Gov. Christie Unknown to Majority of Americans

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Americans view him slightly more positively than negatively

PRINCETON, NJ -- Though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is well regarded in Republican circles and mentioned as a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, more than half of Americans have no opinion of him. He is slightly better known among Republicans, who generally view him positively.

Favorable/Unfavorable Opinions of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Among All Americans and by Party ID, March 2011

These results are based on a March 25-27 Gallup poll. Christie was elected as governor in 2009 and made headlines last year with his blunt talk and ability to win legislative battles in heavily Democratic New Jersey. He campaigned frequently on behalf of Republican candidates in 2010, and some view him as a potentially formidable candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Christie has steadfastly denied any interest in running.

The Gallup poll suggests that if he did run, he would have his work cut out to become better known nationally and among his party's supporters.

Among Republicans, Petraeus Outshines Christie, Others

The same poll asked about two other high-profile Republicans who have said they do not plan to run for president in 2012 -- former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gen. David Petraeus -- and one, Donald Trump, who is very publicly contemplating a bid. Of these three and Christie, Republicans view Petraeus most favorably. Bush and Trump have higher favorable ratings among Republicans than Christie does, but also higher unfavorable ratings.

Favorable/Unfavorable Opinions of Possible Republican 2012 Presidential Candidates, Among Republicans, March 2011

If any of those men did throw their hat into the ring for 2012, it's not clear he would become one of the front-runners. The same March 25-27 poll found 65% of Republicans with a favorable opinion of Mike Huckabee and 15% with an unfavorable opinion. Huckabee has generally led in polls of Republicans' presidential nomination preferences and, based on a different measurement procedure, has the highest Positive Intensity Score of any of the most likely Republican candidates.

Christie's Image Among All Americans Better Than Those of Bush, Trump

Americans' slightly more positive than negative ratings of Christie put him in a somewhat better positioning than either Bush or Trump nationally. Petraeus has the most positive image of the four long-shot candidates, likely because of his status as a military general and his overseeing the successful "surge" strategy in Iraq, and because he may not be viewed as a political figure as much as the others are. Bush has the poorest national image, perhaps due to his association with his brother, former President George W. Bush.

Favorable/Unfavorable Opinions of Possible Republican 2012 Presidential Candidates, Based on All Americans, March 2011

By comparison, Huckabee's image is more positive than negative among all Americans (41% favorable, 32% unfavorable), as is Barack Obama's (54% to 43%). Obama announced his plans to run for re-election last week, and is all but assured of being the Democratic Party nominee in 2012.


The Republican field has yet to take shape for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, and there are concerns that the list of likely candidates lacks a person appealing enough to defeat Obama. Some observers have talked about Christie as a potential candidate who could do that, though at this stage, his national profile remains fairly low, with more than half of Americans not having an opinion of him.

At a similar point in 2007, Obama was much better known than Christie is now, with only about one in four Americans unfamiliar with the then-Illinois senator at that time. That may be owing to Obama's high-profile speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and to the fact that he had already announced his candidacy for president when that late March 2007 poll was conducted.

As politicians become better known, both their favorable and their unfavorable ratings tend to increase, meaning it is advantageous to start out with much higher favorable than unfavorable ratings, as Obama did in December 2006 (42% favorable, 11% unfavorable). That is the case for Christie among supporters of his own party; however, among the broader American public, he is viewed only slightly more positively than negatively at the present time.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 25-27, 2011, with a random sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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