You can't beat having a national profile, especially in a hastily called election in a state where nearly all politicians are unknown outside their own constituencies. In this environment, the Monmouth University Poll finds Mayor Cory Booker with an early lead among potential voters in the August Democratic Primary and among likely voters in the October special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg's U.S. Senate seat. The poll also finds that scheduling a separate election has almost guaranteed lower-than-typical voter turnout for both the U.S. Senate race and the regular general election three weeks later.
Current voter models suggest that turnout for the November general election will be about 45% of registered voters. This is slightly lower than the 47% to 49% turnout levels New Jersey has seen in gubernatorial races over the past decade. The U.S. Senate race in October appears likely to result in even lower turnout, currently pegged at about 40% compared to a more typical 46% to 48% turnout. The Monmouth University Poll's likely voter model is based on a combination of past voting history from voter registration files and self-reported intention to vote in either the October special election or the November general election.
The poll finds that Democrats are more likely to opt for voting in the October Senate race over November's gubernatorial and legislative election. If forced to choose to vote in only one election, 73% of likely New Jersey voters say they would cast their ballot in the regular general election to 20% who prefer the special Senate election. Democrats (26%) are more likely than Republicans (14%) to choose the special election.
"Low turnout normally benefits a Republican, so the Democratic nominee will need a boost from supporters more interested in the Senate race to maintain the party's normal edge in Garden State elections," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "This could also translate to fewer Democratic voters in November, which will serve to pump up Gov. Christie's already daunting lead."
Among New Jersey voters likely to cast ballots in the November election, incumbent Chris Christie leads challenger Barbara Buono by 30 points - 61% to 31%.
Turning to the U.S. Senate race, Cory Booker has a clear advantage in the first few weeks of the contest. Among likely voters in October's special election, he leads probable GOP nominee Steve Lonegan by a 53% to 37% margin. Lonegan does better against the other Democratic contenders, although he still trails all three. This includes matchups against Congressman Frank Pallone (45% to 40% for Lonegan), Congressman Rush Holt (44% to 41%), and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (44% to 42%).
Among potential voters in the August Democratic primary - i.e. registered Democrats who regularly vote in general elections and say they may vote in the Senate primary - Booker holds a commanding lead over his challengers, garnering 63% support, compared to 10% for Holt, 8% for Pallone, and 6% for Oliver. The poll did not ask Republican voters about their party's primary matchup between Lonegan and health clinic founder Dr. Alieta Eck.
"Right now, Booker and Lonegan are the only two candidates in the race with significant statewide name recognition, which contributes to their strong positions in this early poll. It would take a huge organizational turnout effort by any of the other candidates to overcome that advantage in the short time frame of this election," said Murray.
Cory Booker's name recognition far surpasses that of his rivals. Currently, 3-in-4 likely special election voters have an opinion of Newark's mayor. And that opinion is overwhelmingly positive, with 61% holding a favorable view and just 15% an unfavorable view. Even Republicans are more likely to have a positive (39%) rather than negative (26%) opinion of Booker.
Only 4-in-10 likely voters have an opinion of the other three Democratic contenders, and those views tend to be divided. For Frank Pallone, 24% have a favorable opinion to 17% unfavorable. For Rush Holt, 22% have a favorable opinion to 18% unfavorable. For Sheila Oliver, 20% have a favorable opinion to 19% unfavorable.
On the Republican side of the ballot, a majority of likely special election voters have formed an opinion of conservative activist Steve Lonegan, who made two prior runs for governor. One third (34%) hold a favorable view of the former Bogota mayor to 20% who have an unfavorable view. Only 1-in-10 voters have formed an opinion of Lonegan's GOP challenger, Dr. Eck. Just 3% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the first-time candidate and 8% have an unfavorable view of her.
New Jersey voters, specifically those likely to show up at one or both of this fall's elections, are not particularly happy with the governor's decision to call a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat. Just 30% of likely voters approve of this decision to 42% who disapprove, while 24% say it doesn't really matter to them.
Seven-in-ten likely voters (70%) report say they have heard that this series of special elections could cost the state up to $24 million and 75% say that this cost bothers them. Only 18% are not bothered by the cost of running these extra elections.
Nearly two-thirds of likely voters (65%) say it would be better to vote for U.S. Senate on the same day as the November governor's election. Just 23% prefer holding the Senate ballot at a separate election.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 10 to 11, 2013 with 636 New Jersey voters likely to vote in either the October special election or the November general election. This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.9 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The questions referred to in this release are as follows:
1. If you could only vote in one election this fall, which one would it be, the special election for U.S. Senate or the regular election for governor and legislature?
[The following questions were asked of those who are likely to vote in the October special election, n= 560, moe = ±4.2%]
[QUESTIONS 2 through 5 WERE ROTATED]
2. If the election for U.S. Senate was today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Cory Booker, the Democrat or Steve Lonegan, the Republican? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
3. If the election for U.S. Senate was today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Frank Pallone, the Democrat or Steve Lonegan, the Republican? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
4. If the election for U.S. Senate was today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Rush Holt, the Democrat or Steve Lonegan, the Republican? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
5. If the election for U.S. Senate was today, who would you vote for if the candidates were Sheila Oliver, the Democrat or Steve Lonegan, the Republican? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
[QUESTIONS 6 through 11 WERE ROTATED]
6. Is your general opinion of Newark Mayor Cory Booker favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
7. Is your general opinion of Congressman Frank Pallone favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
8. Is your general opinion of Congressman Rush Holt favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
9. Is your general opinion of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of her?
10. Is your general opinion of former mayor Steve Lonegan favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
11. Is your general opinion of Dr. Alieta Eck favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of her?
[The following question was asked of those who are likely to vote in the November general election, n= 626, moe= ± 3.9%]
12. If the election for New Jersey Governor was today, would you vote for Chris Christie, the Republican, Barbara Buono, the Democrat or some other candidate? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [IF UNDECIDED: At this moment, do you lean toward Chris Christie or lean toward Barbara Buono?]
[The following questions were asked of those who are likely to vote in either the special or general election, n=636,moe= ± 3.9%]
13. Do you approve, disapprove, or doesn’t it matter to you that Governor Christie scheduled a special election for October to fill the U.S. Senate seat?
14. Would it be better to hold the special Senate election on the same date as the November governor’s election or is it better to hold the special Senate election on a separate date?
15. Have you heard that holding a special election could cost the state up to 24 million dollars?
16. Does this cost bother you or not bother you?
[The following question was asked of potential voters in the August Democratic primary, n=205, moe= ± 6.9%]
17. If the Democratic primary for Senate was today, would you vote for Frank Pallone, Rush Holt, Cory Booker, or Sheila Oliver? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from June 10 to 11, 2013 with a statewide random sample of 636 likely voters drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least two of the last four general elections, including 491 contacted by interactive voice response (IVR) on a landline telephone and 145 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis. 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 3.9 percentage points. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. 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.
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