STATE—Just one in five voters say New Jersey is on the right track and 66 percent say that the state is heading in the wrong direction, according to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™.
Republican Chris Christie continues to lead the Democratic incumbent governor by a margin of 45 percent-39 percent in the race for governor. Another 15 percent say they are unsure.
“Even though it’s early in the campaign, it is remarkable that a Republican is running ahead in New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
Christie, the former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, has increased his statewide name recognition to 87 percent, up 25 points since April. However, his ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion has shifted away from him even as Corzine has begun advertising. One-third of New Jersey voters (34 percent) say they have a favorable view of Christie versus one quarter (25 percent) who have an unfavorable view, up from 12 percent in April. Another quarter (28 percent) say they have not formed an opinion.
“Christie still has upside potential,” said Woolley, “and part of the campaign this summer will be the race to define him.”
Among all voters, 54 percent say their view of Corzine is unfavorable, while 31 percent say their view is favorable. “The governor’s key weakness right now is among Democrats,” said Woolley.
Forty-eight percent of Democrats say their view of Corzine is favorable but 37 percent say their view is unfavorable. In fact, only two-thirds of Democratic voters (66 percent) support Corzine, while one in five (20 percent) say they prefer Christie and 13 percent are undecided.
“The governor’s numbers contrast strongly with support for the president,” added Woolley.
Among all voters, 61 percent approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job, including 86 percent of Democrats. But one quarter of voters who approve of Obama (27 percent) say they prefer Christie and another 15 percent say they haven’t decided. In contrast to Obama’s 61 percent-29 percent approval rating, Corzine’s approval stands at 36 percent-49 percent.
Christie also edges Corzine on two secondary measures. Asked which candidate is better described as “honest, trustworthy,” Christie comes out ahead by 33 percent-24 percent. Asked which candidate better “understands the concerns of the average person,” Christie wins 40 percent-28 percent.
Corzine bests Christie only on the question of which candidate “has the background and experience to be a good governor,” 42 percent-29 percent.
Most voters accept the tax increases contained in the new budget. A majority (55 percent) say it’s a good idea to eliminate the property-tax deduction on state income tax for those earning more than $250,000, while 37 percent say it’s a bad idea. These numbers have turned around sharply since April when voters were asked about making the cut-off $150,000. In that case, two-thirds (66 percent) were opposed.
In addition, 64 percent say increasing taxes on wine and liquor is a good idea to raise money for the state; 31 percent say it’s a bad idea. A majority (56 percent) say that it’s a good idea to limit property tax rebates to senior citizens and others making less than $75,000. A majority (52 percent) say it’s a good idea to force state workers to take nine unpaid days off, while 40 percent say it’s a bad idea. And 50 percent say eliminating 7,000 state jobs is a bad idea; an idea that was dropped from the budget considerations.
“The state budget may be squared away for the governor,” said Woolley. “But clearly the election is not.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 803 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from June 22 through June 29, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
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