Governor Chris Christie has dominated the buzz of speculation about possible new candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. Will he or won’t he? How many times must he say “no”? (Saying “yes” once would do it.)
How does Gov. Christie look in national polling and in comparison to other GOP candidates? There is a limited amount of national polling available, just five polls in 2011 that asked for a Favorable or Unfavorable rating of Christie. Shown in the chart above, the demonstrate that his favorable rating has consistently outpaced his unfavorable, though both are dwarfed by the number of respondents who say they don’t know who he is or don’t know enough to give an evaluation. There is also consistency the levels of these ratings: favorable has remained in the 20-26% range, unfavorable in the 13-22% range, and unable to rate has been in the 50-65% range. No noticeable trends for any of these polls.
In this, Christie looks like a lot of governors who, however well known in their home states, are far less visible nationally, or even regionally. In the June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 37% of respondents from the Northeast were unable to recognize Christie, only 10 points less than the 46-49% in the other three regions. And an additional 21% of northeasterners rated him “neutral”, raising those without a favorable or unfavorable view to 58% even in the northeast (and 64% nationwide).
Christie’s advantage though is that his net approval has remained positive at between 3 and 9 percent more favorable than unfavorable. In that, he is better off than many potential GOP candidates.
The figure below looks at favorable and unfavorable ratings for GOP presidential candidates or would be candidates since February. Because name recognition plays such a big role at this point I plot net favorability (favorable minus unfavorable) against the percent unable to rate (either not recognizing or rating as neutral). I highlight Christie, Romney and Perry for useful comparisons.
Christie turns out to look better than any other candidates at his level of name recognition. No one with more than 50% unable to rate does as well on net-favorability as does Christie.
Romney is better known, and in the most recent polling (ABC/WP, 9/18) is enjoying a net positive rating, as in several recent polls. Gov. Perry on the other hand has not reached positive territory on net favorability in any of the four national polls currently available. His recognition rate has risen a bit but is still not dramatically different from Christie’s.
Reports, even as I write this, have Christie once more declining to enter the race. But a look at this chart certainly helps explain why there has been so much desire for him to enter. By no means is he well known or wildly popular with the national electorate. But he compares favorably with every other GOP figure that has been tested on the favorable-unfavorable measure this year.
Methodological note: These are national polls of adults or registered voters. These are not polls of Republican primary voters. The latter are highly relevant but Christie has modest representation in those polls. Further, some of the interest in him revolves around competitiveness in the fall, so these national comparisons are quite relevant to that discussion. Obviously all these candidates poll much better among GOP respondents, a topic for another day.