Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gov. Christie and National Attention

Well, continuing on what seems to be our all Gov. Chris Christie, all the time, binge, today we release results of questions about whether the governor should run for president in 2012 (NJ voters overwhelmingly say "no"), and how Garden Staters view the national attention the governor gets.

We do seem to spend a lot of time on our governor, but partly that's because he has had such an impact on our state, and partly that's simply because he is an incredibly interesting politician. Not only did he win his office in a state that is pretty Democratic, but he did it a year before the Republican sweep of 2010. Moreover, the governor continues in his efforts to make over the state, both in terms of policy, but also in terms of a highly visible, highly active, knows-what-he-wants-image kind of governor. This seems to me to be something pretty new for New Jersey, whose last few governors have certainly not been the kind of strong personality that Gov. Christie is.

So he's interesting, and we think it's worth asking a wide range of questions about how our fellow Garden Staters feel in the second year of his term.

Text of the release follows.

Click here for a PDF of the release with questions and tables.

New Jersey Voters Say No to a Gov. Christie Presidential Bid in 2012

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J - Gov. Chris Christie has been adamant that he has no plans to run for president in 2012, and results from a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll suggest that if he did, New Jersey voters would not be pleased. Only 22 percent of registered voters support a 2012 presidential bid by Christie, while 65 percent oppose and 12 percent are unsure. Moreover, while 36 percent of voters think having a governor on the national stage helps New Jersey's image, 42 percent say it makes no difference and 21 percent say it hurts the state's image.

"The governor continues to deny any interest in running for president in 2012," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. "Given these numbers, that's a pretty good thing. Every time we've asked about a presidential run, New Jersey voters have overwhelmingly opposed the idea."

Results are from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of 773 registered voters conducted with both landline and cell phone households from March 28 to April 4, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

New Jersey to Christie: Stay Put

While Republicans, at 44 percent, are most supportive of a 2012 Christie presidential run, no majority of any group supports the idea. Eight percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents are sympathetic to the proposal. And while only about a third of Republicans oppose the idea, two-thirds of independents do not support a Christie bid, along with 80 percent of Democrats.

Those with a favorable impression of the governor more strongly support a 2012 presidential bid, but even among this group, only a plurality (45 percent) back Christie, while 35 percent oppose and 20 percent are not sure. Virtually all (95 percent) with an unfavorable impression would oppose Christie for president in 2012. Those who feel more neutral about Christie also oppose a candidacy, with only 11 percent in favor and 69 percent opposed.

"Given that about as many people feel unfavorable as favorable toward the governor right now, there is simply no place outside his Republican base to find support for a Christie run," said Redlawsk. "This does not mean a future try would be opposed, just that New Jerseyans aren't joining the national media's storyline that Christie could take the nomination in 2012 if he wanted it."

Christie national presence not all that helpful to New Jersey

Most respondents say that having a governor on the national stage has no effect on New Jersey's image. While 36 percent think Christie's national presence helps the state, 42 percent say it makes "no difference." Twenty-one percent believe Christie's national presence actually hurts. Political leanings color responses.

Two-thirds of Republicans say New Jersey's image is helped by Christie's national attention; only 36 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats agree. Most Democrats (47 percent) and independents (46 percent) simply think Christie's national notoriety does not affect New Jersey's image. A third of Democrats think the state is hurt by Christie, but only 17 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans agree. Men believe the governor helps the state's image by about a 4-to-3 margin.

The 80 percent of voters who talk about Christie to friends and family have stronger opinions on this question: 38 percent say Christie's national attention helps, but 23 percent say it hurts. Thirty-eight percent say publicity about Christie makes no difference. A majority (58 percent) of those who do not talk about the governor says he makes no difference on how New Jersey is perceived

Thirty percent of respondent say they have watched an internet video of the governor. By a 3-to-2 margin, they believe the national attention helps New Jersey, although nearly 30 percent say it makes no difference. Those who have never seen the governor on the internet are less positive: 33 percent say the state's image is improved, 19 percent say it is hurt, and 48 percent say it makes no difference.

How respondents get news about Christie, and how he affects state image, matters in only one instance. The small group of voters (7 percent) who get most of their news about Christie from radio are much more positive: 54 percent say his national presence improves the state's image, while 20 percent say it hurts and 26 percent say it makes no difference.

Majority says Christie national attention does not make them proud

When asked to set aside personal beliefs about the governor and evaluate if his national attention makes them proud to be from New Jersey, only 40 percent say the attention makes them proud. More than half (52 percent) disagree. About two-thirds of GOP backers are proud. Roughly one-third of both independents (37 percent) and Democrats (31 percent) feel the same.

Men and women feel the same on this point: about 40 percent of both genders are proud, though slightly more women (54 percent) then men (50 percent) say the national attention does not make them proud. Men are slightly more likely than women to say they are not sure.

Even when personal feelings are ignored, Christie is still a polarizing figure. Not surprisingly, households with public union members were most unhappy with the governor's national attention: only 25 percent of voters in public employee union households feel proud to be from New Jersey because of Christie's national attention compared to 44 percent of non-union households.

Governor's "issue coattails" seem short

Knowing that Gov. Christie supports any particular plan "to make New Jersey better" has little effect on respondents: 55 percent say his support for a plan would make no difference in their own opinion. Christie's backing of a plan increases support among 22 percent and decreases support among 17 percent. Independent voters are most likely to assert their independence, with 63 percent reporting Christie's support for a plan would make no difference. Even 41 percent of Republicans take this position, as do 55 percent of Democrats. A plurality of Republicans (48 percent) would take their cue from the governor and be more supportive, but only 20 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats would do so.

"Several months ago we asked about making public employees pay more for benefits and found the plan supported by State Senate President Steve Sweeney more popular than Governor Christie's plan or even a plan supported by both party leaders," said Redlawsk. "This new question shows that while more Republicans would tend to support a generic program from the governor, support from even Republicans is not automatic.

"Moreover, few independents say knowing the governor supports something makes them more likely to support it as well. So while the governor's job performance and favorability ratings are not bad, voters want to at least think they would make up their own minds about issues, no matter what the governor supports."

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