Property Taxes Not No. 1 Issue in NJ [AUDIO]
Gov. Chris Christie's high approval rating in Tuesday's Monmouth University-Asbury Park Press poll is no surprise, but this is: For the first time ever in the survey, property taxes are not at least tied for the number-one concern of New Jersey residents.
Christie holds a 65 percent approval rating, with 25 percent disapproval among all residents. Among registered voters, the disapproval mark is slightly higher, at 27 percent. In communities hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, the governor's rating stands at 60 percent approval, compared with 32 percent disapproval.
"Gov. Christie's ratings are holding strong, fresh off his resounding re-election victory," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "However, few New Jerseyans have a clear idea about what a second term holds in store. Stellar approval ratings and no specific expectations from his constituents could give the governor a lot of leeway in carving out his political future."
Less than a quarter (23 percent) of residents say they have a clear idea of the specific policies they believe Christie will pursue in his second term, while another 36 percent have some idea. Four-in-ten say they do not have much of an idea (31 percent) or have no idea at all (nine percent) what the governor will do in his second term.
The survey also asked New Jerseyans to identify, in their own words, what they see as the state's most pressing issues. Job creation tops the list at 35 percent. The state's property tax system comes in second at 25 percent, and public education is third at 21 percent. Superstorm Sandy recovery is mentioned by eight percent of residents. A year ago, property taxes were at 31 percent and jobs got 30 percent.
"Gov. Christie's re-election campaign was centered on past accomplishments, particularly around his handling of Superstorm Sandy," said Murray. "He was never really pushed, by voters or by his Democratic opponent, to address future plans on these major issues. It shouldn't be too surprising then, that residents expect little more than incremental change in these areas."
Garden State residents were asked to choose, from among five specific issues, what they would like Gov. Christie to focus on for the next few years. Job creation leads the way at 35 percent, followed by cutting property taxes at 26 percent and improving schools at 21 percent. Less than one-in-10 residents say that either cutting income taxes (nine percent) or rebuilding from Sandy (eight percent) should be the governor's top priority.
Just 27 percent expect that Christie will make a lot of progress on their top issue in the next few years. Another 48 percent feel there will be a little progress, and 22 percent expect no real progress.
When it comes to Sandy recovery, two-in-three New Jerseyans say they are either very (25 percent) or somewhat (41 percent) satisfied with the state's efforts so far. That number is down slightly from 76 percent in September. In the state's hardest-hit communities, 64 percent of residents are satisfied with the recovery efforts.
Obama and Booker Ratings
Tuesday's survey finds that President Barack Obama currently holds a 49 percent approval rating in New Jersey, with 45 percent disapproval. This result is nominally the lowest rating for Obama in the state since he took office in 2009.
Also, Cory Booker (D-NJ) makes his first poll appearance as a U.S. Senator. Thirty-seven percent of registered voters approve of him so far, compared to 21 percent who disapprove. Another 43 percent of voters say they don't have an opinion of Booker's performance after less than six weeks on the job.
The poll was conducted by telephone with 802 New Jersey adults from Dec. 4-8, with a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percent.