Bridgegate Shores Up Christie with Base; Clinton Dominates Dems

The Bridgegate episode has knocked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s national standing, but it has helped him with Republican voters, according to a new poll by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

Christie’s national favorability has suffered a -25 percent net drop since Saint Leo’s December poll, which was taken before the emergence of probes investigating whether New Jersey officials intentionally caused certain traffic jams over time. In December, Christie’s national favorable / unfavorable rating was 50 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable (+18). Now it is 39/46 (-7).

However, Christie’s favorability rating among Republicans has soared, with a net +29 swing. In December, Christie’s rating was 39/46 (-7). Now it is 52/30 (+22).

“Chris Christie’s numbers have declined since our December poll, largely due to revelations about the ‘bridgegate’ scandal coming to light. Still, more voters expressed an opinion about him than any of the other candidates we asked about. This kind of name recognition is important, and although he is viewed less favorably than he was in December, there’s a long way to go until 2016,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush lead the Saint Leo survey among potential candidates Republicans say they would consider supporting for the nomination. Forty percent say they would consider voting for Paul Ryan in the nominating process. Jeb Bush (38 percent), Rand Paul (32 percent), Mike Huckabee (28 percent), Chris Christie (27 percent), Ted Cruz (27 percent), Marco Rubio (26 percent) Rick Perry (25 percent), Bobby Jindal (23 percent), Scott Walker (22 percent) also have substantial followings.

Bush and Ryan also have the highest net favorable rating among Republicans. Bush’s favorable/unfavorable rating among Republicans is 70/13 (+57) and Ryan’s is 67/11 (+56). Cruz’s is 63/13 (+50), Paul’s is 58/17 (+41), and Christie’s is 52/30 (+22).

Among all voters, Ryan’s favorability rating is 40/38 (+2), Bush’s is 42/41 (+1), Paul’s is 35/39 (-4), Cruz’s is 35/40 (-5), and Christie’s is 39/46 (-7).

“The story of this poll is the rise of Jeb Bush as not only viable, but a front runner for the Republican nomination,” continued Orlando of Saint Leo’s political science faculty. “After keeping a low profile since the end of his second term as governor in 2007, he’s re-emerged with some of the best favorability numbers of all the Republicans mentioned as 2016 candidates. He moved from fourth to first in our question asking Republicans which they would feel comfortable supporting in just the last few months,” Orlando explained.

Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton continues to dominate the field of potential candidates. Seventy-two percent of Democrats say they would consider voting for Hillary Clinton in the nominating process, compared to 34 percent who say the same about Joe Biden. Elizabeth Warren (20 percent), Andrew Cuomo (18 percent), Kristen Gillibrand (13 percent), and Corey Booker (12 percent) follow in double digits.

Clinton’s favorability rating among Democrats is 82/10 (+72). Biden’s is 66/24 (+42), Martin O’Malley’s is 21/19 (+2), and Brian Schweitzer’s is 20/15 (+5).

Among all voters, Clinton’s favorability rating is 54 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable, for a net of +14. Biden’s is 45/49 (-4), O’Malley’s is 19/21 (-2), and Schweitzer’s 18/18 (-).

“While Hillary Clinton’s numbers are less dominant than they were in our last poll, she is still an imposing figure in the race, and remains an overwhelming favorite,” Orlando said.

President Obama’s job approval/disapproval rating among likely voters is 47/49 percent (-5). Twice as many people strongly disapprove of his performance as strongly approve of it (35/16 percent). His job approval rating among Democrats is 73/23 (+50), among independents it is 45/51 (-6), and among Republicans it is 13/84 (-71).

Congress’s approval/disapproval rating is 16/79 percent (-63), with 54 percent strongly disapproving. Disapproval is pronounced among all demographic sub-groups.

Turning to policy questions, a plurality of voters (44 percent) say knowing that a member of Congress voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would make the voter more likely to vote against re-electing that Congressperson. By contrast, 35 percent of voters say they would be more likely to vote to re-elect members of Congress who supported the ACA.

“The intensity of opposition to the ACA continues to be much stronger on the right than is its support on the left. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans and 58 percent of conservatives say a candidate’s having voted for ACA would make them much less likely to vote to re-elect a member of Congress, while 44 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of liberals say such a vote would make them more likely to re-elect a congressman,” said Saint Leo’s Orlando.

On marijuana legalization, twice as many people think marijuana should be legal as think it should be illegal, but a plurality come down somewhere in the middle. Thirty-five percent say marijuana should be legal for any purpose, 42 percent say it should be legal for only approved medical purposes, and 17 percent say marijuana should not be legal for any purpose. Support for legalization is strongest among liberals (54 percent), people younger than 40 (48 percent), and independents (42 percent).

On immigration, a majority of voters support a path to legal status for illegal or undocumented immigrants, but a strong minority opposes allowing this population to remain in the United States under any conditions. Fifty-six percent support a path to legal status under certain conditions; 30 percent think this population should not be allowed to remain in the United States; and 10 percent support allowing this population to stay and to apply for citizenship.

A majority of Republicans (54 percent) think this population should not be allowed to remain in the United States, but a strong minority (39 percent) supports a path to legal status. One third of voters think such students should be allowed to attend state colleges at in-state rates and another third think they should be charged out-of-state rates. A fifth of voters (22 percent) oppose allowing such students to attend public colleges at all.

When respondents were asked which conditions would need to be met for legal status to be granted, the top three answers supplied were: passing a criminal background check (81 percent), knowing how to speak English (70 percent), and passing a drug test (61 percent).

On the minimum wage, voters support raising the minimum wage by a 3:1 margin. Seventy-two percent support raising the minimum wage (42 percent strongly support, 30 percent somewhat support). Twenty-four percent oppose (13 percent somewhat oppose, 11 percent strongly oppose). Liberals (92 percent), blacks (91 percent), Hispanics (90 percent), Democrats (87 percent), women (77 percent), and voters younger than 40 (77 percent) showed the most support. Republicans were more evenly divided, with 46 percent supportive and 50 percent opposed.

“Raising the wage is a clear political winner for Democrats, especially with the party’s base constituencies,” said Orlando.

On federal income taxes, 50 percent say they do their taxes themselves, 35 percent hire a professional, and 7 percent get help from a friend, relative, or co-worker. Thirty-six percent plan to use a refund to pay other bills or debts, 24 percent plan to save it, 10 percent plan to spend it, and 1 percent plan to donate it to charities.

On questions about Bitcoin, 33 percent of people say they are very (8 percent) or somewhat (25 percent) familiar with the new digital currency that has been in the news lately. Sixty-four percent say they are somewhat (17 percent) or not at all (47 percent) familiar with Bitcoin. Sixty-five percent of people say they are “not at all” likely to use Bitcoin. Three percent say they have used it, and 8 percent say they are somewhat likely to do so.

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

The data is derived from a national poll of 1,009 people conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute between March 16 and 18, 2014. The margin of error is approximately three percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level.

To view the Florida political and policy results, including methodology, visit the polling institute’s website, You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls. Saint Leo’s main website is

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. Sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantages of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually 50 cents deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation. The institute’s executive director is Dr. Andrew (Drew) Gold, associate professor of management at Saint Leo University.

To view poll results click here.