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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Challenger in Striking Distance

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Voters mixed on incumbent’s post-Sandy actions

In what was supposed to be an easy re-election bid, GOP incumbent Scott Garrett holds a narrow 5 point lead over Democrat Roy Cho in the race for New Jersey's 5 th  district House seat.  The Monmouth University Poll finds that voters are divided on whether Garrett's actions after Superstorm Sandy helped New Jersey recover, although they are more likely to feel he did a good job for residents in his own district.

Among voters likely to cast their ballot in next month's congressional race, 48% say they will support Scott Garrett and 43% will vote for first-time candidate Roy Cho.  Another 3% say they will vote for the third party candidate and 6% are undecided.  Garrett won re-election by a 12 point margin two years ago when the presidential election topped the ticket.

Cho holds a 51% to 39% edge in the populous Bergen County portion of the district while Garrett has a larger 68% to 26% advantage in the more rural western end of the district.  Male voters support Garrett by a 53% to 38% margin while women prefer Cho by 49% to 43%.  Both candidates have strong support among their partisan bases.  Garrett claims 89% of the Republican vote and Cho holds 84% of the Democratic vote.  Independents are split - 45% support Garrett and 42% support Cho.

"This race was not even a blip on most political prognosticators' radar screens.  It should be now," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The campaign seems to hinge on a debate around Rep. Garrett's actions after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012.  The Cho camp claims that a recent Garrett campaign flyer misrepresents the Congressman's actions in response to the storm.  District voters are divided on whether Garrett helped New Jerseyans recover - 38% say he did a good job for the state and 35% say he did a bad job, with 27% registering no opinion.  They are more likely to feel he did a better job helping his own district, which was not as hard hit as other parts of the state - 47% of district voters say Garrett did a good job and 28% say he did a bad job helping his own constituents recover from the storm, while 25% are not sure about his post-storm performance for his own district.

"While the fifth district was relatively spared from Sandy's wrath, a significant number of voters there have doubts about whether Garrett's actions were helpful for hard-hit residents in other parts of the state," said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll  found that Garrett has a slight advantage on the overall perception of who is in touch with the district, but not necessarily an edge on every issue.  When asked which candidate understands the concerns of district residents, 38% say only Garrett does, 26% say only Cho does, and 12% say both do.  Another 17% of likely voters say that neither candidate understands the district.

Garrett has an advantage on keeping taxes and spending under control - 41% say the incumbent will do a better job on this issue, 23% say Cho will do a better job, and 12% say both will perform about equally.  Cho has a slight edge on the issue of abortion - 33% say the challenger will do a better job representing their views, 25% say Garrett will do a better job, and 9% say both will perform about equally.  Voters are divided on the issue of healthcare - 35% give the edge to Cho, 34% prefer Garrett, and 11% say both will perform about equally on this issue.

District voters who are familiar with the candidates tend to be more positive than negative about both of them.  Fewer have a negative opinion of the challenger, but they are also less likely to be familiar with him than the incumbent.  Specifically, voter opinion of Garrett is 40% favorable to 29% unfavorable with 31% registering no opinion, while voter opinion of Cho is 30% favorable to 7% unfavorable with 63% having no opinion.

The Monmouth University Poll  also found that 5 th  district voters have a negative opinion of both Pres. Barack Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives.  Obama receives an upside down 39% approve to 55% disapprove job rating while the House receives an even worse 16% approve to 75% disapprove rating for its performance.  Voters in the 5 th  district are divided on whether they would like to see the Republicans (38%) or the Democrats (36%) control Congress.  Another 24% say party control would make no difference to them.  

The Monmouth University Poll  was conducted by telephone from October 10 to 14, 2014 with 432 New Jersey voters likely to vote in New Jersey's 5 th  Congressional District November general election.   This sample has a margin of error of ±  4.7 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.     If the election for U.S. Congress in your district was today, would you vote for Scott Garrett, the Republican, Roy Cho, the Democrat or some other candidate? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]    [IF UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following at this moment, do you lean more toward Scott Garrett or more toward Roy Cho?]

[QUESTIONS 2 AND 3 WERE ROTATED]

2.     Is your general opinion of Scott Garrett favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?

3.     Is your general opinion of Roy Cho favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?

4.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president?

5.     Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. House of Representatives is doing?

6.     Which candidate understands the concerns of people who live in your Congressional District  Scott Garrett, Roy Cho, both of them, or neither of them?

[Question 7 was asked of a random half-sample: n=217, moe=+/-6.7%]

7.     Do you think Congressman Garrett did a good job or bad job helping people in New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy?

[Question 8 was asked of a random half-sample: n=215, moe=+/-6.7%]

8.     Do you think Congressman Garrett did a good job or bad job helping people in your Congressional District recover from Superstorm Sandy?

9.     Who would do a better job on the following issues – Scott Garrett or Roy Cho, or would they perform about equally?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]    

         Keeping taxes and spending under control

         Representing your views on abortion

         Doing the right thing on healthcare

10.   Which party would you like to see control Congress – the Republicans or the Democrats, or would it make no difference?

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 10 to 14, 2014 with a statewide random sample of 432 likely voters in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least two of the last four general elections and indicate they are likely to vote in the upcoming election. This includes 368 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 64 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, age, gender, and party registration based on state registration list information on the pool of voters who have participated in two of the last four elections. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and L2 (voter list). For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points. 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.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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