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Few Agree New Jersey Comeback Under Way
Rutgers-Eagleton Poll respondents split on second term for governor
ATTENTION POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, Professor David Redlawsk may be contacted at 319-400-1134, 732-932-9384, ext. 285, or firstname.lastname@example.org until 11 p.m. For additional commentary, visit http://eagletonpollblog.wordpress.com. Follow the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RutgersEagletonPoll and Twitter@EagletonPoll.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Despite Gov. Chris Christie’s ongoing efforts to trumpet a “New Jersey Comeback,” few New Jersey voters believe the rhetoric. An overwhelming 63 percent say Christie is overstating things, while only 29 percent agree a comeback is under way. More than half of Republicans (56 percent) believe the comeback has begun, about twice the number of independents (29 percent). Only 12 percent of Democrats are on board with the governor.
Despite disagreement over a comeback, nearly half of registered voters (48 percent) say the state is going in the right direction, while 41 percent say it is on the wrong track.
As for Christie, voters are evenly split as to whether he deserves a second term: 47 percent are ready to re-elect Christie, 46 percent say it is time for someone new, and 8 percent are unsure. As previously reported, Christie is viewed favorably by 49 percent, and unfavorably by 40 percent of registered voters. His job performance gets an A or B from 45 percent of voters.
“Overall, the numbers are a mixed bag for Governor Christie,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Most voters don’t feel like a comeback has begun, although Christie is not taking any hit for proclaiming it. His favorable rating hasn’t moved since June, and more voters think the state is going in the right direction than don’t. While the number ready to re-elect him is less than a majority, it’s not particularly weak at this point.”
Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23-25. The poll was conducted before Christie’s keynote speech at the Republican National Convention and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.
Most say no to a New Jersey comeback
While Christie touted the state’s comeback regularly over the summer, about a third of registered voters say they have heard nothing about it; 45 percent have heard a little and only 22 percent have heard a lot. The message may be resonating with those who have heard a lot: 40 percent of these voters believe it is happening, compared to 33 percent of those who have heard just a little, and a mere 17 percent of those who have not heard anything about the governor’s claim.
While a third of all voters believe that Christie’s New Jersey comeback has really begun, a majority (56 percent) of Republicans are on his side, though 35 percent say it has not yet begun. Independents are dubious: 62 percent say Christie is overstating things, while only 29 percent support him. Democrats simply dismiss Christie’s claims: 83 percent say it has not happened yet.
Women, who hold a more negative view of Christie than men, are less likely to believe in a New Jersey comeback, 26 percent to 34 percent.
“Liking the governor is no guarantee of agreeing with him on whether the comeback has begun,” said Redlawsk. “Even Republicans are more likely to give Christie good grades than agree that a comeback is already under way. But they may be giving him credit for trying even if they don’t think he’s succeeded yet.”
Voters who feel their personal finances are improving (13 percent of all voters) are also most likely to say the New Jersey comeback is under way, but even here less than 40 percent take Christie’s position. Among the large majority of voters who are just “holding steady” only 29 percent think there is a comeback; 24 percent of those whose finances are “falling behind” (18 percent of all voters) agree.
“How we feel about politicians affects how we view their messages,” noted Redlawsk. “But personal experience also plays a role. Whether or not they like Christie, those whose personal finances are improving are more likely to feel the state is coming back. But those who see little or no improvement in their own lives are much more likely to discount the governor’s message, no matter how they feel about him otherwise.”
To re-elect or not to re-elect, that is the question
Forty-seven percent of voters want a second term for Christie and 46 percent do not. Two-of-three Democrats are itching for change and about one-in-five would give him a second term. Eleven percent are unsure. Eighty percent of GOP backers are ready to sign on again, but 14 percent are not.
Among independents who may hold the balance in next year’s election, 49 percent favor a second term for Christie and 45 percent do not.
“Reflecting the strong feelings the governor generates, only 6 percent of independents don’t know where they stand 15 months before the election,” said Redlawsk. “Still, it is one thing to say no to a second Christie term against an unspecified opponent but it is another to have to choose an alternative. With a nearly 50 percent ‘re-elect’ in a Democratic state, Christie is not in bad shape in the early going.”
According to the poll, Christie’s weakest demographic groups include voters under 30 (35 percent would re-elect), those with household incomes under $50,000 (37 percent), women (41 percent) and black voters (19 percent). He wins among whites, senior citizens and men (all at 54 percent re-elect), and those with household incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 (60 percent).
Among those who see their financial well-being improving, 54 percent want to give Christie a second term, but only about 45 percent of other voters agree. And reflecting partisan patterns statewide, Christie wins re-election in the suburbs (52 percent), exurban (50 percent) and shore counties (57 percent). In more Democratic strongholds of urban and south Jersey, he wins only 30 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The state’s direction
The share of voters who say New Jersey is going in the right direction (48 percent) has fallen 3 points since early June; 41 percent believe the opposite. Independents’ positive feeling about the state’s direction fell six points to 47 percent. Their pessimism is up two points to 41 percent. Republicans are more positive than Democrats by a 75 percent to 32 percent margin.
Probing more deeply, those who think the state is going in the right direction are split on whether this is because things are changing for the better (52 percent) or things are just not getting worse (45 percent). Those who say New Jersey is off on the wrong track are much more negative, with 62 percent of these voters saying things are changing for the worse and only 34 percent saying things are just not getting better.
“Voters overall still are not very positive about New Jersey’s future,” said Redlawsk. “Only about a quarter think things are actually getting better, while 14 percent say they are getting worse. Most voters remain somewhere in the middle.”
The comeback’s doubters are not overwhelmingly negative about the state’s direction: 56 percent think the state’s condition has remains unchanged, 21 percent believe it has worsened. Sixty-one percent of comeback supporters believe things are better and 30 percent see no change.
Christie’s ratings show little change
Since the June poll, Christie’s favorability has dropped 1 point to 49 percent, with 40 percent unfavorable. Some change has occurred among independents, however, where favorable ratings have declined seven points to 48 percent and unfavorable ratings increased eight points to 40 percent. Most of this change was offset by more positive ratings from GOP voters, up five points to 84 percent favorable.
Despite declining favorability, independents are still positive about Christie’s job performance: 48 percent award an A or B and 15 percent fail him. Democrats are much more negative: only 20 percent grade him an A or B while 23 percent award him an F. The vast majority of Republicans see things differently, with 74 percent saying Christie is doing A or B work, and only 4 percent saying he should fail.
For the most part, stability defines voters’ feelings about Christie. Over the course of his administration, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has tracked Christie’s favorability rating between 44 and 50 percent, with unfavorable ratings ranging between 37 and 47 percent.
“This poll begins to clarify where Christie stands as we head toward the 2013 gubernatorial election,” said Redlawsk. “If it were today, I’d predict a close win for Christie, though his actual opponent will certainly matter. But enough New Jerseyans continue to like him and award good grades, even if they are not buying into the New Jersey Comeback. They may believe the comeback is not too far down the road and at least things are no longer getting worse.”
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