A new poll on Phil Murphy’s first year as governor of New Jersey finds an increasing number of Garden State residents disapprove of the job he’s doing.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the number of Jersey residents who think he’s doing well is holding steady: 43 percent approve, down 1 point from a year ago.

“But his 40 percent disapprove number is significantly higher. It’s gone up from 28 percent a year ago," he said, indicating that “people who have taken a wait-and-see attitude on Phil Murphy over the past couple of months have been moving into the negative column the more that they see.”

Murray stressed in a state like New Jersey, which is heavily Democratic, you would expect a Democratic leader to have more positive ratings, but 25 percent of Democrats say they still don’t have an opinion of him.

“The fact that he still can’t get all the Democrats over to his side is a real indication that New Jerseyans still aren’t quite sure who Phil Murphy is and what he stands for.”

Murphy responded Tuesday by saying that "we don’t run our government based on polling."

"So, whatever it says, good or bad or somewhere in between, we try to call balls and strikes to do what we were sent here to do," he said.

He added his goal is to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey that works for everybody, “and that’s the job we’re going to continue to do regardless of what the polling says.”​

New Jersey Democratic State Committee spokesman Phil Swibinski dismissed the negative numbers as a result of "Republicans and conservative-leaning unaffiliated voters [who] are hardening their opposition to Gov. Murphy given his steadfast support for policies that benefit working families and the middle class," including the $15 minimum wage he signed into law this month.

The poll also finds widespread support for the minimum wage hike: 66 percent approve, 29 oppose.

"The more Democrats learn about Governor Murphy, the more they like and that will continue as he keeps working to make the state stronger and fairer for everyone," Swibinski said.

But Murray says that "the more people are paying attention to" Murphy, the more who seem to dislike him. Murray noted Murphy’s current rating is less positive than his two immediate predecessors at the same point in their terms.

The poll finds more Republicans have a negative view of the governor, with 85 percent disapproving of him, compared to a 59 percent disapproval rating last year.

And more independent voters also have a negative impression of Murphy.

A February 2011 poll found then-Gov. Chris Christie had a 47 percent approval to 40 percent disapproval rating and in February 2007, then-Gov. Jon Corzine a 44 percent approval to 34 percent disapproval rating.

“Only 6 percent say [Murphy's] helped property taxpayers, for example, but nearly half — 48 percent — say he’s actually been hurting property taxpayers," Murray said.

“In terms of how middle-class residents have been affected by Gov. Murphy’s policies, just 18 percent say they’ve been helped. More than twice as many — 39 percent — say they’ve actually been hurt so far in his first year.”

The poll also finds many New Jerseyans don’t trust Murphy’s motivations.

“Right now 46 percent say he’s more concerned with his own political future, versus 33 percent who say he’s more concerned with governing the state of New Jersey.”

Murray said the fact that so many people think Murphy is using his position as governor to further his national ambitions is a warning sign that should not be ignored.

“That was pretty much what led to the tanking of Chris Christie’s public approval ratings.”

Murray noted the public is largely unaware of other issues that have been the talk of Trenton, namely the legislative hearings into the administration’s hiring of Al Alvarez, the man Katie Brennan accuses of sexually assaulting her while they were working on the Murphy for Governor campaign.

A majority of respondents also said they were not aware of Murphy’s strained relationship with legislative Democratic leaders.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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