What a difference a week makes. After Christie miraculously skated in last week’s Pew Poll thanks to national apathy, Americans have finally turned on the once-beloved governor. Pew and USA Today found that Christie’s unfavorability ratings have doubled in the past year, and most don’t believe he was not involved in “BridgeGate.”
The Pew/USA Today poll took the opinions of Americans nationally and found that unfavorable views have doubled since last January. Back in 2013, Christie’s favorability ratings were extremely high in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, especially with independents and Democrats because of his perceived closeness with President Obama. The poll also directly asked respondents whether they believed Christie when he told the word he did not know that his aides were orchestrating a traffic jam to enact revenge on a Democratic opponent; 58% said they did not believe him.
Among the more interesting findings in this poll is that Republican sentiment towards Christie remains largely unchanged. While Democrats and Independents appear to have been disappointed by Christie, both Tea Party-leaning and establishment Republicans appeared to have kept their opinions of the Governor before and after the bridge scandal the same.
Tea Party Republicans have held high unfavorable views of Christie for months–Pew notes that unfavorability ratings among Tea Party Republicans rose 13% between January and July 2013 and remained low. Establishment Republicans remain lukewarm towards the governor, again with little change that can be attributed to the recent scandals.
As early as last week, Pew had found that the traffic jam story central to the original scandal following Christie this month had received a lukewarm welcome by the American people. 60% of those polled did not change their opinion of the Governor because of the incident, perhaps a sign that his apologetic two-hour press conference had done its job in mitigating damages. It also seemed to indicated that the traffic story itself was not scandalous enough to attract the attention of the nation.
Not so this week, as Christie faces allegations of extortion from another Democratic mayor and an Olympic gold medalist. The mayor, Hoboken’s Dawn Zimmer, claimed that on two (now three) separate occasions, Christie officials threatened that her city would not receive Hurricane Sandy relief funds if she did not approve a real estate project supported by allies of the administration. Carl Lewis rehashed his claims from 2011 that he was approached by the governor and encouraged not to run as a Democrat for a State Senate seat against an ally of the administration, noting that he had been making similar allegations to Zimmer’s for years. Pew did not ask about either scandal in their polling, though stories like CNN’s report on Christie being federally audited over use of Hurricane Sandy funds are now a week old.
The accumulation of scandals yielded very different poll results on a national scale. Unlike the national population polled, New Jerseyans responding to the latest Quinnipiac poll showed they thought of Christie as less of a bully–not more–after Christie’s press conference apologizing for the bridge incident. This echoes polls of other beleaguered New Jersey governors, including his Democratic predecessors Jon Corzine and Jim McGreevey.