New Jersey voters are divided on scandal-plagued Sen. Robert Menendez, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll that represents a slight recovery for the embattled Democrat, who is reportedly under investigation for improperly aiding a campaign donor.
Forty percent of voters approve of the way Menendez is handling his job as senator, the poll shows, up from 36 percent last month. The percentage of voters who disapprove of Menendez slipped, from 41 percent last month, to 37 percent in the latest poll.
Last month's poll showed a significant, 15-point slide for Menendez, so the new survey does not represent a full rehabilitation for the Democrat. But "it looks like [Menendez] has stopped the bleeding and even recovered a little," said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Asked whether they would say that Menendez is "honest and trustworthy," 35 percent of voters say he is, and 36 percent say he is not. But that is an improvement from last month, when only 28 percent rated him as "honest and trustworthy."
Voters are also more likely to say they are satisfied with the way Menendez is handling the scandal, which surrounds his relationship with campaign donor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Menendez is accused of accepting gifts from Melgen and improperly intervening on his behalf; Melgen's practice is under investigation, as well.
The conservative website "The Daily Caller" has also published more salacious allegations that Menendez patronized underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic on trips funded by Melgen. But Dominican authorities claim a local attorney has told them that someone with the conservative outlet approached him to find prostitutes to lie and say they had slept with Menendez. A U.S. government investigation into the matter yielded little, and mainstream news organizations have been unable to verify the accusations against the senator.
Perhaps as a result of his apparent exoneration on the prostitution allegations, 40 percent now say they are satisfied with the way Menendez is handling this matter, while 35 percent are not satisfied. Among those who have heard of the controversy, 46 percent are satisfied with Menendez's handling of it, and 40 percent are not satisfied. That is a reversal from last month, when just 28 percent of voters who had heard about it were satisfied with Menendez's handling of the situation.
The latest Quinnipiac poll was conducted March 19-24, surveying 1,129 registered voters. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points.