(The Center Square) — A majority of New Jersey voters want embattled Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to resign from office in the wake of federal bribery charges, according to a new independent poll.
The survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that at least 70% of the state’s residents want Menendez to resign rather than serve the remainder of his term that expires next year.
Dan Cassino, an FDU politics and government professor, and director of the poll, said the results show Menendez has lost the support of voters across the political spectrum, with independent voters more likely to back Republican candidates in the upcoming election, with control of the state Legislature in the balance.
“Menendez has been able to weather charges in the past,” he said in a statement. “But this time, it just doesn’t seem like he has any real support left.”
Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to say that New Jersey’s senior senator should step down, pollsters found, but not by much. At least 80% of Republicans said he should resign, compared with 67% of independents and 71% of Democrats.
“Thinking about Menendez makes less partisan voters more likely to say that they’re going to vote Republican,” Cassino said. “The question is whether those voters are going to bother to show up in what’s normally a very low turnout election.”
A Menendez spokesperson released a statement dismissing the independent poll as “flawed” and reiterating the lawmaker’s claims that he has committed no crimes.
“The FDU poll is fundamentally flawed — reflecting the reality that the public has only seen a limited set of facts presented by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible,” the statement said. “Once the truth is known and the real facts are presented, the polling will change once the senator is found innocent.”
In September, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York unsealed a 39-page indictment accusing Menendez and his wife, Nadine, of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for using his political influence to benefit the Egyptian government and business associates in New Jersey.
Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors filed a new indictment alleging that Menendez has acted as a “foreign agent” for Egypt by shepherding billions in military aid that previously had been denied to the country over its record of human rights abuses.
Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied any wrongdoing. He has refused to step down despite calls from fellow Democrats, including New Jersey Gov Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker.
He is up for reelection in 2024 when Democrats seek to retain control of the Senate. In 2018, he was elected to a third term with 54% of the vote, according to New Jersey election results.
The FDU poll also found that a majority of New Jersey voters believe their politicians are corrupt. Only 9% say that they are “not at all” corrupt, pollsters said. That remains unchanged from an FDU poll conducted in May.
“It seems like a degree of corruption is already baked into how New Jersey voters see their elected officials,” Cassino said. “Jersey voters think politicians are so corrupt that criminal charges against a sitting senator just don’t move the needle.”