Chris Christie was re-elected governor of New Jersey, beating Democrat Barbara Buono 60 percent to 39 percent, although as of this writing all of the votes have not yet been counted. The Republican surpassed his aim of winning over 50 percent of the vote, but fell short of Republican governor Tom Kean’s record win of 69 percent in 1985. Christie improved his showing from 2009 when he received 49 percent to Democrat Jon Corzine’s 45 percent, with the rest going to third-party candidate Christopher Daggett.
The governor retained the strong support of men (63 percent), independents (66 percent), seniors (66 percent), and working class whites (76 percent), who had favored him in 2009. Tonight Christie added majorities of women (57 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent) to his column. He did better among black voters (21 percent) and union households (46 percent) than he did in 2009, even though he did not win those groups.
In addition, Christie did well among Democrats! In 2009 Christie carried 8 percent of the Democratic vote; 5 percent went to independent candidate Daggett. This year, with no significant third-party candidate and a Democratic candidate not heavily backed by her own party, 32 percent of New Jersey Democrats voted for Christie.
People think Christie’s a nice guy. 64 percent have a favorable opinion of him—up from 50 percent in 2009. Buono scored 42 percent with a favorable opinion. Christie was not hurt by the Republican label. Only 39 percent hold a favorable opinion of the Republican Party; 51 percent view the Democratic Party favorably.
While Christie enjoyed strong support among many groups, some of his voters (26 percent) expressed reservations about him -- despite four years in office already. Even The Star Ledger gave its endorsement to Christie, “despite the deep reservations.” As for the less well-known Buono, more of her supporters (31 percent) than Christie’s, had reservations and 26 percent voted for her mostly because they dislike Christie.
The economy was selected by 49 percent as the most important issue in the race, followed by taxes, which was the top issue for 22 percent. Strong majorities of both of these groups went to Christie – 65 percent of economy voters and 78 percent of tax voters.
Christie was not hurt by New Jersey’s economy: 64 percent approve of the way he is handling the economy; while 35 percent disapprove.
Although a majority (59 percent) rate the state’s economy as not so good or poor (40 percent gave it a positive rating), New Jersey voters feel their economy has not suffered under Christie. Most say it is either better than (30 percent) or the same as (40 percent) when Christie took office four years ago.
All of these feelings translated to the voting booth. Voters who approve of Christie’s handling of the economy, or think it’s the same or better than four years ago, heavily favored him. Those who think he has done a poor job, or think the economy is worse, backed Buono.
Almost all voters (85 percent) approve of how Christie handled the problems caused by the October 2012 storm.
About one-quarter of the voters (23 percent) said they suffered severe hardship from the storm, but even those voters supported Christie. They were only slightly less likely to support the governor’s reelection (57 percent voted for him) than those who said they did not suffer hardship (61 percent supported Christie).
2016 PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST
More New Jersey voters support Christie for a second term than think he would make a good president. Half (51 percent) said Christie would be good, while 44 percent disagreed.
In a 2016 presidential matchup against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the governor falls short - 48 percent for Clinton to 44 percent for Christie.
President Obama, who visited New Jersey soon after Sandy, worked with the governor to get aid to New Jersey, and won the state in the 2012 election with 59 percent, now gets job approval from 51 percent of the voters. That’s lower than his job approval in 2012 (65 percent) or 2009 (57 percent).
The president’s sinking job rating may be due to attitudes toward the health care bill. Slightly more oppose (50 percent) the President’s plan than support it (48 percent).
Methodology: Edison Research conducted this exit poll for Fox News and interviewed 2,468 as they left randomly selected polling places in New Jersey.