The Washington Times - January 15, 2014, 08:09AM

More than 9 out of 10 New Jersey voters have read or heard something about the George Washington Bridge scandal that’s implicated members of Gov. Chris Christie’s staff, a new poll finds.

But they still like their governor.

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The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute says voters see Mr. Christie as more “leader” than “bully” by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin, one of his lowest “bully” scores since the institute first asked the question in mid-2010.

Mr. Christie, a Republican, comes out on top despite rampant coverage of a state-level scandal that’s gotten national attention and raised questions about the governor’s presidential credentials as he eyes a potential 2016 bid. 

Newly released emails and texts showed that Mr. Christie’s deputy chief of staff appeared to have ordered lane closures to the bridge in September, causing gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., as apparent political payback after the town’s Democratic mayor failed to endorse Mr. Christie for reelection.

Mr. Christie cut ties with the people involved and apologized for the incident, but said he was not aware of the scheme.

People in New Jersey are giving him the benefit of the doubt, the Quinnipiac poll finds. Voters say 51 - 41 percent that he is honest and trustworthy and 74 - 23 percent say he is a strong leader.

“New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie is doing better with the public than with the news media. His job approval has dropped from the stratosphere, but it’s still double-digit positive, pretty much where he was before his Superstorm Sandy hug with President Barack Obama,” institute director Maurice Carroll said.

Only Democrats think of Mr. Christie as more of a bully than a leader — “and not in a good way,” she said.