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Former Gov. Chris Christie. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

70% of New Jersey Republicans won’t back Christie for President, FDU poll says

Trump is favorite in N.J., with likely support from 71% of Republicans

By David Wildstein, May 10 2023 6:00 am

Just 25% of Republicans in New Jersey would consider voting for Chris Christie, the state’s former two-term governor, in a GOP presidential primary,  while 71% said they would support Donald Trump, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released today.

A stunning 70% of New Jersey Republicans and GOP leaners said they would not consider voting for Christie regardless of who else sought the nomination in 2024.

In a statewide poll that included New Jerseyans affiliated with both parties, 55% viewed investigations of Trump as legitimate, while 36% said they were not legitimate.  Among Republicans, 15% say the probes are legitimate, and 78% call them not legitimate; 49% of independents said the investigation was legitimate, and 41% said it was not.

Among the Republicans and leaners polled, 40% said they would definitely support Trump no matter who the other candidates are, and 31% said they were likely to back the former president.  Only 8% indicated they would definitely not support Trump, while another 13% said they were unlikely to back him.

But the poll shows that Republicans become slightly more willing to support Christie when asked about Trump’s legal challenges.

“Being indicted and subjected to multiple investigations that could lead to more indictments hasn’t hurt Trump’s standing in the party,” said poll director Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU.  “But that doesn’t mean that his legal problems aren’t helping potential challengers.”

Cassino asked half of the respondents about the Trump indictment before they were polled on backing Trump or Christie; that caused 29% of Republicans and leaners to indicate a willingness to support Christie.  Only 18% of Republicans/leaners said they would back the favorite son Christie when preceded by a question about Trump’s legal woes after.

“The indictments are making at least some Trump supporters open to supporting other candidates,” Cassino stated.  “Christie might not be the favorite candidate for that lane, and it might not be as wide as opponents might want, but the lane does exist.”

Trump’s numbers didn’t deviate much either way.

“Partisans, both Republican and Democratic, are very good at ignoring inconvenient facts,” Cassino said. “If you’re supporting Trump, you have an incentive to ignore or counter-argue anything that would make you question that, including these legal issues.”

Christie’s approval ratings plummeted to 15% during his final six months in office, with 81% of New Jerseyans disapproving of his job performance, a June 2017 Quinnipiac University poll showed.  Among Republicans, his approvals were at an upside-down 31%-58%.

“Poll numbers matter when you’re running for something.  When you’re not running for something, they don’t matter a bit,” Christie told reporters.  “And I don’t care.”

The poll was conducted between April 28 and May 6 with a sample size of 716 adult New Jersey residents and had a sample size of +/- 3.5%; some design effects of the FDU poll changed the margin of error to +/- 4.7%.

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