Christie Approval Rating Is at Lowest in Year as Women Turn More Negative

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating slid to the lowest in a year as support waned among women, a Quinnipiac University poll found.

Christie, 48, got approving marks from 44 percent of registered voters surveyed, the poll released today showed. Just 36 percent of female voters liked the first-term governor’s job performance, while 53 percent of men approved.

The gender gap widened from February, when 46 percent of women and 58 percent of males approved. Since taking office in January 2010, Christie has cut funding for schools and family planning, sparred with union members including teachers, and sought to scale back government-worker benefits he says the state can’t afford.

“I don’t think he can overcome it,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said of the gender gap. “Men tend to vote Republican and women tend to vote Democratic, and Christie is an extreme case.”

The latest survey said 49 percent of voters dislike Christie’s policies, matching those that like him as a person. Women split 41 percent to 40 percent on liking him, compared with men at 58 percent to 25 percent.

Crunch Time

Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, pointed to a 7 percentage-point gain in the governor’s Quinnipiac approval ratings last year between June and August, following passage of his first spending plan. The governor cut $10 billion, including funding for schools and cities, to help a $10.7 billion deficit in the budget year that ends June 30.

“The governor is about where he was last year,” Drewniak said in an e-mail. “Clearly, the budget and making the difficult but necessary decisions to repair the state’s deep fiscal problems and massive budget deficits had an impact last year, and quite likely this year.”

Compared with the Legislature’s handling of the budget, the governor isn’t doing so badly. Democratic lawmakers got disapproving grades from 66 percent of respondents, while 20 percent approved, the poll said. Those tallied split 47 percent approve to 48 percent disapprove on how Christie is handling the budget.

More than half, 55 percent, disapproved of the way the governor is dealing with school issues. Women voters disapproved 60 percent to 34 percent.

Education Policies

Christie has proclaimed 2011 the year to overhaul education and has pushed for expanding the number of charter schools, changing teacher tenure rules and tying their pay to student performance. The state Supreme Court has ordered him to restore $500 million in funding to the poorest districts to reverse cuts since he took office.

More than half of survey respondents, 56 percent, said the state should spend more to improve schools in the poorest communities. Sixty-two percent said funding should increase to improve all schools in the state.

If the money went to schools, 65 percent said they would support a “millionaire’s tax.” Christie vetoed a similar measure last year and has said he doesn’t support raising taxes to balance budgets. He and the Legislature face a June 30 deadline to pass a spending plan.

Family Planning

In addition to the tendency of women to vote Democratic, they usually react more negatively than men to the governor’s confrontational tone, Carroll said.

“How many women do you know who like really belligerent guys?” Carroll said. “Most guys like that. Women don’t.”

Christie cut $7.5 million from family-planning funding in his first spending plan, leading six clinics to close. He has proposed a similar level in next year’s budget .

Among all voters surveyed, Christie’s job-approval rating fell from 47 percent in April and from a term-high 52 percent in the February poll. His 44 percent grade in the June 14-19 telephone survey matches his previous low in a June 2010 poll.

Christie’s disapproval from voters climbed to 47 percent, the highest of his term, the poll found. Fifty-four percent of women dislike the governor’s job performance.

About half of respondents, 51 percent, said media coverage of Christie riding to his son’s baseball games in a state helicopter was “much ado about nothing,” Quinnipiac said. The governor and Republicans later reimbursed the state about $3,400 for two trips aboard the chopper.

“Voters like their ‘Jersey guy’ governor better as a person than they like his policies,” Carroll said.

Quinnipiac pollsters contacted 1,610 registered voters and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, the Hamden, Connecticut-based school said.

To contact the reporter 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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