New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Chris Christie has dropped 10 points since December, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll made public Monday.
At the same time, a strong majority of residents, 57 percent, hold a favorable view of President Obama, while only 36 percent view him unfavorably. The president’s favorable rating remains largely unchanged since December.
Following his Feb. 22 budget speech, opinions of Christie are nearly evenly split with 46 percent holding a favorable impression and 44 percent holding an unfavorable view. The 46 percent is down from 56 percent in December.
“While some polls showed Governor Christie’s support increasing before the budget speech, reaction to the budget itself is mixed, which appears to be reflected in a decline in his post-speech favorability and job performance ratings,” Prof. David Redlawsk, the poll’s director, said.
By a slim margin, 48 percent to 45 percent, New Jerseyans say they are displeased than pleased with Christie’ proposed $29.4 billion 2011-12 budget. One result may be a decline in Christie’s overall favorability and job performance ratings to a nearly even split, 46 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable, down significantly from December, Redlawsk said.
Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to have positive impressions of Christie, 76 percent to 24 percent. Independents also feel more favorable than unfavorable, 50 percent to 37 percent.
The trend for Christie’s job performance rating is similar. Half those polled were asked to rate the governor on an “excellent to poor scale”; half graded him from A to F. The margin of error on these subsamples is plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
Forty-two percent rate Christie at least good, down only two points from December, but far fewer rate his performance excellent now, 14 percent compared to 21 percent. More rate his performance as fair, 30 percent now versus 23 percent, while 29 percent say he is doing a poor job, mostly unchanged from December.
Republicans are somewhat less positive about the governor’s job performance following his budget speech: Christie’s 39 percent excellent rating among GOP voters after last November‘s election falls to 27 percent. Another 38 percent rate his performance as fair or poor compared to 26 percent in December.
Independents also are less likely to rate Christie excellent: 14 percent now compared to 21 percent in December. At the same time, they also are less likely to rate the governor poor: 19 percent now compared to 23 percent in December. Since the budget address, independents are less polarized about the governor’s job performance, and registered
Democrats also are somewhat less extreme. More than half of Democratic in November rated Christie’s performance as poor. Forty-two percent rate him poor now.
Among New Jerseyans asked to grade Christie’s job performance with a letter, 14 percent give him an “A” while 24 percent give him a “B,” very similar to his “excellent” and “good” ratings. Another 26 percent rate him “C,” while 15 percent give a “D” and 19 percent give an “F”.
“Looking at job performance with letter grades lets us examine negative feelings more closely,” Redlawsk said. “While 59 percent say the governor has done a fair or poor job, the letter grades show that many would probably give a ‘C’ if they had that option, while only about a third give truly negative ratings. This more nuanced evaluation helps us understand why Christie’s overall favorable rating is more positive than negative.”
Concurrently and in a trend similar to Christie, registered voters are less happy with Obama’s job performance than they are with him personally.
Only 11 percent say Obama is doing an excellent job as president, while 38 percent think he is doing a good job. Another 30 percent call his performance fair, and 20 percent perceive it as poor.
As with Christie, half of respondents were asked to use letter grades for Obama’s job performance. Among these residents, 11 percent give him an “A” and another 32 percent, a “B.” Both of these reflect the same responses as the excellent and good ratings. In the letter grading, 30 percent assigned a “C,” again similar to the 30 percent rating Obama as “fair”. Finally, 14 percent give Obama a “D” and 12 percent an “F.”
“The president is doing a little better overall than the governor, according to voters,” Redlawsk said. “The biggest difference is that more give Christie very negative – D or F – ratings than do for Obama. We also learn that interpreting ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ ratings is pretty straightforward, but ‘fair’ might not be as negative as we usually say it is, since it seems to correspond with a ‘C’ rating.”
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is viewed favorably by 34 percent of New Jerseyans, and unfavorably by 28 percent. At the same time, 38 percent have no opinion on him. In a December poll, 29 percent of voters had a favorable view of Menendez, while 27 percent viewed him negatively. Forty-four percent were neutral.
In the span two months, New Jerseyans have become more aware of Menendez, and are slightly more likely to view him favorably than unfavorably as they learn more about him.
While Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have a favorable view of Menendez, 55 percent to 17 percent, even a third of Democrats still have no opinion, while 39 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents offer no impression of the senator.
The poll of 912 New Jersey adults was conducted among both landline and cell phone households Feb. 24-26, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
-TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM