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New Poll Finds Most New Jerseyans Don’t Know Lieutenant Governor

Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) - Recent speculation about Gov. Chris Christie running for president has caused many to wonder who would become governor should the incumbent step aside.

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is a supporting player in Christie’s administration, by her own admission. However, the latest Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll asked Garden State residents their opinion of Guadagno and found most New Jerseyans didn’t even know the state has a lieutenant governor.

When asked who steps in when a sitting New Jersey governor resigns or dies in office, fewer than half (44 percent) of the state’s residents can name the office of lieutenant governor, while another four percent take a stab with deputy, vice, or assistant governor. A few others make incorrect guesses that include the senate president (two percent), assembly speaker (one percent), and attorney general (two percent). More than four-in-10 (46 percent) admit they simply do not know.

Even though the number aware of this statewide office seems low, it is much higher than the percentage of New Jerseyans who know the line of succession prior to the constitutional change that created the office. A Monmouth University poll was conducted in October 2005, when then-Senate President Dick Codey was also filling the role of governor and just weeks before the amendment creating the office of lieutenant governor went before New Jersey voters.

That poll discovered that just 17 percent of New Jerseyans could correctly identify the senate president as the person who took over. Another 18 percent thought the state already had a lieutenant or deputy governor at the time.

The current Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll asked New Jerseyans to name the current lieutenant governor. One-in-five (20 percent) can name Kim Guadagno and another 24 percent recognize her name when it is read to them. Republicans (57 percent) are somewhat more likely than independents (46 percent) or Democrats (36 percent) to demonstrate name recognition of the current lieutenant governor.

“Lieutenant Governor Guadagno can boast a two to one favorable rating. The problem is that number comes from just 13 percent of the public who feel they know enough about her to give her a rating,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

When asked their opinion of Kim Guadagno, nine percent of state residents express a favorable view and 4 percent have an unfavorable one. Most New Jerseyans, though, say they either don’t have an opinion of the current lieutenant governor (31 percent) or simply don’t recognize her name (56 percent). These numbers are comparable to when she was running for office on the Christie ticket. A mid-October 2009 poll of likely voters put her at 9 percent favorable, 4 percent unfavorable, and 87 percent no opinion/do not recognize.