Just a year into tenure, New Jersey Gov. Murphy’s popularity plummets

One reason for Gov. Phil Murphy’s dip in popularity may be that voters believe he has national political aspirations that distract him from governing the Garden State.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Noah K. Murray/AP Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (Noah K. Murray/AP Photo)

After more than a year on the job, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s disapproval rating has spiked as his approval number remains roughly the same, according to a new public poll.

The Monmouth University Poll put Murphy’s disapproval rating at 40 percent of adults surveyed — an increase from 28 percent in April.

Meanwhile, his approval rating of 43 percent is just a notch lower than the 44 percent it was last year.

Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray said Murphy’s ratio of approval to disapproval is worse than those of his predecessors — Chris Christie and Jon Corzine — at the same point in their terms, even though Murphy started with more goodwill from voters.

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“He’s kind of fallen behind, and I think it’s just this sense of there’s no clear agenda there that New Jerseyans can hook onto and say, ‘Oh, he’s working on our problems,’” Murray said.

Murray suggested one reason for Murphy’s dip in popularity was that voters believe he has national political aspirations that are distracting him from governing the Garden State.

“That’s a question that New Jerseyans think about a lot, with the number of New Jersey officeholders who have run for president,” Murray said. “You got [U.S. Sen.] Cory Booker and, before, Chris Christie. And they felt burned by the Christie run. So they’re kind of worried about this.”

Another red flag for Murphy is the lukewarm support among voters from his own party.

Although 66 percent of Democrats approve of the job Murphy is doing, the Monmouth poll also found that a quarter of Democrats still had not made up their minds on the governor. That’s a high percentage of undecided Democrats, Murray said.

“When you look at partisan tribalism across the country right now, that’s really unusual,” Murray said. “At this point in time, all the Democrats should be behind a Democratic officeholder. That’s the norm.”

Murphy also holds a net negative approval rating among independent voters, a reversal from the April assessment.

Still, voters overwhelmingly supported one of Murphy’s top achievements since taking office: a law phasing in a $15 minimum wage statewide.

Two-thirds of New Jerseyans supported the minimum wage hike, while 29 percent opposed it.

It does not appear that Murphy’s handling of a claim by Katie Brennan that she was raped by a member of Murphy’s campaign has impacted the governor’s popularity as much as raising the minimum wage has. Brennan said she was raped by Al Alvarez while he was working on Murphy’s campaign and that he was hired by the state even though she alerted transition officials of her accusations.

Only 41 percent of adults polled said they have heard anything about the ongoing hearings into how Murphy’s team dealt with the complaints and why Alvarez was hired anyway.

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