Bridgegate Scandal, Possible Presidential Aspirations, Abrasive Attitude Doom Gov

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A poll released Friday morning indicated that New Jersey residents have soured on Gov. Chris Christie, with just 37 percent of registered voters saying they think favorably of him.

The Rutgers-Eagleton poll came out as Christie was trying to build a following among national Republicans in the interest of a possible run for president in 2016. But the poll indicated that a series of less-than-flattering headlines have done a number on the number of New Jersey voters who think of Christie favorably.

A clear majority, 53 percent, thinks unfavorably of Christie for the first time, according to the poll.

“I think he’s done things that no one else could do … He made me a Democrat,” one person told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer.

The overall job approval rating for Christie is likewise decidedly negative, with 52 percent disapproving and only 42 percent approving. The governor’s approval rating has dropped six points since December.

Voters had concrete opinions about why they did not approve of Christie, according to Rutgers. Twenty percent mentioned his personality, 15 percent referred specifically to Bridgegate, the apparently politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in which Christie said he was not involved, and 10 percent accused Christie of shunning his present duties in favor of presidential ambitions.

“As one respondent said, ‘Christie visiting different states for the presidential race made New Jerseyans not like him,'” David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University, said in a news release. “Others used words like ‘arrogance,’ ‘rudeness’ and ‘abrasive’ to explain the turnaround from his high-flying post-Sandy days. And of course, all manner of mentions of Bridgegate and other scandals were offered.”

Christie’s job approval was also down on specific issues. His approval rating on taxes, the top concern for 29 percent of voters, dropped three points since December to 28 percent, according to the poll.

On the economy, Christie’s approval rating dropped to 31 percent. And in what was already a low rating on his handling of the state pension situation, Christie’s approval rating on that subject dropped to 19 percent, the poll said.

The most striking drop — seven points down to 35 percent — was in perception of Christie’s handling of education. Only approval levels on recovery from Superstorm Sandy at 55 percent; crime and drugs at 48 percent; and the budget at 31 percent, have been steady since an earlier December poll, Rutgers said.

But voters were split on whether Christie was a good or bad governor overall, with 38 percent rating him positively, 33 percent negatively, and 21 percent neutrally. But voters were increasingly negative about the direction of the state, with 35 percent saying the state is going in the right direction and 54 percent saying it is not.

“I think that he’s forgotten about New Jersey and I think he’s out for his own political gain,” said Elaine Espey of Long Branch. “I voted for him, but I wouldn’t do it again.”

But as the poll also found, there are still those who like the governor, Kramer reported.

“At first, I didn’t like him, but then as he went on and progressed I liked him because he got the job done,” said Sylvia Bagley of South Brunswick.

“Being a fellow Jersey guy and everything, I can relate to him. He tells it like it is,” added Alex Rubens of Nutley.

In various polls, Christie last topped the 50 percent mark in January of last year, before the fallout from the Bridgegate scandal began.

The poll surveyed 813 residents between Tuesday of last week and Tuesday of this week, including 694 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, Rutgers said.


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