fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, Gov. Chris Christie’s approval numbers have bounced back to a robust margin among New Jersey’s registered voters, with 54% approving and 36% disapproving. “The spring budget battles at every level - municipal, county, and state - hurt the governor,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. “But he got a big win on pension and benefits reform in June, and weathered Hurricane Irene in August.”

Men as well as non-public-employee households approve of the job the governor is doing by margins of two to one (61-31 and 59-30, respectively). Women split slightly in favor (46-42), while public-employee households pan the governor (37-55).   

Voters split on the question of whether the state is moving in the right direction: 45% say it is, while 47% say it’s “off on the wrong track.” But that is a big improvement from May, when in the midst of local and state budget haggling, 55% said the state was on the wrong track and just 36% said it was headed in the right direction. Regardless, public-employee households, by a margin of two to one (61-33) say the state is on the wrong track.

Half of voters, 49%, have a favorable opinion of the governor while 41% have an unfavorable opinion, a reversal from 40% favorable and 45% unfavorable in May. About equal numbers have strong opinions: with 28% saying their view is “very favorable” and 27% saying their view is “very unfavorable.” And 46% say the governor is doing a “good” or “excellent” job, up 10 points from May.  One in four, 24%, says he’s doing a “poor” job, compared to 32% in May.

“But all those good numbers for the governor do not make converts to his party in the legislative election,” said Woolley. Asked about the upcoming elections, 46% of voters say they prefer the Democratic Party control the State Assembly and the Senate, while 34% say they prefer the Republican Party control the two chambers. Unaffiliated voters split 31% for Republicans and 35% for Democrats.

Christie’s favorable ratings are better than those of the NJEA, an organization  which he roundly criticizes and which has bought a great deal of advertising to criticize Christie: 39% say they have a favorable view of the teachers’ union, 37% say their view of the NJEA is unfavorable. One in four (24%) have mixed views or are unsure.  But, 50% of Democrats have a favorable view of the union, while 63% of Republicans have an unfavorable view of it.

Democrats and unaffiliated voters thinking about who they might like to have run against Christie in 2013 hardly have their minds made up. Offered a choice of six prominent Democrats, nearly half have no preference (46%), but about one in five prefer (18%) former Gov. Richard Codey and a similar proportion (19%) prefer Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Rep. Frank Pallone, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Senator Barbara Buono each pull 5%. Assemblyman Lou Greenwald polls 1%.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Sept. 19 through Sept. 25, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.