NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As N.J. Gov. Chris Christie increases his focus on a potential presidential campaign, he continues to be met with negativity back home, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-four percent of New Jersey registered voters disapprove of the overall job Christie is doing as governor, while 41 percent approve. Though relatively steady from February, this is his highest job disapproval to date.
On Superstorm Sandy recovery, Christie’s job approval has dropped below 50 percent for the first time: 48 percent now approve, down 7 points from February and far below his April 2013 peak of 87 percent. Forty-four percent currently disapprove of his work on Sandy recovery.
Approval ratings for Christie on issues other than Sandy recovery are also low. Christie reaches new depths on taxes (26 percent approve, 65 percent disapprove) and the state budget (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove), and maintains his low water mark of 31 percent approval on the economy and jobs.
Christie’s overall favorability rating stands at 48 percent unfavorable, up from his 53 percent unfavorable rating in February. The favorable 38 percent is essentially unchanged from February’s 37 percent favorable.Negativity toward Christie parallels voters’ assessments of the direction of the state. Sixty percent of voters say the Garden State is on the wrong track, the highest number since just before Christie’s first election in October 2009. Thirty percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction – a 10-point drop from December 2014 and less than half of the quarter-century high of 61 percent in June 2013.
"Often, as the economy improves, voters feel more positive. But in this state there is now widespread feeling that things are on the wrong track," said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. "While the governor continues to explore a national run, voters back home are expressing more and more concern about what's happening in New Jersey and the governor's performance in dealing with these issues."
Results are from a statewide poll of 860 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 27 - April 3, 2015, including 722 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.
Christie losing Republican support at home
Despite the relative steadiness of Christie’s overall ratings between February and now, there seems to be growing dissent about the governor’s job performance among his base. Democrats (24 percent approval) and independents (40 percent approval) remain steady in their assessments. Republicans, however, show a double-digit drop over the past two months; job approval is down 10 points to 69 percent and disapproval is up 11 points to 27 percent. Moreover, while 68 percent of GOP voters continue to have a favorable impression of Christie, the percentage is down five points from February.
About a quarter of Democrats and 36 percent of independents have a favorable impression of Christie, with Democrats steady over the past two months and independents up five points.
Republicans continue to be split over Christie’s performance on important issues. On their top concern, taxes, 44 percent approve of his approach, while 49 percent disapprove. They are slightly more positive on the economy and jobs (47 percent approve to 44 percent disapprove); Christie receives approval from only about a quarter of Democrats and independents in these two areas.
On the state pension fund, Christie’s lowest-rated issue with 22 percent approval from all voters, a plurality of Republicans remains in the governor’s corner – 45 percent approve (up 8 points from February) and 34 percent disapprove (down 5 points). On the other hand, Democrats and independents rate his performance here worst of all, at 8 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
“It is one thing to lose support among Democrats and even independents, but losing GOP voters is a big problem,” said Redlawsk. “We’re now seeing the decline in support for Christie among Republicans that we predicted in February based on leading indicators. When those who should be Christie’s strongest cheerleaders turn away, things are clearly not going well for him here in New Jersey.”
Christie still receives high marks from Republicans on crime and drugs (69 percent), education (62 percent) and the state budget (54 percent), but 75 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents now disapprove of Christie’s performance on the budget.
Approval on Sandy drops within regions most affected
As of February, a majority of New Jersey voters continued to support Christie’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, always his strength. Two months later, even Sandy recovery approval has taken a downward turn for the governor. As recently as October 2014, 60 percent approved of his job performance on Sandy; today, only 48 percent do.
This decline is seen across multiple groups. Republicans’ support is down 11 points to 60 percent, while 31 percent now disapprove of Christie’s efforts. Democrats’ approval on Sandy has fallen 8 points to 39 percent, with 56 percent disapproving. Half of independents express approval on the governor’s recovery efforts – the only issue to reach 50 percent approval among this group – though this is down four points, while 42 percent now disapprove.
Christie also loses support on Sandy in areas where it counts the most – regions particularly affected by the storm two and a half years ago. In shore counties, Christie drew 60 percent approval two months ago, but more of those voters are now negative than positive on Sandy recovery – 46 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove.
Urbanites also show a similar drop of 15 points, with approval now at 43 percent, while 49 percent disapprove. Voters living in the southern region of the state near Philadelphia similarly fell – 9 points to 49 percent approve (43 percent disapprove). About half of suburbanites and 54 percent of exurbanites approve of Christie’s job on Sandy.
Increasingly negative outlook on state of the Garden State
While voters’ views on the direction of New Jersey as a whole have not been generally positive since January 2014, the proportion who say the state is on the wrong track hit its highest point in six years, reaching a level of dissatisfaction rarely seen in the past two and a half decades.
Partisans of all stripes show a less positive view on the state over the past two months. Democrats and Republicans who say the state is going in the right direction are both down 7 points, now at 25 percent and 43 percent, respectively; independents are down three points, now at 28 percent. A solid majority of Democrats and independents believe New Jersey has gotten off on the wrong track, as does a plurality of Republicans.
Opinions of both men and women are equally negative: About six in 10 say the state is on the wrong track. Declines in assessment of the state’s direction are especially clear among younger voters and seniors: Just 28 percent of those 18 to 39 years old (down 14 points from February) and 24 percent of those 65 years and older (down 8 points) maintain a positive outlook.
The state’s voters have grown more negative across all regions. Negative views on Christie are particularly tied to negative views of the state – 79 percent of those unfavorable toward the governor also say New Jersey is off on the wrong track; just 13 percent say the opposite. Those favorable toward Christie are somewhat more split: 54 percent say New Jersey is going in the right direction, while 37 percent say it is on the wrong track.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ATTENTION POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, Poll Director David Redlawsk may be contacted at 319-400-1134 (cell), 848-932-8504 (office), or firstname.lastname@example.org until 11:00pm. Poll manager Ashley Koning may be contacted at 908-872-1186 or email@example.com. Questions and tables are available during embargo at http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/new-wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/release_04-09-15-Embargoed.pdf. Visit our blog at http://eagletonpollblog.wordpress.com for additional commentary. Follow the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RutgersEagletonPoll and Twitter @EagletonPoll.