West Long Branch, NJ - In the race for New Jersey governor, Democrat Phil Murphy currently holds a 14 point lead over Republican Kim Guadagno among likely voters. The Monmouth University Poll finds that Guadagno is dragged down as much by the Garden State's general views of key Republican leaders as she is by her specific association with one of those officials, namely the state's governor. Moreover, she has gained no traction with her plan to tackle property taxes - only a handful of voters are even aware that she has such a plan, but most would be predisposed to distrust any candidate promises on this issue even if they knew about it.
Currently, 51% of likely voters support Murphy and 37% support Guadagno. Other candidates garner 2% of the vote and 9% are undecided. This is Monmouth's first likely voter poll of the 2017 campaign in New Jersey. A July poll of registered voters showed a significantly larger lead, but the two polls' methodologies are not comparable. The current poll follows the same likely voter methodology that Monmouth used in our 2013 and 2014 New Jersey election polling.
"This is not the twenty-something point lead that some polls have been showing, but it is still formidable. While Guadagno may have an opportunity to break through, the fact that Murphy's support is over 50 percent makes that task very difficult," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
With just five weeks to go before Election Day, nearly half of the likely electorate has not formed an opinion about either major party nominee. Just 33% hold a favorable view of Murphy and 23% have an unfavorable view, while 44% express no opinion. A similar 31% hold a favorable view of Guadagno and 25% have an unfavorable view, while 45% express no opinion.
"Low name recognition of New Jersey gubernatorial candidates this late in the game is not unprecedented because the state lacks its own media market. However, it is unusually low this year. The campaigns simply can't break through with the political noise coming out of Washington," said Murray.
In fact, current opinion of Washington and Trenton loom large in this race. Just 23% say the state is headed in the right direction while 66% say New Jersey is on the wrong track. Governor Chris Christie gets a 22% approve and 75% disapprove rating among likely voters - which is somewhat better than his approval rating among all New Jersey residents (15% July) but certainly nothing to brag about. President Donald Trump also receives a poor 33% approve and 59% disapprove rating from the Garden State electorate.
Guadagno has been the state's Lieutenant Governor for nearly eight years. Half of voters (51%) say this is something they tend to associate with the GOP nominee when they think about her current campaign. It's also worth noting, though, that 21% of likely voters are unaware that Guadagno holds this office at all.
About 3-in-10 voters (29%) say that knowing Guadagno is the state's LG makes them less likely to vote for her. This is nearly double the number (16%) who say this fact makes them more likely to support her. Most voters (54%) say her current job makes no difference in their vote. Furthermore, 25% of voters say Guadagno has been too supportive of Christie in her role as lieutenant governor, while just 8% say she has not been supportive enough and 43% say she has offered her boss the right amount of support. Another 24% have no opinion on this. Among voters who are still undecided or only leaning toward a candidate at this point, 22% say Guadagno is too supportive of Christie, 13% say she is not supportive enough, and 35% say she has given the right amount of support.
"The double whammy of Trump and Christie has not helped the Republican brand in New Jersey. While Gaudagno's current position as Christie's number two is not a death blow to her chances, it certainly isn't helping," said Murray.
Guadagno has tried to counter the drag created by her current position by reminding voters of Murphy's past as a Goldman Sachs executive. Just 28% say this job is something they associate with the Democratic candidate when they think of his campaign, whereas one-third (34%) say they are unaware that he worked for the firm. Knowing this piece of Murphy's resume certainly does not have a positive effect for him - just 4% say it makes them more likely to support Murphy while 25% say it makes them less likely - but the vast majority of voters (70%) say Murphy's former position has no impact on their choice for governor.
The Republican nominee is also trying to gain traction on the state's top concern: property taxes. A Monmouth University Poll in July identified this issue as voters' top priority - as it has in nearly every single one of Monmouth's Garden State issue polls since 2005. While Guadagno has offered a specific plan to reduce property taxes, she has not been able to gain much traction with it. This is largely due to the fact that almost no voter knows she has such a plan. Just 12% say they have heard about a specific property tax plan proposed by Guadagno. This is probably an overstatement though, since 6% also say they have heard about a property tax plan from the Murphy camp, even though the Democrat has offered no such plan.
On top of this, it is unclear that Guadagno would gain points even if she was able to get her plan in front of the electorate. In general, 70% of New Jersey voters say they would be inclined to view any candidate proposal to reduce property taxes as simply a campaign ploy that wouldn't amount to much. Just 20% say they would be open to viewing such a plan as a genuine effort to fix the problem. These results are the same among voters who are still undecided or are only leaning toward a candidate right now.
The one thing that Guadagno does have in her favor is that voters are somewhat more inclined to believe that middle class homeowners would see their property taxes go up under a Murphy administration (45%) than say the same about a Guadagno administration (31%). Still, only about 1-in-10 voters expect that their property taxes would go down under either Murphy (10%) or Guadagno (13%).
"Property taxes is truly the meme for everything that New Jerseyans dislike about their state. I just think voters have heard too many promises for too long and simply tune out all candidate rhetoric on the issue at this point. Guadagno has little time left and a tall hill to climb if she is going to break through with her plan," said Murray.
Support by voter bloc
Murphy leads among practically every voter group. He performs most strongly over Guadagno among non-white voters (72%-16%), women (56%-31%), and voters under 50 years old (58%-35%). He also leads among voters age 50 to 64 (48%-36%) and voters age 65 and older (49%-40%). Murphy has the edge among Garden State voters with a college degree (56%-35%) as well as those without a degree (46%-39%). He has a nominal, although statistically insignificant, lead among men (46%-44%) and white voters (46%-44%).
Murphy has the support of 79% of registered Democrats while Guadagno claims 75% of registered Republicans. Unaffiliated voters prefer Murphy by a margin of 48% to 33%. Among voters who identify with the Democratic party regardless of their actual registration status, 91% back Murphy whereas 79% of self-identified Republicans choose Guadagno. Voters who call themselves independents split their support at 43% for Guadagno and 40% for Murphy. Murphy's large overall lead is due to Democrats significantly outnumbering Republicans in the New Jersey electorate as well as the fact that unaffiliated independent voters tend have a significantly lower turnout rate in gubernatorial elections.
"A lot of media attention is paid to unaffiliated voters in New Jersey because they represent half of all registered voters in the state. However, this group makes up less than one-quarter of the actual voter pool in any given non-presidential election year," said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 28 to October 1, 2017 with 452 New Jersey residents likely to vote in the 2017 gubernatorial election. The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
A Note on Support for Third Party/Independent Candidates
Every gubernatorial election year, the Monmouth University Poll receives requests from third party and independent candidates to have their names included in our vote choice question. This year has been no different. They feel they would perform strongly in early polling and thus be able to generate more support going into Election Day. Our own testing of this premise in prior election cycles shows that including the names of these candidates in places without a history of measurable support for such candidates tends to grossly overstate their vote share and introduces undesirable error into the poll results.
Since 1977, aggregate support for third party candidates in New Jersey gubernatorial elections generally stayed in a narrow range from 1% to 3.5%. The only exceptions were 1997 when Murray Sabrin got 4.7% and other third party candidates got 2.6%, and 2005 when Chris Daggett got 5.8% and other candidates got 0.9%. To date, Sabrin and Daggett have been the only third party candidates to qualify for the state's matching fund program and participation in the official candidate debates.
The current poll indicates that third party candidates combined are getting about 2% of the vote, which is in line with election results over the past 40 years. However, Monmouth decided to perform an experimental test by asking half the sample our standard New Jersey vote choice question and the other half a question with all seven candidates on the ballot named: i.e. " If the election for governor was today, would you vote for Kim Guadagno the Republican, Phil Murphy the Democrat, Peter Rohrman the Libertarian, Matthew Riccardi of the Constitution Party, Seth Kaper-Dale of the Green Party, Gina Genovese running under the Reduce Property Taxes slogan, or Vincent Ross running under the We the People slogan? "
In the full ballot question, Rohrman and Genovese each earned just under 2% support while the other three independent candidates got less than half a percentage point. Furthermore, when these voters were pressed on the strength of their vote choice, just under half indicated that their support is soft and they lean toward one of the two major party candidates. As such, Monmouth considers our 2.4% estimate for the aggregate third party vote as an accurate estimate of current electoral support for those candidates.
QUESTIONS AND RESULTS
(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)
1 / 2. If the election for governor was today, would you vote for … Kim Guadagno the Republican, Phil Murphy 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 Kim Guadagno or more toward Phil Murphy?] [ NAMES WERE ROTATED ]
37% Kim Guadagno, the Republican
51% Phil Murphy, the Democrat
2% Other candidate
9% (VOL) Undecided
[ QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED ]
3. Is your general impression of Kim Guadagno favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of her?
45% No opinion
4. Is your general impression of Phil Murphy favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
44% No opinion
[ QUESTIONS 5 & 6 WERE ROTATED ]
5. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?
8% (VOL) Don't know
6. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Chris Christie is doing as governor?
4% (VOL) Don't know
7. Would you say things in New Jersey are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?
23% Right direction
66% Wrong track
5% (VOL) Depends
6% (VOL) Don't know
[ QUESTIONS 8 & 9 WERE ROTATED ]
8. If Kim Guadagno becomes governor, would you expect middle class homeowners' property taxes to go up, go down, or stay about the same as they are now?
31% Go up
13% Go down
44% Stay about the same
12% (VOL) Don't know
9. If Phil Murphy becomes governor, would you expect middle class homeowners' property taxes to go up, go down, or stay about the same as they are now?
45% Go up
10% Go down
32% Stay about the same
12% (VOL) Don't know
10. If a candidate for governor offered a specific plan to reduce property taxes, would you be more likely to see it as a genuine effort to fix the problem or more likely to see it as a campaign ploy that would not amount to much?
20% Genuine effort
70% Campaign ploy
1% (VOL) Both
5% (VOL) Depends
3% (VOL) Don't know
11. As far as you know, have either Guadagno or Murphy offered a specific plan to reduce property taxes, or haven't you heard of any specific plans? [ If YES: Was this Guadagno or Murphy?]
8% Yes, Guadagno
2% Yes, Murphy
4% Yes, both Guadagno and Murphy
85% No, haven't heard of any plan
1% (VOL) Don't know
Now some questions on the candidates…
[ QUESTIONS 12 & 13 WERE ROTATED ]
12. Are you aware that Kim Guadagno is New Jersey's Lieutenant Governor or have you not heard this before? [ If AWARE: Do you tend to associate this position with Guadagno when you think about her running for governor or is this something you don't usually think about unless you are reminded?]
51% Aware, tend to associate
26% Aware, don't usually think about
21% Not aware of this position
2% (VOL) Don't know
13. Are you aware that Phil Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive or have you not heard this before? [If AWARE: Do you tend to associate this former position with Murphy when you think about him running for governor or is this something you don't usually think about unless you are reminded?]
28% Aware, tend to associate
37% Aware, don't usually think about
34% Not aware of this position
1% (VOL) Don't know
[ QUESTIONS 14 & 15 WERE ROTATED ]
14. Does knowing that Kim Guadagno is New Jersey's Lieutenant Governor make you more likely or less likely to support her for governor, or does it really have no impact on your vote?
16% More likely
29% Less likely
54% No impact
1% (VOL) Don't know
15. Does knowing that Phil Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive make you more likely or less likely to support him for governor, or does it really have no impact on your vote?
4% More likely
25% Less likely
70% No impact
1% (VOL) Don't know
16. In her role as Lieutenant Governor, has Kim Guadagno been too supportive of Governor Christie, not been supportive enough of Governor Christie, or has she offered Governor Christie the right amount of support?
25% Too supportive
8% Not supportive enough
43% Right amount of support
24% (VOL) Don't know
The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 28 to October 1, 2017 with a statewide random sample of 452 likely New Jersey voters drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least two of the last four general elections or have registered to vote since January 2016, and indicate they are likely to vote in the upcoming election. This includes 246 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 206 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, and race based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (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 4.6 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.
NJ Regions (by county) :
Northeast - Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Passaic.
West/Central - Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Warren.
Central/Shore - Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Union.
South - Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, Salem.
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.
Download this Poll Report with all tables