(CNN) -- The first New Jersey poll in 2013, the year that Chris Christie's up for re-election, indicates that nearly three-quarters of the state's voters give the tough talking Republican governor the thumbs up.
According to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey, 73% of registered voters say they approve of the job Christie's doing as governor. The poll's Monday release comes a day before Christie delivers the annual state of the state address for New Jersey.
Christie's approval rating is his second highest in Fairleigh Dickinson polling, down just four points from his 77% level in the days after Superstorm Sandy slammed into New Jersey in late October. Christie's approval rating soared in Fairleigh Dickinson polling and in a slew of surveys from other organizations conducted after the storm, thanks in part to his very active response to Sandy, which caused severe damage across parts of the Garden State.
According to the new poll, Christie wins strong support from groups that normally don't give rave reviews to Republicans. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, 69% of non-whites, and seven in ten women say they approve of the job Christie's doing.
The survey also indicates that 61% of New Jersey voters say the state's headed in the right direction, with only 26% saying it's on the wrong track.
"The state is facing significant challenges in the post-Sandy era. Yet voters appear largely pleased with not only where the state is headed, but are even happier with the governor's leadership," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "It's hard to find such a well-liked political figure in this politically rancorous day and age."
Christie announced his re-election bid in late November, and his campaign announced last week that it's raised over $2.1 million since the launch.
The poll indicates Christie far ahead of both declared and possible Democratic challengers in hypothetical general election matchups. Christie tops state senator Barbara Buono, who announced her bid last month, by a 64%-21% margin. He also tops state senators Richard Codey (who served as governor for 14 months following the November 2004 resignation of then-Gov. Jim McGreevey) 59%-26% and Steve Sweeney 65%-19%. Both Codey and Sweeney are considering bids for governor.
New Jersey, along with Virginia, are the only two states to hold gubernatorial contests in the year after a presidential election.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll was conducted January 2-6, with 700 registered New Jersey voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.