The Washington Times - January 14, 2014, 12:53PM

A new poll says New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s reputation has taken a “slight hit” from revelations that staff members ordered the closure of George Washington Bridge toll lanes, causing mass gridlock, but “many appear willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

The Monmouth University Polling Institute said 59 percent of state residents approve of his job performance, while 32 percent disapprove.


It is a drop from his 65 percent approval rating one month ago, and marks the first time Mr. Christie’s approval rating has dipped below 60 percent since Superstorm Sandy walloped the state in October 2012.

“It looks like the bridge incident has dimmed Christie’s more than year-long Sandy afterglow just a bit. Still, his job performance numbers remain strong and suggest that the governor can bank on some continued goodwill as this story develops,” institute director Patrick Murray said.

The governor is set to address the “Bridgegate” scandal while pushing forward with his education agenda during his State of the State address in Trenton on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Christie fired top aides and apologized for the September incident, after documents released last week show that staff members appear to have closed two access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., to the bridge as political payback when the town’s Democratic mayor failed to endorse Mr. Christie for re-election.

While many voters, especially Republicans, are sticking by Mr. Christie as their political leader, personal views of him have taken a dive.

Only 44 percent of New Jerseyans hold a favorable impression of him on a personal level, 28 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 28 percent are unsure how they feel, the poll found.

That’s down from one year ago, when 70 percent of residents held him in high personal regard compared to 19 percent who held a negative view.

“There is now a gap between the public’s view of Christie’s job performance and his personal behavior,” Mr. Murray said. “There has been a shift from largely positive opinion of the man to a situation where some New Jerseyans are not quite sure what to think of him.”