MADISON, NJ - As Garden State voters sour on events in our nation’s capital, they remain largely upbeat about trends and leaders that are closer to home. A recent statewide poll of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that less than half (45%) approve of the job that President Obama is doing and not even a third say the country is headed in the right direction (30%). However, here in New Jersey Governor Christie receives an almost two-thirds (62%) approval rating, and 57 percent of respondents believe the state is on solid footing.
Numbers for the president and the country are down from where they were when the questions were last asked in August (49% Obama approval; 40% say country headed in right direction), but appear more stable for questions concerning Christie (58% job approval) and the state’s trajectory (49% state headed in the right direction).
“The government shutdown and looming debt ceiling deadline are clearly fanning the flames of voter ire,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “We’ve not seen this much discontent regarding events at the national level since January of 2012, when barely a quarter of those polled said things were headed in the right direction. Governor Christie, on the other hand, continues to remain largely immune to voter discontent in an environment that’s rife with disgust for all things political.”
Governor Christie’s strong approval rating builds on a trend that began months ago. Since the beginning of the year, his approval rating has averaged 64 percent. His current 62 percent job approval is punctuated by the strong support he has among registered voters as the gubernatorial election approaches in a few weeks. As PublicMind reported on Tuesday, October 8, 50 percent intend to vote for Christie in November while 22 percent direct their support to Senator Buono.
Christie’s appeal, unlike that for President Obama, can be best described as transcending partisanship for many voters. For example, 47 percent of Democrats approve of the governor’s job performance. Whereas, in President Obama’s case, party loyalties prevail. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (76%) approve of President Obama and almost equal numbers of Republicans disapprove of Obama’s leadership (80%).
As for Governor Christie, another way of parsing his appeal is by looking at what voters like and dislike about him. A question was asked about his appeal in regard to his personality and politics, and how voters distinguish between the two in their appraisal of the governor. Almost half (46%) like everything about him - both his personality and his policies. Republicans are, not surprisingly, the most decisive (76%), but as many Democrats (28%) like everything as dislike everything about him (28%).
“This question provides some clues as to what drives approval for the governor. When you look just at the percent of those who like the governor, regardless of their feelings about his policies, two-thirds say there’s something about his personality that strikes a chord,” said Jenkins. “But barely a quarter find his personality opposite to what they find agreeable in a political leader.”
Women have less positive views of Christie as compared to men. Among women, 41 percent like his personality and his policies while about half (51%) of men say the same. Regarding job approval, a gap of eleven percentage points separates women from men. Two-thirds (67%) of men approve of his job performance compared with slightly more than half (56%) of women.
“Again, we’ve seen this trend for some time. Although largely favorable toward the governor, women have consistently expressed less support for the governor, something that illustrates one of the few dents in the governor’s armor,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 702 registered voters in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from September 30 through October 5, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.