MADISON, NJ - Headed into his annual State of the State address, New Jersey’s governor turns in strong public approval numbers. According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 53% of Garden State voters approve of the job Chris Christie is doing as governor, while 37% disapprove, a net advantage of 16 percentage points and virtually identical to his standing a year ago before his 2011 State of the State address.
“That’s the way any office-holder wants to begin the new year,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. “But in this economic climate, many aren’t.”
Even the recent toll hikes do not make a dent in the governor’s standing. Households that pay daily tolls are less likely to say the state is headed in the right direction than they are to say the state is on the wrong track (40-51), while those who don’t pay daily tolls split on the right track/wrong track question (46-45). But daily toll payers are statistically just as likely as others to approve of the governor’s job handling (50-41) and to rate his performance as “excellent” or “good” (44%).
“As the year wears on and the higher tolls take their toll, some voters may change their minds,” said Woolley.
Familiar patterns are found underneath the governor’s top line: men strongly approve (63-30), while women edge to disapproval (42-45): non-public employee households approve strongly (60-31) in mirror opposite to voters in public employee households (31-58): those who prefer to cut the state budget rather than raise taxes approve heartily (65-27) in contrast to those who say taxes should be increased to support state programs (31-59).
The governor’s favorable rating remains unchanged from the poll’s previous measure in October: 50% say they have a somewhat or very favorable opinion of him; 38% say their opinion is somewhat or very unfavorable. Among the governor’s actual or potential Democratic rivals, Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker registers 39%-8% favorable to unfavorable opinion; former Gov. Dick Codey 32%-11%; Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is hinting at running for US Senate, just 13%-14%, and state Sen. Barbara Buono barely registers at 5%-4%.
Three of five voters (59%) continue to say the state should hold the line on spending rather than raise taxes to support state programs (25%).
“Of course, most candidates for governor or any other office claim they’ll get the budget under control and avoid new taxes,” said Woolley. “Many in the public seem pleasantly surprised that someone stuck to it.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Jan. 2 through Jan. 8, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.