FDU Poll: NJ Democrats and Republicans Mostly Undecided on Governor


Republican Kim Guadagno and Democrat Phil Murphy lead their opponents in their respective party primaries, but the dominant response from the public remains “don’t know,” according to this morning’s Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind Poll.

On the Democratic side, Murphy garners 23 percent support, with his closest competitors significantly behind. Murphy is up six percentage points from the last time the question was asked (17%) in January. Although Murphy is doing well with those who have an opinion, over half (53%) remain uncertain whom among the long list of candidates they will support in June.

Two-term Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is the front-runner among Republicans with 24 percent support. This is six percentage points better than what the FDU poll found in January (18%). As with Murphy, Guadagno’s competitors are running significantly behind, and the dominant response among self-identified Republicans is “don’t know” (54%).

“With a little more than two months until the June 6 primary, Guadagno and Murphy look good among those with an opinion, but there’s still lots of room for others to capture the attention of voters who remain unimpressed with what they’ve seen so far,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of the FDU poll.

This morning’s poll found the public continuing to give low marks to Governor Chris Christie and the legislature.

Seventy-two percent of voters say they disapprove of the governor’s leadership with 20 percent who approve. These numbers are statistically unchanged from January, said Jenkins; the last time the same question was asked about the governor’s job performance. Even a minority of Republicans are happy with the governor. Forty percent approve of the job he’s been doing of late, with 52 percent who disapprove.

“As the clock continues to advance toward the end of his administration, Governor Christie remains mired in a world of public displeasure,” said Jenkins. “His twenty percent approval rating puts him in the company of relatively few who left office while being held in such low public regard. And the fact that so few believe the state is headed in the right direction under his leadership underscores the frustration that many feel.”

Barely a quarter (24%) believe the state is on a good path, with 67 percent who think otherwise. As with the governor’s job approval numbers, right direction/wrong track numbers remain upside down in largely the same territory they have been in recent polls.

Regardless of who wins in November, the poll finds that state government in general fares poorly in the eyes of the public. Low regard for elected officials extends well beyond Governor Christie. Voters were asked a number of questions about their feelings toward state government, and across all measures, voter discontent runs broad and deep.[1]

For example, when asked if they find themselves feeling content, frustrated, or angry with the state government, 18 percent are content, with around the same number saying they’re angry (21%) and a majority feeling frustrated (58%). Frustration prevails across all of the groups considered, with some differences apparent by party and age. For example, Republicans (23%) are the most content among partisans with Democrats the most angry (23%). And, a quarter of Millennials (24%) feel content when they think of state government.

The pessimism continues when it comes to public perceptions of state run programs, as only 15 percent evaluate the job the state government does as “excellent” or “good,” with 83 percent who regard the state’s performance as “only fair” or “poor.”

There is also not a deep reservoir of trust between elected officials in Trenton and their constituents. Unconditional trust is more of a dream than a reality, as only one percent say they always trust state officials to do what’s right. That number increases to 11 percent when the standard of trust is loosened a bit to include those who trust government “most” of the time. Instead, far more voters say they never believe Trenton legislators are doing the right thing. Twenty-three percent say they never trust state officials to do what’s right, with another 65 percent whose trust can be relied upon some of the time.

And finally, when asked whether they regard state government as a friend or enemy, voters are somewhere in the middle. On a ten-point scale, with one meaning an enemy and ten indicating a friend, the average response was a six.

“Although it’s easy to scapegoat problems with state government by pointing the finger at the guy at the top, it’s clear that Governor Christie isn’t the sole source of voter discontent. There’s a lot of work to do by legislators and the next governor to reconnect the public to local government,” said Jenkins.

Methodology, questions, and tables on the web at: http://publicmind.fdu.edu

Methodology – The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone March 22-26, 2017 among a random sample of 758 registered voters in New Jersey. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.9 percentage points, including the design effect.

Survey results are also subject to non-sampling error. This kind of error, which cannot be measured, arises from a number of factors including, but not limited to, non-response (eligible individuals refusing to be interviewed), question wording, the order in which questions are asked, and variations among interviewers.

PublicMind interviews are conducted by Opinion America of Cedar Knolls, NJ, with professionally trained interviewers using a CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) system. Random selection >is achieved by computerized random-digit dialing. This technique gives every person with a landline phone number (including those with unlisted numbers) an equal chance of being selected.

The total combined sample is mathematically weighted to match known demographics of age, sex, race, and education. 418 interviews were conducted on landlines and 340 were conducted on cellular telephones.

The sample was purchased from Marketing Systems Group and the research was funded by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

PublicMind recently received an “A” rating from statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. The ratings measure both accuracy and bias for all major polling services in the United States, providing an update to similar research the poll watchers conducted in 2014. PublicMind’s “A” rating puts it in the top 14 of the more than 380 polling institutes reviewed and graded from A+ through F. PublicMind was found to have a 94 percent accuracy rate for predicting election results, and is one of only two A-rated polling institutes with zero bias to their rankings.


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