STATE — For the first time in seven years, more New Jersey voters say the state is headed in the right direction than say it’s on the wrong track. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 46 percent say that “things in New Jersey are moving in the right direction” compared to 43 percent who say it’s “off on the wrong track.”
“Statistically speaking we could say that 46-43 is an even split,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll, “but I think it would be fairer to New Jersey to say it’s a milestone.”
Not since 2004 has the state’s right direction number exceeded the wrong direction number. In July of 2004, despite controversies surrounding then Gov. McGreevey’s associates, the right direction exceeded the wrong direction by one percentage point, 42 percent-41 percent. Two weeks after the FDU poll took that measure, the governor himself, engulfed in scandal, resigned, pushing the wrong direction number up to 51 percent, and the right direction number down to 31 percent.
Also in this most recent poll, Gov. Chris Christie is well ahead on his approval ratings: 51 percent say they approve of the job he’s doing, 36 percent disapprove. And at the same time, the governor marks a new high with 47 percent saying he’s doing a “good” or “excellent” job.
“Positive or negative, the governor sparks strong reactions from voters,” said Woolley. Indeed, while one in four (28 percent) have a “very favorable” opinion of Christie, another one in four have a “very unfavorable” opinion of him.
Among his potential Democratic rivals in the next race for governor, former Gov. Richard Codey’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is the strongest at 7:2 (28 percent-8 percent), while Mayor Corey Booker’s ratio is almost 3:1 (35 percent-13 percent). But Rep. Frank Pallone breaks about even, 12 percent-13 percent, as does Senate Pres. Steve Sweeney (13 percent-15 percent). Sen. Barbara Buono is largely unknown.
More immediately, the governor’s popularity does not necessarily translate into legislative victory in the upcoming elections. For one, less than a majority (44 percent) have a “great deal” of interest in the elections—though a majority of public employee households (58 percent), a group critical of the governor, say they have a great deal of interest in them. Moreover, 40 percent of voters say they prefer that Democrats control the state assembly and senate, compared to 34 percent who prefer Republicans in control. Finally, among those who approve of the governor, 56 percent say they want Republican control of the legislature, but among those who disapprove of the governor, 68 percent say they want Democrats in control.
“Legislative races turn more on the visibility, likability and party affiliation of the candidates, than on statewide issues,” said Woolley. “The best even a popular governor can do, is raise money for his party, and raise the profile of local candidates.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Oct. 17 through Oct. 23 and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.
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