FDU Poll: Recent New Jersey Governors Fare Poorly

New Jerseyans regard past governors of the state much more fondly than recent ones, with Republican Tom Kean – who served from 1982 to 1990 – ranking highest in Garden Staters’ memory. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, 86 percent of New Jersey voters who were here during his tenure and have an opinion of it say that Kean did a good job. Recent governors of both parties are seen less positively, with the exception of Richard Codey: 79 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans say that he did a good job. The poll also measured approval of the current Governor, Phil Murphy, whose approval is largely unchanged over the past year, with 46 percent approving, and 43 percent disapproving.

“Kean was popular when he was in office, and remains popular now,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson, and the Executive Director of the poll. “His role as kind of an elder statesman for the 9-11 commission has also certainly helped burnish his reputation.”

Generally, governors who served more recently are regarded less favorably than those who served some time ago. Kean, who was governor for most of the 1980s, is positively regarded by 95 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats who were voting in the state during his tenure and have an opinion. Kean was preceded in office by Democrat Brendan Byrne, who served from 1974 to 1982: 63 percent of voters say that Byrne did a good job while in office.

The one exception to this pattern is Codey, who served as Governor twice. Under New Jersey law at the time, the Senate President served as acting Governor – while retaining their position in the Senate – if the Governor’s office was vacant because of resignation, or any other reason. When Christie Todd Whitman resigned from the Governership to serve as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, Codey was among four different figures to serve as acting governor in the week before the inauguration of Jim McGreevey (Republican Donald DiFrancesco was acting governor for most of that time).

In November 2004, the resignation of McGreevey meant that Codey once again served as Governor until Jon Corzine was inaugurated in January 2006. An amendment to the state constitution in 2005 created the office of Lieutenant Governor, starting with the 2009 gubernatorial election. His term as governor was noted for his focus on mental health, and crackdowns on public corruption.

Fifty-eight percent of NJ voters who were here during his tenure and have an opinion (a group that comprises 30 percent of voters in the state) say that Codey did a good job as governor. This puts him a little ahead of Whitman (52 percent “good job”) and Democrat Jim Florio, who served from 1990 to 1994 (48 percent “good job”).

“This isn’t just rose-colored glasses,” said Cassino. “Governors in the past were dealing with a less polarized electorate and had more support from the other party than any governor today could.”

With the exception of Codey, the three most recent ex-governors are at the bottom of the rankings, with about 40 percent of voters saying that they did a good job.

The current governor, Murphy, was not included in the poll of past governors, but voters were asked to evaluate the current holder of the office. Forty-six percent say that they approve of the job Murphy is doing, unchanged from January, with 43 percent disapproving, up, but not significantly, from the 40 percent recorded earlier this year. Those figures also display the polarization that characterizes the current political moment: 80 percent of Democrats say that Murphy is doing a good job; only 10 percent of Republicans do.

While there have been claims that Murphy might have lost support from progressives in the state due to the recent candidacy of his wife, First Lady Tammy Murphy for the Senate seat currently held by Bob Menendez, there was little indication of that in the poll. Governor Murphy’s approval rating among self-described liberals is at 79 percent, only a little higher than among progressives (74 percent). Both figures are well above his approval among moderates (54 percent) and conservatives (31 percent).

“It might be that progressives in the state were angry at the First Lady, or at the institutional Democratic Party,” said Cassino. “But if they are, they’re not taking it out on the Governor.”

 

 

 

 

Methodology

The survey was conducted between April 1 and April 8, 2024, using a voter list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. Voter lists were obtained from Aristotle International of Washington, DC. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via either live caller telephone interviews, or text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones, resulting in an overall sample of 809 registered voters in New Jersey. 212 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews on landlines, 262 on live caller interviews to cell phones, and the remainder (351) were done on a web platform via weblinks sent via SMS to cell phones. Surveys were conducted only in English.

The data were weighted to be representative of the population of New Jersey voters, according to data from Pew Research. The weights used, like all weights, balance the demographic characteristics of the sample to match known population parameters. The weighted results used here are balanced to match parameters for sex, age, education and race/ethnicity.

SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure, was used to produce final weights. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis helps to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The size of these weights is used to construct the measure of design effects, which indicate the extent to which the reported results are being driven by the weights applied to the data, rather than found in the data itself. Simply put, these design effects tell us how many additional respondents would have been needed to get the weighted number of respondents across weighted categories: larger design effects indicate greater levels of under-representation in the data. In this case, calculated design effects are approximately 1.4.

All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. Sampling error should be adjusted to recognize the effect of weighting the data to better match the population. In this poll, the simple sampling error for 809 registered New Jersey voters is +/-3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-4.3 percentage points, though the figure not including them is much more commonly reported.

This error calculation does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, differences in translated forms, or context effects. While such errors are known to exist, they are often unquantifiable within a particular survey, and all efforts, such as randomization and extensive pre-testing of items, have been used to minimize them.

The FDU Poll is a member of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative and is devoted to ensuring that our results are presented in such a way that anyone can quickly and easily get all of the information that they may need to evaluate the validity of our surveys. We believe that transparency is the key to building trust in the work of high-quality public opinion research, and necessary to push our industry forward.

 

 

Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics

809 Registered New Jersey Voters

Figures do not include individuals who declined to answer demographic items.

 

Man                                 49%                 N = 401

Woman                             50%                 N = 414

Some Other Way           1%                  N = 6

 

18-30                           17%                N = 137

31-44                           24%                 N = 199

45-64                           36%                 N = 296

65+                               23%                 N = 192

 

White                                            49%                N = 257

Black                                               15%                N = 86

Hispanic/Latino/a                                      21%                N = 106

Asian                                        9%                  N = 40

Other/Multi-racial                                     3%                  N = 15

 

No college degree                       61%                N = 495

College degree or more              39%                N = 324

 

Region Classifications

Northwest: Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren Counties
Northeast: Bergen and Passaic Counties
Urban Core: Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties
South: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties
Coast: Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties

 

 

 

Question Wording and Order

First off, we’d like to ask you a few questions about the government here in New Jersey.

NJ1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?

  1. Approve
  2. Disapprove
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ2. The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would make it harder for citizens to access to public records, and limit what records they can request. Supporters of the bill say that answering public records requests can be a burden on municipalities. Opponents of the bill say that access to public records helps uncover corruption and illegal behavior. What do you think? Should the state limit access to public records, or keep the system as it is?

  1. Yes, should limit access to public records
  2. No, should keep the system as it is
  3. [Vol] Don’t Know/Refused

NJ3. There is currently no tax mechanism for electric vehicles to contribute to the New Jersey transportation trust fund used to fix roads and bridges. On average, New Jersey drivers of gas-powered vehicles pay around $300 into the transportation trust fund annually. Would you support a direct tax of $300 per year on electric vehicle drivers to help defray the costs of the wear and tear they contribute to our infrastructure?

  1. EVs should have to pay higher registration fees
  2. EVs should not have to pay higher registration fees
  3. [Vol] Don’t Know/Refused

NJ4. Right now, revenues from the gas tax and vehicle registration are used to pay to repair and build roads and bridges, as well as rail improvements for NJ Transit. Both the transportation trust fund, which pays to build and maintain roads and bridges, as well as NJ Transit, are short on money. Do you think that revenues from the gas tax and registration should be used just for roads and bridges, or should be used to subsidize NJ Transit as well?

  1. Gas tax used just for roads and bridges
  2. Gas tax also used to subsidize NJ Transit
  3. [Vol] Don’t Know/Refused

NJ5. There are currently a number of proposals in New Jersey to build more charter schools. These are privately run schools that receive state funding. Parents can choose to send their children to charter schools rather than local public schools. Supporters of charter schools say that they give parents more choice about their child’s education. Opponents say that they take money away from local public schools. What do you think? Should New Jersey build more charter schools, or keep things how they are?

  1. Build more charter schools
  2. Keep things as they are
  3. [Vol] Don’t Know/Refused

G1. We’re asking people about past governors of New Jersey, but we only want to ask you about the governors that were in office since you’ve been here. Can you tell me what year you started voting in New Jersey?

[Note: if the metadata includes what year they registered to vote, we can probably skip this q]

[Record Year]

G2. I’m going to name some past governors. For each, tell me if you think they did a good job on the whole, a bad job on the whole, or if you’re not sure.

  1. Good Job
  2. Bad Job
  3. Not Sure
  4. Don’t Know [Vol]
  1. Refused [Vol]

 

[Respondents are only asked about governors who were in office since they’ve been voting in New Jersey. So, if someone said that they started voting here in 2005, they would only get Codey, Corzine and Christie.]

  1. [Only if Before 1982] Democrat Brendan Byrne
  2. [Only if Before 1990] Republican Tom Kean, Sr.
  3. [Only if Before 1994] Democrat Jim Florio
  4. [Only if Before 2001] Republican Christie Todd Whitman
  5. [Only if Before 2002] Republican Don DiFrancesco
  6. [Only if Before 2004] Democrat Jim McGreevey
  7. [Only if Before 2006] Democrat Dick Codey
  8. [Only if Before 2010] Democrat Jon Corzine
  9. [Only if Before 2018] Republican Chris Christie

[Shuffle Order of General Election Match-Up Qs]

[In the following four questions, randomly assign the name of the Republican (and code which name respondent gets). Half of the questions should have “Christine Serrano Glassner, the Republican,” and half should have “Curtis Bashaw, the Republican.” Randomization should be on the respondent level, so one respondent will get either Bashaws or Glassner for both E1 and E2]

There will be an election later this year for the US Senate seat currently held by Bob Menendez, but it’s not yet clear who the candidates for the seat will be. I’d like to give you a few potential match-ups, to see who you would vote for in each case.

E1. [Shuffle Order of Candidates] Suppose that November’s election for Senate were between Andy Kim, the Democrat, and Christine Serrano Glassner/ Curtis Bashaw, the Republican. Would you vote for the Democrat, Kim, the Republican, Glassner/Bashaw, or would you not vote?

  1. Democrat Kim
  2. Republican Glassner/Bashaw
  3. Would not vote
  4. Don’t Know/Refused [vol]

E2. [Shuffle Order of first two Candidates, keeping Menendez in third spot] Suppose that November’s election for Senate were between Andy Kim, the Democrat, Christine Serrano Glassner/ Curtis Bashaw, the Republican and Bob Menendez, running as an independent. Would you vote for the Democrat, Kim, the Republican, Glassner/Bashaw, the independent, Menendez, or would you not vote?

  1. Democrat Kim
  2. Republican Glassner/Bashaw
  3. Menendez
  4. Would not vote
  5. Don’t Know/Refused [vol]

[Intervening Questions Held for Future Release]

Just a few more questions, for statistical purposes

D1. In politics today, do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or something else?

  1. Democrat
  1. Republican
  2. Independent  [ASK D1A]
  3. Something Else/Other
  4. DK/Ref [vol]

D1A. [Ask only if D1 is 3] Which way do you lean?

  1. Democrat
  1. Republican
  2. Independent
  3. Something Else/Other
  4. DK/Ref [vol]

D1B. In addition, which of the following terms would you use to describe your political views? You can choose as many as you like. [Shuffle Order]

  1. Liberal
  2. Moderate
  3. Conservative
  4. Socialist
  5. Progressive
  6. Libertarian
  7. America First
  8. Nationalist

D2A. To ensure we are reaching people of all ages, would you please tell me your age?

____    (ENTER AGE: 98=98+, 99 = REFUSED)

[IF Don’t Know/REFUSED IN QD1, ASK:]

D2B.  Would you be willing to tell us whether it’s between…?

  1. Under 30
  1. 31 to 44
  2. 45 to 64
  3. 65 or over
  4. [Refused]

D3. What was the last grade in school you completed? [CODE TO LIST]

  1. Did not complete High School
  2. High School Diploma or equivalent
  3. Vocational or Trade School
  4. Some college, but no degree
  5. Associates, or other 2 year degree
  6. Bachelor’s Degree
  7. Graduate work, such as Law, MBA, Medical School, or similar
  8. Refused (VOL)

D4. How would you describe your sex? Do you describe yourself as …

  1. A Man
  1. A Woman
  2. Some other way
  3. [DK/REF]

D5. How would you describe your racial and ethnic background? You can pick as many as you’d like.

  1. White
  1. Black
  2. Asian
  3. Hispanic/Latino/a/Spanish
  4. Other or Multi-Racial
  5. [Dk/Ref]

D6. Have you ever owned any cryptocurrency, NFTs, or other similar digital products? It’s fine if you don’t know what those are.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Don’t know what those are
  4. [Refused]

D7. The traits that we see as being masculine or feminine are largely determined by society, and have changed dramatically over time. As a result, everyone has some combination of masculine and feminine traits, which may or may not correspond with whether they’re male or female. How do you see yourself? Would you say that you see yourself as…

  1. Completely Masculine
  2. Mostly Masculine
  3. Slightly Masculine
  4. Slightly Feminine
  5. Mostly Feminine
  6. Completely Feminine
  7. [Dk/Ref]

Thanks so much for your participation – you’ll see the results in the news in the next few weeks

 

 

 

 

Release Tables

 

I’m going to name some past governors. For each, tell me if you think they did a good job on the whole, a bad job on the whole, or if you’re not sure. [Good/Bad Job include only those voting in NJ at the time, with an opinion]
  Good Job Bad Job Sample Size % with opinion
Tom Kean 86% 14% 258 32%
Brendan Byrne 63% 37% 137 17%
Dick Codey 58% 42% 241 30%
Christie Todd Whitman 52% 48% 394 49%
Jim Florio 48% 52% 292 36%
Don DiFrancesco 44% 56% 156 19%
Jim McGreevey 42% 58% 378 47%
Jon Corzine 41% 59% 441 55%
Chris Christie 40% 60% 637 79%

 

 

I’m going to name some past governors. For each, tell me if you think they did a good job on the whole, a bad job on the whole, or if you’re not sure. [Good/Bad Job include only those voting in NJ at the time, with an opinion]
  % Saying “Good Job”    
  Democrats Republicans Sample Size % with opinion
Brendan Byrne 88% 38% 137 17%
Tom Kean 74% 95% 258 32%
Dick Codey 79% 39% 241 30%
Jim Florio 75% 23% 292 36%
Christie Todd Whitman 55% 54% 394 49%
Don DiFrancesco 35% 58% 156 19%
Jim McGreevey 72% 15% 378 47%
Jon Corzine 73% 17% 441 55%
Chris Christie 29% 54% 637 79%

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?
  24-Apr 24-Jan 23-Oct 23-May 23-Feb
Approve 46% 46% 44% 44% 48%
Disapprove 43% 40% 37% 39% 36%
[Vol] don’t Know/Not Sure/Refused 12% 14% 19% 14% 16%

 

 

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?
  All Dem Indp Rep
Approve 46% 80% 25% 10%
Disapprove 43% 12% 52% 82%
[Vol] Don’t Know/ Refused 12% 8% 23% 8%

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?
  All Liberal Moderate Conservative Progressive
Approve 46% 79% 54% 22% 74%
Disapprove 43% 14% 35% 71% 18%
[Vol] Don’t Know/ Refused 12% 7% 11% 7% 8%

 

 

 

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4 responses to “FDU Poll: Recent New Jersey Governors Fare Poorly”

  1. The last 3 Governors in New Jersey has none nothing for us all they did was take what they can get
    The taxpayers paid a lot for there tax and the mobile home parks raise there taxes until the elderly could not afford food or rent
    Let’s see if the mobile homes parks get do get rent control so the elderly could get what they need
    In food and meds. Please help them they only have themself I know I did what I can and
    Now I move to Florida no one there to help .

  2. No one cares about Gov. Phil KNUCKLEHEAD Murphy anymore. He’s a lameduck governor who will be gone in 2025. No governor has helped New Jerseyans reduce their property/education taxes for the past 50 years. That’s why New Jerseyans are leaving the state in droves. We are the NO.1 state in residents emigrating to other significantly less tax, less regulation states. If you live in New Jersey and are able to make $2 MILLION over your lifetime, more than $1 MILLION of that money goes to taxes. We are the NO. 1 state for that also. That’s why you’ll see a continuing mass exodus from this state, until we get a solid Republican legislature with a Republican governor to de-couple property taxes from education taxes, like most other states do. Once that occurs, New Jerseyans will stay. Until then, it’s au revoir.

  3. I fully approve of the job Governor Murphy has and currently does for all of the people of New Jersey from the very young to the most senior. If there were no term limits on the office of Governor I would be advocating four more years!!!!!!! Bob Knapp, Jersey City

  4. Four more years for Governor Murphy, if term limits did not exist!!!!!! Bob Knapp, Jersey City

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