Monmouth Poll: Christie 62%, Buono 20%

More than 6-in-10 New Jersey voters say they want to give Gov. Chris Christie a second term, according to this morning’s Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.

The poll also finds widespread support for raising the state’s minimum wage. The Republican governor’s opposition to the initiative does not seem to be a liability for his re-election prospects.

According to the poll, Christie earns a 70% approve to 17% disapprove job rating among all Garden State residents. Among registered voters, his rating stands at 70% approve to 16% disapprove. In December, his job approval rating was 67% among all residents and 69% among voters.  He continues to draw majority job approval ratings from the state’s Democrats (58%) and public employees (60%) in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Sixty-three percent of registered voters say Christie deserves a second term, similar to his December support (61%) and higher than in September (50%).  Three-in-ten (29%) say it is time to put someone else in office and 8% are not sure whether the governor merits re-election. 

In a head-to-head contest with the presumptive Democratic nominee, State Senator Barbara Buono, Christie garners 62% of intended support from registered voters while Buono claims 20%.

“There is a long history that shows horse race polling has little predictive value this far out from an election.  This is especially true when there is a popular incumbent and a largely unknown challenger.  The important number here is that 6-in-10 voters support Gov. Christie’s re-election,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  “This suggests that the race should close in on a 20-point margin as the campaign progresses and Buono becomes better known.  The question remains whether the challenger can peel off Christie supporters to shrink that gap even more.”

Murray said that while Buono officially kicked off her campaign earlier this month, more than 3-in-4 Garden State voters (78%) do not know enough about her to form an opinion.  Among those who do, Buono earns a 13% favorable to 9% unfavorable rating. This is not much different from the 11% favorable to 7% unfavorable rating she received back in September, Murray said.

“It’s worth noting that the highest-ranking woman in New Jersey politics is only slightly better known,” said the pollster. “Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno receives a 25% favorable to 7% unfavorable rating from registered voters after three years in office, while 68% do not know enough about her to form an opinion.  By contrast, Gov. Christie earns a whopping 71% favorable to 18% unfavorable rating from registered voters. Buono’s ability to cut into Gov. Christie’s support will depend on which issues she can use to motivate the electorate.  The poll indicates that Garden State voters are most concerned about jobs, which 88% say will be very important to their vote for governor this year.  Three-in-four voters also say that property taxes (78%) and schools (75%) will be very important to their vote.  Storm recovery (70%) and gun control (67%) will be very important considerations for 2-in-3 voters.”

Schools and gun control are more likely to be base issues than pivotal among independent voters, based on partisan differences in the level of importance, according to the poll.  For schools, 82% of Democrats say this is very important compared to 70% of independents and 70% of Republicans.  For gun control, 79% of Democrats say this is very important to their vote choice, compared to 62% of independents and 56% of Republicans who say the same.

Just under 6-in-10 voters say that funding for women’s health clinics (58%) and the minimum wage (54%) will be very important to their vote.  Only 36% of New Jersey voters say climate change will be one of the most important considerations when casting their ballot for governor.  These issues would probably motivate the base much more than independent swing voters.  Democrats are 20 to 30 percentage points more likely than independents and Republicans to say they will heavily weight any of these issues in their ultimate vote choice.

The minimum wage provides one example of the difficulties faced by any challenger in this year’s gubernatorial race.  Gov. Christie recently vetoed, albeit conditionally, legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage.  About 6-in-10 voters are aware of the veto, although only 15% have heard a lot about it, with 46% hearing just a little.  Just 1-in-5 voters (21%) say they are satisfied with Gov. Christie’s veto decision compared to 33% who are dissatisfied with it.  Another 37% say they are not particularly satisfied but can live with it and 9% offer no opinion.  Among those who have heard a lot about the veto, 31% are satisfied, 46% are dissatisfied, and 23% can live with it.

When asked about their own level of support if the Legislature decides to put the minimum wage on the ballot in November, 66% of New Jersey voters say they would support it.  Another 14% are opposed and 20% are not sure how they would vote.  Support comes from 81% of Democrats, 60% of independents and 56% of Republicans.

“There seems to be a disconnect between Gov. Christie’s actions and voter preferences on the minimum wage.  However, this particular issue is not all that salient to voters’ decision about the governor’s race, regardless of their support for increasing the minimum wage,” said Murray.

Monmouth polling staff attempted to identify voters who could potentially be motivated to switch support from the incumbent because of this issue.  This group includes voters who: feel Gov. Christie deserves re-election, are dissatisfied with his veto, say they will vote to support a minimum wage ballot measure, and report that the issue is very important to their vote for governor.  Analysis shows that this group comprises about 7% of the total electorate.  Hypothetically, if Sen. Buono were able to convince all of these voters to abandon their support for Christie, his re-election support would remain above the 50% mark.

Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press pollsters conducted the poll by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from Feb. 6 to 10.  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 Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.