Gov. Phil Murphy has a 43%-40% job approval rating after his first year as governor, according to a new Monmouth University poll released this morning.
“New Jersey residents don’t seem to have a clear read on Phil Murphy,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute that is widely considered the gold standard of New Jersey polls.
Almost six out of ten New Jerseyans (59%) are unaware of the Al Alvarez scandal that has dominated Murphy’s news cycles for the last four months. Of the 41% who have heard something, 68% believe the Murphy administration mishandled the hiring and 12% say it was handled properly. More than half (51%) think that people in the administration tried to cover something up, while 34% believe the governor’s staff really in unsure about how Alvarez got hired.
The governor also has a significant base problem: his approvals among Democrats are at 66%-9%, which means 25% of Murphy’s own party doesn’t have an opinion on his job performance after one year in office. In a state with 938,348 more Democrats than Republicans, Murphy’s failure to win over his own party is a major factor in his approvals sitting at just 43%.
Among unaffiliated voters – sometimes called independents – Murphy’s approvals are at an upside-down 39%-43%. Republican opposition to Murphy has intensified to an 11%-85% approval rating.
The poll shows a mixed review of Murphy on New Jersey Transit issues. Just 14% say he has helped transit riders, while 25% view him as hurting them. 30% say Murphy has had no impact at all.
Most New Jerseyans (54%) are unaware that Murphy has a strained relationship with the leaders of the Democratic-controlled legislature. 20% said the governor’s relationship with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was good, while 19% knew it was not.
His approvals remain largely unchanged since last spring. Murphy was at 42%-26% in an April 2018 Monmouth poll. He was at 43%-28% in a November 2018 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, and 54%-34% in an October poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
Murphy’s poll numbers are more about an unimpressed electorate than anything else. New Jerseyans are upside-down on their views of Murphy’s impact on property taxes and the middle class, although the minimum wage increase has a 2-1 approval.
“Murphy started his term with greater public goodwill than his recent predecessors, but he has now fallen behind them,” Murray said. “The most troubling result may be the large number of his fellow Democrats who continue to take a wait-and-see attitude. It seems he has yet to score a defining win with his base despite spending a significant amount of energy pushing a progressive agenda.”
By a 46%-33% margin, New Jerseyans think that Murphy is more concerned about his own political future than he is with his job as governor. The governor is set to begin his term as chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association in January 2019, although it’s unlikely that many New Jerseyans know that.
“A key question is whether the public feels he is truly focused on his current job. It wasn’t too long ago that the state felt burned by his predecessor’s political ambitions,” said Murray. “That’s worth keeping in mind as Murphy’s national profile with the Democratic Governors Association is on the rise.”
Murphy has not sold his state on his pitch for a stronger and fairer economy for the poor despite signing a new law that raises New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15-per-hour.
While 27% of New Jerseyans say Murphy’s policies have helped the poor, 28% believe he’s actually hurt them and 27% believe he’s had no impact on their lives.
Murphy also has a middle-class problem: only 18% think the governor has helped the middle class while twice as many (39%) believe his administration has hurt them. Another 27% say Murphy has had no impact on helping the middle class
Among registered voters, Murphy’s numbers dropped to 42%-43%. They were at 43%-30% in April 2018.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted from February 8-10, 2019 with a random sample of 604 New Jersey adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 301 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 303 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. The poll has a 95% confidence rate and a margin of error of +/- 4%.Monmouth Poll Feb 2019