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NEW JERSEY VOTERS REMAIN SPLIT ON GOV. CHRISTIE; IMPRESSIONS OF OBAMA SIGNIFICANTLY MORE POSITIVE
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – After becoming less positive following introduction of the budget, New Jersey voters remain split on their impression of Gov. Chris Christie, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While 44 percent of registered voters give the governor a favorable rating, 42 percent view him unfavorably and 14 percent have no opinion. In February, 46 percent viewed the governor favorably and 44 percent unfavorably.
“We’re seeing essentially the same numbers we did last month. Christie’s favorability rating has not rebounded to prebudget address numbers.” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In December, positive views were 10 points higher than negative. Following the budget address, negatives went up and positives went down, where they have stayed.”
President Barack Obama’s favorability rating stands at 55 percent, with 32 percent viewing him unfavorably and 13 percent reporting no opinion. Obama’s position has not changed much either from the 57 percent to 36 percent recorded in late February.
Results are from a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of 773 registered voters conducted among both landline and cell phone households from March 28 to April 4, with a margin of error for the full sample of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
Christie job performance grade improves
Job performance ratings for Gov. Christie remain polarized, but improved, based on a revised question introduced by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in February. To validate the new question, a random half of voters was asked to assign Gov. Christie a job performance letter grade from A to F. The other half used the traditional rating scale of “excellent” to “poor.” Half samples have a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.
More of those grading Gov. Christie give him an “A” (14 percent) or “B” (32 percent) than a “D” (14 percent) or “F” (21 percent); 20 percent place him in the middle at “C”. This 46 percent positive to 35 percent negative is an improvement from the 38 (A, B) to 34 percent (D, F) rating Christie received in February.
Voters asked the traditional question seem more negative about the governor: 16 percent rate him “excellent” and 26 percent “good,” for a 42 percent positive rating. Negative ratings are higher, with 30 percent “fair” and 27 percent “poor,” totaling 57 percent negative. These ratings show little change from February.
“This shows how careful we must be in interpreting what voters are telling us,” said Redlawsk. “Traditionally we have viewed a ‘fair’ rating as bad, making it look like Christie has negative job performance ratings, but (often) positive favorability ratings. Our revised question – using a grading scale everyone understands – shows something different. While “A” and “B” are a good match for “excellent” and “good”, many who say “fair” in one version would give a “C” if they could, which is not a failing grade.”
Redlawsk noted that this changes the interpretation from “New Jerseyans are moderately favorable toward Gov Christie, but unhappy with his job performance” to “voters are moderately favorable both toward Christie himself and the job he is doing” thus creating more consistency.
Much of the polarization in Gov. Christie’s job performance grade is tied to ideology. Liberals are clearly negative about the governor while conservatives are more split than many might expect. About one-third of liberals give the governor an “F” while conservatives (41 percent) and moderates (34 percent) are most likely to give Christie a “B.” Only 27 percent of conservatives give the governor an "A," 17 percent give a “C” and 15 percent give grades of "D" or "F".
Moderates are most polarized. While 46 percent give Christie an “A” or “B”, 31 percent give him a “D” or “F” and 22 percent assign a “C”. Conservatives and Liberals are less split: 68 percent of conservatives assign an “A” or “B” and 60 percent of liberals give a “D” or “F.”
“There is little polarization within ideologues,” said Redlawsk. “Liberals rate the governor quite low, while conservatives give him good – though not great – grades. But moderates really are split, though on balance currently more positive than negative.”
Obama job performance grade mostly unchanged
President Obama’s job performance grade has remained mostly stagnant since late February. Among voters grading the president’s job performance, 14 percent give him an “A,” 32 percent a “B,” 27 percent a “C,” 16 percent a “D,” and 10 percent an “F.” Obama’s 46 percent positive (A, B) and 26 percent negative (D, F) grades compare to 43 percent positive and 26 percent negative in February.
Of voters responding to the standard question, 13 percent say Obama is doing an “excellent” job as president, compared to 11% in February. Thirty-four percent say “good” (38 percent in February) while 31 percent say “fair”—the same as February. Another 22 percent describe Obama’s job performance as “poor,” up two points from February.
On the grading scale, 60 percent of conservatives give Obama a grade of “D” or “F,” while 22 percent of moderates and 4 percent of liberals concur. Liberals are most likely to give the President a grade of “B” (57 percent), with another 20 percent giving him an “A”. Few conservatives give the president marks of “A” or “B” (8 percent total), but 48 percent of moderates do.
New Jerseyans Support Libya Action
Voters were asked if they supported or opposed Obama’s decision to use military attacks to enforce the Libyan no-fly zone: 49 percent support the decision, 38 percent oppose it, and 13 percent are unsure. Support comes men (55 percent vs. 44 percent of women), Democrats (56 percent support vs. 47 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Independents), and liberals (57 percent support, compared to 47 percent from conservatives and 48 percent from moderates.) Among those who feel favorable toward Obama, 58 percent support the decision, while 41 percent of those unfavorable toward him also support the attacks.
“While support for the Libyan attacks is not overwhelming, the decision does not appear to have hurt Obama’s favorability or job performance rating,” said Redlawsk. “What’s interesting is that relatively large shares of those who otherwise don’t like the president are supportive of this particular action on his part.”
Sen. Menendez still relatively unknown, but more favorable than unfavorable
Fewer voters are willing to give an impression of Sen. Robert Menendez now than in late February when 38 percent had no opinion. In the new poll, 32 percent report favorable impressions and 24 percent unfavorable, but 44 percent have no opinion about the Senator. In February, 34 percent were favorable and 28 percent unfavorable.
Placed in context with Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey voters are relatively non-opinionated about senators. While 38 percent of New Jerseyans have a favorable impression of Lautenberg and 28 percent have an unfavorable view, 34 percent have no opinion.
Democrats are most likely to view Menendez favorably, with 52 percent favorable. Only 10 percent of Republicans are favorable, while 25 percent of independents agree. Forty-five percent of Republicans, 8 percent of Democrats, and 28 percent of independents view Menendez unfavorably. More independent voters (46 percent) report having no opinion of Menendez than Democrats (40 percent) and Republicans (44 percent).
“While Sen. Menendez continues to toil in relative anonymity for a U.S. Senator, his overall rating among those who venture an opinion remains positive, and not much less so that Sen. Lautenberg,” said Redlawsk. “Even so, with 2012 on the horizon, Sen. Menendez seems to have some work cut out to re-introduce himself to New Jersey voters. In particular, independents are slightly negative at this time. To win he will need to improve his standing among these voters.”