NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With five months until the November election, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono has not managed to reduce the large deficit in her attempt to unseat Gov. Chris Christie, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Christie continues to lead the New Jersey state senator by a wide margin, 59 percent to 27 percent among registered voters, and more than eight in 10 voters expect Christie to win a second term – including most Democrats and even a solid majority of those who plan to vote for Buono.
While Christie’s favorability rating has remained steady at 64 percent, Buono continues to struggle: more than half of voters have no opinion of her, while only 22 percent view her favorably, up four points from an April Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. But negative views of Buono have doubled to 24 percent. Even Democrats are uncertain about her; only 33 percent express a favorable impression while most have no opinion on her at all.
Just 20 percent of voters say they are following the election “very closely.” Buono does better with this group, facing a 25-point deficit (58 percent to 33 percent, with 9 percent choosing neither), while those following the election less closely favor Christie 59 percent to 26 percent, with 15 percent not supporting either candidate.
“Since cutting Christie’s margin by 10 points in April, Buono has made absolutely no additional progress,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While her name recognition has climbed to 46 percent of voters from only 30 percent in April, nearly all of that increase has come from voters who now have an unfavorable impression of her. The onslaught of attack ads by Governor Christie’s campaign appears to be having its desired effect.”
Despite the apparent effectiveness of Christie’s ads in defining Buono negatively, only 13 percent say campaign ads have so far been very negative, although another 39 percent see them as somewhat negative.
Results are from a poll of 888 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from June 3-9 with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. The subsample of 763 registered voters reported here has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
Only staunchest Democrats favor Buono
After a double-digit gain on Christie in April, Buono has been unable to further close the gap, leading primarily among those who most dislike the governor and those who say they voted for former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009. Buono wins 79 percent of the relatively small number of voters with an unfavorable impression of Christie. She also wins more than half of those who supported Corzine, but even so, she loses 30 percent of Corzine supporters to Christie. Even among those favorable toward her, Buono only leads 64 percent to 26 percent. In contrast, Christie wins 84 percent of those with a favorable impression of him, while losing only
6 percent to Buono.
As in April, when she first won a plurality of Democrats, Buono leads among members of her own party, but only by 12 points, 47 percent to 35 percent. Among voters who say education is the most important problem facing New Jersey, Buono ekes out a statistical tie, 44 percent to 43 percent for Christie. But this is a small group; only 14 percent consider education the top problem.
Republicans are united around Christie, with 87 percent favoring him. He also leads among independents, 68 percent to 18 percent. Christie is winning among women, who are usually more supportive of Democratic candidates, by a 56 percent to 28 percent margin, and he has a 15-point margin (47 percent to 32 percent) among younger voters.
Christie holds 85 percent of those who voted for him four years ago, and even wins – by 45 percent to 38 percent – 2012 Obama supporters. Perhaps most interesting, while more voters generally disapprove than approve of the job Christie is doing on the economy and on taxes, he still wins handily with these voters by margins of 33 and 42 points. Voters in public employee union households also prefer Christie, 45 percent to 39 percent.
“There is little, if any, good news for Buono in these numbers,” said Redlawsk. “Post-Superstorm Sandy, it seems that voters feel Christie can do no wrong, making her battle more than uphill.”
Buono battles for recognition, even with Democrats
As reported earlier this week, Christie’s favorability and job performance approval remain steady at a level close to his post-Sandy highs. Buono, however, remains unknown by more than half of voters statewide, even though awareness has climbed 16 points since April. But little of that increased awareness is positive. Buono has moved from 18 percent favorable versus 12 percent unfavorable in April to 22 percent favorable versus 24 percent unfavorable today.
Perhaps surprisingly, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have some impression of Buono. While 56 percent of Democrats venture no opinion, only 49 percent of Republicans have no impression of the Democratic candidate. Of course, among Republicans, impressions are overwhelmingly negative, with 9 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable. Among Democrats, 33 percent have a favorable impression of Buono, while 11 percent are unfavorable. Her position with independents is weak as well: 17 percent are favorable, 29 percent unfavorable and 54 percent express no opinion on her.
Buono does little better with typical Democratic constituencies. Only 24 percent of women voters have a favorable impression, while another 53 percent have no opinion. Fifty-three percent of voters in public employee union households also have no impression of Buono, while 29 percent feel favorable. And among younger voters, 21 percent are favorable, while 64 percent have no impression.
Those following the race “very closely” do have an impression of Buono, but 41 percent feel unfavorable, while 34 percent are favorable. Twenty-five percent express no opinion.
The state of the election
With the gubernatorial primary over, voters are beginning to pay more attention to the election: 62 percent say they are following the election either “very closely” or “somewhat closely” – up 14 points from April. But 26 percent are not following it closely, and 12 percent are not following it at all. Republicans are paying closer attention than Democrats or independents. Twenty-six percent of GOPers are following very closely compared to only 18 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents.
Regardless of their candidate and attention to the election, most voters (83 percent, up three points from April) think that Christie will get a second term. Even most Democrats (78 percent), those unfavorable toward Christie (66 percent), those favorable toward Buono (73 percent) and those who plan to vote for Buono (64 percent) increasingly think that the governor will win in November.
Half of voters say the candidates have been at least somewhat negative in their ads, although only 13 percent say the candidates have been very negative. Another 20 percent say the ads have not been very negative, while 8 percent say they have not been negative at all.
Buono supporters and those favorable toward the candidate are more likely to think the ads have been negative (both at 62 percent), as are Democrats, but by only three points more than Republicans. Those following the election very closely are also more likely to say the ads have been negative (61 percent).
Media Contact: David Redlawsk
732-932-9384, ext. 285