Back last August, we did a poll in which we asked people to tell us whether a series of 8 traits describe Gov. Chris Christie "very well," "somewhat well", or "not at all." That was a fun poll, and so we decided to do it again, but expand it quite a lot. So this time we asked 14 trait words (adjectives) including the original 8 plus 6 more. In addition, we added 5 emotions words: Proud, Enthusiastic, Worried, Angry, and Hopeless.
The results are in today's release, details of which are below. The short summary - Democrats and Republicans are increasingly diverging in the words they think describe the governor "very well" and most New Jerseyans do NOT feel enthusiastic or proud when they read or hear about Christie. In fact, nearly half say they feel "worried." And some 40 percent of Democrats say Christie makes them feel "hopeless."
Overall, New Jerseyans do think the governor is stubborn, with even 52 percent of Republicans saying this word describes him very well. But for Republicans, I suspect "stubborn" is a positive trait, while for the 70 percent of Democrats who ascribe it to him, stubborn is no doubt a negative thing.
The governor gets high marks for being smart and a strong leader, but low marks for effective, trustworthy, or fair.
Full text of the release is below.
For full text, questions, and tables, please click here.
NJ Voters Show Sharply Diverging Views of Gov. Chris Christie; Independents say Christie Smart but Stubborn; Many Worry about Him
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Ask a Republican, and NJ Gov. Chris Christie is a strong leader and a smart, independent reformer. But ask a Democrat, and the governor is a stubborn, arrogant, self-centered bully. Independents are more mixed: they see Gov. Christie as stubborn, but also as a smart, independent strong leader. Even so, about half of all New Jersey voters are worried about the governor, while only 38 percent say he makes them feel enthusiastic, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today.
“Since last August when we first asked people to tell us which traits describe Gov. Christie, voters have become more extreme in their positions, with nearly all positive and negative traits seeing double digit increases,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “The largest increase has been ‘stubborn,’ which 70 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents and even 52 percent of Republicans now say describes the governor ‘very well.’”
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.
“Stubborn” best describes Gov. Christie, followed by “smart” and “independent”
“Stubborn” is the adjective voters agree best describes Gov. Christie with 62 percent saying it describes him “very well,” up 20 points from August 2010. Only 13 percent say stubborn does not describe Christie at all. Closely following is “smart” which 56 percent of voters now say describes Christie very well, while 12 percent say it does not describe him at all. In August, only 39 percent said smart was a very good descriptor. A majority of voters also say “independent” (54 percent, up 14 points) and “strong leader” (52 percent, up 16 points) describe Christie, while 43 percent say “reformer” is a good descriptor, up 13 points from August.
Many negative adjectives are up as well, with 48 percent now saying “arrogant” describes the governor very well, an increase of 14 points. Bully has increased by 13 points to 38 percent of all voters. The only adjective from August relatively unchanged is “uncaring” which only 26 percent say describes the governor very well, compared to 22 percent in August.
“As voters get to know Gov. Christie better, their opinions of him become stronger, with Democrats and Republicans both more likely to say positive and negative traits describe the governor ‘very well’ and fewer saying they don’t know.” said Redlawsk. “This makes sense: voters have learned how the Governor operates, and they are responding accordingly.”
Christie “worries” voters, and makes many “angry” with fewer “enthusiastic” or “proud”
For the first time, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked voters to say how they feel when they read or hear about Gov. Christie. Nearly half (49 percent) say the governor makes them feel worried, 42 percent are angered, and 24 percent say he makes them feel hopeless. Positive emotions are much less in evidence: only 38 percent say Christie makes them feel enthusiastic and 36 percent say they feel proud.
“Emotions provide an interesting window to views of Gov. Christie,” said Redlawsk. “While people give him high marks for positive traits like leadership and independence, nobody but Republicans is enthusiastic or proud when they hear about the governor. This suggests a real disconnect. The governor is apparently respected for his intelligence and his willingness to stick to what he believes, but many are worried and even angry at what he does.”
While 70 percent of Republicans say they are both proud of and feel enthusiastic about Christie, only one-third of independents and fewer than 20 percent of Democrats express these positive emotions. Democrats are worried (70 percent) and angry (63 percent) and a significant percentage (40 percent) feel hopeless when they read or hear about Gov. Christie. About 20 percent of Republicans say they are angry or worried, while only 8 percent say they feel hopeless about the governor.
Independents, while generally assigning positive adjectives like “strong leader” and “smart” to the governor, are much closer to Democrats in their emotional responses. While 34 percent say they feel proud and 37 percent enthusiastic, 36 percent are angry and nearly half (45 percent) are worried. Few independents (19 percent) feel hopeless about the governor.
“I doubt Gov. Christie spends sleepless nights worrying how Democrats are responding to him,” said Redlawsk. “But independents, who pushed him to victory in 2009, are another story. While independents are favorable toward the governor by a 49 percent to 35 percent margin, the fact that so many are worried about Christie and so few are proud or enthusiastic might be cause for concern. It is hard to motivate voters if they are not enthusiastic about you.”
Fewer than 40 percent see Christie as effective, trustworthy, or fair
While voters say the governor is a strong leader and smart, they are far less likely to say he is “effective,” “trustworthy,” and “fair.” More voters say “arrogant” (48 percent) and “self-centered” (40 percent) describe Christie very well, than say the same about “effective” (39 percent), “moral” (38 percent), “trustworthy” (33 percent) or “fair” (30 percent). But few think that “impulsive” (32 percent) or “uncaring” (26 percent) describe him very well.
“We expanded the list of adjectives compared to August,” said Redlawsk. “Most New Jerseyans – even those who do not support the governor – think he is smart and a strong leader. At the same time they are less sure that he has been effective so far, and many simply do not view him as fair or trustworthy. It’s not surprising that 61 percent of public employee union respondents say Christie is not fair and 53 percent think he is not trustworthy. But only 27 percent of independent voters say fair describes him very well and just one-third say trustworthy does too. There is a real disjuncture for the governor in being viewed as smart but not nearly as trustworthy or fair as he is stubborn and independent.”
Partisan divide – In August and today
In general both Democrats and Republicans have become stronger in their assessments of Christie since August. Even so, the partisan gap between Democratic and Republican assessments varies across adjectives. A majority of Democrats (70 percent) and Republicans (52 percent) say “stubborn” describes Christie very well, a partisan gap of only 18 points, about the same as the 20 point gap in August.
Likewise, the gap in assessing Christie as a strong leader remains at about 40 points. In August, 22 percent of Democrats said “strong leader” described Christie very well versus 62 percent of Republicans. Today, 38 percent of Democrats say “strong leader” describes him, compared to 79 percent of Republicans.
The much wider gap in assessing the governor as smart (49 points in August, with Republicans at 71 percent and Democrats at 22 percent) has closed to 38 points, as 40 percent of Democrats now say “smart” describes Christie very well, along with 78 percent of Republicans.
In August 32 percent of Democrats said “independent” described Christie very well, compared to 49 percent of Republicans, a 17 point partisan gap. Today, 43 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans say Christie is independent, increasing the gap to 31 points.
Partisan gap increases for negative trait words
The gap between parties on negative traits has grown as Democrats ascribe negative words in much greater numbers than in August, while a only a small number of Republicans evaluate him more negatively.
In August, 49 percent of Democrats thought “arrogant” described Christie very well, but only 15 percent of Republicans agreed. Today, 64 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans feel this way, widening the partisan gap from 34 to 41 points.
While relatively few Democrats (35 percent) said “bully” described Christie very well in August, that number has climbed to 53 percent. Republicans have also become more likely to say this: 10 percent in August has increased to 16 percent today. The gap between the parties has grown from 25 to 37 points.
Few voters see Christie as uncaring, however there has been a clear partisan shift here as well. While Republicans have shown no change, with 9 percent saying Christie is uncaring in both polls, 37 percent of Democrats now see “uncaring” as a very good descriptor of the governor, compared to 25 percent in August. The partisan gap has thus increased from 21 to 28 points, due to more negative evaluations by Democrats