NJ voters: Christie more leader than bully

New Jersey voters think Gov. Chris Christie (R) is more of a leader than a bully, according to a new poll. 

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found 55 percent of voters rated Christie as a strong leader, while another 40 percent called him more of a bully. 

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The numbers come as he battles allegations that a staffer in his administration was involved in a plan to intentionally block lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year as political retribution on a Democratic mayor who did not endorse him.

Of those who have heard of the incident, 49 percent said it will hamper his run for president in 2016, if he enters the race. 

Majorities of Republicans and independents said Christie is more of a leader than a bully. Only Democratic voters — by a 55 percent to 41 percent margin — said he is more of a bully. 

A bare majority, 51 percent, continued to say he is honest and trustworthy, while 55 percent said he cares about voters’ needs and problems. Another 74 percent described him as a strong leader. 

Christie took responsibility a second time for the scandal during his State of the State address on Tuesday. Last week, he expressed remorse and embarrassment at his staff’s involvement in the lane closures. He fired his deputy chief of staff but said he had no prior knowledge of it. 

Christie’s approval rating stands at 55 percent, while 38 percent of voters disapproved — down 13 points since the firm last polled the question in July 2013. 

A full 93 percent of voters in the state have heard about the bridge scandal. 

Quinnipiac had asked the bully question regularly since Christie entered public office, but discontinued it in July 2012. The last time the question was polled, 50 percent of people described him as strong leader, while 45 percent described him as a bully — 5 points higher than today. 

“We stopped asking that 'bully' question 18 months ago. But we tried it again and, even with all the 'Bridgegate' stories, he still scores higher as a leader than as a bully,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Of those who have heard of the scandal, 50 percent believed Christie when he says his staffers acted without his knowledge. Another 41 percent said he knew what his aides were doing. 

The poll surveyed 1,207 New Jersey voters and holds a 2.8-percent margin of error.