STATE—When Jon Corzine was about to take office as New Jersey’s governor in January 2006, one-third (34%) of voters thought the state was headed in the right direction. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, Corzine leaves office with just 27% saying the state is headed in the right direction, while a majority (55%) say it’s on the wrong track.
When Corzine entered office in January 2006, a third of voters (38%) had an unfavorable opinion of him. As Corzine leaves office, 61% have an unfavorable opinion of him, more than a third (37%) “very unfavorable.” One in five voters (21%) say Corzine has done a good or excellent job as governor, 36% say he’s been “only fair” and 41% rate his performance as “poor.”
Overall, 58% disapprove of the job he has done as governor, while just a third approve (33%). His highest approval rating was 58% in 2006, just before the mid-term elections for U.S. Senate and House. He maintained a strong approval rating until January of 2008 when he introduced a plan to “monetize” the NJ Turnpike. “Other governors in the country thinking about leasing highways and bridges will be looking at Jon Corzine’s proposals and his poll numbers for a long time,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
As Corzine exits, four of five voters (79%) say they’ve heard the term “lame duck” to refer to office-holders after an election and before the new term begins. But two-thirds (66%) say the Legislature should wait for the new governor before passing important laws: This includes four of five Republicans, seven of ten Independents and half of Democrats. Just one in four voters (24%) say the Legislature needs to get as much done before the new governor changes course. “Passing last-minute laws and making midnight appointment after your electoral mandate has expired is a questionable practice,” said Woolley. “But this questionable practice is routine.”
The new governor will take office next week with some good will: 45% say they have a favorable opinion of Chris Christie, against 23% who have an unfavorable opinion and 28% who say they’re not sure. One in four Democrats (24%) say they have a favorable opinion of Christie, a Republican, and a third (33%) say they they’re unsure, while 39% say their opinion of Christie is unfavorable.
A large majority of voters (70%) continue to say the state should hold the line on spending even if programs are reduced rather than raise taxes, a preference that cuts across party lines. About half of voters (48%) say they approve of the way Christie has handled his transition to governor while just 13% disapprove.
Opposition to raising the gas tax is not as strong as it was when measured in January 2006. A third (32%) agree that New Jersey has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country and the greatest need for spending on roads and bridges, and should increase the tax. That compares to just 18% who said that in 2006. A majority (61%) say that New Jersey has too many taxes and too much spending, and should not increase the tax. That compares to 74% four years ago. But opposition cuts across party lines: A majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans all oppose a higher gas tax.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Jan 4, 2010, through Jan. 10, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
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