STATE—Gov. Jon Corzine’s standing with the New Jersey public is suffering along with the economy.
According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 40 percent of voters approve of the job Corzine is doing while 46 percent disapprove—a reversal from January when 46 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved. “The governor is taking his lumps along with the rest of New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll.
Among Democrats, 58 percent approve and 28 percent disapprove with 14 percent unsure, a 2-to-1 margin in the governor’s favor, but independents disapprove by 2-to-1 and Republicans disapprove by 3-to-1. More ominous is that among public employee households, 31 percent approve while 56 percent disapprove. That compares to an even split among all other households, 43 percent-44 percent.
The governor wins handily in a trial heat against an assortment of obscure contenders, picking up 59 percent, while none of the potential challengers picks up more than 2 percent. But more than a third of Democrats (36 percent) are undecided even given that undistinguished field and many of those migrate when given other choices.
Democrats asked to choose between Corzine and Senate Majority Leader Richard Codey pick Corzine by 51 percent to 32 percent with 17 percent undecided. Asked to choose between Corzine and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, they pick Corzine by 54 percent-23 percent.
Indeed, in a trial heat against the leading Republican contender, Corzine trails former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie by 32 percent-41 percent. In that heat, 73 percent of Republicans line up behind Christie, while just 55 percent of Democrats line up behind Corzine.
“When budgets are cut, public employees laid off, and taxes are in danger of being raised, lots of people think twice about their support for the incumbent,” said Woolley. “The governor’s own majority coalition is his biggest challenge.”
The governor bests other Republican contenders though not necessarily with ease. He comes out just ahead of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan by 36 percent-32 percent. He beats Assemblyman Rick Merkt 37 percent-28 percent and beats Mayor Brian Levine 38 percent-27 percent, with the rest unsure.
Christie’s name recognition continues to climb, from 40 percent in September to 44 percent in January and to 57 percent this month. Just as important, 30 percent have a favorable opinion of him against 6 percent whose view is unfavorable, a five-to-one ratio. Other Republican contenders lag in name recognition: 67 percent of all voters and 53 percent of Republicans haven’t heard of Lonegan, 91 percent of voters haven’t heard of Merkt and 83 percent haven’t heard of Levine.
Christie also made headway among Republican voters since January. Asked who they might nominate in June to run for governor, 43 percent of Republicans choose Christie, compared to 32 percent in January before he announced his intention to run. Another 15 percent prefer Lonegan, unchanged since January. Merkt picks up 1 percent and Levine 2 percent. But 39 percent are unsure or have no preference.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 751 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Feb. 25 through March. 2, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.