Final Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Christie is all bad news

By Eric Strauss
New Brunswick | Jan 9, 2018 at 1:04 pm

The last Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of Gov. Chris Christie’s time in office finds that he will depart as the most disapproved and disliked outgoing governor since the poll began almost 50 years ago.

The poll, which was conducted in November, found that only 13 percent have a favorable impression of Christie, a new low, with 68 percent saying their impression in unfavorable. In addition, only 19 percent approve of the job he is doing, the second-lowest mark on record, while 74 percent disapprove.

Only 5 percent of New Jersey residents in the poll say they will miss Christie, which would extrapolate out to about 350,000 of the 7 million adults in the state. Ten times that number will be glad to see him leave office, a news release on the poll added.

The poll caps a dramatic slide in Christie’s favorability, which reached a high in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, culminating in his re-election victory in 2013. His poll numbers dropped into negative territory by the end of 2014, after the Bridgegate traffic scandal, and never recovered — even as he sought national prominence as a presidential candidate in 2016.

“This did not have to be Gov. Christie’s legacy,” Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a prepared statement. “Much like his mentor, Gov. (Tom) Kean, Christie had the rare ability to unite both sides of the aisle, reaching levels of bipartisan support rarely seen by New Jersey governors — let alone politicians, in general.

“What makes this story especially tragic is how quickly this potential was squandered in his second term and how far Christie fell as a result, going from one of the most lauded to now the least-liked and -approved of ever.”

Other numbers that cast a dim light on Christie included only 18 percent of those polled believing he is leaving New Jersey in better shape than when he took office, while 40 percent said he is leaving the Garden State in worse shape than he found it.

When asked to grade Christie’s job performance, a majority of those polled gave him either a “D,” 25 percent, or “F,” 30 percent.

Cliff Zukin, an emeritus professor at Rutgers and senior adviser to the poll, said Christie’s unpopularity is rivaled only by Gov. Brendan Byrne, who died earlier this month at age 93.

“Gov. Byrne had a marvelously dry wit,” Zukin said. “He often remarked he was so disliked that ‘Half the people in the state wouldn’t cross the street to spit’ at him … and then would pause and say, ‘And the other half would.’

“Byrne ended up respected, with a third of the state giving him a rating of excellent or good when he was done.”

Rutgers-Eagleton surveyed 1,203 adults via telephone between Nov. 15-27, 2017.

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | acerimrat