Approval ratings for NJ Governor Chris Christie’s fell to be their lowest marks of 2011, with significant support among female voters waning, a June Quinnipiac Poll reported. Only 36% of New Jersey’s women voters approve of his job performance while 53% of male voters approve. A majority 54% of women disapprove with the remaining 10% other or undecided.
What explains this 17% approval gap between the sexes and how can Governor Christie seek to close it?
In terms of the population, the last census reports that women consist of 51% of New Jersey. It is also known that women have Democratic voting tendencies. According to women’s studies professor Phyllis Chesler, women do not even vote for Republican women, citing examples such as a straw poll of women voters in Nevada voting for Democrat Harry Reid over Republican Sharron Angle by a 51% – 33% margin, 16% of women voting other. This trend would indicate that women are not disapproving of Chris Christie, a male Republican, purely on gender preference.
The difference must then lie in Christie’s personality and/or politics, and preferential tendencies between men and women. When asked if they like Chris Christie as a person, politics aside, the Quinnipiac poll reports that men like him over dislike him 58% – 25% while women split approval with a like to dislike ratio of 41% – 40%.
“Voters like their ‘Jersey guy’ governor better as a person than they like his policies,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in the poll statement. “Men like him a lot; women, not so much.”
Chris Christie has received negative attention in the media for specific behavior in the last couple months. A stunt that garnered news commentary at the national level occurred when Christie flew in the state helicopter to his son’s baseball game and then initially refused to refund the state for the $2,500-an-hour flight. A couple weeks later, Christie snapped at a mother during an interview after being asked to justify how he can impose funding cuts on the public school system while sending his own children to private school.
“First off, it’s none of your business,” Christie said. “I don’t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don’t bother me about where I send mine.”
Education is one of the issues that the female electorate cares highly about, and the Quinnipiac poll indicated that women disapproved over approved, 60% – 34%, of Christie’s education performance, with only 6% of women unsure or other.
Family planning is another women-oriented area that took a hit with the governor’s fiscally conservative budget. The most recent budget cut $7.5 million dollars that went to family planning centers throughout the state of New Jersey. Six of the 58 family planning centers were forced to close and others have cut back hours.
It appears that the easiest way Chris Christie can win back female approval ratings is by toning down the tough-guy attitude and reversing his stance on issues such as public education and family planning funding. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) recently announced that he and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) would be introducing a new budget proposal in the form of several bills. The Sweeney-Oliver spending plan, not yet formally released, is expected to include a millionaire’s tax increase, and increased funding for school districts, police forces, and family planning clinics. But given that Christie strongly denounced this budget plan, calling it, “unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, fantasy budgeting” it is unlikely these bills will pass under Chris Christie’s governorship.