Bridgegate’s a Big Deal, Say NJ Voters [AUDIO]
Do you think the Bridgegate scandal is serious, or do you think it's an overblown story fueled by media hype and partisan political hacks? A new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll revealed the overwhelming majority of registered voters in the Garden State think the controversy is a very big deal.
"Two-thirds say Bridgegate is beyond the pale," said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. "Only 23 percent say lane closures for partisan reasons is nothing new in politics."
In September, access lanes in Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge were closed without warning. Democrats feel it was political retaliation against the city's Democratic mayor, for refusing to endorse the re-election campaign of Gov. Chris Christie. Christie denies that, but two of his appointees to the Port Authority have resigned and he has fired two members of his inner circle.
"Even the casual observer of New Jersey politics would note the rough and tumble nature of the process," Jenkins said. "The fact that the lanes were closed for reasons other than safety, in an environment such as this, heightens the behavior's seriousness in the eyes of voters."
The scandal continues to dog the GOP governor, so it should probably come as no surprise that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to downplay Bridgegate.
"Republicans are considerably more likely to count the lane closures for political reasons as a fact of life in New Jersey," Jenkins said. "Democrats are far less likely to shrug it off."
Democrats (73 percent) and independents (68 percent) view Bridgegate as a more serious issue than do Republicans (59 percent).
Most voters also believe Port Authority decision-makers routinely put politics ahead of what's in the best interests of motorists. Two-thirds (67 percent) think a great deal or some decision-making by Port Authority officials is influenced by politics rather than motorists' safety, compared with a quarter (24 percent) who say politics rarely enters into Port Authority policy.
Despite Bridgegate, the majority of voters still think the state is on the right track. Half (51 percent) say the state is headed in the right direction, with 39 percent who believe it's on the wrong track. That's down slightly from the last time the same question was asked, in November 2013. At that time, 56 percent said the state was headed in the right direction.
The poll of 734 registered voters in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from Jan. 20 through Jan. 26, and has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points.