More New Jersey voters think Gov. Chris Christie is a bully than ever before.
Even as the embattled Republican governor tries to move forward by putting the so-called ‘Bridgegate’ scandal behind him, voters are completely divided—48% to 48%—on whether Christie is more of a leader or more of a bully, according to a Quinnipiac survey released Wednesday.
That’s the worst “bully” score Christie has ever earned in the survey. The governor’s approval rating also dropped to 49%, according to the poll.
It’s the latest blow to the governor’s public reputation. Christie has spent months trying to recover from the allegations that top aides in his office closed down lanes leading up to the George Washington Bridge last September in an alleged act of political retribution. In a marathon press conference in January, Christie emphatically denied he was a bully.
“I don’t hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group-tested, blow-dried candidate or governor. Now, that has always made some people, as you know, uneasy. Some people like that style. Some people don’t,” Christie said. “I am who I am. But I am not a bully.”
Voters believed him initially—Christie’s leadership rating easily trumped his bully score in January, just after the scandal broke. But months later – with even more revelations coming to light – voters’ opinions have changed.
The poll found that New Jersey voters don’t care much for an internal report, commissioned by Christie, that cleared the governor of any involvement in the bridge scandal. The survey found that a majority of voters who knew of “Bridgegate” felt Christie’s commission investigation was a “whitewash.”
These opinions lined up with party affiliations: Republicans were more likely to support Christie’s own investigation’s conclusion, while Democrats gave it poor marks. Just 36% felt the internal review was a “legitimate investigation.”
Voters were also split on whether the investigation being conducted by Democratic legislators is a legitimate investigation or a “political witch hunt.”
Christie has sought to change the conversation in recent weeks, returning to presenting himself as a confident, no-nonsense Republican who sees the problems in Washington, D.C. and knows how to fix them.
“I’m not in this business to have an academic conversation, I’m not in this business to win the argument. I’m in this business to win elections,” Christie said at a Republican convention in Las Vegas late last month.
But the Quinnipiac poll didn’t give the governor home-field advantage, should he choose to run for president in 2016: 57% of New Jersey voters do not think Christie would make a good president.