Troubled by Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) deep cuts to education spending and his push to cut state employees’ benefits, a plurality of voters in the Garden State now disapprove of the the governor’s job performance, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday.
That finding comes as Christie and his allies in the state legislature are pushing through sweeping changes to public workers’ benefits, including a big increase in the amount of money employees must directly pay toward pension and health programs. Those proposed changes prompted hundreds of people to protest outside the State House in recent weeks, and now, it seems they’ve also dragged down the approval rating of a governor who was once quite popular with his constituents.
In the poll, 47% of registered voters said they disapproved of Christie’s job performance, compared to 44% who said they approved of it. Though Christie’s approval rating is barely underwater, it’s still the worst showing he’s ever posted in Quinnipiac’s surveys, continuing a downward trend that began most markedly at the start of this year when Christie began to push for deep budget cuts and sweeping changes to public employees’ benefits.
According to the TPM Poll Average, 45.5% of Christie’s constituents approve of his job performance, while 47.5% disapprove.
On Monday, the state Senate passed a measure that would drastically up the amount of money the state’s approximately 500,000 employees have to pay into their pension and health benefit programs — in some cases doubling or even tripling the amount of money workers must pay out of their salaries. The bill, which Christie and his legislative allies have been working on for months, also raises the retirement age from 62 to 65, and eliminates automatic cost of living increases for pension plans.
Christie has staunchly supported unpopular legislation in the past. He rose to national prominence largely for his willingness to take on teachers unions, and particularly when footage of his frank, oftentimes stern responses in town hall forums went viral on the Internet.
However, Christie’s tough stance toward education funding may be what’s dragging his approval rating down the most. In the poll, 55% of voters disapproved of how Christie has handled education in the state, versus 41% who approved, the worst marks Christie scored on any issue.
Last year, Christie slashed around $1.6 billion in funding for the state’s schools. Those cuts were so severe that the state Supreme Court ruled in May that Christie had to restore $500 million to the state’s poorest schools.
Some have quietly hoped that Christie would launch a surprise presidential bid and shake up what is widely seen as a weak field, even though Christie himself has flatly ruled out a White House run. But according to the poll, 61% of New Jersey voters don’t think Christie would even make a good vice president, while only 32% said he would.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted June 14-19 among 1,610 registered voters. It has a 2.4% margin of error.