Gov. Chris Christie’s job approval rating continues to sink to some of its lowest points of his career, as the specter of scandal following the closing of commuter lanes at the George Washington Bridge two years ago still lingers and the Republican continues to charge ahead with national political ambitions, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
One year after the Bridgegate scandal erupted, Christie still can’t get his job approval rating over the 50 percent mark, as 46 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 48 percent disapprove, the poll says. It’s his worst overall score in almost four years, and continues the incumbent governor’s decline in standing among New Jerseyans as he battles the fallout of the GWB controversy and juggle the managing of his home state and his possible presidential aspirations.
Gov. Christie last topped the 50 percent mark with a 55 to 38 percent approval rating in a January 15, 2014, according to the survey.
Today, Republicans approve 74 to 21 percent while negative scores are 26 to 69 percent among Democrats and 43 to 50 percent among independent voters. Men are divided 48 to 47 percent, while women tip slightly negative 45 to 49 percent. On key issues affecting the state, Christie also got negative grades, with 42 to 52 percent approval on jobs and the economy, 40 to 53 percent approval on the state budget, and 40 to 52 percent on education.
The low grades come just a week after the Republican, who is publicly mulling a campaign for president in 2016, gave his latest — and last — State of the State Address. Many political observers saw the speech, rife with sweeping rhetoric about American ideals and a national climate, as another sign that Christie is serious about jumping into the fray.
The poll also comes several days after renewed activity surrounding ongoing investigations into Bridgegate brought increased scrutiny on Christie and his administration. In early January, news broke that Christie himself had been interviewed by federal prosecutors in the investigation, while days later investigators subpoenaed the testimony of top Port Authority official and close Christie ally Bill Baroni, who was forced to resign in the midst of the scandal in 2013.
“It’s the traffic nightmare that never ends for New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll. “He was doing fine until one year ago and then, WHAM! Bridgegate hit like a 10-car pileup on the George Washington Bridge and the governor has yet to recover.”
New Jersey voters say 65 to 32 percent that Gov. Christie has strong leadership qualities, but say 50 to 46 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy and say 51 to 45 percent that he does not care about their needs and problems.
President Barack Obama also is in the weeds in the Garden State, with a negative 45 to 52 percent job approval rating, among his lowest scores ever in the state.
Voters approve 46 to 33 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is doing and give U.S. Sen. Cory Booker a 51 to 25 percent approval rating.
While only 9 percent of New Jersey voters commute to work in New York City, a total of 92 percent of all voters say it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to repair the rail tunnel linking New Jersey and Manhattan. “Very important” responses range from 55 percent of voters in the South Jersey Philadelphia suburbs to 79 percent in the North Jersey urban areas.
A total of 62 percent of all New Jersey voters say it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to add a second rail tunnel to Manhattan.
Garden State voters, however, oppose 62 to 37 percent increasing the state’s gas tax to pay for road and transit improvements. None of the listed groups support hiking the gas tax.
“The tunnel is the only rail link between New York and New Jersey, and the rest of the west, and New Jerseyans are overwhelmingly in favor of fixing it,” Carroll said.
“There is less, but still significant, support for a new tunnel.”
State Worker Benefits
Voters are divided 48 to 47 percent on reducing pension benefits for new state workers as a way to balance the budget.
But voters support 67 to 27 percent requiring state workers to pay more for their health care. Even Democrats support higher employee contributions 61 – 30 percent.
“Gov. Christie called health and pension costs ‘insatiable,’ but voters are mixed on solutions. Yes, they say, government workers should pay more for health care, but they’re mixed on cutting pension benefits.”
From January 15 to 19, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,211 New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.