transcends even the Governor’s ‘Telling it like it is’ campaign,” said Jenkins.
Methodology – The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey was conducted by landline and cellular telephone January 4-10, 2016 among a random statewide sample of 811 self-identified registered voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.7 points, including the design effect.