Monday, March 8, 2010

Support for Chris Christie in New Jersey

Continuing with our releases from the February 22-25 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, today we report on support for Governor Chris Christie. The quick story is that his favorables are pretty good - not as good as Obama's, but a lot better than Palin's! And way up from when he was elected. At the same time, voters do NOT support cutting taxes for high income earners, and they are skeptical that sweeping change will actually come to New Jersey. But they have some sense that it might happen. Of course, Christie's budget address on March 16 will really make clear where things are going.

Click HERE to get the full release, questions, and tables.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to give his budget address March 16, he has significant support from New Jersey registered voters, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Christie is viewed favorably by 45 percent, and unfavorably by 26 percent. Another 26 percent feel neither favorable nor unfavorable toward him. Christie’s positive rating comes though few voters say it is “very likely” he will be able to make the sweeping changes he proposes, and most oppose his call for cutting tax rates for wealthy New Jerseyans.

The telephone poll of 953 New Jersey adults conducted Feb. 19-22 included 886 registered voters out of 953 randomly selected adults. The registered voter sample reported here has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

“Governor Christie has managed to solidify a strong net positive rating among New Jersey voters in a short time,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “While Democrats predictably view him very unfavorably, independents view Christie favorably by a 2-to-1 margin. Continuing support among independents will be important to Christie’s ability to make changes in Trenton, since Democratic legislative leaders are likely to pay close attention to that.”

Redlawsk also observed that more than a quarter of voters are not ready to give an opinion and may be swayed by what they see in the weeks following the budget address.

Christie’s favorability rating falls between two national politicians. President Barack Obama is viewed favorably by 56 percent and unfavorably by 31 percent. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, has little support in New Jersey, viewed favorably by only 27 percent and unfavorably by 52 percent. Thus Christie’s net positive rating of 19 percent, though not quite as high as Obama’s 25 point margin, is far above Palin’s 25 point negative rating.

Christie is viewed particularly positively by Evangelical Christians, 52 percent to 20 percent, and men, who give him a 54 percent to 22 percent favorable rating. Women are much less positive, supporting Christie 37 percent to 29 percent. Voters living in union households are also slightly positive, 42 percent to 35 percent. Black voters are negative, 40 percent to 22 percent. Voters over 65 are much more favorable than younger voters under 30. The former group views Christie favorably, 52 percent to 18 percent, while the latter group splits, 35 percent both favorable and unfavorable.

New Jersey’s future looking better? Voters are not sure

Asked if the future of New Jersey is better, worse, or the same since Christie’s defeat of former Gov. Jon Corzine, most believe prospects are about the same (42 percent), while 27 percent say “better” and 18 percent say “worse.” Not surprisingly, Democrats and Corzine voters are much more likely to think the future will be worse, while half of Republicans and Christie voters say the future will be better. Evangelical Christians are not as positive, with only a quarter saying the future will be better, while 43 percent expect it to be the same.

Views of the future vary greatly by age. Registered voters under 30 are much more likely to say the future will be worse (29 percent) than better (14 percent), while 31 percent of voters 65 and over believe the future will be better, while only 9 percent think it will be worse. Likewise, high-income voters are twice as likely as lower-income voters to say the future will be better (40 percent to 20 percent).

Voters skeptical about sweeping changes

Significant skepticism that Christie’s plans for a sweeping change in Trenton ever will come about appears to be softening voters’ optimism for the future. A November post-election Rutgers-Eagleton Poll showed that only 5 percent of those who wanted Christie’s top priority to be cutting taxes thought it was very likely to happen.

The new poll shows that voters still are not sure change is really coming – only 7 percent think the “sweeping changes” proposed by Christie are “very likely” to happen, while 55 percent think they are “somewhat likely.” More than one- third (36 percent) say sweeping changes are not likely at all. Even Christie voters are somewhat skeptical, with only 17 percent saying sweeping changes are “very likely.”
“Voters recognize that while Governor Christie has an agenda of change and reform, politics in Trenton is complicated,” said Redlawsk. “They have seen governors come in before promising change and still their taxes go up, roads remain in terrible shape and state government doesn’t seem to change.”

No to tax cut for wealthy

Most voters agree that tax rates for New Jerseyans making $400,000 or more per year should not be cut, despite Christie’s support for allowing the surcharge imposed on high earners to expire. A majority of virtually every demographic group opposes the cut, and even Republicans are not sure, with 46 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing the tax cut. Independents strongly oppose the tax cut, by a 2-to-1 margin, the same ratio among voters who are unsure of their opinion about Christie.

Interestingly, even voters making more than $150,000 per year oppose the tax cut, with only 35 percent supporting the cut and 64 percent opposing it.

“Governor Christie has built up a lot of favorability since he took office, but cutting taxes for high-earning New Jerseyans is very unpopular, even when we made clear that Christie supports the expiration of the surcharge on high-income filers,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time, there has been much less focus on this, and a lot more on his moves to cut costs, so overall the tax rate issue does not seem to be hurting him directly.”

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