MADISON, NJ – Fewer New Jerseyans today evaluate the health of the state positively as compared with their thoughts at the beginning of the summer, according to the most recent statewide poll of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.
In June, the last time the question was asked, 57 percent of those polled said the state was headed in the right direction. Today that number is eight percentage points lower, at 49 percent. Those who say the state is on the wrong track are greater in number today relative to June. Back then, 28 percent were concerned but today that number is 34 percent. And, it’s not just Democrats who are expressing more dissatisfaction. In June, three-quarters of Republicans (76%) said the state was headed in the right direction, and now that number has dropped to two-thirds (67%).
The same poll finds that Governor Christie’s approval numbers remain virtually unchanged from June, despite a high profile veto of gun legislation. In June, Governor Christie garnered a 61 percent job approval rating. Today, that number is 58 percent, with 29 percent who say they disapprove of the governor’s job performance.
“Interviews for this survey were conducted after Governor Christie vetoed bipartisan gun control legislation, a move which generated a good amount of discussion both statewide and nationally,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Use of his executive power in this capacity does not seem to have hurt his standing in the eyes of a majority of New Jerseyans.”
The same poll asked whether, and to what extent, the governor is responsible for the direction of the state. Half (51%) say “a lot,” including about equal numbers of Democrats (52%) and Republicans (58%), whites (52%) and non-whites (48%), and labor union households (50%) and those without a labor union member in residence (51%). Men (47%) are slightly less likely than women (55%) to credit or blame the governor for much of the responsibility for the state’s health. “Clearly the public believes the old saying ‘The buck stops here’ applies to Governor Christie’s leadership. This belief makes it difficult to fault legislative inaction or other usual suspects for a perceived decline in the state’s overall health,” said Jenkins.
Should the governor take a cue from Ronald Reagan’s question to Jimmy Carter in a 1980 presidential debate and ask New Jerseyans, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” their response is likely to be “no,” but neither are they likely to evaluate their quality of life worse today than when the governor first ran for office. Almost two-thirds (64%) say their quality of life is Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll TM home about the same today as it was when he first became governor, with 11 percent who believe things have become better and one-in-five (21%) who say their quality of life has worsened. Partisan differences are apparent, with significantly more Democrats saying things have worsened for them personally (33%) than Republicans (9%). Women (26%) also are more likely than men (17%) to say their quality of life has declined.
“Garden State voters seem to be saying that the governor bears a good amount of responsibility for the state’s health, but the same credit or blame for their personal well-being is unrelated to Christie’s stewardship,” said Jenkins.
And finally, given the persistent speculation about Governor Christie’s presidential ambitions, PublicMind asked registered voters how they would evaluate his potential as a good president to someone from another state. On this question, opinion is decidedly mixed. About equal numbers of respondents would say yes (35%), no (32%), or would respond with uncertainty (34%) if asked whether he’d make a good president. Republicans (57%) and men (43%) are his strongest advocates, with Democrats (48%), women (37%), and those from union households (44%) his biggest naysayers. The governor does, however, attract support from sizable numbers of those who do not identify themselves as Republicans. Almost one-in-five (18%) Democrats and two-in-five (41%) independents would recommend his leadership to a friend from another state.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 700 registered voters in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from August 21 through August 27, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.