New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has seen his favorability and approval ratings among New Jersey residents plunge in the wake of the evolving George Washington Bridge scandal, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Wednesday.
The poll shows that Christie's favorability rating has dropped to 46%, down 19 points from a poll taken right before his landslide re-election in November. Meanwhile, 43% of New Jerseyans view him unfavorably. And Christie's approval rating has dipped to 53%, a 15-point drop from November.
Taken together with a new Quinnipiac University poll, the numbers provide the first glimpse of significant backlash for Christie in "Bridgegate." The Christie administration is facing investigations from the New Jersey legislature and from the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey. Investigators are trying to determine the reasons for the lane closures onto the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, N.J., in September.
Both polls paint the picture that Christie's numbers have regressed to, well, average. Before Hurricane Sandy ravaged the state in October 2012 and he helped manage New Jersey out of the mess, Christie was only a slightly popular governor.
His handling of Sandy pushed his approval ratings to sky-high levels in the high 60s and low 70s. One poll found his approval rating at 77%. The numbers eventually pushed then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was thinking about challenging Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial race, to reconsider.
For now, Christie's regression has been due mostly to Democrats abandoning their good feelings toward him. In November, 45% of Democrats viewed him favorably — now, that number is only 19%. Independents continue to view him favorably overall, but Christie's numbers have dropped with them, too. His favorability rating among Independents has dropped from 69% to 55% in the past two months, and his approval rating has dipped from 71% to 60%.
"Other polls taken immediately after the bridge scandal broke showed relatively small effects," said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, in a statement. "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."
If the trend continues, it could deprive Christie of one of his major arguments for a potential 2016 presidential candidacy — that he has crossover, mass appeal in a traditionally blue state.
In addition to the investigation over the George Washington Bridge lane closures, the Christie administration is under federal investigation for its use of Hurricane Sandy relief funds . And on Saturday, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D) alleged that the Christie administration held those relief funds "hostage" to pressure her on a development project favored by the administration.
The poll sampled 826 New Jersey adults (757 registered voters) from Jan. 14-19. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.4%.
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