With less than a week until Election Day, a new poll in New Jersey’s closely monitored gubernatorial showdown tightens the race to where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy still holds on to a slightly shrinking double-digit lead over Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli.
Murphy, the U.S. ambassador to Germany under President Obama’s administration and former longtime chief executive of finance firm Goldman Sachs, stands at 50% support among registered voters in New Jersey, who were asked in a poll from Monmouth University published Wednesday. Ciattarelli, a state-authorized public accountant who started a medical publishing house and a former state legislator who submits his second bid for governor, stands at 39%.
Murphy’s 11-point margin over Ciattarell in the new study, which was conducted 21-25. October, is down from a 13-point lead in a Monmouth poll from last month and a drop from a 16-point lead in an August survey.
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“We’ve had a few debates and a lot of publicity since the last Monmouth poll. Ciattarelli has cut Murphy’s lead but has not delivered the knockout he needs,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray.
While New Jersey is a blue state where Democrats enjoy a registration advantage of about 1 million more voters than Republicans, Murphy is trying to become the first Democratic governor in more than four decades to win re-election. And he aims to break a trend dating back to 1989, in which the party that wins the White House continues to lose Garden State’s election as governor in the ensuing year. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states to hold a gubernatorial contest the year after a presidential election, which guarantees they get a lot of national attention.
The Monmouth poll suggests that the progress Ciattarelli has made with voters aged 65 and over – Murphy’s 16-point lead in September is down to 5 points now – contributed to the small overall tightening of the race.
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The survey also indicates that Ciattarelli has the advantage among those who say they intend to vote on election day, while the governor enjoys a support margin of more than two-to-one among those who have already cast their vote or intend to to vote early.
The independent voters polled are evenly divided between Murphy and Ciattarelli, with 93% of self-identified Democrats backing the governor and 87% of self-proclaimed Republicans supporting the GOP nominee.
The survey suggests that taxes at 27% are the most important issue in Garden State voters, followed by jobs and economics at 20%, schools and education at 16% and the coronavirus pandemic at 15%. Ciattarelli has a 10-point advantage on tax, but Murphy benefits from a 15-point advantage on education and a 19-point lead on the pandemic, with both jobs and finances.
“Ciattarelli’s attack on Murphy as being out of touch with taxes has resonated with some voters, but not enough to change the overall problem picture for this campaign,” Murray noted. “Although worries about the pandemic have diminished, the shift towards education policy provides basically the same benefit for Murphy. He is considered the better candidate in both matters.”
The announcement of the vote comes two days after the governor joined President Biden at two political events in New Jersey.
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The investigation shows that the president’s approval is now underwater in the heavy blue Garden State. The bid stands at 43% approval and 49% disapproval in the new poll, down from 51% -41% in August. Murphy’s approval rating as governor remains largely unchanged at 52% approval and 39% disapproval.
One thousand registered voters in New Jersey were asked in the Monmouth poll, which has an overall sample error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.