A new poll released May 18 by Monmouth University ranks former Gov. Chris Christie as the most unpopular New Jersey governor in state history, and finds few New Jerseyans who think highly of his 2024 presidential aspirations.
Christie, a Republican, has held the title of the state’s least popular governor since the final days of his term in 2017. He ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015 and 2016, but dropped out early in the 2016 primaries following dismal poll performance.
“The sense that Christie turned his back on New Jersey in pursuit of higher office was the main reason for a sharp drop in his ratings by the time he left office,” said Pat Murray, head of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which conducted the poll. “Incidents like Bridgegate or Beachgate serve as vivid memes for this lingering sentiment.”
His popularity stood at just 26% of respondents, according to the May 18 report, compared to 64% of respondents who disapproved of him. The institute interviewed 706 New Jersey adults by phone between April 29 and May 4, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Monmouth University first began asking New Jerseyans in 1982 about their stance on current and former governors. In the May 18 poll, Monmouth found that former Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican, was the all-time favorite.
“Christie left a lasting impression on the state,” Murray added. “Nearly every New Jerseyan still has an opinion of him. The problem is those opinions tend to be fairly negative.”
When asked what their most notable memory of Christie was 26% said the Bridgegate scandal, while 12% said his closure of a state park during the 2017 government shutdown and ensuing internet meme of him sitting on a state-owned beach that he shut down, commonly dubbed “Beachgate.”
Just 9% of residents listed his handling of Superstorm Sandy, which in 2012 thrust him into the national spotlight and triggered surges in his poll numbers.
Since leaving office in January 2018, Christie has maintained a somewhat notable presence in national Republican establishments, with ties to former President Donald Trump, who himself holds a considerable grip on the Republican party.
Christie has remained the target of criticisms by Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, either for the corporate incentive program he enacted in 2013, the state of New Jersey Transit or the trajectory of the state’s economic recovery coming out of the Great Recession a decade ago.
New Jerseyans were asked if they thought Christie was seriously considering a second run for president: 42% said he was definitely or probably going to throw his hat in the ring.
The poll found that just 10% of New Jersey adults would like to see him run for president in 2024, compared to 59% who said they did not support a presidential run.
Nineteen percent said Christie would make a good president – down 27% from a previous poll during the summer of 2015 when he announced his first bid. And just a third of Republicans – 34% – said they felt Christie would make a good president, compared to 57% six years ago.
“Christie’s former constituents do not offer a ringing endorsement of his presidential aspirations, but he probably doesn’t care since New Jersey is rarely pivotal in the nomination process,” Murray said.