Christie, the Bridge, and the Polls

Via First Read:  Poll: Christie cruising through bridge scandal (so far)

According to the survey, 18 percent of American adults say the scandal makes them like Christie less, compared with 5 percent who say it makes them like him more.

But a whopping 69 percent say it hasn’t changed their opinion of the New Jersey governor.

Still, a combined 71 percent of respondents say they know either “a lot” or “some” about the story.

In addition, a plurality – 44 percent – believe Christie is mostly telling the truth, 33 percent say he’s not and another 23 percent are unsure.

All well and good, although changing the opinion of almost 1/5th of adults in the negative may be a less that “cruising through” the situation. (And one would prefer, I would think, that more than a plurality thought one was telling the truth).

And, as much as I am trying to avoid horse race discussion about 2016, the following numbers do, perhaps, give a better understanding of how these events have affected public views:

Despite those numbers, Christie has lost ground to Hillary Clinton in an early hypothetical presidential match up. In this current poll, he trails Clinton by 13 points, 50 percent to 37 percent among nationwide voters.

But in the same poll a month ago, Clinton’s lead was a mere three points, 48 percent to 45 percent.

Of course, there is no guarantee that either candidate will run, let alone that either (or both) will be nominated.  Still, from a public opinion analysis point of view, that number tells us more than does the generic “Overall, do you have a favorable or an unfavorable impression of Chris Christie?” question.  In other words, I don’t think that the horse race numbers tells us anything about 2016, but it does tell us that, yes, the bridge scandal has had a discernable, negative affect on public views of Christie.

The whole poll can be found here.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Tony W says:

    Those 18 percent may be predisposed to disliking Mr. Christie to start with, and looking for an excuse.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    This is like the surveys on whether you approve of Obamacare. A chunk of the people who don’t like it think it should be expanded. Bridgegate hasn’t changed my opinion of Christie. I thought it was moderately obvious last year that he’s a raging a$$hole.

  3. @Tony W:

    Those 18 percent may be predisposed to disliking Mr. Christie to start with, and looking for an excuse.

    Perhaps, although I don’t think most people who are predisposed to liking or disliking someone wait around for an event to make up their mind for them.

  4. @gVOR08: Actually, for a public opinion point of view, this is different than Obamacare polling insofar as the question being asked is a lot less complex than were questions about Obamacare.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Well, my opinion about him certainly has changed. Having loyalty to the people who do your dirty work for you was a quality I thought he possessed to at least some extent. Couldn’t have been more wrong.

    And so ends his ability to govern.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The only poll that matters at this early date is the poll of GOP donors. He might be in trouble there.

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m sure there’s an EZPass joke in here somewhere. Or something about him being fat enough to fool the HOV lane sensors into thinking that there are two people in the front seat. I’m just not awake enough yet to do the heavy lifting. As it were.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    It’s still too far out…and it’s too active a situation to make a judgment.
    With a couple investigations under way there is no way to tell which way this is going.
    It may blow over…or more info may come out. For instance the TV Ad kerfuffle.

    For me the biggest issue…is that this guy has serious issues.
    The guy is a bully…we knew that before. Bully’s bully to assuage their insecurities. And what role do those insecurities have in his weight problem? There is no way for us to know specifics. Christie probably doesn’t know. But I do not want a guy with serious psychological issues to have his finger on the button.
    Of course when the phone call comes at 3:00am…he’ll already be up getting a snack. So he has that going for him…which is nice.

  9. john personna says:

    I think the two answers are consistent. Perhaps if you pressed them for an answer now, people would be wary about the bridge issue, but they also know they have years for it to all come out.

    As for how much a “bully” he is … I think we’re asked to accept third party reports of rumors … rumors twice removed.

  10. C. Clavin says:
  11. Andrei Vfeked says:

    The timing of this was pretty fortuitous for Christie and I doubt the fallout from this scandal (assuming no new major revelations or a whole new scandal) will have very little impact at all on whether Christie wins the GOP nomination or the subsequent election.

    I continue to have serious doubts about the prior. HOWEVER, I think the best thing that Christie has going for him is his stage presence. Imagine how he would have fared in the 2012 GOP debates against that collection of horrible, horrible GOP candidates. The petulant “RINO!!!” name calling from the far right will fall on largely deaf ears if his competition for the nomination isn’t of a much higher quality than last time around.

    Ideology is important, but voters are still drawn first and foremost to the person, not their ideology. There is a reason why Christie has been and remains very popular in an otherwise Demo-leaning northeast state. That charisma and his non-nonsense candor will translate well nationally as well if he can keep his shoes clean.

  12. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Those don’t load for me … but was it really bullying, or bombast?

  13. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Geez, some loaded … you think that making a forceful argument in calm voice is “bullying?”

    Do you know bullying?

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    Actually I grabbed the first link I could find and didn’t watch them…as I’ve seen plenty of clips of him lambasting folks.
    I should know better.
    If those don’t do it for you I’m sure you can find some quickly if you just stick Christie and Bully in the Google.

  15. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I know that “teacher” one has gotten lots of links.

    My impression is that she and he both tried to score emotional points.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    And look…the guy didn’t stand in a 1:30 long press conference and repeatedly claim that he isn’t a bully….because he really isn’t a bully. You know what I mean?

  17. al-Ameda says:

    What bothers me about this incident is how Christie has thrown his staff under the bus. Certainly those staffers who were involved in setting this in motion should be dismissed, however where is Christie insofar as leadership owning responsibility?

  18. rudderpedals says:

    An indictment followed by a conviction would change the results by a little bit, anyway.

  19. john personna says:


    Shrug, if I’d been there I would not have been intimidated. If he had been arguing with me that way, I would have just taken it as an argument.

    Perhaps that shapes my thinking.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t know if Christie is a bully, and if he is I’m not much put off by it. LBJ was a bully, and he got a lot accomplished. Then again, I’m not an Iowa, NH or SC voter.

    I don’t even get too worked up over Bridgegate. At worst this is Nixon-lite.

    It’s the legal trouble that’s the problem. He may have broken actual laws, and there may be enough to rack him up on that. Again, I would not personally disqualify him on that basis alone, but if he gets indicted he’s done.

  21. Rick Almeida says:

    @john personna:

    Shrug, if I’d been there I would not have been intimidated. If he had been arguing with me that way, I would have just taken it as an argument.

    I think your comments are important. You’re a man, have implied you’re reasonably affluent, and I’ve always assumed you are approximately middle-aged (early-mid 40s?) and white.

    It makes sense that people like you, I, and Reynolds would not find Christie particularly intimidating.

    I wonder, and I do mean wonder, if someone who was young and/or female and/or non-white would feel the same way…and those are the people Republicans have to win over to win a presidential election.

  22. Tillman says:

    @C. Clavin:

    But I do not want a guy with serious psychological issues to have his finger on the button.

    You have to be a form of insane to seek the presidency in the first place.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Point taken.

  24. john personna says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    Sure, but part of it is that if we recognize that it is perceptions, we can parse that differently from the argument.

    In the bit I heard Christie was making a pragmatic argument about budget constraints. That was the signal beneath the noise.

    It would have been very different if it had been all bombast without a practical inner theme.

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna: The bully thing is probably overplayed. I would characterize him as an asshole with 2 state troopers along to kick the a$$ of anyone who objected… Which means he is more of a gutless weasel I guess.

    On the slightly more serious side, if Christie is smart he will do everything he can to get everything out in the open as quickly as possible. This stone walling BS is counter productive if he is in fact innocent as it just drags out the story longer than necessary. (the sooner it is over the sooner he can repair his political career) Mind you, this advice only works if he is in fact innocent.

  26. john personna says:


    The bully thing is probably overplayed. I would characterize him as an asshole with 2 state troopers along to kick the a$$ of anyone who objected… Which means he is more of a gutless weasel I guess.

    Sure, that’s the “joke.” Of course if it sticks even if nothing remotely like this has happened, it has done its job.

    It’s called “smearing,” right?

  27. john personna says:

    I’m afraid that Christie was “insufficiently deferential to a teacher.”

    And that is enough for the main audience of that video.

  28. john personna says:

    I’m sorry, he was insufficiently deferential to a teacher’s union.

  29. john personna says:

    For what it’s worth, from my position as the son of a teacher (later administrator) and a school secretary .. is that education is important, but that education is hamstrung by politics. We have many players arguing from self-interest rather than student interests.

    Sure we see that when conservatives just want cuts, but we see it too when the left just want to help teachers and especially their unions.

    At the same times these unions fight online education out of the fear that it might be more effective and lower costs.

    You heard the lady’s logic: “You say you want to help the middle class. Teachers are middle class. So you should give us more money.”

    Brilliant? I think rather not.

  30. Andre Kenji says:

    To me, the problem is not that Christie is a bully. The problem is that he is abusing his power.

  31. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Isn’t this a lot like when the conservatives went off about Obama and “Chicago politics?”

  32. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: I find it fascinating that you have no problem with unlimited government surveillance of citizens and with the idea of a politician who feels no compunctions about breaking laws for his own benefit. For a cynical curmudgeon, you are a very trusting person…

  33. Andre Kenji says:

    @john personna: They also say that Obama is a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim-whatever from Kenya.

  34. john personna says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    The reason I bring up the “Chicago politics” thing is that it always seemed like a recommendation more than an attack. You actually do want a candidate who has come up through a tough path, in order to be ready for the tough battle ahead.

    It remains to be seen if and how Christie personally acted badly, but of course toughness will be attacked from the other side.

    As it was when Republicans attacked Obama for coming up through Chicago.

  35. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    The reference to Chicago politics was obviously about corruption, just as references to New Jersey or Louisiana politics are about corruption rather than toughness.
    Christie isn’t so much tough as a blowhard and Obama hasn’t exactly been a bare knuckle brawler.

  36. john personna says:


    Watch out with “blowhard,” you undermine the “bully” narrative.

  37. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    I’ve seen positive evidence of blowhard in the youtube vids he is fond of having his people post. The evidence I have seen for bullying is all second hand, circumstantial, or not yet proven. If the lane closures were indeed political payback, then bullying and abuse of power are appropriate descriptors. I’m withholding judgement on that until I see something more conclusive. I won’t be very surprised if that is the case, but since I live about as far away from NJ as is possible in the US and plan to keep it that way and I no longer see a viable path for him to the Republican nomination I don’t much care.

  38. Rafer Janders says:


    The reference to Chicago politics was obviously about corruption, just as references to New Jersey or Louisiana politics are about corruption rather than toughness.

    Well, corruption but equally if not more than that about Obama being black.

  39. Grewgills says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    and by extension about Christie being vaguely orange

  40. Andre Kenji says:

    To me, politicians should be servants of the people. I never sympathized with politicians that yell at people. In fact, that´s enough for someone to lose my vote. The Youtube videos of Christie yelling at teachers and reporters, alone, would be enough for Barbara Buono to have my vote If I voted in New Jersey.

  41. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    What, bullies can’t be blowhards? There’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of those two sets.

  42. Andre Kenji says:

    By the way, one of the reasons that Dilma Roussef has my vote is precisely because she is known as a tough boss with her ministers and aides, bur SHE never yells at voters or reporters. And she was booed in a stadium and she faces many questions from reporters that are completely asinine.

  43. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Which isn’t outside the realm of the possible at this point, given the multiple investigations that are going on. They always look bulletproof right up until the moment that the indictment(s) are approved.

    Somewhat related side-note: McDonnell and his wife were both indicted today on 14 federal charges.