Some of the preliminary polling for Gov. Chris Christie (R), conducted just as his scandals were reaching the public, offered the New Jersey Republican some mildly heartening news. His support hadn’t been affected too much by the ongoing controversies.
But sometimes, when it comes to politicians in trouble, it takes a little while for the news to sink in and the negative reactions to become apparent. Take the new Pew Research poll, for example.
Chris Christie’s public image today is starkly different than it was a year ago. Last January, following Christie’s visible role in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, favorable opinions outnumbered unfavorable ones by more than two-to-one. Today, in the wake of a scandal involving highway lane closures that led to massive traffic jams in northern New Jersey, nearly as many offer an unfavorable assessment of Christie as a favorable one.Christie’s explanation of his role in the highway lane closure is drawing skepticism. Most of those who have heard about the controversy do not believe Christie’s assertion that he was not aware of his aides’ involvement in the lane closure.
The poll gauges attitudes on a national scale – as opposed to surveys of New Jersey residents only – which makes sense given that Christie cannot seek re-election and has his eyes on a national campaign.
And with that in mind, recent events have not helped the Republican governor’s national standing.
Though Christie is certainly a familiar figure to those who follow current events closely, it’s worth noting that as recently as a year ago, a plurality of Americans did not know who Chris Christie even is. That’s clearly changed considerably – the good news is, the governor is better known with the American public; the bad news is, the public doesn’t seem especially impressed.
Overall, those with a favorable impression of Christie have dropped slightly, from 40% to 38%, but those with an unfavorable opinion have doubled, from 17% to 34%.
Complicating matters, most of the country has heard about Team Christie’s bridge scandal, and a 58% majority do not believe the governor’s claims that he did not know of his top aides’ misconduct.
A possible upside to the results: self-identified Republicans still view Christie favorably, 49% to 27%. The unfavorable numbers are up seven points over the last year, but that’s far short of the 17-point jump with the public at large.
The Pew poll was conducted before allegations that the Christie administration used Sandy relief funds as part of an extortion scheme for land development in Hoboken.