Christie Retains 51% Approval Rating in New Jersey After Cuts, Poll Shows

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kept his 51 percent job-approval rating among voters polled in the state, even after he cut $1.3 billion in local aid, clashed with unions and ended a commuter-rail expansion, Quinnipiac University said.

Taken about a week after Christie decided to kill a planned $8.7 billion commuter-rail tunnel under the Hudson River to New York City, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey indicated no change in the governor’s approval marks from one conducted in August. Christie stopped the tunnel because of the potential for $5 billion in cost overruns.

The conduit was projected to double rush-hour commuter-rail capacity into Manhattan. Christie put the state on the hook to repay as much as $350 million in U.S. transportation aid by halting it. In August, more than 4-of-5 education officials in the state said their school year would begin with fewer teachers to cope with cuts in state aid that totaled $820 million.

Voters “like Christie and they like his style,” Maurice Carroll, the institute’s director, said yesterday in a telephone interview from the school’s Hamden, Connecticut, campus. “He’s a guy that doesn’t hesitate to pick a fight and so far that hasn’t hurt him.”

Christie’s first year was successful, according to 52 percent of Quinnipiac poll respondents. He did better than expected by 32 percent, the poll said. It gave the governor a higher job-approval rating than President Barack Obama, who was at 46 percent. Christie’s disapproval level rose two percentage points from August to 38 percent, compared with Obama’s 50 percent, up from 47 percent in the earlier poll.

Presidential ‘Political Gossip’

More than half the respondents in the latest survey didn’t think Christie would run for president in 2012, with 67 percent dismissing suggestions that he will as “political gossip,” Quinnipiac said in a statement with the results. The poll said that 61 percent didn’t think Christie would make a good president, a view shared by 36 percent of Republicans surveyed.

Christie retained his job-approval rating from Quinnipiac’s poll taken in August, even though since then government unions have fought his plans to cut pension benefits and raise worker health-care contributions. In the interim, the state also lost a bid for $400 million in federal education funds because of a clerical error in its 1,000-page application.

‘Confrontational’ Leader

Half of the respondents to the latest poll, taken by telephone Nov. 3-8, said Christie is more of a leader than a bully. The governor is “confrontational,” according to 48 percent of those surveyed, compared with 43 percent who said he is “honest and refreshing.” Christie received a grade of A or B from 48 percent, and a C from another 20 percent, while 15 percent gave him an F for job performance.

“This is a good poll for the governor,” Carroll said.

Democrat Jon Corzine, the former governor beaten by Christie in 2009, had a job-approval rating of 49 percent in a December 2006 Quinnipiac poll, near the end of his first year. By the time Corzine left office, that figure had fallen to 34 percent, while 56 percent disapproved of his performance.

The latest survey of 1,362 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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