Uptick in Governor Murphy’s Favorability, Job Approval Is Steady Nearly One Year Into Second Term, but New Jerseyans Are Split on Where the State Is Headed
Gov. Phil Murphy’s favorability rating has rebounded after taking a hit in the spring and about half of New Jerseyans continue to approve of the job he is doing as governor, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Forty-seven percent of residents have a favorable opinion of the governor, up by double-digits since March. The number of New Jerseyans who are unfavorable toward Murphy remains relatively stable from six months ago, now at 33 percent. Fifteen percent have no opinion on him.
Murphy’s job approval rating has held relatively steady in the past year and a half, with minor movement. Fifty-four percent of New Jerseyans approve of the job Murphy is doing as governor, compared with 37 percent who disapprove; 9 percent are unsure.
“Driven by increased positivity among Democrats and independents, Governor Murphy’s numbers are now back to where they were this time last year – not at his pandemic highs, but better than when he started his first term and certainly better than six months ago,” said Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. “The fatigue of a gubernatorial election and a pandemic seem to have worn off as life and governing in the state return to some sense of normal.”
While two-thirds of Democrats were in the governor’s corner in March, now eight in 10 have a favorable view of him. Likewise, while a quarter had no opinion in the spring, half that number now say the same. Similarly, independents now are more favorable of Murphy by double digits and less disapproving of the job he is doing than they were in the spring. On the other hand, Republicans remain mostly stable on their negativity toward the governor.
Despite positivity for the governor’s numbers, New Jerseyans are evenly divided when it comes to their outlook on the state’s future: 48 percent say the state is going in the right direction, while 45 percent say it has gone off on the wrong track. Nevertheless, this is a double-digit improvement and a return to the norm after taking a stumble last year.
“New Jerseyans’ outlook on the Garden State has rebounded from the dip it took over the past year of the pandemic, but it is still nowhere near as positive as it was in the year post-Superstorm Sandy,” said Koning. “While the numbers mark a potential return to slightly more positivity, they do not fully abandon the slump that the state’s direction has been in since 2014.”
Among those who say New Jersey is headed in the right direction, 50 percent believe it is because things are changing for the better while 47 percent say it is because things are not getting worse. Among those who say New Jersey is on the wrong track, 67 percent say it is because things are changing for the worse while 32 percent say it is because things are not getting better.
“When probed further about why they feel the way they do, residents who have a negative outlook focus much more on the way the state is evolving versus those who feel positively– half of whom are content simply maintaining the status quo,” said Jessica Roman, a research associate at ECPIP.
Partisanship pervades perceptions of where the state is headed. Eight in 10 Democrats say the state is going in the right direction, while nine in 10 Republicans say the opposite. Independents are more split, with 51 percent saying wrong track and 39 percent saying right direction. Those with at least a college degree (53 percent) are more likely than their counterparts to have a positive outlook.
When it comes to rating other politicians in the state, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker beats out his Democratic colleague when it comes to favorability; 50 percent of New Jerseyans have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 29 percent who have an unfavorable one and 14 percent who are unsure; 7 percent do not know who he is. Likewise, 50 percent approve of the job Booker is doing as senator while 34 percent disapprove; 16 percent are unsure.
Views are more split when it comes to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez; 29 percent of residents are favorable toward him, 36 percent are unfavorable, 22 percent have no opinion, and 14 percent say they do not know who he is. Menendez gets a slightly better rating when it comes to the job he is doing as a senator– 38 percent approve while 37 percent disapprove; 25 percent are unsure.
Results are from a statewide poll of 1,006 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.