Rutgers Poll: Democrats, Bridge-Users Deserting Christie

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 05:04 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Democrats — and George Washington Bridge commuters — are ditching Gov. Chris Christie in droves, sparking a nosedive in the governor's job approval and favorability ratings, a new poll released Wednesday showed.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed the Republican governor, rocked by a scandal involving his aides, was favored by 46 percent of those surveyed, while 43 percent were unfavorable.

The governor's ratings drop is driven by a steep decline among Democrats, the poll showed; only 19 percent are favorable, compared with the 45 percent who were favorable in November, the pollsters said.

Democratic approval of Christie's job performance has dropped from 51 percent to 29 percent.

The numbers were even grimmer among drivers who use the nation's busiest bridge at least once a week, with just 37 percent favorable, the poll showed; his job approval followed a similar pattern for those drivers, the poll showed.

"Other polls taken immediately after the bridge scandal broke showed relatively small effects," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University.

"But with another week of revelations, damage appears to have been done. The good will the governor built up among Democrats with his handling of the Sandy aftermath is gone, at least for now."

The poll highlighted the partisan differences created by bridge-gate, with Republicans mostly supportive of Christie: Two-thirds think he was likely unaware of what his staff was doing and 80 percent at least partly accept his explanation.

Only a quarter of Democrats think Christie didn't know what his aides were up to and more than half said it was very unlikely the governor was out of the loop. Also, 62 percent of Democrats don't believe his explanation of what happened.

"The re-emergence of strong partisan differences in believing the governor returns us to a pre-Sandy political environment," Redlawsk said. "Before the storm, Gov. Christie's term was defined by sharp splits, with Democrats generally negative and Republicans very positive. Once Christie proved his leadership after Sandy, partisan differences became quite small right through the election in November. But Democrats are once again very unhappy with the governor."

Redlawsk also pointed to state residents' skepticism about the governor's mea culpa for his staff's involvement in the scandal, in which they allegedly wreaked political retribution on the mayor of Fort Lee, who wouldn't endorse Christie's re-election, by closing some traffic lanes and sparking enormous traffic jams in September.

More than half of those surveyed said they thought Christie's apology for his staff's involvement in the bridge controversy was damage control for a future presidential run rather than a sincere apology.

"If the governor can put this behind him within the next couple of months, and assuming events transpired as he says, then there is every reason to think he can recover in time to mount a strong 2016 campaign," Redlawsk said. "But if it goes on much longer than that, or if allegations continue to build, Christie will have his hands full right here in New Jersey."

The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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