STATE—A majority (52 percent) of New Jersey voters approve of the way Gov. Chris Christie is handling his job so far, according to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™.
This compares to 21 percent who disapprove and 28 percent who have mixed opinions, are unsure or are withholding judgment. Republicans approve of the governor 74 percent-7 percent, a ratio of 10-to-one. Democrats split with 38 percent approving, 33 percent disapproving and 30 percent mixed or unsure. Independents approve 43 percent-17 percent.
Voters in the public pension system, however, give the governor thumbs down, with 35 percent approving of the new governor and 46 percent disapproving. And while 39 percent of all voters rate the governor’s performance so far as “good” or “excellent,” including one in four Democrats (26 percent), one in five active and retired public employees (21 percent) agree. Likewise, while 13 percent of all voters say the governor’s performance is poor, including one in five Democrats (20 percent), a third of public employees (33 percent) rate the governor as poor.
“No surprise there,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “Public employees are on the defensive. But there is a wider range of opinion among public servants than their interest group leaders let on.”
Both the public and public employees back several proposals for reform of the public pension system – though the general public’s support is much stronger than that of public employees. For example, 78 percent of voters agree that all public employees, including teachers, should contribute some of their salary toward their health care benefits, while public employees split with 51 percent agreeing and 45 percent disagreeing.
Meanwhile, 69 percent of all voters say the state should cap payouts at retirement for unused vacation time, and 64 percent of public employees agree. Similarly, 69 percent of voters say payouts for unused sick leave at retirement should be capped, and 56 percent of public employees agree.
Asked if the state should repeal a 9 percent increase in benefits enacted in 2001, voters agree by 46 percent to 35 percent, but 52 percent of public employees disagree and only 26 percent agree. On the other hand, when asked if the state should cap salaries for top public jobs at $200,000 per year, more than three-of-four voters agree (77 percent), and public employees agree more emphatically (84 percent).
Voters remain convinced that cutting spending rather than raising taxes is the way to resolve the state’s budget woes. Two-thirds (66 percent) say the state should hold the line on spending, even if many programs are reduced: Just one-in-five says (21 percent) the state should raise taxes if necessary to support programs.
Close to half, 47 percent, say they have a favorable opinion of Christie, against 25 percent who have an unfavorable opinion and 25 percent who say they’re not sure. Three-quarters of Republicans (75 percent) say they have a favorable opinion of Christie, while just 29 percent of Democrats say their opinion of the Republican governor is favorable. Among independents, 39 percent have a favorable opinion of the new governor, 21 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 39 percent are mixed in their opinion or unsure.
A third of all voters (32 percent) say the state is moving in the right direction, while 49 percent say it’s on the wrong track.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 801 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Feb 23, 2010, through March 1, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.