New Jersey Governor’s Approval Hits Record High on Crisis Management

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(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Governor Phil Murphy’s approval rating has soared as he leads the state’s coronavirus response, with most residents saying his early and controversial steps to contain the spread were appropriate.

A Monmouth University Poll found that 71% of New Jerseyans approve of Murphy’s overall job performance, the highest it’s been in his first term and up from 41% in September. Almost eight in 10 residents said he’s done a good job dealing with the outbreak, while 64% said actions such as his stay-at-home order were appropriate. Almost a quarter of those polled said those actions don’t go far enough.

Even the Democratic-controlled legislature recorded its first net positive rating in six years.

Murphy ordered residents to stay indoors and nonessential businesses to close on March 21, with New Jersey directly behind New York for most U.S. cases. The steps led to 718,000 unemployment filings over four weeks, a record, and will cost the state billions of dollars in revenue. More than 4,000 people have died in New Jersey from Covid-19.

The poll found that just 41% of those surveyed said they believed President Donald Trump has done a good job. Trump recently has urged activists to “liberate” states from governors’ shutdown orders. Some Republicans in New Jersey and small groups of demonstrators outside Murphy’s Trenton office have urged him to relax at least some of the restrictions.

The Monmouth poll interviewed 704 adults by telephone from April 16-19. Its error margin is 3.7 percentage points.

Murphy, 62, a Democrat and retired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. senior director, had struggled to raise his profile since he replaced term-limited Republican Chris Christie in January 2018.

Christie gained 76% approval in Monmouth polling for his response to Hurricane Sandy, the state’s costliest natural disaster, only to see the George Washington Bridge scandal and his failed presidential bid erode his image. He left office with 15% approval, the lowest among U.S. governors in 20 years of Quinnipiac University polling.

The virus swept through New Jersey just as Murphy had planned to take off a month after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his kidney on March 4, the same day New Jersey reported its first coronavirus case.

Instead, starting on March 13 he began a regimen of six-days-a-week press briefings, multiple daily live television and telephone interviews, routine White House calls and visits to New Jersey field hospitals run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In September, Monmouth recorded 41% approval to 38% disapproval for the governor, and 21% had no opinion. Some of Murphy’s daily afternoon press briefings from Trenton, carried live on his YouTube channel, have drawn more than 10,000 viewers. In the past, some of his broadcast events have had an audience of fewer than 100.

“Not only are Murphy’s approval numbers up, but more New Jerseyans are taking notice than during the first two years of his term,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a news release. “Leadership becomes much more relevant in a crisis and Murphy is getting solid reviews for his response.”

The poll showed a net positive rating for the legislature, with 54% approving and 27% disapproving. In September, 33% approved and 42% approved.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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