NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC) today, New Jersey voters do not expect his latest moment on the national stage will benefit the Garden State’s image, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While nearly a third believes Christie’s address will enhance New Jersey’s image with the rest of the country, 46 percent think it will make no difference; 14 percent say Christie’s speech will hurt the state’s image.
That presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney failed to choose Christie as his running mate also elicits mostly yawns from voters: 64 percent say that it does not matter that Christie was not selected, a quarter are pleased with the outcome and only 10 percent are disappointed.
Christie saw no bump in his personal favorability rating from being named keynote speaker at the RNC. Instead, his rating remained virtually even at 49 percent favorable, down one point from early June, and 40 percent unfavorable, up one point.
“While Governor Christie will speak to his largest audience yet, with as many as 30 million viewers expected to tune in, New Jerseyans are not that impressed,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While not exactly a case of ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ voters simply don’t think the VP talk or the speech itself makes much difference in how New Jersey is viewed from outside.”
Results are from a poll of 916 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Aug 23-25. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.
While it may be an important political opportunity for Christie, most New Jerseyans think the rest of the country will not view New Jersey differently as a result. But among some groups there is optimism. Fifty-seven percent of GOP voters expect Christie’s role to burnish New Jersey’s image, but less than one-third of independents and only 18 percent of Democrats agree. Just over half of voters with a favorable impression of the governor think his speech will help, but a mere 9 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie say the same. However, Christie detractors are not all negative: half say the speech will make no difference, though about one-third say Christie will hurt New Jersey’s image.
“New Jerseyans are more dubious than they were 16 months ago about how Governor Christie’s national visibility affects the state,” noted Redlawsk. “In April 2011, 40 percent thought it helped. Now only 32 percent feel positive about his latest national opportunity. Much of this is partisan with Republicans remaining still on board. But this shift may also reflect some of the negative ‘YouTube’ moments over the past year.”
Older New Jersey voters are more likely to say Christie’s keynote will enhance New Jersey’s image. While 35 percent of voters over 65 feel this way, only 25 percent of those under 30 say the same. Younger voters, by 53 percent to 43 percent, are simply more likely to think the speech will make no difference.
Men, stronger supporters of Christie, are more likely than women to say the speech will be good for New Jersey’s image (37 percent to 28 percent). By a six-point margin, 17 percent to 11 percent, women are more likely to say the speech will hurt the Garden State’s image. About 45 percent of both genders say it will make no difference.
Few care Christie is not Romney’s No. 2
Voters are blasé about Romney choosing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan over Christie as his running mate: 10 percent are disappointed, 25 percent are pleased and 64 percent say it “doesn’t matter to me.” Independents are slightly more likely to be pleased Christie was not picked (28 percent, compared to 23 percent of both Republicans and Democrats). But even 60 percent of independents say it doesn’t matter, as do 66 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats.
Even Christie’s backers are not very concerned. In fact, 20 percent are actually pleased, while 13 percent are disappointed. Christie’s detractors, on the other hand, are happier he was not chosen: 35 percent are pleased and 7 percent disappointed, while 58 percent do not care.
“There’s an interesting dynamic here,” said Redlawsk. “Those who like the governor should be happier he wasn’t picked, since it means he stays here and continues a job they think he is doing well. But instead, they are less pleased than those who don’t like him. Those who dislike the governor seem to be reacting more to his failure to make the jump to national politics. Yet logically they should be unhappy he will remain here for the foreseeable future.”
Christie favorability, job performance ratings show little change
In the face of the intense speculation about Christie’s role in Tampa, voters show little change in their support for the governor. Favorability is 49 percent, down one point since early June. The percentage of voters grading Christie’s job performance as an “A” or “B” is also little changed at 45 percent, while “F” grades remain at 16 percent.
Since June, favorable ratings have declined seven points among independents to 48 percent and unfavorable ratings increased eight points to 40 percent. Favorable marks among GOP backers have risen from 79 percent to 84 percent, offsetting much of this decline among independents.
There has been a particularly sharp decline in favorability among black voters, from 31 percent favorable in June to only 20 percent. The persistent gender gap remains, with 54 percent of men having a favorable impression of the governor compared to only 44 percent of women.
Despite the drop in favorability, independents remain much more positive than negative about Christie’s job performance grade: 48 percent award an “A” or “B” and 15 percent fail him. Of course, Democrats are much more negative than other voters: only 20 percent grade “A” or “B” while 23 percent grade “F.” The vast majority of Republicans see things quite differently, with 74 percent saying Christie is doing “A” or “B” work, and only 4 percent saying he should fail.
While there have been a few shifts among groups, the overall picture of New Jersey voters’ feelings about Christie has not changed much over the course of his administration as tracked by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. During this time, Christie’s favorability rating has ranged between 44 and 50 percent. His unfavorable rating has ranged between 37 and 47 percent.
“All of this reinforces a big ‘so what?’ among New Jersey voters, both in terms of the impact on the state and perceptions of the governor from the chatter about his national aspirations,” said Redlawsk. “Given that Christie has now said he has no interest in a Romney cabinet position, maybe the media will let Garden State voters do what they seem to want to do: forget about it and focus on day-to-day life in New Jersey. Perhaps we’ll get a break, at least until we see if the Republican presidential nomination is available in 2016 when the speculation will start over again.”
Media Contact: David Redlawsk
732-932-9384, ext. 285