Corzine Ratings Drift Sideways; Views of State Drift Down

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STATE—Two-thirds of New Jersey voters say their state is on the wrong track, but they split on their assessment of Gov. Jon Corzine. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, just 23% of registered voters say the state is headed in the right direction, a new low during the governor’s term, while 67% say it’s “off on the wrong track,” a new high during the governor’s term.

Just 31% of New Jersey voters say the governor is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, essentially unchanged from June, while 41% rate his work as “only fair” and 25% rate his job as “poor.” Among Democrats, 45% give him rating of “good” or “excellent” while 39% rate his work as “only fair” and 12% rate his job as “poor.”

Similarly, the governor’s approval rating continues to drift sideways: Voters split about evenly with 41% approving and 43% disapproving, little changed from June when 40% approved and 41% disapproved. But a majority of Democrats (58%) approve, even if a majority of Republicans (64%) disapprove. Independents split with 34% approving, 44% disapproving and 22% unsure.

“The governor is not taking as big a hit as most governors would with such widespread pessimism about the direction of the state,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “His ratings declined steeply after his toll plan was proposed and have not recovered,” said Woolley. “But his support among rank and file Democrats is still strong.”

Though Corzine was a vigorous supporter of Hillary Clinton, her loss to Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination did not redound against the governor: 63% of Democrats who voted for Clinton approve of the governor while 56% of other Democrats approve, a difference that is not statistically significant.

No one waiting in the wings can match the governor for name recognition, though a few Democrats can compete with him in popularity. Senate President Richard Codey is recognized by three of four voters (73%) and has better than a 4:1 ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion. Newark Mayor Cory Booker is recognized by a majority of voters (56%) and has a 4:1 ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion. However, Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County executive, and Bill Pascrell, a member of the House of Representatives whose district includes his hometown city of Paterson, are largely unknown to voters.

Republicans struggle for statewide name recognition. The high profile U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie, is nonetheless unrecognized by 60% of voters. However, among those who know him he has a 4:1 ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion. Former Bogata mayor Steve Lonegan and state senators Joe Kyrillos and Jennifer Beck are unknown to most voters.

“In New Jersey, the out-party’s candidate can usually achieve name recognition only by running and losing a statewide race,” said Woolley.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 914 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Sept 4, 2008 through Sept 8, 2008 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.


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