Category Archives: Bridgegate

VOTERS REMAIN NEGATIVE ABOUT ‘BRIDGEGATE,’ OTHER ALLEGATIONS; BUT HALF SAY CHRISTIE IS PUTTING SCANDALS BEHIND HIM

Click here for a PDF of the full release text with tables and questions.

Voters Remain Negative about ‘Bridgegate,’ Other Allegations; But Half Say Christie is Putting Scandals behind him

 Most say allegations are politics as usual, investigation a waste of time

 NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Seven months after the George Washington Bridge scandal burst Gov. Chris Christie’s ratings bubble, almost half of New Jersey voters continue to doubt the governor’s explanation of what happened. According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 47 percent of registered voters say they do not believe Christie at all, while another 24 percent say they somewhat believe him and just 23 percent say they fully believe him. Six percent are unsure.

More than half of respondents say Bridgegate and allegations of misuse of Port Authority and Sandy funding are serious for Christie, with 39 percent saying “very serious” and 17 percent saying “extremely serious.” But 27 percent say the allegations are not very serious, while 14 percent say not serious at all. Despite the net negative view, voters have shifted slightly in Christie’s favor since April. The percentage thinking the allegations are extremely serious has dropped nine points, while “not at all serious” is up seven points.

There has not been the same shift on how damaging Bridgegate and other issues have been to Christie’s presidential ambitions, however. Almost seven in 10 voters still think these allegations are either very (20 percent) or somewhat (48 percent) damaging. Only 18 percent believe they are not very damaging and just 11 percent say not damaging at all.

Nevertheless, 51 percent of voters think the governor has been mostly successful in putting these allegations behind him, though 40 percent disagree. Nearly three-quarters of voters call the allegations “just politics as usual” and not unique to the Christie administration; 60 percent think the ongoing legislative investigation is a waste of time.

“Governor Christie is trying very hard to put all of this behind him as he appear to be exploring a presidential campaign,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Whether he is succeeding is still unclear. Most voters agree that the legislative investigation is a waste of time, but they also think the allegations are serious and have potential to derail him. If any indictments related to the various allegations come down, all bets are off. If not, Christie may well become a GOP front-runner again.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 871 New Jerseyans contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from July 28 to Aug. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 750 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

Republicans stand by their governor but see damage to 2016 aspirations

Christie’s believability in the “Bridgegate” scandal has not recovered since voters generally panned the January press conference where Christie said he was unaware of the lane closings. They remain skeptical and see the mounting allegations as problematic for Christie. Views on Christie’s role and its repercussions are, of course, particularly divided by partisanship: 11 percent of Democrats fully believe the governor’s explanation and another 16 percent somewhat believe him, while 68 percent do not at all. Republicans say just the opposite – though to a slightly lesser extent – split between fully (47 percent) and somewhat believing (35 percent). Independents resemble the population as a whole. Christie also has more credibility with those favorable toward him and who approve of the job he is doing overall, but again to a lesser extent than the total disbelief of his more passionate detractors.

“The fact that fewer than half of GOP voters fully believe Christie is a problem waiting to happen,” said Redlawsk. “He needs a strong party base to run for president. If Republican voters in New Jersey are even somewhat skeptical, there might be an opening for his GOP challengers to define him by these allegations. It’s important to remember that a full-blown presidential campaign has not yet started, and the inevitable attacks have not begun in earnest.”

Perceptions of how serious the various allegations are for Christie also depend on the same set of factors. Just under three-quarters of Democrats believe the allegations are at least somewhat serious. GOP voters now believe the events to be less serious than they did earlier this year, a positive sign for the governor. Four in 10 Republicans say the claims of wrongdoing are not very serious for Christie and another quarter say they are not at all. Those unfavorable towards Christie, who disapprove of the job he is doing, or do not believe his explanation are stronger in their belief that the allegations are serious than Christie’s supporters are that they are not serious.

Christie’s potential 2016 run may be hampered because voters of all partisan leanings are at least somewhat likely to think the allegations are damaging to a campaign for president. Almost 80 percent of Democrats see the ongoing controversies as somewhat or very damaging to Christie’s aspirations, as do 62 percent of independents. But even a majority of Republicans agree, with 52 percent seeing this as somewhat damaging while another 12 percent find the allegations very damaging to his potential campaign. Over half of every demographic thinks this has all been at least somewhat damaging to the governor’s 2016 hopes, even among Christie’s biggest supporters.

“Voters still do not fully believe the governor’s claims, and while most Republicans do not see the events as very serious, they do think his potential presidential campaign has been damaged,” said Redlawsk. “In this context, the views of Republicans are most important, since Christie has to first survive what is likely to be a brutal Republican 2016 primary season, before worrying about what Democrats think.”

Christie, voters want to leave scandals behind

Even as they say the allegations are serious and his campaign has been damaged, voters nonetheless think Christie himself has been mostly successful in putting the potential scandals behind him, most likely due to his continual and adamant denials and even his playful brushing aside of the controversies on late night television. Three-quarters of Republicans and just over half of independents say Christie has been mostly successful, as do 35 percent of Democrats. Fifty-five percent of Democrats take the opposite view. At least a plurality of nearly every other key demographic group says he has been mostly successful. Among detractors, Christie gets at least a third vouching for his successful dismissal of the scandals. “Perhaps Christie’s dancing and joking with Jimmy Fallon has made some difference,” suggested Redlawsk.

Voters also seem to be growing tired of the legislative investigation. While the desire to continue investigating is somewhat determined by personal views of Christie, even 41 percent of Democrats say it’s time for the Legislature to move on. Eighty-two percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents feel the same. Fifty-five percent of Democrats want the investigation to continue.

Even those who do not believe Christie’s Bridgegate explanation at all are split – 51 percent say keep investigating, versus 47 percent who say it is a waste of time.

The governor’s supporters and detractors alike agree that these scandals are not unique to the Christie administration. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats think this is just politics as usual. Even those unfavorable toward Christie, disapproving of him, and most skeptical of his explanation feel the same.

“At some level, voters probably expect political scandals here in New Jersey, so maybe this just doesn’t seem particularly different,” noted Redlawsk. “Moreover, most of the claims are about ‘payback’ in some form or another, and voters already tend to think politicians act this way on a regular basis.”

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Heads up – New Poll Coming!

The summer tends to be a bit slow here at the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Most of our students are off doing summery things, and we’re working hard on planning the next year. But this year we have a poll underway right now, with results to begin being released around the middle of next week. It will be some of the usual – the US Senate race, how Gov. Christie’s doing, and the like, but we’re also working on some interesting questions in cooperation with folks at the New Jersey Medical School, asking about health-related issues. Those results will be released a bit later, after we’ve had time to do some detailed analysis. In the meantime, watch for new numbers on Christie, Booker, and even bridgegate (remember that?)

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CHRISTIE RATINGS STABILIZE; MOST NEW JERSEYANS SEE SCANDAL AS SERIOUS

Today we begin releasing results from our latest poll. We start with what’s now become a regular feature – polling on Bridgegate and its releated issues. The quick story is that Gov. Christie appears to have stemmed the decline in his favorability and job approval ratings, but that there has been no rebound. NJ voters remains skeptical of the explanation given by the governor and do not see the recently released internal report as objective. They also believe former staffers who are withholding materials from the legislative committee investigating the scandal should be required to provide them, despite 5th Amendment claims.

Click here for a PDF of the text of the release along with questions and tables.

 

CHRISTIE RATINGS STABILIZE, BUT MOST NEW JERSEYANS SEE SCANDAL AS A SERIOUS ISSUE FOR GOVERNOR

Large majorities negative about internal review’s objectivity, Port Authority 9/11 controversies, and administration officials withholding records

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Nearly three months into the George Washington Bridge lane closing controversy, New Jersey registered voters remain skeptical of the response by Gov. Chris Christie and his administration to the burgeoning scandals, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. While Christie has stemmed the fall in his personal ratings after a double-digit drop in the wake of “Bridgegate”, voters are generally negative about Christie’s truthfulness and recent developments in the investigation.

Half of voters have a favorable impression of the governor while 42 percent feel unfavorable, essentially unchanged since February. Job performance numbers also show little change: 55 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove. But, just 22 percent fully believe Christie’s explanation regarding the lane closures while 26 percent say they somewhat believe him. The largest group, 49 percent, says they do not believe him at all. As for the recent taxpayer-funded report commissioned by the governor’s office that cleared Christie of all wrongdoing, nearly two-thirds say the internal review does not offer an objective assessment, versus three in ten who say it does.

In addition, a large majority says former Christie administration officials who are refusing to respond to a state legislative committee subpoena should be required to do so despite invoking their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves. Two-thirds say they should be required to provide the records anyway, while 27 percent believe they should be allowed to withhold them.

Voters overwhelmingly condemn the Port Authority’s alleged use of September 11 artifacts, including steel from the twin towers, as gifts to towns with mayors whose endorsement Christie wanted to win for his 2013 re-election, as reported by The New York Times. Three-quarters say this was not appropriate, while only 14 percent say it was and another 10 percent are unsure.

Taken altogether, almost seven in ten voters see the set of issues surrounding the developing investigations as serious: 26 percent say they are extremely serious for Gov. Christie, while another 41 percent sees them as very serious. Only a quarter of voters say the allegations are not very serious, and just 7 percent say they are not serious at all.

“Governor Christie appears to have stemmed the decline in his personal and job performance ratings, following their precipitous drop with Bridgegate, but he is not out of the woods yet,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Not only has he failed to regain any lost ground, but the news that the U.S. Attorney has convened a grand jury investigation ramps up the stakes. Given the underlying skepticism about the administration’s actions, Christie’s continued positive ratings may not hold up for the long term.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 816 New Jersey adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from March 31 to April 6, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 731 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.

Republicans back the governor on scandals; Democrats and independents less so

For the most part, Republicans continue to stick by their fellow GOP governor as the scandals plaguing Christie’s administration continue to develop. Just under half of GOP voters say they fully believe Christie’s explanation for the lane closures while another 31 percent say they somewhat believe him. Only18 percent of Republicans do not believe Christie at all.

This is in stark contrast to the three-quarters of Democrats and 41 percent of independents who do not believe the governor at all. Only 9 percent of Democrats say they believe him fully, and another 13 percent say somewhat. Independents are somewhat more positive, with 22 percent fully and 34 percent somewhat believing.

“Republicans remain fairly convinced the governor has not done anything wrong,” noted Redlawsk. “Even so, they are not nearly as upbeat about Christie as they were before Bridgegate. Democrats are completely dubious about all of this; whatever reservoir of good will Christie once had with them is simply gone.”

A majority of Republicans back Christie’s recently released internal review, with 56 percent seeing the report as an objective assessment of the events and the governor’s role compared to 34 percent who do not. The numbers flip for both Democrats and independents, with 78 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents saying the report is not objective.

Even Republicans condemn alleged political use of 9/11 artifacts

Republicans are not so much on Christie’s side when it comes to some past actions of the Port Authority and refusals by former Christie officials to hand over documents to the legislative committee investigating the scandals, joining Democrats and independents in condemning both, though to differing degrees. Half of GOP voters say it was inappropriate if Port Authority officials used 9/11 artifacts as gifts to help Christie’s reelection, while 34 percent find it permissible and 16 percent are unsure. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly see such an action as improper – at 87 percent and 78 percent, respectively.

Results are similar regarding former Christie staff members who are claiming their Fifth Amendment right to be able to withhold documents. Seventy-six percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and even 57 percent of Republicans say that these officials should be required to provide records anyway.

Scandals issues seen as serious for Christie

Between the allegations of Bridgegate, claims about favoritism by the Christie administration in providing Sandy relief funds, the use of the Port Authority to further the administration’s political aims, and conflicts of interest for Christie appointees to the Port Authority, it is unsurprising that most voters see this set of issues as problematic for Christie. Democrats, unsurprisingly, are most likely to believe these allegations are serious: 39 percent say they are extremely serious, while 42 percent see them as very serious. Just 17 percent do not think the issues are particularly serious.

Independents share Democrats’ views for the most part. One quarter says the situation is extremely serious and another 40 percent very serious; 25 percent say not very serious, while just 6 percent say not at all serious. Republicans are not as worried, but almost half still say the allegations are serious, though only 9 percent say extremely so; 35 percent say they are not very serious, and 14 percent say not at all serious.

Christie’s ratings steady; some see a change in his governing tone post-Bridgegate

Christie’s favorability and job numbers have settled back into their pre-Sandy state, with Democrats mostly against and Republicans mostly in support of him. Independents generally continue to support Christie and his performance, though not nearly to the extent that Republicans do. After a large drop in Christie’s Sandy-specific rating, the governor has stabilized at 53 percent approving of his job on Sandy – somewhat better than his now-lukewarm or even negative ratings on other issues like taxes (39 percent approval), education (46 percent approval), the state budget (43 percent approval), and crime and drugs (50 percent approval).

Some observers have suggested that Gov. Christie has become less aggressive in the way he governs now than he was before Bridgegate but most voters see no real change. A quarter of voters say Christie has become less forceful in his tone, while 6 percent say he has become more forceful. But 61 percent say his tone is the same.

The current scandals have also significantly influenced voters’ views of the most important problem facing New Jersey today. While most voters continue to see the economy and jobs (25 percent) or taxes (27 percent) as most important, as usual, 15 percent report that government corruption and abuse of power is the number one issue. In comparison, only 3 percent name Sandy recovery as most important.

“The continuing saga of Bridgegate and its related allegations has become a ‘new normal’ for New Jersey voters,” said Redlawsk. “Christie is weathering this on a personal level, and in the overall perception of his performance. But he has lost Democrats, and overall there has been an increase in disapproval on specific issues. Combined with the fact that Sandy recovery is no longer the positive narrative it was for voters, the governor will likely find getting bipartisan agreement for his agenda harder than it was when he was riding high.”

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TRUST IN CHRISTIE REMAINS AT ALL-TIME LOW; MORE THAN HALF STILL SEE A “STRONG LEADER”

For a PDF of the full release, with text, questions, and tables, click here.

TRUST IN CHRISTIE REMAINS AT ALL-TIME LOW
BUT MORE THAN HALF OF VOTERS STILL SEE GOVERNOR AS STRONG LEADER

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Despite a reboot of his town hall meetings, and even with no significant new revelations in the Bridgegate scandal, perceptions of Gov. Chris Christie’s personal traits remain at a low point in New Jersey, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Following a sharp, negative turn in opinions of key Christie traits in January, New Jersey registered voters now rate his “trustworthiness” at an all-time low with just 23 percent saying “trustworthy” applies very well to Christie, down 20 points from October 2013. Another 38 percent say trustworthy fits Christie just somewhat well, while 35 percent say it does not fit him well at all.

While more than half of voters still say “strong leader” describes Christie “very well”, even that trait which has been key for Christie since Superstorm Sandy, is at a low point. Voters are more divided on the extent to which “sincere” describes the governor: 31 percent say it fits him very well, 35 percent say somewhat well, and 30 percent say Christie is not sincere at all.

“The Bridgegate and Sandy allegations continue to take their toll on perceptions of the governor’s positive personality traits,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “In particular, trustworthy was one of Christie’s hallmarks, especially given voters’ normal cynicism about politicians. Losing the trust of voters puts Christie into the category of an ordinary politician. At the same time, his overall New Jersey ratings remain pretty good for a Republican in this blue state.”

The number of respondents who see Christie as a bully – 37 percent – has fallen since January’s all-time high of 43 percent. And just under half say “arrogant” fits Christie very well.

Emotional responses toward Christie show little change from January. Pride in and enthusiasm about the governor remain nearly steady at 36 percent after double-digit declines in January. But 40 percent of voters are angry, and 45 percent are worried when they think about the governor.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 22 to 28. Within this sample are 729 registered voters reported upon in this release, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Bridgegate believers most likely to distrust Christie

The decline in assessments of Christie’s trustworthiness is significantly driven by partisan differences and views on the George Washington Bridge (GWB) scandal. Fewer than 10 percent of Democrats say trustworthy describes Christie very well, while 52 percent of Republicans are still in this camp. While partisan perceptions have stayed fairly steady, independents are even less trusting than they were in January: just 20 percent say trustworthy fits Christie very well, down 10 points in the last five weeks and 24 points lower than in October.

Voters’ beliefs about whether Christie knew of his staff’s alleged involvement in closing bridge access lanes from Fort Lee last September influence whether they still trust the governor. Thirty-seven percent find it very unlikely Christie was unaware ahead of time of what his staff allegedly planned, and an additional 15 percent think it is somewhat unlikely, while 44 percent say it is at least somewhat likely he did not know.

Among those who think it is very likely Christie did not know ahead of time of his staff’s actions, more than half (52 percent) see Christie as trustworthy. In contrast, just 7 percent of voters who say it is very unlikely the governor was unaware of the plan agree with this assessment.

Assessments of Christie’s January 9 press conference about the traffic tie-up also affect how trustworthy Christie appears. The one in six voters who fully believe Christie’s explanation of what happened in Fort Lee are three times as likely to say trustworthy fits him very well (76 percent), compared to the third who somewhat believe him, where only 22 percent ascribes trust to Christie. And a mere 4 percent of the 44 percent who completely disbelieve Christie’s explanation see him as trustworthy; 69 percent of this group says the term does not apply to Christie whatsoever.

As for the Sandy-related allegations thrown at the governor, 41 percent think they are false, but 45 percent believe the claims. Those who think the allegations are false are more trusting of Christie than others: 44 percent say trustworthy describes Christie very well, 44 percent say somewhat well, and only 10 percent say not well at all. Just 6 percent of those whole believe the allegations think trustworthy describes the governor very well; 61 percent says it does not fit at all.

The term “sincere,” asked here for the second time, shows similar partisan divisions as in January: 16 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans say this word describes Christie very well, little changed. But there has been an 11 point drop to 28 percent of independents who now think that adjective describes Christie very well. Voters who believe Christie was aware of the lane closures and those who think his administration purposely withheld Sandy funds, are significantly less likely to call him sincere.

While just over half of all voters still see Christie as a strong leader, the numbers have taken a slight dip among Democrats (five points to 35 percent) and independents (six points to 54 percent). Eight in 10 Republicans, however, continue to say that the trait describes their governor very well.

As Bridgegate quiets, negative labels stabilize

With the absence of major new allegations in recent weeks, opinions on some of the most negative descriptors applied to Christie have stabilized. Opinions on “bully” are steady or improved among partisans of all stripes. Half of Democrats now say bully fits Christie very well, a nine-point drop from January. Independents are now at 35 percent, while only 17 percent of Republicans still feel the same. More than half of Republicans say the governor is not a bully, a feeling shared by 17 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents. Those skeptical of Christie’s claims Bridgegate and who think Sandy aid decisions were political are much more likely to label him as a bully. And voters using the GWB at least weekly are 11 to 13 points more likely to say bully fits Christie very well, compared to voters who never cross it.

Democrats particularly find Christie “arrogant,” with 62 percent saying the term describes Christie very well, although this is a nine-point drop over the last five weeks. Forty-six percent of independents feel the same, as do 25 percent of Republicans. Seven in ten voters who think it is very likely Christie knew about his staff’s alleged actions believe arrogant fits him very well, compared to just over a third of other voters. Likewise, three-quarters of those who completely disbelieve Christie’s explanation say arrogant fits very well, compared to 30 percent who somewhat believe him and just 18 percent who fully believe him. As with bully, voters who think the Sandy-related allegations are true are about three times more likely to say arrogant describes him very well than those who disbelieve the claims.

Anger and worry over Christie continue

Voters continue to experience more negative emotions toward Christie than they did pre-Bridgegate. Anger and worry remain up, and pride and enthusiasm are still down, all back to pre-Sandy levels. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans and 35 percent of independents say Christie makes them feel enthusiastic, while 61 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents say he makes them feel proud. Democrats have rebounded from large dips in January, up nine points to 23 percent for pride and up five points to 22 percent for enthusiasm.

Positive emotions are significantly lower among those less likely to believe Christie had no knowledge of his staff’s involvement with the GWB lane closures, those less likely to believe his explanation and those who believe allegations over Sandy funds are true.

Partisans have remained relatively steady in their feelings of anger and worry toward the governor since January. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 38 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans feel angry. Similarly, 59 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of independents, and 24 percent of Republicans are worried about Christie. About half of frequent GWB users are worried and angry, compared to about 40 percent of those who use it less frequently or not at all. Sixty percent of those who say it is very unlikely Christie was unaware of the lane closures, those who do not believe his explanation, and those who believe in the Sandy-related allegations say they feel anger and worry toward the governor.

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The Latest Numbers on Bridgegate, Sandy, and Gov. Christie

Today we release the latest numbers on how Bridgegate and to some extent Sandy recovery issues are effecting the standing of Gov. Chris Christie. As the release below details, the governor’s overall ratings have stayed essentially stable since our last poll after Bridgegate broke in January. Both his favorability and overall job performance ratings are slightly higher than they were in January (though the difference is NOT statistically significant) while remaining far below his peaks in 2013. But from our perspective the more interesting story here is the collapse in job approval ratings for Christie’s Sandy recovery efforts. Throughout 2013, NJ votes gave the governor extremely high approval for post-Sandy efforts; at times more than 80% approved his job performance on Sandy even as a plurality or more disapproved other areas, like taxes and the economy.

We find approval of Gov. Christie on Sandy recovery has now dropped to 54%. Yes, it is still a majority, but the difference is quite dramatic. We see this driven in part by a nearly even split in whether voters believe allegations that the administration withheld Sandy aid from towns where Democratic Mayors did not endorse Christie’s re-election. Those who believe this have reversed course on Sandy, while those who do not remain as positive about the governor’s Sandy work as ever.  In the end, this may actually be more of a problem for Christie than Bridgegate, and we may well have settled back to the pre-Sandy status quo – about half the state approving and half not approving how the governor is doing.

One quick note. Starting this this poll, we are adjusting our reported margin of error to include what are called “design effects” related to weighting the data to better match the population. All public telephone polls report weighted results – the raw sample is rarely an exact fit for the population. So we use statistical processes to adjust to known factors in the population – in our case generally age, race, ethnicity, and gender. In making this adjustment we add more uncertainty to the results, which increases the margin of error of our estimates. However, few polls seem to clearly report this effect (the design effect). If you read the disclosure statement at the end of the PDF of the poll, you will see where we made this adjustment, increasing our reported margin of error for the registered voter sample from +/-3.7 percentage points for the raw sample to +/-3.8 percentage points for the weighted sample. It isn’t much, but it does make the margin of error more accurate.

Full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF with the text, questions, and tables.

N.J. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE TAKES BIG HIT ON SANDY RECOVERY RATINGS
Overall favorability – steady since January – remains much lower than 2013 highs

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – As Bridgegate continues to dominate Gov. Chris Christie’s second term, and with new questions about how Superstorm Sandy funds have been managed, New Jersey voters have dramatically changed their perception of Christie’s job performance on Sandy recovery, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 54 percent now approve Christie’s efforts on Sandy, down 15 points since the mid-January poll and a 26-point drop from November 2013. Thirty-six percent disapprove, up 10 points from January, while 10 percent are unsure.

“These new numbers are a far cry from the nearly unanimous praise the governor had received for post-Sandy leadership,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “We’re seeing a real impact from recent claims involving withheld Sandy aid as political payback, as well as accusations of uneven and inappropriate distribution of recovery funds. This could have a more significant long-term impact than the Fort Lee lane closing scandal that opened Christie’s second term.”

While Sandy job approval has taken a big hit, Christie’s favorability rating (49 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable) is statistically unchanged from January’s 46 to 43 percent rating. Overall job approval is also stable at 55 percent; 39 percent disapprove, versus 53-41 six weeks ago.

“Positive views of Christie’s Sandy performance kept his overall ratings high throughout 2013,” noted Redlawsk. “The decline in Sandy approval has returned Christie to the pre-Sandy status quo, when about half of voters supported him and the other half did not or was unsure.”

The double-digit descent in Christie’s Sandy rating is heavily influenced by the 45 percent of voters who believe the administration withheld Sandy aid from some mayors in retaliation for not receiving their re-election support. Just 41 percent of voters think the allegations are false, while another 13 percent are uncertain.

Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 22 to 28. Within this sample are 729 registered voters reported upon in this release, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

Christie’s Sandy support erodes

Where Christie once enjoyed across-the-board approval for his post-Sandy leadership, divisions have opened. A majority of Democrats no longer praises the governor: just 46 percent now approve his efforts, down 15 points during the past six weeks. Disapproval has jumped to 47 percent of Democrats. But support is also eroding among independents and Republicans. Fifty-four percent of independents continue to approve of Christie’s Sandy work, down 17 points from January. Republican approval dropped a surprising 13 points, to 69 percent.

Approval of Christie’s Sandy performance was once so strong that even those with an overall unfavorable impression were supportive. That is no longer true. One-third of voters unfavorable toward Christie now approve of how he has handled Sandy recovery, down 18 points from 51 percent approval in January. Nearly two-thirds of this group now disapproves.
Christie still does well among voters with a favorable overall impression, with almost three-quarters approving his work on Sandy, but this too is down, by 15 points in the last six weeks.

“When even Republicans show eroding support of a key Christie selling point – his management of the largest natural disaster to hit the state – things are not going well, even if overall favorability ratings look stable for now,” said Redlawsk.

Among the recent Sandy-related allegations against the administration have been claims that benefits were withheld from towns where Democratic mayors failed to endorse Christie’s re-election; 45 percent of voters believe these to be true. Among those voters, only 38 percent approve the governor’s performance on Sandy, while 54 percent disapprove. Those who do not believe the claims strongly support Christie’s Sandy work: 73 percent approve, while 17 percent disapprove.

All this may boil down to partisan preferences since beliefs about the allegations themselves are heavily divided by partisanship: two-thirds of Democrats say Christie’s administration withheld the funds purposely, versus seven in 10 Republicans who say the opposite. Independents are evenly split on the question – 43 percent (true) and 42 percent (false).

Bridgegate continues to roil New Jersey voters

The division over Sandy performance parallels views on the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. Just over half of voters suspect Christie had knowledge of his advisers’ actions in the closures, while 44 percent do not. Only 16 percent fully believe the governor’s Jan. 9 press conference explanation regarding Bridgegate, down from the 22 percent who said this in January.

Another 35 percent say they somewhat believe Christie; 44 percent do not believe him at all. In January, 32 percent somewhat believed the governor, and 42 percent did not.

Democrats are most apt to say it is very unlikely Christie did not know of his staff’s actions (51 percent), as well as to disbelieve Christie’s explanation at all (64 percent). Republicans are more supportive: 31 percent say it is somewhat likely and 32 percent say it is very likely Christie was unaware. Just over a third of Republicans fully believe his explanation, while another 41 percent somewhat believes it.

Voters who cross the George Washington Bridge at least once a week are more likely than less frequent bridge users to think Christie was unaware: 47 percent think it is very unlikely Christie did not know about the plan, and 52 percent do not believe at all the governor’s explanation.

Asked about the investigation, 38 percent say the state Legislature should continue its effort, but another 30 percent say it should defer to the U.S. Attorney. Almost a quarter says no investigation is needed.

More than half of Democrats want the Democratically-controlled Legislature to continue its efforts while 27 percent say the U.S. Attorney should take over. Twelve percent say no investigation is needed. Forty percent of Republicans say all investigations should be ended, while 31 percent say the U.S. Attorney should take the lead. Twenty percent support the Legislature continuing its probe. Independents are more split, with just over a quarter preferring no investigation at all and a third siding with each of the other options. Surprisingly, 37 percent of those who cross the George Washington Bridge at least once a week say no further investigation is necessary, although a plurality (40 percent) would prefer the state to continue.

Despite challenges, most Christie voters would stick by him

Even with the developing scandals, New Jerseyans are nowhere near ready to trade in their governor. Just one in five voters think Christie should resign in the face of the investigations, but nearly three-quarters says he should stay in office. Even Democrats are not calling for the governor’s head; just a third says he should resign. Just over three-quarters of independents and 92 percent of Republicans say Christie should remain in office.

Almost 90 percent of Christie voters say they would still vote for the governor if they had the chance to vote again. But this does not mean most would vote for him for president. Christie still trails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 41 percent to 51 percent, in a 2016 New Jersey head-to-head matchup, although this is a significant improvement from his 34 to 55 percent deficit in January. Asked to name the one person they most want to see as the next president, Christie comes in a distant second to Clinton, drawing fewer than half of the mentions she does.

On issues other than Sandy, Christie’s ratings have remained divided. Just over four in 10 approve his work on the economy and taxes and almost half approve his performance on education.

“In the end, Governor Christie still has a solid base of support among New Jersey voters, even if it is no longer at the record levels we once saw,” said Redlawsk. “In retrospect, it was always unreasonable to expect his post-Sandy ratings would last forever, though we never anticipated how they would fall. Christie’s future may now depend on how well he can pivot to issues that have helped him in the past, including his recent focus on public worker pensions and health care costs. Many New Jerseyans remain happy to stay in his corner, at least for now.”

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Note:  On Monday we reported results in conjunction with polls done by Siena and Roanoke where we all ran a group of the same questions across three states. In that release, Christie is shown with a 48%-40% favorability rating in NJ. Today’s release reports a 49%-40% rating. Why the difference? It is because the other two centers combine “refusals” into the “don’t know” category, where we routinely drop them out. There were 3 respondents in this poll who refused to answer the Christie favorability question. Taking them out as we normally do rounds the favorable number up to 49% instead of down to 48%. But the joint report on Monday included the approach used by Siena and Roanoke. Today’s report reverts to our normal approach so we can compare to the past. These numbers are estimates, of course, with a margin of error, and the difference is meaningless in terms of substance.

 

 

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Filed under 2016 President, Bridgegate, Chris Christie, Christie NJ Rating, Superstorm Sandy

SOME WORD CLOUDS ON CHRISTIE: “BULLY” AND “BRIDGEGATE” AT THE TOP OF NEW JERSEYANS’ MINDS

Bases for Impressions of Christie Now Dominated by Mentions of “Bully” and Scandals Among New Jerseyans, Less So by Superstorm Sandy 

By Ashley Koning

Ashley Koning is Manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University.

As we reported the other week, our latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows Christie’s favorability rating among registered voters now virtually split at 46 percent favorable to 43 percent unfavorable, a double-digit drop from his 65 percent favorability rating just before his landslide re-election. But what we have not yet reported is the additional step we took on that same poll to more thoroughly investigate just why New Jerseyans felt this way.

We probed impressions of Gov. Christie, given recent events and allegations surrounding the George Washington Bridge, by asking those who said they had a favorable or unfavorable impression of the governor a follow-up open-ended question about why they felt this way:

In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?

Today’s blog post reports these results, including all respondents, and they seem quite interesting, especially when we turn the open-ended responses into word clouds.

Clear patterns emerge in the reasons given for viewing the governor favorably or unfavorably. Not surprisingly, words related to Christie as a “bully” take the top spot in descriptions of why people feel the way they do – though this is virtually entirely due to those who say they are unfavorable toward him.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE/UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Our first word cloud just lumps all of our respondents into one group, which helps us see the relative frequency of the ideas people include in their responses from either direction. Out of everyone who answered this follow-up, about one in ten respondents said “bully” was a reason for their feelings toward the governor. A combination of phrases involving the recent allegations – “George Washington Bridge,” “Bridgegate,” and “scandal” – is also very prominent among all responses. While Superstorm Sandy and Christie’s job as governor overall still play large roles – especially for those feeling positively about him – they do so to a lesser extent than in the past and pale in comparison to the number of times New Jerseyans mention “bully.”

Of course, since we asked the question differently depending on whether a respondent is favorable or unfavorable toward Gov. Christie, it is more appropriate to look at each group independently. For those with a positive view of the governor, we find that Christie’s handling of Superstorm Sandy has faded a bit into the background with just 7 percent mentioning the storm as their primary reason for liking Christie. Instead, favorable respondents are more likely to mention something very general about Christie’s overall good job of governing and making policy decisions (the first thing mention for 22 percent), that he is doing a lot for New Jersey and improving the state (the first thing mention for 11 percent), and that he is straightforward (the first thing mention for 10 percent) and honest (the first thing mention for 9 percent).

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

We get a fascinating partisan difference, however, as shown in the next set of word clouds. Sandy is a much bigger factor for Democrats who still like Christie, as well as for independents, than it is for Republicans. In fact, Sandy barely gets mentioned at all by Republicans, while the storm is the second biggest reason among the small number of favorable Democrats; Democrats mention almost nothing else in detail, instead focusing on generic “good job” type comments.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Independents are more likely than Democrats to mention other positive reasons beyond the storm, such as focusing on Christie’s character.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Republicans, instead of mentioning Sandy, give many other reasons for liking the governor – including that he is doing a good job, cares about and is doing a lot for New Jersey, and is straightforward and honest.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [FAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

So what about those who dislike Gov. Christie? As we noted, that number has grown substantially in the wake of the “Bridgegate” scandal. In fact, the influence of the George Washington Bridge Scandal is very evident. The single most mentioned idea is Christie as a “bully”, with 18 percent making this their main reason for disliking him. “Bully” has always been right up there among the unfavorables, but respondents now say this with more frequency than ever before. Another 16 percent mention something negative about his character or attitude, such as his arrogance or untrustworthiness. Other top reasons from the past, like the way Christie treats teachers and handles the issue of education, are now slightly less likely to be mentioned than things like the “George Washington Bridge,” “Bridgegate,” and “scandal.” “George Washington Bridge” is in fact the second most evident phrase in respondents’ reasons for their negative feelings.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Partisanship does not, however, show the different patterns we might expect. Democrats, independents, and Republicans who feel unfavorably toward the governor all most often say it is because he is a “bully,” followed by – to varying degrees of importance – something about the George Washington Bridge. Democrats are much more likely than their counterparts to say they also feel negatively because they do not like Christie’s policies or his arrogance. Sandy plays more of a role in negativity for independents and especially for Republicans. Unfavorable Republicans, though still a very small number, are also likely to say they don’t like his policies and seem particularly annoyed by Bridgegate, with many saying Christie is arrogant and dishonest.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Democrats who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for independents who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

Word Cloud for Republicans who answered, “In just a word or two, please tell me why you feel [UNFAVORABLE] toward Governor Chris Christie?” NJ Adults, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Jan. 14-19, 2014.

The drop in Christie’s support seen this past month has clearly been driven by the unfolding George Washington Bridge scandal – particularly among those who feel negatively toward the governor. The temporary – albeit prolonged – hold Christie had over Democrats this past year through reelection was mostly a byproduct of Superstorm Sandy. As Christie’s Sandy efforts become a talking point of the past and Bridgegate takes center stage, these Democrats – as well as some independents – who were in Christie’s corner after the storm now have little else about the governor to support. Just as Sandy made New Jerseyans perceive the best qualities in Christie, Bridgegate is now very clearly making many of them perceive the worst.

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GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE BY THE NUMBERS POST-“BRIDGEGATE”: A COMPARISON OF STATE AND NATIONWIDE POLLING IN THE WAKE OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE SCANDAL

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Staff has been hard at work compiling and comparing all of Gov. Christie’s numbers post-“Bridgegate” both state and nationwide in important areas like favorability, job performance, the scandal itself, and perceptions of the governor’s bully-like nature, leadership, and trustworthiness.

Had a nice shoutout from Huffington Post Pollster. (Scroll down to “Tuesday’s Outliers” or just click the link below for the tables referred to there.)

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll Post-Bridgegate Christie Comparison Tables.

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