Christie falls to new lows in Rutgers-Eagleton poll
A poll released early in November by the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics shows Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) is highly unfavorable by the majority of New Jersey residents.
Christie is only a few points away from some of the lowest ratings ever for New Jersey governors in the last 45 years, said Ashley Koning, the manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
“His unfavorable number actually now outweighs his highest favorability, backdooring the post-Sandy days ... at one point he was at 70 percent favorable and now he is at 73 percent unfavorable, so it is pretty stark how much his ratings have fallen since 2013,” she said.
Koning said Christie is now at 19 percent unfavorable with 20 percent job approval, which is just a few points away from former N.J. Gov. Brendan Byrne’s rating of 17 percent, the lowest of the low.
“This is hitting the very bottom of gubernatorial ratings in pretty much the history of what we have on record within the Garden State,” she said.
This record-low rating for Christie was not sudden. Koning said the governor’s ratings have been on a decline since the start of the Bridgegate scandal in 2014.
“For some, it was because of Trump and his allegiance to the Trump campaign. For others, there was mention of a gas tax increase, but mainly with this poll being done at the very end of the Bridgegate trial it was all about Bridgegate and his role in the scandal,” she said.
Koning said the poll was statewide and done over the phone. The pollsters called randomly generated New Jersey numbers and registered voters were asked particular election or policy-related questions.
“We adhere to the standards of a probability sample, which allow us to generalize back to the population as a whole,” she said. “Because we are randomly calling both landlines and cellphones we are able to generalize our sample back to the entire New Jersey population and say that, within a certain margin of error, our estimates reflect what the public feels.“
Michael DuHaime, the lead strategist for Christie’s 2009 campaign for governor, said the foundation of Christie’s lack of favorability lies with the Democratic lean of the state.
“His ratings were at their highest when he was seen as non-partisan, for example when he worked with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy or when he took on members of his own party when they criticized his appointment of a Muslim judge,” he said in an email.
DuHaime accredits negative media coverage around Bridgegate as having a serious impact on Christie’s favorability. He said Christie's ratings go down when he is seen in a more Republican light, such as endorsing Trump, speaking at the GOP convention or running for president himself.
DuHaime does not see the governor attempting to increase his favorability ratings before the end of his term.
Despite the low ratings, DuHaime said he is proud to have helped the governor get elected twice.
“Christie has been a tremendous governor … He made dramatic and positive changes in higher education, many of which will have great and positive impacts on Rutgers,” he said.
Timothy Hitchings, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, has a contrasting opinion to DuHaime that is more in line with the generally dissatisfied N.J. majority.
Christie has not done much for millennials, he said. Hitchings said Christie has not helped make college more affordable or improved any student's future.
He is not surprised that the governor’s ratings have gotten so much lower.
“I think that with any politician on any scale, even the president, as you get towards the end of their term their favorability tends to go down,” he said.
Hitchings said, considering Christie’s affiliation with Trump's campaign and the Bridgegate scandal, he can understand why his ratings went down so much.
“I would like to see the Governor do more for the state and not spend his time on a presidential campaign that he is not even running in,” he said.
There being only about a year left in Christie’s term, Hitchings said the governor is focusing more on what he is going to do after his time is up rather than what is happening now in the state.
“If he wants to get some of those ratings back I feel like he needs to get back to what made him so great at the beginning of his term,” he said. “He was a governor for the people, and right now I think he has become too celebrity-like.”
Stephen Weiss is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is a staff writer with The Daily Targum.