On Tuesday Governor Christie managed to translate his personal popularity into a big electoral win for himself, but failed to show any coat-tails that might benefit his fellow Republicans or kill the minimum wage ballot initiative. That’s in no small part because, whatever personal popularity Christie enjoys, New Jersey voters simply don’t agree with him or his party on the big issues of the day.
Yesterday New Jersey Working Families released a new Election Day poll chartered from the Mellman Group showing that Christie hasn’t secured a public mandate for his agenda or his policies in a second term.
Voters who supported Christie didn’t vote on the issues. His supporters, particularly those independents and Democrats who represented his margin of victory, often cited personal qualities when explaining their support. When asked an open-ended question as to why Christie voters cast their vote for him, 32% cited a personal quality, while 32% gave him general credit for doing a good job in office, with few referring to any specific accomplishments. Only 21% cited a specific issue, or general agreement on issues, as the reason they voted for Christie.
Among independents and Democrats who voted for him, only 17% cited issues in explaining their vote. When it came to voters’ decisions, personality trumped policy.
Meanwhile, voters preference for a Democratic majority in the legislature was based on the issues. When asked why they preferred Democratic control, nearly two-thirds (65%) said it was because they support Democrats’ position on the issues, compared to 28% who said it was because they want a check on Christie.
Voters – whether they supported him or not – consistently chose policy positions opposed to those held by Christie:
• 61% supported the ballot initiative increasing the minimum wage – which ended up gaining a higher vote share than the Governor himself.
• 57% disagree with the Governor’s veto of the millionaire’s tax.
• 55% believe the Governor has not fulfilled his campaign pledge from four years ago to lower property taxes. Only 23% believe he has fulfilled that pledge.
• 44% think more should be spent on K-12 schools. Only 14% think less should be spent.
• 48% think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in schools, while only 8% think there is too little emphasis.
• 57% want stricter gun sale laws, including 47% that want much stricter laws. Only 9% want less strict laws.
• 44% think abortion should be allowed in most circumstances. Just over a third (36%) believe abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman’s health. Only 10% think abortion should never be permitted
• 55% favor same sex marriage, compared to only 33% opposed.
And those Democrats and independents who voted for Christie disagree with him on core issues. Christie-voting Democrats and independents think there is too much emphasis on standardized tests (44%), that there should be more strict gun laws (50%), that abortion should be allowed in most circumstances (47%), and that Christie should not have vetoed the millionaires tax (51%).
Christie won big on Tuesday, but he hasn’t come close to his stated goal of ‘turning a blue state red.’ Christie won on style, not on substance, and legislators should remember that as he pushes his out-of-touch agenda in the lame duck legislative session and beyond.