The majority of New Jersey residents don’t believe Gov. Chris Christie has come clean about his knowledge of the George Washington Bridge scandal, according to a new Monmouth University poll.
The poll, which surveyed by telephone 541 residents over the weekend, says that 51 percent of those polled believed that Christie has not been completely honest about what he knows about the incident, compared to 40 percent who believe he has come clean on the September closure of lanes to the world’s busiest bridge, causing gridlock in nearby Fort Lee for days.
And one third, or 34 percent, think that Christie himself was directly involved in the decision to close the toll lanes, although the majority—52 percent—do not think he was involved, with 14 percent saying they are not sure, the poll says.
Christie’s stellar approval ratings, although they remain high, have also taken a hit in light of the scandal that has caused the governor to fire a high-level member of his staff and publicly apologize to the residents of the state.
Christie’s approval rating stands at 59 percent, down from 65 percent one month ago. It is the first time in 14 months that the governor’s approval rating has fallen below 60 percent, according to the poll.
“It looks like the bridge incident has dimmed Christie's more than year-long Sandy afterglow just a bit. Still, his job performance numbers remain strong and suggest that the governor can bank on some continued goodwill as this story develops,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Although the governor claims he was blindsided by the release of the emails on Wednesday implicating his staff, most—52 percent—following the story think that he knew about his staff’s involvement before the news broke. Only 33 percent accept the governor’s timeline about when he found out, the poll says.
A huge majority of those polled—83 percent—said they are paying attention to the Bridgegate story, but just 13 percent accept the “traffic study” explanation for the Fort Lee lane closures, the poll says.
Nearly 64 percent—believe it was done as political retaliation. Nearly all residents—80 percent—expect more staffers will be implicated in this unfolding story with only 5 percent saying all involved have been identified, the poll says.
Personal views of Christie are mixed, the poll says, with 44 percent of state residents hold a favorable impression of the governor personally and another 28 percent have an unfavorable opinion, and 28 are unsure how they feel about him.
A year ago, 70 percent held Christie in positive regard, with 19 percent with a negative view. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, 52 percent had a favorable opinion of Christie and 34 percent had an unfavorable view, according to the poll.
Overall, 62 percent believe Christie when he says he wants a full investigation, while 34 percent do not take the governor at his word on his interest in pursuing the inquiry, the poll says.
Republicans are sticking by Christie, giving him an 89 percent approval rating which is in line with the 85 percent GOP support he received last month. Approval has dropped among independents however, from 73 percent in December to 62 percent now. Among Democrats, 38 percent hold a favorable opinion, compared to 47 percent last month, according to the poll.