New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating slid to its lowest point since May 2011 as a poll showed that a controversy over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge weighed on voter support.
Forty-eight percent of state voters said they approved of the Republican’s job performance, wiping out the bounce he received in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, according to a survey released today by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind institute. His approval rating stood at 62 percent in an October poll by the same group.
Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has been buffeted by inquiries into his office’s spending of Sandy aid and its ties to the politically motivated lane closings that sparked traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee. The controversies are emerging as he raises his national profile as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
“The allegations of malicious politicking in his administration are taking their toll,” Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said in a news release. “His declining approval comes at an inopportune time.”
Christie, 51, won over Democrats and independents last year with his leadership after Sandy struck in October 2012. He gained a second term on Nov. 5, beating his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 22 percentage points after securing the majority of women and Hispanic voters, segments his party is trying to court more aggressively.
The PublicMind poll echoed findings from other recent surveys. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week found that his approval among all voters fell to 53 percent, down from 68 percent in November. The governor’s approval among Democratic voters dropped to 29 percent from 51 percent.
PublicMind found that 34 percent of Democrats approved of his job performance, down from 47 percent in October, while approval among independents dropped to 41 percent from 60 percent. The institute contacted 734 registered voters by telephone between Jan. 20 and 26 for the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
“Although the governor still has a good amount of support among those who aren’t his natural allies, the political lovefest that often defined his relationship with Democrats seems to have cooled,” Jenkins said.
Even with the drop in his ratings, Christie is better off than other Republican governors. Recent polls by Quinnipiac University found Rick Scott with 42 percent approval in Florida, while Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had 36 percent approval.
Democrats, who control both houses of the New Jersey legislature, are examining what Christie or members of his administration knew of the September lane closings at the bridge and whether they tried to cover it up. A joint Senate-Assembly committee has so far sent out 20 subpoenas in the matter.
Christie’s troubles grew Jan. 13, when the independent inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it was auditing the governor’s expenditure of $25 million in federal Sandy disaster aid on a “Stronger Than The Storm” ad campaign featuring Christie, his wife and their four children. Democratic lawmakers have said the ads gave Christie free publicity as he campaigned for a second term.
The administration’s ties to the traffic messes came to light in a cache of e-mails and text messages obtained on Jan. 8 by news outlets. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote on Aug. 13 to David Wildstein, a Christie ally at the Port Authority.
“Got it,” Wildstein replied.
Christie’s re-election campaign and the state Republican Committee received a U.S. grand jury subpoena seeking documents related to the lane closings, a lawyer said last week. The subpoena, issued Jan. 17, came in an inquiry by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, according to lawyer Mark Sheridan, who represents the Christie for Governor campaign and the state Republican committee.