Christie's poll numbers continue to slide amid controversy

Gov. Christie’s poll numbers have continued to slide in the wake of Bridgegate, with his job approval rating falling below 50 percent among New Jersey voters for the first time since 2011, according to a new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll.

Christie now has a 49 percent approval rating among registered voters and a 50 percent approval rating among residents, according to the poll released Monday. The ratings represent a 9 percent drop from a Monmouth poll taken in January, days after revelations that a top Christie aide had been involved in an apparent plot to create gridlock at the George Washington Bridge.

Overall, Christie’s approval rating has dropped 20 points in the past year, according to the Monmouth poll.

The poll – conducted Feb. 19-23 of 803 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points – found that distrust of Christie has grown over since January, when 51 percent of respondents who had been following the bridge story said they did not think he was being completely truthful about the issue.

Now, 61 percent of those following the bridge story – more than 9 in 10 New Jerseyans, the poll found – do not think Christie has been completely truthful, according to the results.

Christie has maintained he played no role in the decision to close access lanes to the bridge and did not learn of the lane closures – which snarled traffic in Fort Lee over four days in September – until after they were over.

While the poll found New Jerseyans may not believe Christie, they're also skeptical of the intentions of lawmakers investigating the closures: 56 percent said they believe the committee is more interested in attacking Christie than learning the facts of the case.

The poll also suggests the scrutiny surrounding Christie's administration – including claims that top officials tied the release of Sandy aid to approval of a redevelopment deal in Hoboken – may be coloring public perception of the governor's handling of Sandy. Four in 10 respondents gave the administration a grade of A or B for Sandy recovery efforts, down from seven in 10 five months ago.

The administration has denied the Hoboken claims and defended its distribution of federal money for recovery efforts.

The poll was released the day before Christie gives his budget address to the Legislature. The governor, who appears to be facing a revenue shortfall of $400 million in the current budget, could face heat from Democrats if he pitches a tax cut or proposes modifications to the pension payments the state is projected to make this year and next.