The new Emerson College poll in New Jersey finds the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy leading the Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, by 16 points – 47% to 31%. This margin represents an improvement for Murphy, who led Guadagno by a smaller 11-point margin in the last Emerson College poll of the state on October 2. The poll consisted of a mixed mode online and IVR sample and has a margin of error of +/- 4.2%.
Murphy’s favorability rating – 36% favorable/30% unfavorable – is stronger than Guadagno’s – 27%/42% – though both are maintaining high “neutral/no opinion” numbers – 32% and 26%, respectively – indicating that, with less than two weeks until the election, many voters still need more information about the gubernatorial candidates.
One potential benefit for Murphy is the consistently sinking popularity of current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (19% favorable/ 73% unfavorable) and an unpopular President. The poll finds Trump with an approval rating of 36% in New Jersey, down 3 points from 39% in our last poll earlier this month.
Perhaps dragging down Murphy is Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is currently facing a highly-publicized corruption trial, has also seen his favorability tank over the month, to 28% in our latest poll, down 5 points from 33% on October 2. In contrast, Democratic Senator Cory Booker is immune to New Jersey’s distaste for incumbents, boasting a strong approval rating of 52%.
This dynamic is reflected in Booker’s trust numbers as well: when asked which statewide elected official they trust the most, Booker comes in first with New Jersey voters at 46%, leading Christie at 14% and Menendez at 7%, though one in four voters – 25% – say that they trust no statewide elected official.
Menendez is losing public support in his corruption trial – a 38% plurality of New Jerseyans say they expect Menendez to be convicted, versus 31% who expect acquittal (32% say they have not heard enough to form an opinion). The Menendez trial does not appear to be having an effect on the gubernatorial election, as only 15% of likely voters say that the trial is impacting their decision in the gubernatorial election, while 71% register no impact. Of those who say the trial is impacting their vote, 40% side with Guadagno, while 39% side with Murphy.
The issue of “sanctuary cities” – one of Guadagno’s primary issues- – has divided NJ voters. Thirty-nine percent of voters support sanctuary cities, versus 43% who are opposed – a gap well within the poll’s margin of error. Guadagno generated controversy earlier this month after airing a racially tinged TV ad attacking Murphy for his support for sanctuary cities. The ad – which 55% of likely voters say they have seen or heard about – appears to have backfired, as 45% of those who have seen or heard about it say it made them less likely to vote for Guadagno, versus only 30% who say it made them more likely to support the Lieutenant Governor.
On a non-political and positive note, the convenience store Wawa – a staple of Garden State culture known for its freshly-made, built-to-order hoagies – is extremely popular with New Jerseyans, with a huge approval rating of 74% and a disapproval rating of only 5%. Voters in New Jersey apparently prefer a well-crafted sandwich over their politicians.
The New Jersey Emerson College poll was conducted October 26th – 28th, 2017 under the Supervision of Professor Spencer Kimball. The sample consisted of only very likely registered voters, n=540, with a margin of error (MOE) of +/- 4.2 percentage points. The New Jersey data was weighted by gender, age, party affiliation, 2016 vote, and mode of data collection. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party affiliation, and education carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using both an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines only and an online panel provided by Opinion Access.