The Bridge-gate scandal damages embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's chances of becoming the president in 2016, according to a new poll of voters in New Jersey.
But otherwise the Quinnipiac University study
shows that the governor appears to have come out almost unscathed from the outrage over the September traffic chaos on the George Washington Bridge linking his state with New York City.
The poll revealed that a majority of New Jerseyans approve of his performance as governor and believe he is honest and trustworthy. They also think he is a strong leader, and that he personally is not to blame for the four-day traffic nightmare deliberately created by his aides.
Nearly one in two New Jersey voters — 49 percent — think that the bridge controversy damaged his chances as a presidential contender while 7 percent believe it has actually ended his chances. However, 38 percent thought it had "no impact" whatsoever.
Of the respondents, four out of 10 Republicans, say the scandal damaged his White House potential while 61 percent of Democrats believed it had badly affected his opportunity to be the next president.
"Christie for President? This scandal hurts his chances, both Democrats and Republicans think," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But, maybe it's pride in having their governor tops on the list, many New Jerseyans think he's still up there."
Although the governor has often been labeled a bully in recent weeks, the poll found that most people in New Jersey think Christie is more of a leader than a bully by a margin of 14 points, 54 percent to 40 percent.
Those are better numbers for Christie than he got in two similar surveys. When the Connecticut university asked the question in June, 2010 only 44 percent of respondents thought he was more a leader compared to 43 percent who thought he was more of a bully. And in July, 2012 people thought the governor was more leader than bully by 50 to 45 percent.
When the poll broke the numbers down between men and women, 53 percent of male respondents say he's more leader than bully while women thought even more highly of him, with 55 percent saying he's more of a leader compared to just 39 percent for women.
And when the results were divvied up into parties, figures showed that Republicans picked "leader" by 78-17 percent while 56 percent of Democrats thought he was more of a bully, as opposed to 37 percent who chose "leader."
"We stopped asking that 'bully' question 18 months ago," said Carroll. "But we tried it again and, even with all the Bridge-gate stories, he still scores higher as a leader than as a bully. Except with Democrats. More than half of them still say 'bully' — and not in a good way."
Christie's approval rating has plunged from the high point following his work in the days following Superstorm Sandy, but 55 percent of New Jerseyans think he's doing a good job in contrast to 38 percent who disapprove of his performance. Women in the Garden State currently approve of Christie's work by 55 to 37 percent and men give him the thumbs up by a margin of 15 points, 54 to 39 percent.
"Gov. Christie is doing better with the public than with the news media. 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," said Carroll.
According to Quinnipiac University, 93 percent of New Jersey voters know about the outrage over the bridge traffic nightmare, when aides ordered lanes from the town of Fort Lee to be closed, allegedly as political payback after mayor Mark Sokolich refused to endorse Christie's re-election effort.
But the good news for Christie is that, of those voters, 66 percent say that the governor did not personally order bridge lanes to be closed snarling traffic, compared to 22 percent who believe he was to blame.
"If Gov. Christie ordered or knew about the deliberate mess at the bridge, 24 percent of Republicans think he should be fired and another 26 percent say he should be fired and prosecuted," Carroll added. "But most New Jerseyans — even most Democrats — doubt that the Governor was personally involved."
Asked whether aides to Christie deliberately caused the traffic chaos as retribution, 63 percent of New Jersey voters say they did think so while 23 percent think the aides didn't do it as petty political payback.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,207 New Jersey voters by phone from January 10-13, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
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