West Long Branch, NJ – Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur faces a tough challenge from former national security adviser Andy Kim in the race for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, according to the Monmouth University Poll. There isn’t a lot of room separating the two candidates on specific issues mainly because of low voter engagement at this stage of the race. Even though the incumbent has been linked to Pres. Donald Trump on some key initiatives, a national environment that favors Democrats appears to be the more important driver of the contest’s standing at this point.
MacArthur is supported by 41% and Kim is supported by 40% of all potential voters – that is voters who have participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote (a group that represents about 83% of all registered voters in the district). Another 15% are undecided. When applying two different likely voter models, the contest shifts in the Democrat’s favor although it remains basically tied. A historical midterm model gives Kim 45% support and MacArthur 44%, while a model that includes a turnout surge in Democratic precincts gives Kim a slight 46% to 43% lead. These gaps are within the margin of error for these samples.
NJ-03 encompasses two very distinct geographic areas. The eastern Ocean County section, which is located mainly in the New York media market, is a strong Republican area where Trump has significant support. MacArthur leads in this segment of the district by 47% to 32%. The western Burlington County section, which is located in the Philadelphia media market, includes a number of Democratic areas where Trump is unpopular. Kim leads in this segment of the district by 47% to 37%.
“The different media markets mean that voters in the 3rd may not see the same campaign playing out. The high number of competitive districts in the Philadelphia media market should lead to independent organization spending designed to gin up the partisan bases. This could spark higher turnout in the western portion of the district, which would boost Kim’s chances,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. He added, “On the other hand, MacArthur would benefit if there is a surge among Trump supporters in the eastern part of the district if they see this race as a referendum on the president.”
Overall, 46% of NJ-03 voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president while 49% disapprove. In the western Burlington County portion of the district, just 38% approve while 57% disapprove (including 48% who strongly disapprove). In the eastern Ocean County portion of the district, a majority of 56% approve (including 41% who strongly approve) while 39% disapprove. The poll finds that 57% of the potential NJ-03 electorate say it is very important for them to cast a vote for Congress that shows how they feel about the president – including 66% of Trump opponents and 60% of Trump supporters.
Currently, there is not a lot of partisan difference in voter enthusiasm. Barely half of NJ-03 voters (49%) express a lot of interest so far in the November election for Congress, including 56% of self-identified Democrats, 51% of Republicans, and 42% of independents. This is the lowest interest level found in seven midterm House races Monmouth has polled in the past two months. The number expressing a lot of interest in those other six contests has ranged from 53% to 62%.
“New Jersey’s electorate is notorious for waiting until the last minute to tune in, in part because of the lack of a home state media market. That means these poll results reflect the fundamental contours of this race before voters actually engage with the candidates. Considering this is a Republican-leaning district, the results suggest that MacArthur faces a significant challenge to keep his seat,” said Murray.
MacArthur gets a personal rating of 30% favorable and 19% unfavorable from district voters, but 52% have no opinion of their current representative. Kim is even less well-known, with a rating of 20% favorable and 11% unfavorable, while the vast majority (68%) give no opinion of him.
MacArthur has been considered one of the more bipartisan House members. He ranks 31st on The Lugar Center-McCourt School Bipartisan Index, although that’s not unusual for a New Jersey Republican – 3 of the other 4 GOP members of the state’s congressional delegation are rated as even more bipartisan. At the same time, MacArthur has been seen as a Trump supporter, with the president hosting a fundraiser at his Bedminster golf club for the congressman.
Currently, the poll finds that 25% of voters say MacArthur has been too supportive of the president, while 31% say he has offered the right amount of support and 7% say he has not been supportive enough. Another 37%, though, have no opinion. As a point of comparison, a similar 20% of voters expect that Kim will be too supportive of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if he is elected to Congress, while 34% say he will offer the right amount of support and 6% say he will offer too little support. A plurality of 40%, though, have no opinion.
There isn’t a lot of room separating the two candidates on some key issues that could play out in this race. When asked who they trust more to keep health care affordable, 27% choose Kim, 25% pick MacArthur, and 20% say they trust both equally. Another 9% volunteer that they do not trust either candidate on this issue and 19% offer no opinion. The incumbent sponsored the MacArthur Amendment in a bid to help get the votes needed to repeal Obamacare in 2017, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
On the issue of illegal immigration, 28% say they trust MacArthur more, 26% trust Kim more, and 17% say they trust both equally. Another 8% volunteer that they do not trust either candidate on this issue and 21% offer no opinion.
“There isn’t a lot of daylight separating these two candidates on the issues mainly because voters have not been paying attention. It will be interesting to see which way the dial moves once they do,” said Murray.
The poll finds that NJ-03 voters are evenly split on the tax reform plan passed by Congress in December – 40% approve and 40% disapprove. However, three times as many voters expect that their own federal taxes will go up (45%) as say they will go down (13%) because of the new reforms, while another 32% expect to see no change in what they pay. MacArthur was the only member of the New Jersey delegation to vote in favor of the tax reform bill.
NJ-03 voters are divided on whether they would rather see Democrats (38%) or Republicans (36%) in control of Congress. Another 24% say that party control does not matter to them. The two geographic sections of the district present stark contrasts in party control, though – Burlington voters prefer seeing the Democrats in charge by a 17 point margin (46% to 29%) while Ocean voters prefer having the GOP in control by a nearly identical 19 point margin (46% to 27%).
“Both candidates will need a combination of tactics to motivate their base and persuade undecided voters. The relative weight they give to these strategies is going to play out differently in the eastern and western parts of the district for each campaign,” said Murray.
New Jersey’s 3rd is considered a “pivot” district, having voted for Barack Obama for president in 2012 (by 5 points) and for Trump in 2016 (by 6 points). MacArthur won an open seat here by 10 points in 2014 and then won re-election by 20 points in 2016.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 7 to August 9, 2018 with 401 voters in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 5.7 percentage points for the likely voter models. The error of the gap between the two candidates’ vote share (i.e. the margin of the “lead”) is +/- 6.8 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 8.0 percentage points for the likely voter models. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
QUESTIONS AND RESULTS
(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)
1/2. If the election for U.S. House of Representatives in your district was today, would you vote for Tom MacArthur the Republican or Andy Kim the Democrat, or some other candidate? [IF UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following at this moment, do you lean more toward Tom MacArthur or more toward Andy Kim?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
Likely Voter Models
[QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED]
3. Is your general impression of Tom MacArthur favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
4. Is your general impression of Andy Kim favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
5. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election for House of Representatives – a lot of interest, a little interest, or not much interest at all?
|Not much at all||17%|
|(VOL) Don’t Know||1%|
6. Have you been following the campaign in your congressional district very closely, somewhat closely, or not too closely?
|Not too closely||55%|
|(VOL) Don’t Know||0%|
7. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]
|(VOL) Don’t know||4%|
8. On most issues would you say you support or oppose what President Trump is doing?
|(VOL) Don’t know||4%|
9. How important is it for you to cast a vote for Congress that shows your [support of/opposition to] President Trump – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?
|Not too important||6%|
|Not at all important||6%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||10%|
10. Would you rather see the Republicans or the Democrats in control of Congress, or doesn’t this matter to you?
|Does not matter||24%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||2%|
[QUESTIONS 11 & 12 WERE ROTATED]
11. Who do you trust more to work to keep health care affordable – Tom MacArthur or Andy Kim, or do you trust both equally?
|(VOL) Neither one||9%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||19%|
12. Who do you trust more to work to handle the issue of illegal immigration – Tom MacArthur or Andy Kim, or do you trust both equally?
|(VOL) Neither one||8%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||21%|
[QUESTIONS 13 & 14 WERE ROTATED]
13. Has Tom MacArthur been too supportive of Donald Trump, not supportive enough, or has he given the right amount of support to Trump?
|Not supportive enough||7%|
|Right amount of support||31%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||37%|
14. If Andy Kim is elected do you think he will be too supportive of Nancy Pelosi, not supportive enough, or will he offer the right amount of support to Pelosi?
|Not supportive enough||6%|
|Right amount of support||34%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||40%|
15. Do you approve or disapprove of the tax reform plan passed by Congress in December? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]
|(VOL) Don’t know||20%|
16. Under this new tax plan, do you think the federal taxes you pay will go up, go down, or stay about the same?
|Stay about the same||32%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||10%|
17. How important is it for you personally to get involved in politics – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?
|Not too important||14%|
|Not at all important||13%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||1%|
The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 7 to August 9, 2018 with a random sample of 401 potential voters in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least one of the last four general or primary elections or have registered to vote since January 2016. This includes 236 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 165 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, party registration, age, gender, education and race based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and L2 (voter sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
Self-Reported Party ID
|82% White, non-Hispanic|
|63% No college degree|
|37% 4-year college degree|
|57% Burlington County|
|43% Ocean County|
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.