Yesterday's FDU-Public-Mind poll shows 51% of New Jersey voters think the state is 'headed in the right direction,' while 39% say it's 'on the wrong track.'

Poll director Peter Woolley explains, "This is the first time in 10 years of measurements that more than half of New Jersey voters, say things are headed in the right direction." A new survey out today reveals Garden Staters are far less optimistic about where the nation is headed.

In today's poll just 37% say the country is going in the 'right direction,' while 53% say it's 'on the wrong track.' Woolley says, "That is an unusual contrast for New Jersey."

Asked why the same people are polled but the thoughts on the direction of the state and the direction of the country are so different, Woolley says, "I think people are measuring the State's health by the state of the budget. The budget has turned around (Governor Chris) Christie is promising new monies. He's promising a tax cut. The employment picture is certainly improving. On the national scene we have a very fractious Republican primary. There are foreign policy concerns with Iran. There's blood being spilled. There are problems in Afghanistan. There are all kinds of question marks about unemployment. I think the national picture is just far more complicated for people than the state picture."

51% of New Jersey voters say they approve of the way President Barack Obama is handling his job, while 42% percent disapprove, a significant improvement from the president's lukewarm 46%-45% approval in January.

Why do New Jersey voters like the job the President is doing, but still feel pessimistic about the country's near-term future? Woolley says, "People might approve of Obama, but often that is a contrast to his possible opponents who are just making him look good."

Men are more likely to disapprove of the President (49%) than to approve (43%), but women approve of the president by a margin of 24 points (58%-34%).

"National Republicans are a turnoff to many women voters recently," says Woolley. "Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh have combined to alarm, if not completely alienate, pro-choice women……… The story so far in the primary season is that no Republican candidate has been able to take advantage of voters' dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. Instead they have spent much of their time and energy trying to take advantage of each other's weaknesses."

In trial heats, Obama handily beats each of the still-standing Republican candidates for president. Against Mitt Romney he coasts 50%-37%. Against Ron Paul he wins 52%-34%. Against Santorum, Obama's margin widens to 54%-33%, and against Newt Gingrich to 56%-29%.

In every case, the president's wide margin is accounted for in women's votes. Women give the president margins from 27 points against Romney (57-30), to 40 points over Gingrich (63-23).

A majority of voters (53%) say the long, difficult Republican primary contest will "weaken the Republican candidate who runs against President Obama in November. Just 27% say the hard fought primary will strengthen the Republican who wins the nomination.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Mar. 5 through Mar. 11, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.