Polling Updates: New Jersey, Virginia

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

New Jersey

Fairleigh Dickinson University surveyed the New Jersey electorate (Jan. 2-6; 700 registered New Jersey voters), testing Gov. Chris Christie (R) against all comers.

For starters, the governor’s job approval rating remains in the stratosphere, as it has since Hurricane Sandy hit the state. Voters almost immediately began communicating positive impressions of the way he coordinated delivering aid to assist those suffering from the natural disaster. According to the data, a whopping 73 percent of the respondents give Christie’s job performance a positive rating, including 62 percent of registered Democrats. Only 19 percent rate him negatively.

When paired against potential Democratic opponents — remembering that the state’s most able liberal politicians such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, outgoing Environmental Protection Agency director Lisa Jackson, and every member of the congressional delegation have already said they will not run for governor this year — Christie scores big.

Against the only officially announced candidate, state Sen. Barbara Buono, the governor posts a 64-21 percent margin. When paired with state senator and former interim governor, Richard Codey, Christie’s lead is 59-26 percent. Opposing state Senate President Steve Sweeney, Christie’s lead balloons back to a 65-19 percent spread. With the candidate filing deadline coming in early April for this 2013 statewide contest, it’s hard to conceive of an incumbent having better pre-election numbers.


Since the Old Dominion is the only state in the nation that still institutes a one-term limit for its governors, Virginia hosts an open gubernatorial campaign every four years.

The 2013 campaign is a bit unique because we already know who will be the two major party general election participants. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe are already virtual consensus candidates.

The only wild card exists on the Republican side, where Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, still chafing over being aced out of the governor’s race in two consecutive cycles, has not eliminated the possibility of entering the general election as an Independent. The conventional wisdom suggests that such a move will almost certainly throw the general election to McAuliffe, but at least one new poll doesn’t clearly forecast that outcome.

Public Policy Polling tested the Virginia electorate (Jan. 4-6; 602 registered Virginia voters) and found McAuliffe jumping out to a 46-41 percent lead in a two-way race, and a 40-32-15 percent lead margin if Bolling is included. Of the three individuals, it is Bolling with the best favorability rating at 29:16 percent, but he has the lowest name identification. McAuliffe has a 25:26 percent favorable to unfavorable composite, while Cuccinelli must improve his image for the general election since his index is decidedly upside down at 29:45 percent. Burdened with this type of poor favorability rating yet lagging only five points behind McAuliffe at this early stage of the election, however, is actually a positive sign for Cuccinelli.

But Quinnipiac University went into the field at virtually the same time (Jan. 4-7), and with a larger sample size of 1,134 registered Virginia voters. They show a much closer contest developing, even if Bolling does enter the race.

According to their Q-Poll data, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli are virtually tied, with the Democrat clinging to a one-point, 40-39 percent lead. Surprisingly, in the three-way hypothetical ballot test, both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli score 34 percent, while Bolling polls 13 percent. While PPP and the Q-Poll both show Bolling registering the same level of strength, they are far apart as it relates to the two eventual major party nominees.

The Q-Poll also produces vastly different favorability ratings for McAuliffe and particularly Cuccinelli, but again projects a similar result as PPP for Bolling (18:9 percent). In this poll, McAuliffe ventures into the positive realm, scoring a 23:16 percent ratio. But, it’s Cuccinelli who posts a radically different number than the one PPP derived. According to the Q-Poll, Cuccinelli, too, is in positive territory with a 33:25 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. While he still carries the highest negative of the three candidates in both polls, the attorney general’s worst ratings are certainly credibly disputed within Quinnipiac’s slightly later and much larger sampling universe.

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