With six days before state elections, a new poll from Monmouth University shows incumbent Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy holding an 11-point lead over his Republican challenger Jack Ciattareli.
According to the Oct. 27 report, 50% of New Jersey voters said they would vote for Murphy, versus 39% who said they would vote for Ciattarelli, a former state Assemblyman from Somerset County.
For comparison, an August poll 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.
While 37% of voters said they had a favorable view of Ciattarelli, 39% said they have no opinion—still down from 50% in September and 61% in August.
Wednesday’s poll relied on 1,000 New Jersey voters interviewed by phone between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
“We’ve had a couple of debates and a slew of advertising since the last Monmouth poll. Ciattarelli has chipped away at Murphy’s lead but hasn’t delivered the knockout he needs,” said Patrick Murray, who heads the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Murphy has continued to outraise and outspend Ciattarelli on the campaign trail, according to campaign finance reports. So far this year, the Murphy campaign raised $16 million and spent $12.5 million, with a remaining $3.5 million in reserves. Ciattarelli has raised $13.1 million and spent $12.4 million, with $685,259 on hand.
“Even if we figure in potential error margins for these partisan group results, Ciattarelli cannot win this race based on registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters alone,” Murray continued. “That outcome would require a pretty sizable collapse of Democratic turnout.”
In terms of voter opinion, more New Jersey voters felt Murphy would do a better job than Ciattarelli on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, education and schools, abortion, and transportation infrastructure.
Murphy had a very narrow edge on the state economy, with 34% of voters thinking he’d do a better job, and 33% opting for Ciattarelli.
Meanwhile, Ciattarelli had a very narrow edge on crime, with 34% of voters thinking he would do a better job and 32% opting for Murphy. Twenty-eight percent said they would both do an equal-quality job.
Ciattarelli did better on taxes, however, with 39% of voters trusting him to better-handle the issue and 29% of voters trusting Murphy. The Republican challenger has heavily campaigned on taxes, vowing to cut a litany of taxes on businesses, homeowners and income.
Most business groups have told NJBIZ that despite Ciattarelli’s assurances and Murphy’s economic record so far, both have been scant on details regarding how they’ll specifically address the state economy and business climate.
A Biden buoy?
In recent weeks Murphy has gotten visits and endorsements from several high-profile Democrats, including President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.
U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders, widely considered one of the more left-leaning members of Congress, will stump with Murphy this Thursday at Rutgers University.
But Murray said he was skeptical that the Biden visit was about boosting Murphy’s polling numbers, noting Biden’s own lagging popularity.
In the Wednesday poll, 43% of New Jerseyans said they approved of the president and 49% said they disapproved of him, compared to a 51% approval rating in August and a 55% approval rating in May.
And so while the Monday visit did indeed have political implications, it demonstrated more so that “Murphy wants to be a national leader and this is a good way to get in the good graces of an incumbent in the White House,” Murray said.
“This is the kind of thing that Joe Biden will not forget. This is a show of loyalty,” he continued.