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NJ Voters Like Gov. Christie, But Question His Priorities [AUDIO]

Governor Chris Christie
Governor's Office

Governor Chris Christie’s public job approval rating remains well above 50%.

That’s the good news for Christie in today’s Monmouth University-New Jersey press Media poll. The bad news for the Governor is; many New Jersey residents say he now may be more concerned with his own political future than with governing the state.

Christie earns a 52% approve to 38% disapprove job rating among all Garden State residents. Among registered voters, his rating stands at 55% approve to 37% disapprove. This is basically unchanged from the ratings he received in our October 2011 poll. For most of his tenure, the Governor’s public standing has been subject to a gender gap, with men more likely than women to approve of his job performance. This gap closed in Monmouth’s last poll, but there are signs it may be starting to widen again. Currently, 56% of men approve of Gov. Christie while 33% disapprove. Among women, approval stands at 48% and disapproval at 42%.

The poll asked state residents if they think Christie seems to be more concerned with his own political future or with governing the state of New Jersey. Nearly half (48%) say Chris Christie is more concerned about his political career while 39% say he is more focused on managing the state.

“Governor Christie’s job rating remains strong as he enters the second half of his term,” says Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But with the national spotlight glaring and a re-election bid looming on the horizon, one question is whether he can avoid becoming preoccupied with his political future.”

For most of his tenure, the Governor’s public standing has been subject to a gender gap, with men more likely than women to approve of his job performance. The gap closed in our last poll, but there are signs it may be starting to widen again. Currently, 56% of men approve of Gov. Christie while 33% disapprove. Among women, approval stands at 48% and disapproval at 42%.

The state legislature’s job rating is still upside down, but not by the margin it had been over the past few years. It currently stands at 35% approve to 39% disapprove. The approval number has not moved much over the past few months, but disapproval is the lowest reading since 2007, especially compared to April 2010 when disapproval topped out at 56%.

The survey also asked state residents whether they feel Christie seems to be more concerned with his own political future or with governing the state of New Jersey. 48% say Chris Christie is more concerned about his political career while 39% say he is more focused on managing the state.

When asked to name, in their own words, the state’s most pressing issues right now, property taxes (42%) and jobs (42%) are the first things out of New Jerseyans’ mouths. Public schools (20%), general economic conditions (19%), and other taxes (15%) are named by no more than 1-in-5 residents. Other issues named by about 1-in-20 residents include the state budget (8%), crime (5%), and health care costs (5%). Just 2% cite legalizing gay marriage and only 8% name income taxes as top issues.

The new year brought a slew of new proposals from Trenton to address problems in the state. The poll includes a list of some key issues recently raised by the Governor and legislators, asking residents to rate the importance of each on a scale from 1 to 10. Four proposals from both parties receive high ratings with about 4-in-10 residents giving the highest rating of “10″. These include reducing income taxes (average score=7.7) and reforming teacher tenure (7.4) which are issues championed by the governor. High priorities also include two Democrat agenda items – raising the minimum wage (7.6) and the millionaires’ tax (7.3).

None of these issues come close to property taxes in importance, which is rated a “10″ by 63% of New Jerseyans, for an average score of 8.9. When asked specifically which tax cut should be a higher priority for Trenton, state residents overwhelmingly pick reducing property taxes (69%) over reducing income taxes (19%). Prioritizing property tax cuts is important for homeowners (75%) and renters (59%) alike.

Murray explains, “New Jerseyans seem to agree that prioritizing cuts to the state’s highest in the nation property would benefit everyone, whether they directly pay those taxes or not.”

On the issue of same sex marriage, the survey finds that 52% of New Jerseyans now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally while 34% are opposed. This is the first time that more than half of state residents express support using the current question wording. It also marks the first time that opposition has dipped below 40%.

The poll conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from January 31 to February 4, 2012. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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