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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy enters a press briefing on Trenton on April 20, 2020. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.

Murphy is New Jersey’s most popular governor since Kean, poll shows

Governor is at 71%, four points higher than Christie after superstorm Sandy

By David Wildstein, April 21 2020 4:18 pm

In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy has become the most popular elected governor of New Jersey since Tom Kean was at 76%-6% (Rutgers-Eagleton, 10/1985) weeks before he was re-elected with 70% of the vote.

Murphy’s 71%-21% approvals in a Monmouth University Poll released today, along with 79% of New Jerseyans saying he’s done a good job managing the state during the COVID-19 crisis, puts Murphy in good shape for re-election next year in a state that hasn’t re-elected a Democratic governor since 1977.

Unlike other polls, which were conducted after a major event, action or scandal, Murphy’s approvals comes during an ongoing crisis.  Christie’s number came after the storm, while he was speaking of recovery and resilience.

There is little doubt that these poll numbers will return back to earth at some point, either after the pandemic ends or if the governor makes a mistake.

Hours after the poll was released, Murphy said he had not yet read it and said he doesn’t make decisions based on polling.

One month after Superstorm Sandy, the Monmouth Poll showed Gov. Chris Christie with a 67%-21% approval rating.  Christie was re-elected with 61% of the vote a year later, but plummeted to an upside-down 15%-80% in a July 2017 Monmouth Poll

After raising taxes by $2.8 billion, Gov. Jim Florio had an upside-down 18%-78% approval; rating (Star-Ledger/Eagleton, 10/1990), Three years later, Florio came within 26,093 votes of winning a second term; he lost to Republican Christine Todd Whitman by a 49%-48% margin.

Florio is one of three incumbent New Jersey governors to lose their re-election bids.

When Christie ousted Corzine in 2009, the governor’s approvals were at 39%-54% (Quinnipiac, 10/2005) – up from his low point of 33%-60% that summer (Quinnipiac, 07/2005).   Corzine never polled better than 51%-36% (Quinnipiac, 08/2007).

Gov. William Cahill was at an upside-down 36%-58% (Rutgers, 04/1973) less than two months before losing renomination in the Republican primary.  Cross-tabs of Republicans are not available in the Rutgers-Eagleton archives.

New Jerseyans gave President George W. Bush an 88%-8% approval rating in a September 2001 Quinnipiac University poll, with 90% of the state approving of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Three years later, Bush lost New Jersey by a 53%-46% margin against Democrat John Kerry.

President George H.W. Bush had a 60%-37% approval rating (Star-Ledger/Eagleton, 04/1990), but lost New Jersey to Bill Clinton in 1992 by a 43%-41% margin.

Two short-term governors left office achieved high poll numbers without ever facing a statewide electorate.

Gov. Richard Codey left office with a 71%-10% approval rating (Quinnipiac, 11/2005).  After 9/11, Gov. Donald DiFrancesco had a 60%-14% approval rating (Quinnipiac, 10/2001).

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