NEW BRUSWICK and MADISON, NJ – When it comes to likeability, New Jersey’s current and former elected officials leave a lot to be desired, Garden State residents say. The inaugural joint survey from the polling units at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and Fairleigh Dickinson University finds that not a single politician scores a favorable majority with Garden State residents.
Almost one in five have no opinion on Gov. Phil Murphy – down considerably from the fall but still sizable for a sitting governor. Those who take a side, however, are more favorable than unfavorable toward him (43 percent to 37 percent).
The state’s two Democratic senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, generate disparate levels of support. Almost half have a favorable impression of Booker (46 percent), while 32 percent have an unfavorable one; 20 percent have no opinion (see prior Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU results). Menendez, on the other hand, pales in comparison to his colleague: 21 percent are favorable toward him, 47 percent are unfavorable, and 29 percent have no opinion. Even his Democratic constituents are not rallying to his side in large numbers, with about equal numbers favoring as disfavoring the senator (33 percent to 36 percent)
Even fewer take a stance on state Senate President Steve Sweeney, with 46 percent offering no opinion, and 19 percent unsure of who he is; among those who do, 13 percent are favorable, and 21 percent are unfavorable. This ambivalence toward Sweeney is nothing new. Despite the power he yields in the state, few recognize him enough to offer an opinion (see prior Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU results).
Murphy and Booker appear to be doing as well as politicians can in New Jersey, being the only personalities discussed in this poll with numbers that are right side up.
“These are solidly Democratic politicians who represent a solidly Democratic state. And yet, none of them appear to be wowing the crowds,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government and Director of the FDU Poll. “But they’re doing far better than two marquee Republicans.”
New Jerseyans view President Donald Trump and former Gov. Chris Christie much more unfavorably. A fifth (21 percent) have a favorable opinion of the former governor; slightly more say the same about the president (30 percent).
Sizable majorities of Garden State residents hold unfavorable opinions of both men – 63 percent for Christie and 59 percent for Trump. Trump’s numbers are virtually unchanged from the 2018 midterms, while Christie’s have improved only slightly since the fall of 2017 (see prior Christie-related Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU results; see prior Trump-related Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU results).
Eighty-six percent of Republicans view Trump favorably, compared with 6 percent of New Jersey Democrats. Among Garden State independents, 24 percent view the president favorably and 58 percent unfavorably.
The president is thus the most polarizing political figure considered in this poll, with a favorability gap of 80 percentage points between Democrats and Republicans. Murphy’s polarization gap – his difference in support between Democrats and Republicans – is 62 percent.
Christie receives less love than Trump from his party. Among Republicans, 43 percent view him favorably and 41 percent unfavorably. Democrats and independents continue to have an overwhelmingly unfavorable opinion of the former governor (78 percent and 62 percent, respectively).
“Chris Christie’s recent book tour has done little to help him with New Jerseyans, who still have a bitter taste in in their mouths from Christie’s last years as governor,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Even President Trump fares better than Christie does in his home state, both overall and among the party base – despite playing a notable part in the Republican governor’s unpopularity.”
In this poll, 1,203 adults were contacted between March 7 and 22, 2019, 621 of which were contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones and 582 through an online probability-based panel. The combined sample has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables, can be found on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website and the FDU Poll website.