Poll: Christie undamaged by bridge scandal

New Jersey Gov. Christie (R) has suffered little initial damage in his home state from the scandal over the politically motivated closing of local-access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Fifty-five percent of voters approved of Christie’s job performance, down from a high of 74 percent approval in February 2013, the poll found.

However, approval among self-identified Democrats plunged to 36 percent approval, and 55 percent disapproval, nearly the reverse of his approval/disapproval ratio one year ago. Christie captured about a third of Democratic votes in his reelection last November, and his ability to appeal to the other party is one of the reasons that Christie has been touted as a top-tier candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

"Christie is doing better with the pubic than with the news media,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “His job approval has dropped from the stratosphere, but it's still double-digit positive, pretty much where he was before his Superstorm Sandy hug with President Barack Obama.”

Voters say that Christie is more a leader than a bully by a 54 percent to 40 percent, lower than some of his scores from before the retribution scandal, the poll found.

Some 93 percent of all New Jersey voters have read or heard something about the controversy surrounding the September traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, apparently contrived as vengeance for the refusal of Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor to endorse Christie’s reelection.

Voters who knew about the jam said, by 66 percent to 22 percent, that they did not think the governor personally ordered it. Even Democrats said, 53 percent to 32 percent, that Christie was not involved.

Among voters who know of Bridgegate, 41 percent say Christie knew what his aides were doing while 50 percent say these aides acted without the governor’s knowledge.

If Christie did order the traffic jam, or knew what his aides were doing, 33 percent of voters who know about the matter said he should be impeached, removed from office and prosecuted on criminal charges, while 32 percent said he should just be removed from office. Twenty-seven percent believed Christie’s apology is enough.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,207 New Jersey registered voters by telephone from Jan. 10 through Monday – beginning two days after the disclosure of emails implicating top Christie aides in the bridge closing, and one day after his marathon press conference when he announced the firing of his deputy chief of staff and exile of his top political aide.

Results obtained in the polling are subject to a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, Quinnipiac says.