Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: Murphy ratings skyrocket amid pandemic

The way Gov. Phil Murphy has handled the coronavirus outbreak so far has resulted in him being one of the most well-liked governors in New Jersey history, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

Murphy’s favorability rating has jumped 16-points to nearly 60% (59% favorable, 20% unfavorable) since the same period last year. The governor is now beating the high job marks former Gov. Chris Christie earned during Superstorm Sandy, with 77% of New Jerseyans approving of Murphy’s overall performance (25 point jump since last year) and 21% disapprove.

Nearly three-quarters gave Murphy an “A” (39%) or “B” (33%) on how he is handling the COVID-19 outbreak. He’s outranked only by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with 51% from New Jersey giving him an “A” and 25% a “B”. Local officials are also attaining high marks, with 30% rating their local policymakers an “A” and 37% a “B”.

“Like a number of other governors during this pandemic, Governor Murphy is experiencing a rally ‘round the flag effect that we sometimes see emerge with leaders in times of crisis,” Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, said. “After two years of middling ratings, Murphy’s visibility and leadership have propelled his overall numbers to something we have not seen the likes of since Governor Christie after Hurricane Sandy. What remains to be seen is how long this overwhelming support for Murphy will last as the economic impact of the outbreak becomes increasingly dire and as we approach summer.”

Federally, Anthony Fauci has the most support from New Jerseyans on his handling of the pandemic. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director got an “A” from 44% in the state and a “B” from 31%. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention ratings are concentrated in the “B” to “C” range. President Donald Trump received the lowest support from Garden Staters, with 42% giving him an “F”.

“President Trump has been one of the few politicians handling this crisis who hasn’t benefited from any type of rally ‘round the flag bump, which has really carved a path for more localized leaders – like governors – to shine,” Koning said.

Bipartisan support also fueled Murphy’s rating, with 8 in 10 Democrats, just over half of independents and a third of Republicans saying he is handling COVID-19 the right way. He received even stronger support on his overall job as governor, with 92% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 47% of Republicans approving of him.

“Crises such as the current pandemic require governors to assure citizens that they have the situation under control and console those who are suffering,” Kristoffer Shields, assistant research professor and historian at the Eagleton Center on the American Governor, said. “Governor Murphy has taken a number of bold steps during the coronavirus response, a show of leadership that has thus far garnered widespread support, including from some groups that are typically not in his corner.”

The poll, which was conducted from April 22 to May 2, had 1,502 adults. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points and the subsamples of 747 and 755 adults each have a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points.