While that’s better than final numbers for his predecessor, Chris Christie, Murphy’s numbers are considerably lower than for the two governors before Christie in their earliest days in office.
Some 35 percent of responding New Jerseyans said they approved of the job Murphy has done to date, with 21 percent registering disapproval and 40 percent offering no opinion. Fifty-five percent of Democratic respondents signaled approval, 9 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of independents.
Christie left office with an overall state approval rating of 17 percent.
“In the past, we have had fewer ‘do not know’ answers,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the FDU poll and a professor of political science. “You have to compare the context. Many people did not pay attention to the [gubernatorial] campaign. It would make sense that people are still trying to figure out what they think of [Murphy]. … A lot really depends on what is happening in the political environment. It is very context-dependent. You have a deeply unpopular governor in Christie who was historically unpopular.”
Among other FDU poll results, 39 percent said the state was headed in the right direction, up from 18 percent in October.
“This is good news for Murphy,” Jenkins said in releasing the poll results Jan. 30. “Since nothing has really happened to explain why more today believe the state is headed in the right direction, it looks like a new administration is a big part of why. But right direction-wrong track is still upside down. There’s a lot of work to be done in the state to restore the public’s faith.”
Survey respondents also were asked what one word came to mind to describe the new governor. Responses ranged from “marijuana” (for his campaign pledge to decriminalize recreational use), “optimistic” and “hopeful,” to “clueless,” “unknown” and “spender.”
Among other topics addressed, the poll also asked respondents what state leaders should do if they believe federal laws are a bad idea. Should all laws be implemented as instructed, or should state leaders defy the feds and not enact federal laws for which they disagree?
Forty-nine percent said all federal laws should be implemented, regardless of what state leaders think, with 37 percent saying state leaders should act in defiance. Support for implementation was strongest among Republicans at 73 percent, while 50 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats endorsed the same.
“Democrats reign in New Jersey,” Jenkins said. “As much as the public seems to favor Democratic leadership, there’s a limit to their tolerance for state leaders taking a stand against Trump policies.”
President Trump remains largely unpopular across the Garden State, with 60 percent who disapprove as compared with 31 percent who approve. He remains under water with New Jersey residents, and his approval rating does not appear to be budging. Women reject the president by a more than two-to-one ratio (25 percent approve, 66 percent disapprove) with men slightly more supportive (37 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove).
Garden Staters also remain pessimistic about the health of the country. More are concerned (58 percent) than are content (33 percent). Partisan views are split, with independents about evenly divided between those who say things are going well (40 percent) versus those who think otherwise (47 percent).
Murphy took office Jan. 16. The FDU poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone from Jan. 24 to Jan. 28, among a random sample of 810 adults in New Jersey. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.8 percentage points, including the design effect.
In January 2010, when Chris Christie began his first of two terms in office, 48 percent approved and 31 percent disapproved, according to the FDU poll. His predecessor, Jon Corzine, had the support of 47 percent in March 2006 with a 16 percent disapproval rating in the FDU poll.