Christie’s New Jersey Polls

Today I look at how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is doing with the folks back home in New Jersey. Yesterday we took a look at national polling on Gov. Chris Christie in comparison to GOP presidential candidates. He does well in that comparison, but what about the voters who know him best?

On job approval, Christie has consistently had approval in the mid-to-upper 40s but only rarely breaking 50 percent, with the trend line holding below 50 except for the most recent observation, which is pulled up by the latest quite positive poll result. Since becoming governor in January 2010, Christie’s job approval has mostly been a few points above water but neither approval nor disapproval has seen a major surge or a major drop.  This past spring saw a modest reversal with disapproval surpassing approval for not quite six months. The most recent poll finds a big jump in approval, but without a few more polls to verify that result I’d be cautious in embracing the results of just one poll, even though my trend lines chase that latest poll.

Christie has been a fairly polarizing figure in the job approval polling. The chart below shows job approval broken down by partisanship.

Not surprisingly there is a strong partisan gap with Republican approval near 80% while Democrats offer only a bit over 20% approval.That is a substantial degree of polarization, though not near the close to 90-10 split in Wisconsin, which currently leads the nation in gubernatorial polarization.

The most interesting result in the chart is the independents who are close to 50% except at the very end. While partisans are just about mirror images of each other, it is interesting that independents have helped support Christie’s approval by sticking so close to that 50% approval rate. Should independents stray either up or down we would see some significant movement in overall approval, yet despite controversy and contentious issues, independents are and remain evenly split.

The patterns in favorability ratings are mostly similar since Christie took office in January 2010, though with more dynamics prior to the 2009 election as voters got to know Christie during the campaign.

And the partisan split is very similar to that for job approval. Some politicians enjoy higher favorability ratings than job approval, but in Christie’s case the two track pretty evenly. As with approval, independents can again control the balance of power but remain very near 50% favorable with no sign of a clear change in views.

Polling on Chris Christie

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.