Challengers Face an Uphill Battle in 2013
As Governor Christie prepares to deliver his annual State of the State address tomorrow, a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that almost three quarters (73%) of registered voters in the state approve of the job he’s doing as governor, and more than two-thirds (68%) rate his job performance as “excellent” or “good.” This is the second highest approval rating the poll has measured for Governor Christie. His best rating came only recently, in the days after Hurricane Sandy, when PublicMind registered a 77 percent approval rating for the governor.
Governor Christie’s strong public support extends across virtually all demographic groups, including Democrats (62%), non-whites (69%), women (70%), and those who reside in public employee households (62%). These are groups who have historically proven a tough sell for Republican governors.
Garden Staters are also largely pleased with the direction the state is headed. Sixty-one percent say it’s headed in the right direction, while only a quarter (26%) say the state is on the wrong track. As with questions specific to Christie, a majority of voters across a variety of demographic groups give the state’s trajectory a positive rating.
“The state is facing significant challenges in the post-Sandy era. Yet voters appear largely pleased with not only where the state is headed, but are even happier with the governor’s leadership,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “It’s hard to find such a well-liked political figure in this politically rancorous day and age,” said Jenkins.
Challengers – both declared and undeclared – to the governor’s job face an uphill battle with the public, at least for now. By sizable margins, Governor Christie beats state senators Richard Codey (59 to 26%, respectively), Barbara Buono (64 to 21%, respectively), and Steve Sweeney (65 to 19%, respectively). Even among their base, senators Codey, Buono, and Sweeney appear to be struggling against Governor Christie. Forty-five percent of Democrats would support Senator Codey in a head-to-head with Governor Christie, 35 percent would support Senator Buono, and a third (33%) would support Senator Sweeney.
Senator Codey has the best name recognition among the group (55%) and the highest favorable rating among those who have heard of the senator (56%). “Clearly his time as governor is paying off for Senator Codey,” said Jenkins. “The trick for Senator Buono, the only as-yet declared candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, will be to use the opportunity she has to introduce herself to voters in a positive way.”
As for balancing the state budget, voters are clearly on the side of cutting spending rather than raising taxes. Fifty-six percent say the state should cut spending even if many programs are reduced, while a quarter (26%) would prefer to see taxes increase if needed in order to continue funding state programs. A clear partisan divide can be seen here, with 80 percent of Republicans favoring spending cuts, compared with just 43 percent of Democrats. Republican decisiveness is unmatched among Democrats who appear about evenly divided between the two options (43 versus 41 percent, respectively).
Turning to predictions for 2013, it should come as no surprise to anyone that few Garden State voters see little reason for hope that our leaders in Washington will come together to reduce the nation’s debt. Almost three-in-five (59%) say it’s not at all likely that Republicans and Democrats will work together toward debt relief in 2013. What’s more likely, according to Garden Staters, is a storm of equal or greater magnitude than Sandy in 2013. More than half (53%) say an event like this is very or somewhat likely. The one event that virtually all New Jersey voters (94%) agree is not at all likely to happen in 2013 is the end of the world.
“As we embark on a new year, it seems about the only thing that we’re united behind is the belief that we can’t rely upon the end of the world to solve our political problems,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 700 registered voters was conducted statewide by telephone with both landline and cell phones from January 2 through January 6, 2013 and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.