The latest Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) poll on the preferences of New Jersey Republicans in a potential 2024 Republican presidential primary indicates that former President Donald Trump remains the frontrunner among New Jersey Republicans, while his legal challenges have opened the door for potential challengers.
According to the FDU Poll, only 25 percent of New Jersey Republicans would consider supporting former Governor Chris Christie in a presidential primary, while a significant 40 percent of respondents state that they will “definitely” support Trump.
The poll did not ask voters about Larry Elder, Nimrata Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, and Vivek Ramaswamy—who are actually declared candidates for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, albeit far behind the 2020 election loser.
However, when Trump’s legal challenges are taken into account, Republicans show more receptiveness towards supporting Christie, even though support for the 2020 election loser remains largely unchanged.
Professor Dan Cassino, director of the poll, highlights the intriguing dynamic surrounding Trump’s legal woes.
“Being indicted and subjected to multiple investigations that could lead to more indictments hasn’t hurt Trump’s standing in the party,” said Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU. “But that doesn’t mean that his legal problems aren’t helping potential challengers.”
Despite being indicted and facing multiple investigations, Trump’s standing within the Republican Party remains unaffected. Cassino notes that while Trump’s legal problems haven’t harmed his support, they do create opportunities for potential challengers.
The FDU Poll reflects findings from other studies conducted since Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury, which reveal that his legal troubles have had no negative impact on his standing among Republicans.
In New Jersey, only 15 percent of Republicans believe the indictments against Trump are legitimate, while an overwhelming 78 percent consider them illegitimate.
In contrast, 90 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents believe the indictments are legitimate. Among independents, 41 percent consider the indictments illegitimate.
Despite the differing views, 40 percent of Republicans express unwavering support for the 2020 election loser in a potential 2024 primary, with an additional 31 percent stating they are likely to support him. Only 8 percent of Republicans unequivocally state that they will not support Trump.
To explore the impact of the indictments on a potential primary challenge from Christie, the FDU Poll incorporated an experimental approach. Half of the respondents were asked about the indictments before being queried about their support for Christie or Trump, while the other half were asked about the indictments only afterward. The results indicate that asking about the indictments beforehand did not alter the number of Republicans who “definitely” support Trump in a 2024 Republican Primary.
Cassino suggests that partisans, both Republicans and Democrats, tend to overlook inconvenient facts to maintain their support for their preferred candidates. Supporters of Trump have an incentive to ignore or counter-argue anything that challenges their allegiance, including the legal issues he faces. However, reminding Republicans about the indictment does have an effect, albeit not on support for Trump.
When asked about potential support for Christie before being questioned about Trump’s legal issues, only 21 percent of Republicans indicated they would consider supporting the former Governor.
Nevertheless, among those reminded about the indictment, 29 percent expressed openness to supporting Christie, signifying a notable increase. In essence, thoughts about the indictments make Republicans more inclined to back alternative candidates, even if it doesn’t impact their views of Trump.
Cassino concludes that the indictments have made some Trump supporters receptive to backing other candidates. While Christie might not be the top contender in this regard, there is still a viable lane for potential challengers.
The order in which questions about support for Christie and Trump were posed was also randomly shuffled within the study. The survey found that support for Christie was lowest (18 percent) when Republicans were asked about him before being questioned about Trump or the indictments.
On the other hand, support for Christie was highest (29 percent) when respondents were asked about the indictments first. However, no difference in support for Christie or Trump was observed when the question about Christie or Trump support was preceded by the question about the indictments.
It is worth noting that Christie previously ran in the 2016 Republican Presidential primary but dropped out after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. He later endorsed Trump and served as the head of Trump’s transition planning team. However, in recent years, Christie has become a vocal opponent of Trump within the Republican Party. He has stated that he will not endorse or support Trump again and is considering running himself in 2024.
The FDU Poll was conducted between April 28 and May 6, 2023, using a certified list of adult New Jersey residents provided by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. The survey employed a combination of live-caller telephone interviews and text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones.
A total of 817 respondents participated in the poll, with 239 surveys conducted via live-caller telephone interviews on landlines and the remaining 578 carried out through web platforms or live-caller cell phone interviews. The sample was weighted to be representative of the adult New Jersey population based on the 2020 US Census.
The margin of error for the poll results is +/- 3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval, taking into account sampling error and weighting. When considering design effects, which account for the impact of weights on the data, the margin of error is +/- 4.7 percentage points. The poll’s methodology aimed to minimize various sources of error inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, translation differences, and context effects.
The latest FDU Poll offers insights into the preferences of New Jersey Republicans in a potential 2024 Republican Presidential primary. While Trump maintains a strong position as the favorite, despite his legal challenges, the poll indicates that these challenges have created an opening for potential challengers like Christie. As the political landscape continues to evolve, these findings provide valuable information about the dynamics within the Republican Party as the 2024 election approaches.