Voters Shrug at Christie’s Traffic Scandal

Views on Christie unchanged for majority of Americans, says new poll

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Justin Lane / EPA

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivers his State of the State speech in the Assembly Chambers at the New Jersey State House in Trenton, N.J., January 14, 2014.

A majority of Americans haven’t changed their opinion of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie following the politically perilous traffic scandal that has ensnared the Republican, according to a new poll.

More than one-third of voters haven’t changed their minds about Christie since the news broke last week, according to the NBC News/Marist Poll out Wednesday. But 16 percent of Americans like him less, and among those familiar with the snafu, 24 percent like him less.

The poll provides one of the earliest indicators of how the controversy—in which Christie aides snarled traffic in a north Jersey town, apparently as retribution for the town’s mayor not endorsing him—could impact the Republican’s 2016 presidential hopes.

With investigations still underway in New Jersey in Washington, it remains to be seen if Christie, who has apologized and fired a top aide involved, will see those unfavorable numbers tick up. Almost three-quarters of independent voters say their views haven’t changed.

“The question is can Chris Christie weather this political storm, or is this another in a list of considerable hurdles he will need to overcome if he wants to make a run for the White House,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Christie remains the marginal 2016 GOP frontrunner, according to the poll, albeit two years before any primary votes are cast. Christie leads the pack with 16 percent of Republicans backing him, followed by 12 percent for 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. But no one else breaks into double digits, and one quarter of Republicans are undecided.

Hillary Clinton remains widely popular with Americans, according to the poll, and would easily beat Christie by double digits if a general election were held today.

The survey of 1,200 adults, conducted Jan. 12 to Jan. 14, has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.