STATE–Fifty-one percent of New Jersey voters say they approve of the job Gov. Chris Christie is doing, while 37% say they disapprove, a 14-point advantage for the governor, and his best measurement since early in March, before his first budget speech.
At the same time, according to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, three of five voters (60%) say the state should hold the line on spending and reduce programs in order to balance the budget, rather than raise taxes, with those voters roundly approving of the governor (67%-23%). About one in five voters (22%), say it’s better to raise taxes and continue to support state programs, and those voters emphatically disapprove of the governor (62%-26%).
Among those who prefer spending and program cuts to taxes, 61% rate the governor as “good” or “excellent.” Among those who prefer maintaining state programs and raising taxes, 80% rate the governor as “only fair” or “poor.”
“These are strong numbers for a politician who is cutting deeply into the public budget, is the target of many interest groups, and contends with a legislature controlled by the other party,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “No wonder candidates in other states want him to campaign for them.”
Approval of the governor does not run to all corners: Voters from public employee households clearly disapprove of the governor’s performance (56%-37%), though voters from all other households approve of the governor’s performance by 55%-32%. The gender gap is also clearly in evidence, with men approving of the governor by a 2-to-1 margin (60%-30%) but women splitting over the question (43%-43%).
“Voters are not lukewarm about this guy,” said Woolley, “Just as he has strong opinions about running the state, they have strong opinions about him.”
The governor’s chief critics, the Democratic leaders of the state legislature, remain largely unknown to voters: more than four of five voters either have not heard of Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, or have no opinion of them. By contrast, 42% of voters have a favorable view of the governor’s co-interviewee on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Cory Booker, while just 8% have a negative view. Of the governor himself, 48% have a favorable view, up from 41% in August, while 39% have an unfavorable view, up from 36%.
By a margin of 48% to 44% voters say the state is still on the “wrong track,” and public employee households by a 2-to-1 margin (64%-31%) agree that the state is on the wrong track. And while a majority of men (51%) say the state is headed in the right direction, a majority of women (53%) say the state is going in the wrong direction.
However, Woolley noted that a year ago two-thirds of voters (68%) said the state was on the wrong track, and the last time more than more than 40% of voters said the state was headed in the right direction was over three years ago, in May 2007. “Clearly, for New Jersey, optimism from just two in five people is pretty good,” Woolley added.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 831 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Oct. 4, 2010, through Oct. 10, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.
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