Governors and Dr. Fauci Outperform President Trump among New Jerseyans

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic has catapulted him to one of the most liked governors in New Jersey history, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Much like the across-the-aisle support Chris Christie received in Sandy’s aftermath, Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike applaud Murphy for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight in ten Democrats, just over half of independents, and even a third of Republicans have a favorable impression of Murphy. He receives even stronger bipartisan support when it comes to the overall job he is doing as governor: 92% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 47% of Republicans approve of him. More than half of almost every demographic is positive about the governor, both in terms of favorability and approval.

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Echoing the highs reached by governors Thomas Kean, Christine Todd Whitman, and Chris Christie, Murphy’s favorability rating is near the 60% mark (59% favorable to 20% unfavorable). This represents a 16-point increase for Murphy since this time last year, according to the poll.

The governor also now beats Christie’s Sandy-fueled job approval high: 77% of New Jerseyans currently approve of the overall job Murphy is doing (a 25-point leap since last year), while 21% disapprove, the poll found.

The survey respondents gave Murphy high marks on his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Almost three-quarters give Murphy an ‘A’ (39%) or ‘B’ (33%). Murphy is bested only slightly by his counterpart across the Hudson, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: 51% of Garden Staters give Cuomo an ‘A’ and 25% a ‘B.’ Local officials in New Jersey also receive solid grades from residents, with two-thirds awarding their local policymakers an ‘A’ (30%) or ‘B’ (37%).

“Like a number of other governors during this pandemic, Governor Murphy is experiencing a rally ‘round the flag effect that we sometimes see emerge with leaders in times of crisis,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “After two years of middling ratings, Murphy’s visibility and leadership have propelled his overall numbers to something we have not seen the likes of since Governor Christie after Hurricane Sandy. What remains to be seen is how long this overwhelming support for Murphy will last as the economic impact of the outbreak becomes increasingly dire and as we approach summer.”

However, a scan of Twitter comments frequently portrays a less glowing picture of Gov. Murphy. Some examples:

  • Linda McG @LindaMcGa. Replying to @GovMurphy

There are 9 million people in NJ and COVID cases are an extremely small percentage. Time to reopen all businesses.  The curve has flattened and it’s time to get back to living.

  • Michele Blood @BloodBrief. Replying to @GovMurphy

Yet despite the curve flattening you initially claimed was the goal, you continue to press your boot against the neck of NJ's economy. Continued lockdown will kill far more businesses--and citizens--than the virus will from this point forward. #ReOpenNJ

  • DSquared @Dscwared. Replying to @GovMurphy and @NJDeptofHealth

Previously u told us that we would reopen when we had 14 days of steady decline. Why r u changing the rules to extend the economic damage?

  • Chris Higgins @FuriousChef. Replying to @GovMurphy

The curve has been flattened. You’re killing the economy, jobs, families, and the health of the people. It’s that simple. #OpenNJ

  • Patrick Franco @Patrick36289080. Replying to @GovMurphy and @NJLaborDept

How can we get through this when I haven't had a paycheck for 8 weeks? My business has been shut down and I have a wife and 2 kids to feed! I've received zero support up to this point.

Dr. Fauci rates highest

Among federal officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci garners the highest grades from New Jerseyans for his handling of the pandemic. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director gets an ‘A’ from 44% of New Jerseyans and a B from 31%. New Jerseyans’ grades for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are mostly concentrated in the ‘B’ to ‘C’ range, according to the poll.

Donald Trump receives the worst marks of all on his handling of the pandemic: 42% of New Jerseyans give him a failing grade, while the rest are somewhat evenly dispersed among the other letter grade options, according to the Rutgers survey.

“President Trump has been one of the few politicians handling this crisis who hasn’t benefited from any type of rally ‘round the flag bump, which has really carved a path for more localized leaders – like governors – to shine,” Koning said.