fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - Having declared himself a candidate for re-election in 2012, President Obama starts off ahead in New Jersey. According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 47% of New Jersey voters approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, while 42% disapprove. New Jersey’s 15 electoral votes went to Obama in 2008. In 2012, New Jersey will have just 14 electoral votes to offer.

However, his current approval rating is down from a much stronger 54%-36% approval in February.

“The president is entangled in a web of problems, from natural disasters and rebellions abroad to gaping deficits and spiking gas prices at home,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “It can’t be good to be president just now.”

In addition, 57% of Garden State voters say the country is “on the wrong track,” an increase of 8 percentage points over February, while just 32% say the country is “headed in the right direction,” a decrease of 7 points from February. “The decline in the president’s approval mirrors the apprehension voters feel about the direction of the country,” added Woolley.

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who is closely tied to the president and up for re-election at the same time as Obama in 2012, continues to have anemic numbers: 52% of Garden State voters either have not heard of him or have no opinion of him; 28% have a favorable view of him, and 19% have an unfavorable view.  More than half of Democrats, 54%, say they haven’t heard of him or have no opinion of him.  But 41% of Democrats have a favorable view of him, while just 5% have an unfavorable view.

“There’s no doubt the senator needs to raise his profile at home,” said Woolley. “But with Chris Christie in Trenton, the Tea Party in Congress, Obama’s reelection, and events abroad cascading through the news, it’s probably hard to get a word in edgewise.”

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is viewed favorably by 35% of New Jersey voters and unfavorably by 28%. Among Democrats, 48% have a favorable opinion of him and 10% unfavorable.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 711 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from March 29 through April 4, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.