fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, New Jersey voters give President Barack Obama an approval rating of 47%-41%, off from 51%-40% in November, but similar to his measure of 47%-43% in October.  His approvals are higher among women (53%) than men (41%) and among voters under 30 years old (60%) than over 30 (46%).

“Obama’s approval, even if tepid, comes despite that many voters are unhappy with the health care bill, unhappy with the economy and unhappy with the direction of the country,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.

The president is ahead on his ratings even though the centerpiece of his legislative accomplishments, health care, comes out behind. While a third (34%) of voters say they will be better off with the health care reform bill passed last year, many more (44%) say they think they’ll be worse off. A majority of voters under 30 years of age (56%) think they’ll be better off, but voters over 30 don’t agree.  And while a majority of voters in the president’s party (57%) say they’ll be better off with the health care bill, their 57% is not enough to offset more than three of four Republicans (77%) who say they’ll be worse off.  Voters are somewhat more willing to say that the country will be better off with the health care bill: They split, 42% saying the country will be better off and 43% saying it will be worse off.

A majority (52%) continue to say the country is on the wrong track, compared to just 35% who say it is headed in the right direction, a gap of 17 percentage points but an improvement from November’s 27-point difference and October’s 30-point gap.  The improvement comes despite that 40% say the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is going well, but 47% say it is not going well.

Sen. Robert Menendez, who is closely tied to the president and up for re-election at the same time as the president in 2012, polls comfortably ahead of six notable Republicans, ranging from 10 points over Tom Kean Jr. (44%-34%) and Tea Party favorite Michael Doherty (40%-30%), to 21 points over Kim Guadagno (47%-26%).  Menendez runs ahead of Christie confidant Joe Kyrillos (41%-29%), biotech entrepreneur John Crowley (44%-30%), and state sen. Jennifer Beck (42%-29%). Tom Kean Jr. does best among Republican voters and “lean Republican” voters with 73% support. Kim Guadagno trails the field with just 59% support among Republicans and “lean Republican.”

“The fortunes of the president and Menendez are bound together,” said Woolley. “They rode an anti-Republican tide into office. Republicans are hoping an anti-Democratic tide takes them away.  But in this state, Republicans will also need a candidate who can reach beyond Republican voters.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 802 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Jan. 3, 2011, through Jan. 9, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.