Menendez Ratings Drop 15 Points in One Month

Thursday, 21 Feb 2013 08:08 AM

By Lisa Barron

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The controversy surrounding Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey has taken a severe toll on his approval ratings, leading to a 15 percent drop in a  poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University.

The survey of 1,149 registered voters taken Feb. 13-14 shows that 41 percent of residents of the Garden State disapprove of the job Menendez is doing, while  by 36 percent approve, a drop of 15 points in less than a month.

Among survey participants, 44 percent also say they no longer view him as honest and trustworthy, compared 28 percent on the positive side.

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Menendez has been mired in scandal for the past month over his ties to a Florida eye doctor whose offices were raided by the FBI. The senator reimbursed Dr. Salomon Mengen $58,500 for two plane trips he took to the Dominican Republic after allegations surfaced that Mengen had supplied him with prostitutes, a charge Menendez vehemently denies.

He has also been accused of pushing Mengen's interests with federal agencies.

The latest approval rating is down from a 51 percent to 33 percent score in a Jan. 22 Quinnipiac survey and is Menendez’ lowest score since August 2011, when he had a negative 39 percent to 42 percent approval rating.

“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez took an overseas trip and the poll numbers he left behind in New Jersey are dreadful,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “So much for a re-election honeymoon.”

“More than two-thirds of voters have heard of his trouble and the more they know, the less they approve,” he continued.

Seventy percent of New Jersey voters are aware of the controversy surrounding the senator, and of that group 59 percent say it makes them feel less favorably about the senator, while 35 percent say it doesn’t affect their opinion.

Fifty-three percent are not satisfied with how Menendez is handling the issue, while 28 percent are satisfied. And 67 percent say the allegations are worth investigating, while 23 percent say they are politically motivated.

“Whenever a politician gets a new job, such as Sen. Menendez’ position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the knives come out,” Carroll said. “But, by almost 3 to 1, voters think the Menendez charges are worth investigating. About one quarter think it’s just politics.”

Menendez replaced Sen. John Kerry as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee last month when Kerry became Secretary of State. He is currently in Afghanistan, where he met with President Hamid Karsai on Wednesday.

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The independent Quinnipiac poll also looked at New Jersey’s 2014 Senate race, finding that Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, leads TV personality Geraldo Rivera, a Republican, by 59 percent to 23 percent.

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