STATE – Gov. Chris Christie is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, according to almost half of New Jersey’s registered voters and he has a 55 percent approval rating in the most recent PublicMind survey.
“This good news for Governor Christie comes during a time when contentious budget battles over taxes could have taken their toll on the public’s evaluations of him,” said Krista Jenkins, executive director of PublicMind and a professor of political science. “But the fact that the governor’s appeal remains sound suggests that the bloom remains on this New Jersey rose, even if women are slightly more likely to see the thorns than see the beauty.”
Yet, behind his public support lies a more complicated story. When asked to evaluate the governor’s personal and political appeal, opinion is divided. Slightly more than a third (36%) of registered voters say they like him and his policies, and slightly fewer (29%) say the exact opposite about the governor. Those remaining are torn between liking him but disliking his policies (14%) and disliking him while liking his policies (14%).
“He’s a complicated guy,” said Jenkins, “so trying to understand whether his high marks with the public come from his policies or personality is tough.” As Jenkins points out, those who are divided over his personality and policy positions represent a sizable chunk of the electorate-and one that offers insight into where Christie’s overall support lies. “Whether he’s getting the support of those who like his policy positions or personality will remain a debate. Both are important for understanding Gov. Christie’s support.”
As for whether the public believes the governor is motivated by a desire for national office or to make things better for New Jerseyans, opinion is again divided. Although most registered voters who have an opinion believe Gov. Christie is more interested in governing well (47%), not too many fewer (41%) believe his interest lies in making a name for himself in order to achieve national office. Democrats and those from public employee households are the most dubious about the governor’s motivations (61 and 56%, respectively), while Republicans are less suspicious (17%).
Finally, the survey asked about attitudes toward the governor’s possible move from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., and the likely effect it would have on governing in the state. Almost four-in-ten (39%) say that if Governor Christie ends up being picked to run on the GOP ticket in November, his departure will hurt effective governing in the state, followed by 29% who believe his absence won’t make any difference, and one-in-five who think the state would benefit from improved governance. Registered Republicans (59%) believe the state would suffer more than Democrats believe the state would benefit (30%).
“Democrats seem to be more divided over whether the cause for problems in Trenton lie with Christie or a broken political system,” said Jenkins.
As for awareness of Christie’s successor, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, the operative question is Lieutenant Governor Who? Three-fourths (76%) of registered voters have never heard of the lieutenant governor, and among those who have, almost half (10%) have no opinion about her.
“The good news is Lieutenant Governor Guadagno has almost complete freedom to define herself for the public; the bad news is she’ll have to first make it clear that she even exists should Christie get the GOP vice presidential nod,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University statewide poll of 945 registered and unregistered voters was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from July 23 through July 29, and has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.
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