The scandal known as BridgeGate continues to wreak havoc on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s public image. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reveals that opinion of Christie has reached new levels of negativity with Democrats and moderates, and more and more Americans think he was lying about involvement in the scandal.
The new poll finds that 29% of Americans view Christie unfavorably, with only 22% having a positive opinion of the governor. These numbers are a significant drop from 33%/17% ratings that he received just last October when he was poised for a landslide reelection victory in his state.
The biggest losses are with moderates–who previously rated the Governor very highly–and Democrats. Support from moderates, the poll finds, “has been cut in half” to 22% from 44%, while negative ratings have doubled. The numbers among Democrats are similar: popularity reduced by half, while negative ratings more than doubled from 17% to 37%.
Twenty percent of self-described conservatives view Christie negatively. Oddly, the poll finds that Republicans and conservatives have seen their opinion of the Governor the most unchanged. One theory for this is that, while Christie has risen to national stardom as a Republican, much of his work last October focused on courting moderate and Democratic voters. Many of the scandals surrounding his campaign last summer involved using strong-arm tactics to convince Democratic officials to endorse him publicly, like the cases of Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee and Steven Fulop of Jersey City.
The respondents of the NBC poll were almost evenly split on whether Christie had knowledge of the situation in Fort Lee or had a hand in creating last September’s traffic chaos, now known nationwide. Forty-four percent said they were not sure that Christie was telling the truth, while forty-two percent continued to believe Christie’s denial of any involvement in the incident, which he made at the now-legendary press conference.
The polls have not been favorable to Christie since the unraveling of the George Washington Bridge scandal. Christie, who was once polling ahead of Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical 2016 matchup, now trails Clinton once again in high digits; a Quinnipiac poll found Christie eight points behind Clinton. This puts Christie back where he was in the national horserace last November–when, before his landslide victory, polls found him ten points behind Clinton. The Pew Research Center found that Christie’s unfavorability ratings doubled in the past year, accelerating significantly in the past month since the scandal broke.
These polls all take the pulse of the national American electorate, however, and there is evidence that Christie’s many scandals are being seen as business-as-usual in the Garden State. One poll found that BridgeGate made Christie look like less of a bully in the eyes of New Jerseyans. The National Journal notes that 74% of New Jerseyans still see him as a “strong leader” and only 41% of those in the state think he had a hand in the bridge scandal.
Christie’s fate will depend heavily on the results of the New Jersey legislature’s investigations into the bridge lane closings and what, if anything, their subpoenas dig up. Scheduled to appear before the committee are twenty different individuals and entities, including the man who ensured the bridge closings, former senior aide David Wildstein. Wildstein, who was held in contempt during the last investigations for pleading the Fifth to every question, says he will do the same once more unless granted full prosecutorial immunity. Whatever the outcome of the investigation, however, Christie’s image will continue to be damaged in the eyes of the nation for months to come, and a steep climb to rehabilitation is the only promise Christie has to recover.