TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A new poll finds that just over half of New Jersey’s voters think U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez should resign from office after being indicted on corruption charges.
The Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday finds 52 percent of voters want him to step down while 39 percent think he should not.
The Democrat’s approval rating also slipped to 35 percent, down from 46 percent in January.
“Theres a split of course. Republicans say overwhelmingly that he should go,” Assistant Poll Director Maurice Carroll told WCBS 880. “Independent voters a little bit less and democrats are dividied but still ever so slightly they think he should quit.”
Prosecutors said Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, provided Menendez with luxury vacations, airline travel and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund. Federal prosecutors also allege the senator pressured officials to resolve a multimillion-dollar billing dispute between Melgen and Medicare and helped secure travel visas for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends.
The poll found that more than 80 percent of New Jersey voters think what the senator is accused of doing was illegal or at least unethical, Carroll said.
Menendez spokesman Mike Soliman says the senator has been the victim of a “smear campaign” and that the poll takers left out Menendez’s side of the story when asking respondents what they think he should do.
“Menendez, who’s a veteran of that bare-knuckle politics in Hudson County, is fighting back on those claims, but voters don’t agree. They think the U.S. charges were based more on fact that on politics– some on politics, and some think so, but more on factual matters,” Carroll said.
The cellphone and landline poll of 1,428 randomly selected New Jersey voters was conducted April 9-14 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The senator has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied Sunday he betrayed the public’s trust, saying once the facts are known, “I know that I will be vindicated and that we will win.”
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