Among likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, a new national poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is most favored among registered voters.
Fifty-five percent of registered voters who have heard of Governor Christie view him favorably, with Marco Rubio of Florida (46%) and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana (45%) not too far behind.
“The race for the White House is already on,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the poll and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Although early, these numbers are good news for those who are already perceived favorably by a majority or near-majority of those familiar with the candidate.”
More good news for Christie is his bipartisan appeal. The governor is favored by a majority of Republicans (59%), Democrats (52%), and independents (57%) alike, while the remaining GOP contenders do not have such broad support.
“The governor’s appeal is likely based on his call for bipartisanship during his high-profile speech at the GOP convention, as well as the praise he had for President Obama in the days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged his state,” said Jenkins. “However, his delicate treatment of conservative issues such as abortion and gun control will undoubtedly prove instructive as to how long he’s able to maintain bipartisan favorability.”
Governor Christie is also the only figure among this group who registers majority support among both men and women (53% and 57%, respectively). Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal score similar numbers (49% vs. 43% for Rubio; 47% vs. 44% for Jindal) in regard to gender.
The struggles the GOP has had in connecting with minority voters is not likely to be solved in the short term. Governor Christie’s appeal is notable because he is the only GOP contender to receive a 50 percent approval among non-whites, leading the next highest, Rubio, by 18 points.
Jindal registered the lowest name recognition (37%), compared with former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida (80%), former Senator Rick Santorum (79%), Christie (68%), and Rubio (56%).
“To some extent, Governor Jindal’s low visibility is somewhat of a silver lining for him,” said Jenkins. “If he should assume more national visibility, his strong favorability rating provides a good foundation to build upon.”
The two candidates with the highest name recognition, Bush and Santorum, are also the two with the smallest degree of support. Around a third of those familiar with Bush (32%) and Santorum (31%) have favorable opinions among those with knowledge of each political figure.
“Mr. Santorum’s legacy encompasses not just his time in the Senate, but also his competitive run for the White House in 2012. His vocal stand on social issues, particularly in regard to abortion and contraception, could be what’s holding back more from saying positive things about him,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 814 registered voters was conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from December 10, 2012 through December 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.