Five days before voters head to the polls, a new report from Stockton University shows Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy with a nine-point lead over his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.
The poll showed 50% of voters said they would vote for Murphy, compared to just 41% of voters who said they would pick Ciattarelli, a former state Assemblyman from Somerset County.
Murphy, in a Monmouth University poll released Oct. 27, carried an 11-point lead over Ciattarelli. While that poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, this one carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
“This is likely tighter than I think any of us expected,” Ashley Koning, who heads the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said in a recent phone interview. “We know polls are just snapshots. They’re not really intended to predict.”
Stockton interviewed 522 likely New Jersey voters by phone between Oct. 17 and 26— it is the third poll to come out following New Jersey’s second gubernatorial debate earlier this month. The others were the Monmouth poll and an Emerson College/Pix11 poll that showed Murphy with a six-point lead over Ciattarelli.
“When you consider that this poll was taken after the gubernatorial debates were done, it appears that voters’ feelings are fairly baked in at this point,” reads a prepared statement from John Froonjian, who heads Stockton’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, which conducted the poll and released it on Thursday.
The poll found that 60% of voters did not watch or listen to either to the gubernatorial debate, while 95% said they skipped the lieutenant governor’s debate between incumbent Sheila Oliver and former GOP state Sen. Diane Allen.
“The fact that many did not view the gubernatorial candidate debates does not reflect negatively on the value of these debates,” Froonjian said. “Most partisans already know how they are going to vote, but debates have value in allowing undecided or uncertain voters to evaluate the candidates in action.”
An August poll from Monmouth showed Murphy with a 16-point lead, while a poll the next month showed him with a 13-point lead over Ciattarelli, who is vying to be the GOP governor of a state with nearly 1 million more registered Democrat voters than there are Republicans.
Following a previous Stockton poll, Froonjian cautioned that polls from different institutes are not apples to apples, “because the question, wording and methodology will differ slightly.”
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