Gov. Chris Christie is riding a wave of popularity in the wake of his response to Hurricane Sandy, which obliterated much of the Jersey Shore communities last month.
Just one week after a Rutgers-Eagleton survey found the Republican governor’s approval rating topping 67 percent, a new poll has him outpacing all his Democratic opponents in his re-election bid.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is the strongest competition, according to the survey for the 2013 race to run the Garden State. Still, Christie beats him by 19 percentage points, 53 percent to 34 percent.
“Before Superstorm Sandy, things looked much different for Christie, as Democrats seemed poised for a serious challenge next year,” David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll and a political science professor at Rutgers, said in a statement accompanying the survey results. “Voters were evenly split over the governor’s re-election and Mayor Booker, in particular, looked like a very strong competitor. Post Sandy, however, the political environment has changed; at least for now.”
Christie’s assertive approach before Sandy made landfall and his compassionate touch after the destruction have reached independent voters and even Democrats, according to the survey.
Post Sandy, 38 percent of Democrats now support a second term for Christie, a Republican. That figure has doubled in the month since Sandy decimated the lives of so many Garden State residents.
Among Independent voters, Christie’s approval has jumped 22 percentage points; from 44 percent in late September to 66 percent after the storm, the survey found.
“Current levels of support for Christie’s re-election are stunning, given how divided voters were before the storm,” Redlawsk said. “The combination of leadership, empathy and bipartisanship shown by the governor during the crisis impressed most people and gave the governor a strong push into the 2013 campaign.”
The survey also found Christie enjoying a 20-point increase in support among women voters; nearly equal to the 60 percent from male voters. And even public-employee union households are jumping on board for Christie’s re-election bid with 45 percent, according to the survey.
Christie, who some Mitt Romney staffers blame for the GOP failure to oust President Barack Obama, isn’t just a strong candidate because of the storm, Redlawsk said.
“Most Democrats do not have the statewide name recognition needed to challenge him (Christie),” Redlawsk said. “While Booker comes closest, more than one-third cannot characterize their impression of him.”
Results are from a poll of 1,228 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Nov 14-17. Within this sample is a subsample of 1,108 registered voters; this subsample has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points. Questions about Christie’s job approval are reported two different ways using half samples. The margin of error for these questions is +/- 4.2 percentage points.