For the Moment, Advantage Corzine
Just one in four New Jersey voters, 25%, say the state is headed in the right direction, down 3 percentage points from a year ago (from 28%), and essentially unchanged since last February (25%). According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 65% of voters continue to say the state is on the wrong track. That dim view reaches across party lines as a majority of Democrats (55%) agree with four of five independents and four of five Republicans that the state is faring badly.
“This persistent number should be worrisome to the incumbent party,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “It would be a stretch to say that voters’ pessimism is due entirely to the economic downturn and looming budget cuts. Their dim view of the direction of the state set in before the Wall Street meltdown,” said Woolley. “The question, sooner or later, will be whom should they blame.”
Voters don’t necessarily translate their dissatisfaction with the state to dissatisfaction with the governor. About as many have a favorable impression of Gov. Jon Corzine (42%) as have an unfavorable impression (44%). One in four (25%) rate his job performance as “poor,” essentially unchanged over the past year, while a third (32%) rate his performance as “good” or even “excellent,” and 41% say his performance is “only fair.” Pushed to decide, 46% of voters approve of the job he’s doing and 40% disapprove, with 14% having mixed views or unsure.
“Given the enormous and growing pressure on the state budget and on the governor to protect various constituencies, he’s holding up pretty well with public opinion,” said Woolley. Among Democrats, 63% approve of the governor while 23% disapprove. And, just 12% of Democrats rate the governor’s performance as “poor.”
The governor’s actual and potential rivals in the Republican Party all suffer from problems with name recognition. Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie is best known among them, with 44% of all voters and half of Republicans saying they know who he is. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they have a favorable view of Christie while 6% have an unfavorable view, a 4-to-1 ratio in his favor. Meanwhile 71% of all voters and 56% of Republicans say they haven’t heard of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and 89% of all voters and 86% of Republicans say they haven’t heard of Assemblyman Rick Merkt.
In trial heats, Corzine bests each potential Republican challenger: 40%-33% over Christie, 46%-28% over Lonegan, and 43%-23% over Merkt, with the remainder unsure. “The key for Jon Corzine will be simply to hold together the broad coalition of Democratic voters,” said Woolley.
Republican voters when asked who they might nominate in June to run for governor, prefer Christie by a third (32%), while Lonegan attracts 15% and Merkt 5%. However, 47% have no preference. “Republican candidates have several struggles ahead of them,” said Woolley, “not the least of which is to introduce themselves to voters of their own party.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 831 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Jan. 2, 2009 through Jan. 7, 2009, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. Samples for some questions, as noted in tables, are smaller.
For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.