There are allegations that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez may have used his political power and influence in exchange for free private jet flights from a campaign donor. The controversy is taking its toll as a new poll out today shows the Senator's approval ratings in a virtual free-fall.

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New Jersey voters disapprove 41 to 36 percent of the job Menendez is doing, a 15-point drop in less than a month, and say 44 to 28 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy, according to the very latest Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Most Jerseyans are aware of the scandal involving Menendez.

Seventy percent of voters have read or heard something about the controversy involving the Senator and a political donor.

Of that group:

  • 59 percent say it makes them feel less favorably about the senator while 35 percent say it doesn't affect their opinion
  • 53 percent are not satisfied with how he is handling the issue, while 28 percent are satisfied
  • 67 percent say the allegations are worth investigating, while 23 percent say they are politically motivated

"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," says Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "So much for a re-election honeymoon. More than two thirds of voters have heard of his troubles and the more they know, the less they approve."

Carroll says whenever a politician gets a new job, such as Menendez' position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the knives come out.

2014 U.S. Senate Race

In a sneak peek at New Jersey's 2014 U.S. Senate race, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democrat, leads TV personality Geraldo Rivera, the Republican, 59 - 23 percent. New Jersey voters give Booker a 59 - 11 percent favorability rating. Rivera gets a negative 20 - 39 percent favorability.

"If TV personality Geraldo Rivera is just testing the water for a U.S. Senate run in New Jersey, he might find that the water is colder than the Atlantic Ocean in February," says Carroll. "Meanwhile, Garden State voters give U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg a nice going-away gift, a 48 - 32 percent job approval rating."

President Barack Obama gets a 57 - 40 percent job approval.

From February 13 - 17, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,149 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.