Public Reacts to Booker’s Presidential Bid

A Monmouth University Poll finds that Sen. Cory Booker continues to earn a net positive job rating from Garden State residents, although his disapproval numbers have climbed. Most feel he will not be able to keep up with his senatorial duties while he is running for president but don’t think he needs to resign.  However, if Booker is able to win the Democratic nomination, most New Jerseyans say he should forego a simultaneous run to retain his U.S. Senate seat in 2020.

Booker earns a 48% approve to 36% disapprove rating from Garden State residents for his performance as the state’s junior U.S. senator. Another 16% have no opinion.  His standing among registered voters is 48% approve to 38% disapprove.  In April 2018, he earned a 54% approve to 31% disapprove rating from the state’s voters.  Booker’s current approval rating is similar to where he stood in the first year of his term, but his disapproval rating is the highest it has been since he took office in 2013.

Booker’s rating among independents (37% approve to 42% disapprove) has flipped since last year (52% approve to 33% disapprove).  His rating among Republicans (13% approve to 75% disapprove) has become slightly more negative than last April (21% approve to 64% disapprove).  Opinions of Democrats (81% approve to 8% disapprove) are similar to last year (77% approve to 9% disapprove).

“Booker has become better known to his constituents over the past two years, but his presidential bid and elevated national profile may have worn off some of the sheen. Part of the problem could be that New Jerseyans haven’t fully recovered from Gov. Chris Christie’s run four years ago,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

New Jerseyans are divided on whether Booker would actually make a good president – 37% say he would and 42% say he would not. However, when Christie launched his bid for the Oval Office in 2015, just 27% of state residents thought he would make a good president while an overwhelming 7-in-10 (69%) said he would not.  One-in-five (21%) are unsure if Booker would make a good president, but only 4% had no opinion about Christie’s fitness for the job four years ago.  [Note: Christie held a 36% approve and 58% disapprove job rating as governor in July 2015 shortly after announcing his campaign.]

One-third of Garden State residents (34%) feel Booker will be able to serve effectively as New Jersey’s senator while he is on the presidential campaign trail, while 58% say he will not be able to do both effectively.  In 2015, just 26% of the public felt Christie would be able to serve effectively as governor during his run while 71% said he would not.

Slightly over 4-in-10 (43%) say Booker should resign his seat now that he has thrown his hat into the presidential ring, but 50% say he should not resign. Four years ago, a majority of New Jerseyans (57%) said Christie should step down from the governorship and 37% said he should remain in that office while running for president.

Nearly 4-in-10 New Jerseyans believe that Booker has a decent shot at either becoming president (15%) or at least winning his party’s nomination (22%). Another 28% say Booker is a long shot to become the Democratic standard bearer and 26% say there is no way he will be the party’s nominee. The public was more doubtful of Christie’s chances in 2015, when 1-in-4 felt the then-governor had a good shot to either become president (7%) or win the Republican nomination (18%). Another 31% said he was a long shot for the GOP nomination and 40% said he didn’t stand a chance.

The fact that Booker’s presidential campaign is better received than Christie’s is underscored by the greater support the senator has among his partisan base.  Among Garden State Democrats, 65% feel Booker would make a good president while just 14% say he would not.  In 2015, 57% of New Jersey Republicans thought Christie would make a good president but fully 40% said he would not.  Nearly half of state Democrats (49%) feel that Booker has a decent shot to win his party’s nomination and only 9% say he has no chance. In 2015, just 24% of state Republicans said Christie had a decent shot at the GOP nomination while 39% thought it was a pipe dream.

“The home state sentiment isn’t quite ‘Run Cory, Run.’ But when you take into account how the last big presidential campaign rubbed many New Jerseyans the wrong way, it’s a decent endorsement for Booker,” said Murray.

One thing New Jerseyans of all political stripes agree on is that Booker should forego seeking re-election to his current office if he happens to win his party’s presidential nomination. Just 21% say he should run for president and Senate simultaneously in 2020 if the possibility presents itself, while 66% say he should give up his Senate seat if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.  Fully 73% of Republicans and 71% of independents, as well as 57% of Democrats, say that he should run only for president if he wins that nomination. New Jersey election law was recently amended to clarify that someone could run for both offices at the same time.

“Despite whatever reservations New Jerseyans may have about his presidential aspirations, Booker continues to earn stronger ratings than any other statewide office holder,” said Murray.

New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, Bob Menendez, fresh off an 11 point re-election victory in November, earns a slightly negative 40% approve to 43% disapprove rating among all residents and a 40% approve to 45% disapprove rating among registered voters. He had a more evenly divided 37% approve to 38% disapprove voter rating in April 2018.  [Note: On Tuesday, Monmouth released a poll on Gov. Phil Murphy, who has a 43% approve to 40% disapprove rating among all residents and a 42% approve to 43% disapprove rating among voters.]

The poll also finds that President Donald Trump continues to be unpopular in the state where his summer retreat is located.  Just 37% of New Jerseyans approve of the job Trump is doing while 58% disapprove. This result is similar to the 34% approve and 61% disapprove rating he received last year.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 8 to 10, 2019 with 604 New Jersey adults.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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