By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey voters strongly approve of Governor Chris Christie's decision not to run for president, giving him their highest approval ratings since he took office in 2010, poll results showed on Wednesday.
Voters surveyed in the Quinnipiac University poll believed Christie, who said last week he would not seek the Republican nomination for 2012, would have won a race for the White House. But they backed his decision not to run by an eight-to-one margin.
The poll found Christie with a 58 percent job approval rating, his best ever, Quinnipiac said. Christie, who this week threw his support behind Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, took office in January 2010.
Another poll, by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, also found Christie with his highest job approval rating so far, at 54 percent.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Institute, attributed Christie's poll boost to his flirtation with a presidential bid and his job performance during Hurricane Irene.
Those two events overshadowed the more heated state issues of education and property tax reforms, he said.
"Those were the issues that were causing women, particularly independent women, to be skeptical about Christie in the past," Murray said.
Women gave Christie a 51 percent approval rating in the Quinnipiac poll, up from 37 percent in August. The Monmouth poll showed women giving Christie a 53 percent approval rating, compared to 45 percent in August.
A majority of New Jersey voters said Christie would have won the Republican Party's presidential nomination and the general election against Democratic President Barack Obama, Quinnipiac found.
Three-quarters of those polled said they believed Christie has a political future beyond being governor of New Jersey, it said.
"Trenton won't be the end of the political line for Governor Christie," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The Quinnipiac land and cellular telephone poll was taken October 5 to October 10 among 1,186 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The Monmouth poll was taken October 5 to October 9 among 817 adult New Jersey residents, voters and nonvoters, by land and cellular telephone. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, editing by Cynthia Johnston)