Christie effect? Booker’s approval rating slips as he launches presidential bid

Newly minted presidential candidate Cory Booker may be able to blame his friend, former Gov. Chris Christie, for shrinking approval ratings. Christie’s try for the Republican nomination in 2016 led to heavy criticism in-state, and the U.S. senator’s run for the Democratic nomination in 2020 may be suffering from some backlash.

A new Monmouth University Poll released Thursday morning found that Booker’s approval rating has slipped since the last poll in April 2018, although it remained positive overall.

Booker earned a 48 percent approval rating, against a 36 percent disapproval rating, from the New Jersey residents polled by Monmouth. Another 16 percent have no opinion of the senator’s job performance. The numbers are down from April 2018, when Booker received a 54 percent approval rating, compared with a 31 percent disapproval rating. The disapproval number is Booker’s highest since the former Newark mayor took office in 2013.

“Booker has become better-known to his constituents over the past two years, but his presidential bid and elevated national profile may have worn off some of the sheen,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a prepared statement. “Part of the problem could be that New Jerseyans haven’t fully recovered from Christie’s run four years ago.”

While Democrats have increasingly approved of the job he is doing — giving him an 81 percent approval rating against an 8 percent disapproval rating, up from 77 percent approval and 9 percent disapproval last year — both Republicans and independents have become more negative about Booker, with Republicans shifting to a 13 percent approval rating and 75 percent disapproval, down from a 21 percent approval rating and 64 percent disapproval. Meanwhile, independents, who had viewed Booker favorably, at 52 percent approval and 33 percent disapproval, flipped to 37 percent approval and 42 percent disapproval in the most recent poll.

New Jersey residents are split on whether Booker would be a good president, with 37 percent saying “yes” and 42 percent saying “no” — 21 percent are unsure. That is better than the numbers Christie faced when he began his campaign in 2015, as only 27 percent of state residents thought he would be a good president, compared with 69 percent saying he would not and 4 percent unsure.

Among other results, 34 percent of those polled thought Booker could continue to serve effectively as a senator while running for president, and 50 percent said he does not need to resign his seat in order to run. Some 37 percent think Booker has a reasonable chance to win the presidency, or at least the Democratic nomination, while 54 percent rate his chances of becoming the nominee as a longshot or worse.

“The home state sentiment isn’t quite ‘Run, Cory, run,’” Murray said. “But, when you take into account how the last big presidential campaign rubbed many New Jerseyans the wrong way, it’s a decent endorsement for Booker.”

Finally, even though New Jersey law was amended recently to allow Booker to run for both his Senate seat and the presidency, only 21 percent said he should run for both simultaneously.

The state’s senior senator, Robert Menendez, received a 40 percent approval rating, against a 43 percent disapproval rating, in the latest poll. Menendez, who won re-election by 11 points in November, had a 37 percent approval rating and 38 percent disapproval rating in the 2018 poll.

This poll was conducted from Feb. 8-10 with 604 New Jersey adults. It has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

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