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Monmouth University Polling Institute

NJ Governor’s Job Rating Positive but Christie Gets Blame for Race to Top

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Jersey’s rating of Obama drops again

More New Jerseyans approve than disapprove of the job Governor Chris Christie is doing, but the Race to the Top application blunder has raised some doubts.  The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll  also finds a continuing erosion in Garden State opinion of President Barack Obama.

Governor Christie's job rating currently stands at 45% approve to 38% disapprove among all state residents, and 44% to 40% among registered voters.  Christie receives positive ratings from 71% of Republicans, 49% of independents, and 22% of Democrats.

The governor's job rating had been tracking at an almost even positive to negative split from the time he announced his initial budget cuts in March until just before he signed the 2 percent property tax cap in July.  Other organizations' polls taken after the tax cap - but before the state lost the Race to the Top grant competition - showed the governor with positive ratings above the 50% mark.

"While the property tax cap improved the governor's standing among state residents, mistakes made in the Race to the Top application seem to have raised doubts about the administration," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

About 2-in-3 (66%) New Jerseyans are aware that the state lost out on $400 million in federal Race to the Top education funds.  Among this group of aware residents, more place the ultimate responsibility for this loss with the governor (38%) rather than with former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler (20%).  Others blame New Jersey bureaucrats (9%), federal government officials (3%), and the teachers union (2%), among others.

A majority (52%) of those who have heard about this incident say it makes them less confident in the Christie administration, compared to 37% who say Race to the Top has no effect on their opinion and just 8% who say it has given them more confidence.  Furthermore, most aware residents (53%) feel that the loss of these funds will severely hamper the governor's efforts to reform the state's education system.  Another 32% say it hurts those efforts a little and just 12% say the loss of these funds won't hurt those efforts at all.

The General Assembly has already held a hearing on this issue and the state Senate is scheduled to do so this week.  While some have accused the Democratic leadership of making political hay, residents who are aware of the issue are somewhat more likely to see the legislature's reaction as appropriate (53%) rather than overblown (36%).

Turning to the national picture, New Jersey residents give more positive than negative reviews to President Obama, but just barely.  Currently, 48% of all New Jerseyans approve of the president's job performance while 43% disapprove.  Among registered voters in the state, opinion stands at 47% positive to 44% negative.   New Jersey's rating for the president continues to be higher than the national average of 46% approve to 50% disapprove recorded by Real Clear Politics  on September 19.  However, the current state rating marks yet another decline from the 30 point net positive rating Obama enjoyed in the Garden State in July 2009.

The president's declining approval rating among New Jerseyans does not seem to have translated into increased support for a Republican takeover of Congress.  When asked which party they would like to see in control on Capitol Hill, Garden State voters split 23% for the GOP to 27% for the Democrats.  More than 4-in-10 (42%) say that the country would be the same regardless of which party controls Congress.  Compared to a poll taken in July, the Democrats have gained six points on this question.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll  was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from September 15 to 19, 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 Barack Obama is doing as president?

3.      Do you think the country would be better off if the Republicans controlled Congress, if the Democrats controlled Congress, or would the country be the same regardless of which party controlled Congress?

4.      Would you say things in New Jersey are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

5.      Did you read or hear anything about New Jersey not getting 400 million dollars in federal Race to the Top education funds, or not?

[The following questions were asked only of those who said “Yes” to Q5,moe= +/- 4%]

6.      Who is most to blame for not getting these federal funds?  [List was NOT read]

7.      Did this incident make you more confident, less confident, or have no effect on your opinion of the Christie administration?

8.      The legislature has held public hearings to look into this.  Do you think the legislature’s reaction has been appropriate or overblown?

9.      How much will the loss of these funds hurt the governor’s efforts to reform the state education system – a lot, a little, or not at all?


The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Press Media Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on September 15-19, 2010 with a statewide random sample of 801 adult residents.  Sampling and live telephone interviewing 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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