Most New Jersey voters think that Gov. Chris Christie was aware of lane closures planned for the George Washington Bridge before they happened last September, and should step down if a connection is proven, reveals a new poll.
The telephone survey of 800 likely New Jersey voters, conducted by Rasmussen Reports
, shows that 54 percent believe "it's at least somewhat likely" that Christie was aware that the lanes on the nation's busiest bridge, leading from Fort Lee to New York City, were closed over retaliation over the city's mayor refusing to support his reelection.
The survey was taken Thursday night following Christie's nearly two-hour long press conference
, in which he apologized, repeatedly insisted he did not know the lane closures were anything except a routine traffic jam, and announced he fired former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, who he said lied to him about her involvement.
The damaging poll numbers were released before New Jersey speaker-elect Vincent Prieto said Saturday
that the state's General Assembly would be called into special session to investigate the accusations being made about the governor and his staff.
"Many questions remain unanswered about this threat to public safety and abuse of power," Prieto said. "I expect to call the Assembly into special session on Thursday to consider legislation that would reauthorize subpoena power so this investigation can continue."
Meanwhile, the poll showed mixed opinions among the state's normally loyal Christie supporters. Just over one-third, or 36 percent, still believe it's unlikely Christie knew anything about the plan to close the lanes before it happened, and another 30 percent think it was very likely he was aware. Just 17 percent of the voters said it was not at all likely Christie knew beforehand.
If it turns out that Christie knew beforehand, 56 percent of the states residents think he should step down, but 29 percent disagree.
The polling was sharply divided among party lines, with 75 percent of the Democrats polled saying Christie knew beforehand, and 73 percent of Democrats saying he should step down if he was involved. Only 34 percent of GOP voters said they think the Republican governor knew beforehand, and just 50 percent of them think he should step down.
But even while voters are mixed over beliefs that Christie was involved in the bridge-gate scandal, most believe it's likely that his staff retaliated against other political officials who refused supporting his reelection bid last year. Seventy-one percent of the voters polled think his staff acted in retaliation, while 41 percent said it was very likely, and only 17 percent said it was not at all likely.
In addition, 81 percent of the voters thought the staff members should be fired, while 41 percent believe they should face criminal prosecution.
The poll also showed that Christie's numbers are down among New Jersey voters. Last October, just before his landslide election, 63 percent had a favorable opinion, but that dropped to 55 percent after the bridge scandal broke, and 44 percent view him unfavorably.
However, despite the bridge controversy, most voters, at 60 percent, approve of Christie's job performance, compared to only 52 percent approving of President Barack Obama's.
The scandal has also hurt Christie's numbers when it comes to a potential presidential run. Last year, 44 percent of voters said they would vote for the governor if he runs, but now, 43 percent said they would choose Hillary Clinton over him.
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