Poll: Scandal provides insight on potential Christie presidency

A majority of New Jersey residents think the bridge scandal surrounding Gov. Chris Christie (R) provides insight into how his team would operate if he were elected president. 

According to a new Rutgers poll released Wednesday, 52 percent said the scandal shines a light into a potential Christie administration. Another 40 percent do not think it tells the public very much, while 8 percent did not know. 

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Sixty-eight percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents said it shines light on his potential presidency. But only 27 percent of Republicans felt the same. 

Christie is facing criticism after emails released earlier this month showed a top staffer was involved in a plan to close down lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year, in apparent political retribution against a local mayor who would not endorse Christie. 

Christie has apologized and fired his deputy chief of staff, maintaining he had no prior knowledge of the closure plan. The state legislature and the U.S. attorney in the state are looking into the allegations. 

Residents are split — 49 percent to 47 percent — on whether the state legislature should continue with its investigation. 

Another 71 percent thought Christie’s “tough guy” approach at least somewhat encourages this kind of behavior in his office — including 61 percent of Republicans. 

Sixty-seven percent of residents in Christie’s home state said the scandal would be at least somewhat damaging to his presidential ambitions, including 23 percent who said it would be very damaging. 

However, 50 percent said it would not affect their personal decision to vote for him if he decides to run. 

Majorities of all parties, including Republicans, thought the scandal would be at least somewhat damaging. 

At the same time, 55 percent said Christie’s apology was more about his potential presidential campaign. Another 29 percent described it as a genuine heartfelt apology. 

A number of polls have shown Christie’s approval rating sliding since the scandal broke, after topping nearly 70 percent last year. 

The Rutgers poll found Christie’s approval rating among New Jersey voters is still above water at 53 percent, but that's still dropped 15 percent since his reelection last November. 

The poll also showed Hillary Clinton leading Christie by 21 points in a head-to-head match-up in a potential 2016 general election. New Jersey is a solidly blue state that President Obama won by 17 percent in the 2012 election. However, exit polls from Christie’s win last year showed he trailed Clinton in a hypothetical match-up by only 4 percent. 

The poll surveyed 826 New Jersey residents and has a 3.4 percent margin or error. The margin of error among registered voters is slightly higher, at 3.6 percent.