Americans' unfavorable views of Chris Christie jump

The George Washington Bridge scandal surrounding Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., is shaping Americans' opinions of him - and not in a good way, according to a new poll released Monday.

  Thirty-four percent have an unfavorable view of Christie, double the 17 percent who viewed him unfavorably last January.  Most of the increase has come from Americans who didn't have an opinion; his favorable rating is virtually unchanged at 38 percent (it was 40 percent last January).

Most Americans who have heard about the controversy don't believe the governor's claim that he didn't know that his aides were involved in the closing of lanes last September, which restricted access to the busy George Washington Bridge and resulted in major traffic jams in the city of Fort Lee, N.J.

Among those Americans who have heard about controversy, 58 percent say they don't believe Christie, while 32 percent say they believe him.  Majorities of Democrats (67 percent) and independents (60 percent) don't believe him and almost half (48 percent) say they don't buy his explanation.

The survey polled 1,504 adults from Jan. 15-19 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

The poll comes as Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat and mayor of Hoboken, N.J., accused several top state officials – including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno - of pushing her to fast-track the approval process for a major development project. Zimmer said administration officials told her the project was “very important” to Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and that Sandy relief aid “would start flowing to you” if she approved it. Christie’s administration quickly denounced Zimmer’s account, accusing the mayor of playing “partisan politics.”

On Sunday, Zimmer stepped up her charges saying on CNN’s "State of the Union" that Guadagno told her that the request "was a direct message from the governor."

"The lieutenant governor pulled me aside and said, essentially, `You've got to move forward with the Rockefeller project. This project is really important to the governor,’” she said. “And she said that she had been with him on Friday night and that this was a direct message from the governor.”

  Monday afternoon, a Christie administration official told reporters that the governor’s office worked with federal, state and local officials to dole out Sandy funding in a comprehensive and objective way.

“We controlled monies in that we were responsible for charting out recovery programs, [but] we did it in a methodical way with stakeholder input,” Marc Ferzan, executive director of the governor’s office of recovery and rebuilding, said on a conference call. “And then based on objective metrics, applicants have been eligible to apply for those programs.”

Earlier Monday, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno flatly denied she attempted to use relief for Superstorm Sandy as leverage to compel the mayor of Hoboken, N.J., to approve a development project.

"I deny any suggestion made by Mayor Zimmer that there was ever any condition on the release of Sandy funds by me," Guadagno said at a news conference.