These polls stories were previously broadcast on NJTV.
The New Jersey exit poll was conducted for the National Election Pool (ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC) by Edison Research.
Well, the 2013 New Jersey Governor’s race is in the books. Take a deep breath. The 2016 race for the White House starts … now!
How do the voters who gave Christie a landslide re-election victory view him as presidential material. Well, not quite as much as they like him in the State House. A bare majority of 51% say that their governor would make a good president. Among Christie voters today, that number stands at 79%. In fact, 16% of the voters who supported him today said that they don’t see him as a good fit for the Oval Office.
In fact, if Christie winds up facing Hillary Clinton in a 2016 all-star match-up he would lose his home state by 4 points – 48% for Clinton to 44% for Christie. That result is from the same voters who just gave him an overwhelming victory tonight.
One of the problems facing Christie is that the popularity of his personal brand is overshadowed by negative views of the Republican party on the national stage. Just 4-in-10 (38%) of New Jersey voters hold a favorable view of the GOP. This is significantly less than the majority of 51% who hold a favorable view of the Democratic party.
The Tea Party proves to be a particular drag on the Republican brand in New Jersey. Just 1-in-5 voters (18%) support the Tea Party movement, 35% are neutral, and nearly half of Garden State voters (45%) hold a negative view.
Even among New Jersey Republicans, just 3-in-10 (31%) say they support the Tea Party. Another 52% are neutral and 15% are opposed. The question is whether Christie has the support to appeal to Republicans in other states. Exit polls from the 2012 caucuses and primaries showed that 64% of GOP voters in Iowa supported the Tea Party as did 51% of New Hampshire Republicans. That’s a much different Republican Party than the one Christie leads in New Jersey.
ISSUES THAT MATTERED TO NEW JERSEY VOTERS
What were New Jersey voters thinking about as they went to the polls today? Of the four issues asked about in the exit poll, the economy was considered the most pressing concern. Nearly half (49%) of Garden State voters say the economy is the most important issue in their vote for governor today. Taxes come in second at 22% and education in third at 15%. Only 6% of New Jersey voters said that same-sex marriage was the main issue driving their vote decision.
So let’s take a look at the issues on the top and bottom of that list. First, the economy. New Jersey voters gave Gov. Christie a big vote of confidence on that issue despite Sen. Buono’s charge that the state’s recovery lags behind the rest of the region. Nearly 2-in-3 voters (64%) approve of Christie’s handling of the economy. Only 35% disapprove.
The governor’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation is another issue highlighted by Buono in the hope of gaining traction on the incumbent. Public opinion seemed to be on her side. Fully 6-in-10 New Jersey voters (60%) support legalizing same-sex marriage. Only 36% oppose it.
Buono performs well among same sex marriage supporters, pulling in 49% of this group’s vote today. However, 49% still voted for Christie despite his veto of the legislation.
The recent New Jersey court decision to permit same sex marriage may have undercut the challenger’s ability to make this more of an issue, but pre-election polls suggested it was never going to be an issue that would motivate large swaths of voters.
The exit poll confirms that it was the economy rather than same sex marriage that ruled the day.
HOW CHRISTIE WON
This campaign was certainly a study in contrasts.
So what did voters think of the two candidates? Fully 64% of voters who went to the polls today have a favorable opinion of Gov. Chris Christie. Just 42% have a favorable opinion of Sen. Barbara Buono. It’s worth noting that the pre-election polls found 4-in-10 voters said they never learned enough about the challenger to form an opinion of her.
The big question tonight is how the Republican was able to claim such a resounding victory in a Democratic leaning state. Obviously, he was going to do well among more conservative voters. He won 93% of his fellow Republicans, 70% of the white vote and 66% of seniors. He also won the all-important independent vote by a significant 66% to 32% margin.
Christie also performed well among traditionally Democratic groups. He won a majority of women (57%) and Latino voters (51%). He won nearly half of voter in union households (46%) and among young voters under the age of 30 (49%). He even got 21% of the African-American vote, which is a good showing for a Republican. Support for Christie among these groups improved by 8 to 19 points over his showing in 2009.
This broad swath of support might have been unthinkable a year ago. All that changed over a year ago when Superstorm Sandy reshaped the entire political landscape. More than 8 in 10 voters approve of how the governor handled the storm’s aftermath. That number includes nearly half of all voters (48%) who strongly approve of his post-Sandy efforts and another 37% who approve somewhat.
One-in-four voters (23%) today told us that Sandy created a severe hardship for them. There have been some rumblings that these hardest-hit New Jerseyans have not been happy with the pace of recovery. This group supported Christie by a 57% to 41% margin. This is a decisive win, but smaller than the margin he earned among New Jersey voters who were not significantly impacted by the storm.
ISSUES: NEW JERSEY AND NATIONAL
The actual polls are still open, but the exit polls are already giving us a clue to what New Jersey voters are thinking.
Of the four issues asked about in the exit poll, the economy was considered the most pressing concern. Nearly half (49%) of Garden State voters say the economy is the most important issue in their vote for governor today. Taxes come in second at 22% and education in third at 15%. Only 6% of New Jersey voters said that same-sex marriage was the main issue driving their vote decision.
With the economy being the top concern, there has been some debate in this race on the pace of New Jersey’s recovery. But the economy is as much of a national issue as it is a state issue. The national climate always looms large over New Jersey gubernatorial elections since they occur the year after presidential contests. Many pundits try to read the tea leaves of New Jersey’s results as an indicator of the national political mood.
President Barack Obama won New Jersey last year by 17 points in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. He remains more popular in the Garden State than he is nationally, but not as popular as he was just one year ago. Voters are split – 51% approve of his job performance compared to 49% who disapprove.
The president’s hallmark policy, the Affordable Care Act, has received a great deal of criticism with its roll-out last month. New Jersey voters are also divided on their opinion of the new health care law - 48% support to 50% oppose.
However, Obama comes out on top when New Jerseyans look at the political struggles in Washington. More voters blame the Republicans in Congress (56%) than the president (39%) for the recent federal government shutdown.
The bottom line is that New Jersey remains friendlier to Obama than it is toward the Republican brand. We will see how that translates into support for the president’s bipartisan post-Sandy B.F.F. when the votes start rolling in at 8:00 tonight.