Sen. Robert Menendez's Popularity Plummets Amid Donor Scandal, Poll Says

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat

Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat

The people of New Jersey have spoken. And they are not happy with Sen. Robert Menendez.

Embroiled in two related scandals over a wealthy donor and underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, Menendez’s approval rating plummeted 15 points in the last month since the scandal broke, according to a poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University.

In a poll taken in January, the New Jersey senator sported a 51 percent approval rating, with only 33 percent of those questioned disapproving of the senator’s job. In about a month, the senator’s ratings flip-flopped, with only 31 percent of the public supporting him and 41 percent giving their disapproval.

“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez took an overseas trip and the poll numbers he left behind in New Jersey are dreadful – down 15 points in less than a month,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “So much for a reelection honeymoon.”

“More than two thirds of voters have heard of his troubles and the more they know, the less they approve,” she added.

Menendez easily won re-election in November and last month was tapped as chair of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez’s scandal involving prostitutes in the Dominican Republic – allegation which has been unproven and he has denied – has been overshadowed by scrutiny over his efforts on behalf of a prominent political donor.

Menendez has been dogged the past few weeks by allegations that he intervened to help secure a lucrative port security contract in favor of his friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, whose offices were raided by the FBI.

Dr. Melgen co-founded Voxxi, an English-language site that targets Latinos.

Menendez's office has said that advocating for U.S. business abroad is a normal thing, especially on the Foreign Relations Committee that Menendez chairs.

“Whenever a politician gets a new job, such as Sen. Menendez’ position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the knives come out. But, by almost 3-1, voters think the Menendez charges are worth investigating. About one quarter think it’s just politics,” Carroll said.

New Jersey’s other political firebrand, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, leads early in New Jersey's 2014 U.S. Senate race, 59 percent to 23 percent.

Geraldo Rivera, a Fox News Latino contributor who said he may run for senator, is not fairing well in the race, according to the poll, which showed him with a negative 20 percent favorability rating.

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