Skip to main content
CloseSearch

Small Shift in Governor Race

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021

Murphy maintains lead; Ciattarelli still largely unknown

West Long Branch, NJ – Gov. Phil Murphy maintains a double-digit lead over challenger Jack Ciattarelli, although it is slightly smaller than the incumbent’s advantage in last month’s Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. The Democrat continues to enjoy a large issue advantage on handling the pandemic, while the Republican has a small edge on taxes. The Murphy campaign’s ads painting the GOP nominee as being too close to former President Donald Trump do not appear to have had much impact on the race, with half the electorate still having no opinion of Ciattarelli.

Just over half (51%) of registered voters polled currently support Murphy while 38% back Ciattarelli. Last month, the incumbent held a 52% to 36% lead. The small shift comes mainly from self-identified Republicans galvanizing behind the challenger (91%, up from 85% in August). Murphy, on the other hand, has the support of 90% of self-identified Democrats (up slightly from 87% last month) and maintains a 44% to 39% edge among independents (similar to 44% to 38% in August). Murphy continues to lead Ciattarelli in the northern (55% to 34%) and central (52% to 36%) regions of the state, while the race is basically even in South Jersey (46% Murphy and 45% Ciattarelli).

“September shifts are not unheard of in New Jersey elections and we see some potential for a single-digit race in these results. But we don’t really see movement in the underlying dynamics of this campaign, despite a stream of advertising from both sides,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A range of potential electorate models* show Murphy with a lead from 9 points to 14 points, depending on the scenario (compared to a range of 11 to 19 points last month). Murphy’s lead is the most narrow among voters who have cast ballots in every general election since 2016 (50% to 43%). This is smaller than his lead among these consistent voters last month (53% to 38%), but this group represents only one-third of the potential electorate. Turnout will likely be higher than this – it was 39% in 2017 – and Murphy holds a double-digit lead among less consistent voters, including a 51% to 40% lead specifically among those who voted in the 2017 gubernatorial contest.

NEW JERSEY: ELECTORATE SCENARIOS
Governor vote
choice:
Registered
voters
Range of
electorate models
September   
Murphy51%50%52%
Ciattarelli38%41%38%
August   
Murphy52%51%55%
Ciattarelli36%40%36%
   
Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Sep. 16-20, 2021

When asked whom they trust more to handle key concerns, voters give Murphy a clear advantage on the pandemic (50% to 23% for Ciattarelli) and a narrower edge on jobs and the economy (39% to 32%). The electorate gives Ciattarelli a 39% to 33% edge over Murphy when it comes to taxes. Voters are divided on who can better help small businesses (36% Ciattarelli and 34% Murphy) and handle crime (32% Murphy and 30% Ciattarelli). Compared to Monmouth’s August poll, Murphy has gained a few points on handling Covid while Ciattarelli has gained a few points on jobs and taxes.

“There have been some small shifts on issue advantages but nothing that has upset the underlying dynamic. Murphy retains a large edge on dealing with the pandemic. Ciattarelli’s ads have hit Murphy on taxes, small businesses, and even on the incumbent’s treatment of women, but the needle has not moved that much,” said Murray.

Voters trust Murphy (40%) more than Ciattarelli (17%) on who will make sure women are treated with respect. The challenger ran ads trying to undercut the incumbent’s standing by using footage of a former Murphy aide accusing his campaign of ignoring her sexual assault allegations.

In terms of overall impressions of the two major party nominees, nearly half (48%) of the state’s voters have a favorable view of Murphy while 37% have an unfavorable opinion, with 16% giving no answer. Murphy’s rating stood at 48% favorable and 33% unfavorable in August.

Ciattarelli registers a net positive opinion of 31% favorable and 19% unfavorable, with both numbers increasing by a few points over the past month (from 26% and 12%, respectively). Still, half the New Jersey electorate has no opinion of the Republican nominee (50%, down from 61% in August).

About a third (35%) of Garden State voters say Murphy’s political views are in line with most New Jerseyans while 24% say he is out of step. Fewer voters have an opinion of Ciattarelli’s views – 16% say his views are in line with the state and 17% say they are out of step.

“This is typical New Jersey voter inattentiveness. Ciattarelli has not been able to introduce himself yet, but these results also mean the Murphy campaign’s attempts to paint their opponent as an extremist have not penetrated either,” said Murray.

When asked to describe Ciattarelli’s views regarding the Trump wing of the Republican Party, 22% of New Jersey voters say he is in agreement with that wing and 26% feel Ciattarelli does not necessarily agree with the Trump wing but says things to keep their support. Another 20% feel the GOP nominee is independent of the Trump wing of his party and 32% say they do not know where Ciattarelli stands relative to that wing.

Most Garden State voters who see Ciattarelli as associating with Trump tend to see it is a bad thing (65% of those who say he is in agreement with the Trump wing see it as bad and 66% of those who feel Ciattarelli is just saying things to get that wing’s support see it as bad). Among the Republican electorate though (including GOP identifiers and those who lean toward the party), 91% of those who feel Ciattarelli is in line with Trump see it as a positive (just 7% say it is a negative). Opinion is more divided among Republicans who say the nominee is just accommodating the Trump wing (50% see this is as good thing and 40% see it as bad).

“The Murphy campaign has tried to cast their opponent as a Trump clone. Maybe they should be planting the idea that Ciattarelli is just paying the Trump wing lip service to dampen GOP enthusiasm for him. But in the end, Trump himself does not appear to be a driving factor for where this race stands right now,” said Murray. The poll finds most New Jersey voters (73%) do not care one way or the other that the former president spent the summer months at his golf club in Bedminster. Half (50%) aren’t even aware he was living in the state.

The poll also asked about the Democratic governor’s views in relation to the progressive wing of his party. Nearly half of the electorate (44%) see Murphy as being in agreement with that wing and 25% feel he does not necessarily agree with the progressive wing but says things to keep their support. Another 17% feel Murphy is independent of the progressive wing of his party and 15% say they do not know where he stands relative to that wing. New Jersey voters who say Murphy is in line with the progressives are more likely to see that as a bad thing (54%) rather than a good thing (41%). However, among Democrats and Democratic leaners who see Murphy as part of the progressive wing, 91% see this as a good thing.

“Being aligned with the polar end of the party’s base plays well within that party. But that also means whoever has the bigger base wins because there is no appeal to voters in the middle, if such voters even exist anymore,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 16 to 20, 2021 with 804 New Jersey registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

  *   Monmouth’s electorate models for the 2021 election are not forecasts. They are designed to present a range of reasonable outcomes based on voter intentions at this moment. Monmouth tests a variety of models where each registered voter is assigned a probabilistic weight between 0 and 1, based primarily on past voting history, with adjustments for self-reported likelihood to vote, motivation and other factors. Further adjustments are applied to the aggregate sample based on turnout propensities among different demographic groups (e.g. by race, gender, education). The two scenarios included in this report show the extreme ends of the range of possible outcomes from the model testing.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.If the election for Governor was today, would you vote for Jack Ciattarelli the Republican, Phil Murphy the Democrat, or some other candidate? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy?]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Sept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli38%36%
Phil Murphy51%52%
Other candidate2%2%
(VOL) No one<1%1%
(VOL) Undecided9%9%
(n)(804)(810)

[QUESTIONS 2 & 3 WERE ROTATED]

2.Is your general impression of Jack Ciattarelli very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Very favorable10%8%
Somewhat favorable21%18%
Somewhat unfavorable9%5%
Very unfavorable10%7%
No opinion50%61%
(n)(804)(810)

3.Is your general impression of Phil Murphy very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
TREND:Sept.
2021
Aug.
2021
May
2021
Apr.
2018
July
2017
Very favorable21%18%Favorable48%48%50%41%29%
Somewhat favorable27%30%
Somewhat unfavorable11%10%Unfavorable37%33%36%28%12%
Very unfavorable26%23%
No opinion16%19%No opinion16%19%14%31%59%
(n)(804)(810)     (n)(804)(810)(661)(632)(758)

[Q4-6 held for future release.]

[QUESTIONS 7-12 WERE ROTATED]

7.Who do you trust more on handling the Covid pandemic – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli23%21%
Phil Murphy50%46%
Both equally17%17%
(VOL) Neither5%6%
(VOL) Don’t know6%9%
(n)(804)(810)

8.Who do you trust more on jobs and the economy – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli32%27%
Phil Murphy39%35%
Both equally19%22%
(VOL) Neither3%6%
(VOL) Don’t know7%10%
(n)(804)(810)

9.Who do you trust more on taxes – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli39%30%
Phil Murphy33%29%
Both equally17%22%
(VOL) Neither4%8%
(VOL) Don’t know8%12%
(n)(804)(810)

10.Who do you trust more to help small businesses – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli36%
Phil Murphy34%
Both equally21%
(VOL) Neither3%
(VOL) Don’t know6%
(n)(804)

11.Who do you trust more on handling crime – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli30%
Phil Murphy32%
Both equally28%
(VOL) Neither3%
(VOL) Don’t know7%
(n)(804)

12.Who do you trust more on making sure women are treated with respect – Jack Ciattarelli or Phil Murphy, or both equally?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Jack Ciattarelli17%
Phil Murphy40%
Both equally31%
(VOL) Neither4%
(VOL) Don’t know9%
(n)(804)

[QUESTIONS 13 & 14 WERE ROTATED]

13.Are Jack Ciattarelli’s political views in line or out of step with most New Jerseyans, or are you not sure?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
In line16%13%
Out of step17%15%
Not sure68%73%
(n)(804)(810)

14.Are Phil Murphy’s political views in line or out of step with most New Jerseyans, or are you not sure?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
In line35%32%
Out of step24%22%
Not sure41%46%
(n)(804)(810)

[QUESTIONS 15-A & 16-A WERE ROTATED]

15.Which of the following comes closest to describing Jack Ciattarelli’s views – he is in agreement with the Trump wing of the Republican Party, he does not necessarily agree with the Trump wing but he says things to keep their support, or he is independent of the Trump wing of the party?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
In agreement22%
Says things to keep support26%
Independent20%
(VOL) Don’t know32%
(n)(804)

15A.And do you tend to see that as a good thing or bad thing about Ciattarelli?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Good thing30%
Bad thing34%
(VOL) Neither2%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
Don’t know Ciattarelli’s views (from Q15)32%
(n)(804)

16.Which of the following comes closest to describing Phil Murphy’s views – he is in agreement with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, he does not necessarily agree with the progressive wing but he says things to keep their support, or he is independent of the progressive wing of the party?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
In agreement44%
Says things to keep support25%
Independent17%
(VOL) Don’t know15%
(n)(804)

16A.And do you tend to see that as a good thing or bad thing about Murphy?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Good thing40%
Bad thing40%
(VOL) Neither3%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
Don’t know Murphy’s views (from Q16)15%
(n)(804)

17.Did you know Donald Trump spent the summer months living at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, or did you not know about this?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Yes, know50%
No, not know50%
(n)(804)

18.Do you have a good feeling or bad feeling about Trump spending much of his time in New Jersey, or do you not really care either way?

REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Good feeling9%
Bad feeling16%
Not really care73%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(804)

19.How will you vote this year – in person on Election Day, in person at an early voting location, or by mail ballot?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
In person on Election Day54%54%
In person at an early voting location6%5%
By mail ballot35%36%
(VOL) Won’t vote at all0%0%
(VOL) Don’t know4%5%
(n)(804)(810)

20.How motivated are you to vote in the election for governor – very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not that motivated?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
Very motivated67%65%
Somewhat motivated24%26%
Not that motivated8%9%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%
(n)(804)(810)

21.Compared to past elections for governor, are you more enthusiastic than usual, less enthusiastic, or about the same as past elections?

TREND: REGISTERED VOTERSSept.
2021
Aug.
2021
More enthusiastic27%27%
Less enthusiastic11%9%
About the same61%63%
(VOL) Don’t know2%1%
(n)(804)(810)

[Q22-30 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 16 to 20, 2021 with a statewide random sample of 804 New Jersey voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 225 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 579 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for party registration, age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the full voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 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)

North – Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, Warren

Central – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset

South – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, Salem

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
REGISTERED VOTERS
 
Party Registration
23% Republican
39% Democrat
37% Other/none
 
Self-Reported Party ID
22% Republican
43% Independent
36% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
22% 18-34
22% 35-49
29% 50-64
26% 65+
 
64% White, non-Hispanic
13% Black
14% Hispanic
  9% Asian/Other
 
55% No degree
45% 4 year degree

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs