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Monmouth University Polling Institute

New Jersey Divided on Gov. Christie

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cutting costs is good, but budget hurts many

Even though Governor Chris Christie now has his first budget under his belt and can claim a legislative victory on the state's top issue, Garden State residents remain divided on his job performance.  According to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll , the governor gets high marks for cutting costs, but the public is worried that these cuts may do harm.

Governor Christie's job rating currently stands at 44% approve to 44% disapprove among all state residents, and 45% to 43% among registered voters.  This marks a nominal, but not significant, increase from his April rating after he first announced his budget plan (41% to 44% among all adults and 42% to 44% among voters).  Christie receives plaudits from 80% of Republicans (up 15 points from April), 45% of independents (down 4 points), and 23% of Democrats (up 4 points).

The state legislature gets positive job ratings from 24% of the public (up from 20% in April) and negative ratings from 49% (down from 56%).

When asked to assign the governor a letter grade in five different areas, more than 4-in-10 residents give Christie either an A or B for controlling costs and cutting waste (43%) and bringing ethics and honesty back to state government (44%).   Only 1-in-4 give him poor grades of D or F in these two areas (27% and 26%, respectively).  A majority (52%) give the governor high grades of A or B for the level of effort he puts in, compared to 22% who give a poor grade of D or F. 

The public is divided, though, on his performance in the area of property tax relief - 31% say he has earned an A or B compared to 38% who give him a D or F.  [It should be noted that the poll was conducted after the property tax cap deal was reached last week, but before the governor signed it into law on Tuesday.]

The public is more negative on what the governor has done to "improve schools" - with just 29% granting him an A or B compared to 44% who say he deserves a D or F in this area.

Compared to Jon Corzine at a similar point in his term, the current incumbent earns higher marks on cost-cutting - 43% compared to 26% who gave above average grades to Corzine in September 2006.  However, Christie earns lower grades for improving schools - 44% give Christie below average grades compared to 27% who did so for Corzine.

"The budget seems to be the main driver of public opinion about the governor right now.  Few New Jerseyans were thrilled with the cuts when they were first announced, but more have come to terms with the budget now that it is done," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Overall, 16% of New Jerseyans say they are satisfied with the final budget compared to 30% who are dissatisfied.  When the budget was first introduced, 22% were satisfied compared to 44% who were dissatisfied.  Both of those numbers declined after the final deal was signed, and now the majority of New Jerseyans (51%) say they "can live with" the budget deal.  These results are slightly more positive than public reaction after the final Corzine budget in June 2009, when just 6% were satisfied, 37% were dissatisfied, and 53% said they could live with it.

A major sticking point for the budget is that the public sees the cuts hurting almost every group of New Jerseyans.  Only the wealthiest escape unscathed - 42% of the public says that wealthy residents will be helped by this budget and only 13% feel they will be hurt.  Opinion is divided on the budget's impact on the business community - 34% say New Jersey businesses will be helped while 38% say businesses will be hurt.

Other groups of New Jerseyans may not be so lucky.  About half of the public believes that senior citizens (48%), property tax payers (51%), poor residents (52%), and middle class residents (54%) will feel pain from this budget, while only about 1-in-4 think that any of these groups will be helped.  Transit riders are also more likely to be hurt (53%) than helped (9%) by this budget.  The biggest victims of the state budget, though, are believed to be state workers (61% hurt to 13% helped) and teachers (71% hurt to 11% helped).

New Jersey Budget Impact

How it will impact…

Help

Hurt

Net impact

Wealthy residents

42%

13%

+29

Businesses

34%

38%

-4

Property tax payers

27%

51%

-24

Senior citizens

21%

48%

-27

Middle class residents

25%

54%

-29

Poor residents

22%

52%

-30

Transit riders

9%

53%

-44

State workers

13%

61%

-48

Teachers

11%

71%

-60

The budget's large cuts in state aid to local school districts and towns remain a concern for many New Jerseyans.  Half (50%) call these cuts unfair compared to 35% who say they are fair in light of the other programmatic cuts.  The number who call these cuts fair has increased from 28% who felt that way when the budget was first introduced, while the number who call them unfair has remained basically stable.

Furthermore, half (50%) of state residents expect that the quality of their public schools will get worse because of these cuts.  Another 41% think that the cuts will have no impact on local school quality and just 8% think local school quality will actually improve.

The poll also found that 83% of the public followed news about the final budget deal, including 30% who heard a lot about it.  This is down from the number who were paying attention when the governor first unveiled his plan four months ago (89% aware, including 45% "a lot").  However, attention to the budget process typically declines between introduction and final passage, and the current public awareness levels are still higher than normal.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll  was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from July 7 to 11, 2010.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the New Jersey Press Media newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

 

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job Chris Christie is doing as governor?

2.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job the state legislature is doing?

3.     I'd like you to grade the Christie administration on how it has handled specific issues over the past few months.  For each one I read, please give a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F for failing.  What grade would you give the Christie administration for [ READ ITEM ]?  [ ITEMS WERE ROTATED ]

        Controlling costs and cutting waste

        Providing property tax relief

        Bringing ethics and honesty back to state government

        Improving our schools

4.     What grade would you give the governor for the level of effort he puts into working for New Jersey? 

5.     How much have you heard or read about the state budget that was passed last month - a lot, a little, or nothing at all?

The following questions were asked only of those who heard at least a little about the budget:  moe= +/-  3.7%

6.     How would you describe your reaction to the budget - would you say you are satisfied with it, not particularly satisfied but you can live with it, or you are definitely dissatisfied with it?

7.     I'd like to get your opinion on how the budget will affect different groups of New Jerseyans.  Will this budget help, hurt, or have no impact on [ READ ITEM ]?  [ ITEMS WERE ROTATED ]

        Middle class residents

        Poor residents

        Wealthy residents

        Property tax payers

        State workers

        Teachers

        Transit riders

        Senior citizens

        Businesses

8.     This budget cuts aid to local school districts and towns.  Compared to how much other programs and spending have been reduced in the state budget, do you think that the amount local aid has been cut is basically fair or unfair, or don't you have an opinion?

9.     Do you think the quality of public schools will get better, get worse or stay about the same because of this budget?

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll  was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on July 7-11, 2010 with a statewide random sample of 801 adult residents.  Sampling and data collection services were provided by Braun Research, Inc.  For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute's policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.  

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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