Chris Christie’s national popularity tanks, but poll shows room to recover

Embattled NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) is down to 35 percent favorability nationally in a new ABC/Washington Post poll. But a quarter of Americans still have no opinion of him. 

Andrew Kelly/Reuters
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference at the Boys and Girls Club of Newark Clubhouse in Newark, N.J. January 27. Recent polls show that Gov. Christie's favorability among Americans has plummeted in the wake of the Bridge-gate scandal.

As he grapples with scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has taken a major hit to his national popularity, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday.

Governor Christie is now seen favorably by only 35 percent of Americans, and his unfavorable score has doubled to 40 percent. Last June, a Gallup poll showed him at 52 percent favorability.

Chris Christie’s popularity has been badly dented and Republican preferences for president look like a six-car pileup,” writes Gary Langer, pollster for ABC News.

But Christie has room to recover, because 25 percent of Americans have no opinion of him, Mr. Langer adds.

Still, the New Jersey governor has his work cut out for him if he intends to pursue the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, as had been widely expected. Christie has been under a cloud since early this month, when emails revealed that top aides were involved in what appeared to be a politically motivated effort to create traffic problems near the entry to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J. Christie’s administration has also faced allegations it improperly withheld hurricane relief money in Hoboken.

The public is split on what the Bridge-gate scandal says about Christie, who has said he had no advance knowledge of the traffic scheme. Some 46 percent of Americans see it as a sign of broader problems with his leadership, while 43 percent call it an isolated incident, per the ABC/Post poll. 

In polls of New Jersey voters, Christie fares better than he does nationally, but his numbers have still taken a hit. Among New Jerseyans, his job approval is now 48 percent, down from 62 percent in October, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, if Christie was once seen as the early frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, that is no longer the case. Among Republicans and people who lean Republican, there’s a two way tie for the top, in the ABC News/Post poll: Wisconsin Rep. (and 2012 vice presidential nominee) Paul Ryan and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both at 18 percent. Christie comes in third at 14 percent. Below them, also in double digits, are Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of  Florida.

In the average of recent major polls, Christie still comes out slightly on top in the GOP field, with 14 percent, followed by Congressman Ryan (13 percent), Mr. Bush (12.6 percent), and Senator Paul (11 percent).

But in a head-to-head matchup against former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, if she runs – Christie trails by double digits, 53 percent to 41 percent.

Christie is also sliding in the estimation of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary of the 2016 cycle in two years. Paul is on top with 16 percent, and Christie is down to 9 percent, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll was taken Jan. 20-23, and surveyed a national sample of 1,003 adults.

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