Skip to main content
Monmouth University Polling Institute

Obama Leads by 8 in New Jersey

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain makes gains, but Palin pick has little impact

Barack Obama maintains his lead over John McCain among New Jersey voters, but his margin among those most likely to vote has narrowed since the summer.  The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  finds that 49% of registered voters prefer the Democrat to 38% who support the Republican, including undecided voters who lean toward a candidate.  Among likely voters, though, Obama has a smaller 8 point advantage, leading McCain by 49% to 41%.  This is down from the Democrat's 14 point lead in July.

Obama's support levels are similar to his summer standing among likely voters - 49% now to 50% in July - while McCain has swung some previously undecided voters into his camp - 41% in the current poll compared to 36% in July.  Independent voters are split 38% for Obama and 37% for McCain.  About 1-in-3 voters indicate they are still not firmly committed to either candidate at this stage of the campaign.

"McCain has made some gains in New Jersey, which should not really be a surprise to anyone who has followed election polling in this state," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  "Republican candidates often see some positive movement in September polling, but have had problems maintaining that momentum.  Only once in the past ten years - the 2000 U.S. Senate race - has the Republican candidate continued to narrow the gap through election day.  We'll have to wait and see if this is really a trend."

Obama's personal ratings of 60% favorable and 23% unfavorable are similar to his July numbers, while McCain's 49% favorable to 34% unfavorable ratings mark a 9 point increase in his unfavorable  numbers.

- The Veep Effect -  

The surprise selection of Sarah Palin for Vice President on the GOP ticket has certainly ratcheted up interest in the race, but the electoral effect in New Jersey seems to be less significant.   The poll found that John McCain has gained no ground with female voters in the Garden State.  The GOP nominee continues to trail Obama by 52% to 31% among New Jersey women.  On the other hand, McCain has made gains among male voters, who now split their vote 46% for McCain to 45% for Obama.  In July, Obama had a 7 point advantage among men.

Just over 4-in-10 New Jersey voters (42%) have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin and 32% hold an unfavorable view, while 26% have no opinion of the Alaska governor.  The Democrat's V.P. choice, Joe Biden, does slightly better, being viewed favorably by 47% of voters and unfavorably by 21%, while 32% have no opinion of the senator from Delaware.

Obama's choice is also seen as a more positive reflection on his judgment than is McCain's.  More voters say that the Biden pick makes them feel more confident (44%) rather than less confident (17%) in the kinds of decisions Obama would make as president, with another 34% saying the V.P. choice has no impact on their opinion.  McCain's pick receives more negative reviews - 38% of New Jersey voters say that tabbing Palin makes them less confident in McCain compared to 33% who say it makes them more confident, and 27% who say the choice has not changed their opinion of McCain's judgment.

- The Issues -  

The economy continues to be the top concern on voters' minds.  More than 4-in-10 (43%) choose this as the number one issue in this year's election.  National security is a distant second (15%), followed by health care (11%), Iraq (9%), taxes (8%), and energy issues (6%).

More New Jersey voters think that the Democrat would better handle the top issue, preferring Obama over McCain by a 50% to 37% margin to handle the economy.  Obama also bests McCain on health care (58%-28%), energy (50%-38%), and taxes (47%-40%).  McCain is seen as better able to handle national security (53%-36%) and Iraq (46%-43%).

When asked about six different candidate qualities, New Jersey voters give Obama the advantage on three and McCain the nod on the other three.  About 2-in-3 voters say that Obama can bring about the kind of change the country needs (64%) and he cares about people like them (67%).  Only 4-in-10 voters say that can bring about change (39%) and cares about people like them (46%) describe McCain.  Obama also has an advantage on laying out a clear plan for the country's future - 55% say this describes him and 45% say this describes McCain.

               

Who has the Right Stuff?  

Among all Registered Voters

Among Swing Voters

Obama/both

McCain/both

Advantage

Obama/both

McCain/both

Advantage

Can bring needed change

64%

39%

Obama +25  

70%

32%

Obama +38  

Cares about people

67%

46%

Obama +21  

72%

46%

Obama +26  

Has a clear plan

55%

45%

Obama +10  

52%

42%

Obama +10  

Good judgment in crisis

55%

60%

McCain   +5  

55%

64%

McCain  +9  

Strong and decisive leader

53%

59%

McCain  +6  

49%

64%

McCain +15  

Has right experience

42%

67%

McCain +25  

34%

72%

McCain +38  

McCain's biggest qualification advantage is in the area of experience.  Two-thirds of New Jersey voters (67%) say McCain has the right experience to be president compared to 42% who say that of Obama.  McCain also has a slight advantage on showing good judgment in a crisis - 60% say this describe the GOP nominee compared to 55% who say this describes Obama - and being a strong and decisive leader - 59% for McCain to 53% for Obama.

Interestingly, both candidates' greatest strengths are magnified among swing voters.  When asked who can bring about change, 70% of swing voters say this describes Obama compared to only 32% who say this describes McCain.  When asked who has the right experience, 72% of swing voters say this describes McCain compared to only 34% who say this describes Obama.

"Many New Jersey Republicans were hoping the enthusiasm generated since the GOP convention would put the state's electoral votes in play, but that doesn't seem to be the case," said Murray.  "Unless voter interest turns from the economy and change to national security and experience in the next few weeks, New Jersey should stay solid blue."

- Campaign Interest -  

Voter interest in this presidential election is at a 28 year high.   Currently, 83% of New Jersey voters say they have a lot of interest in this election.  The previous high for interest in September was 73% in 2004.  Prior to that, September interest ranged from 48% to 64% in New Jersey polls going back to 1980. 

Voters Having a Lot of Interest in September *  

2008  

2004  

2000  

1996  

1992  

1988  

1984  

1980  

83%

73%

61%

61%

64%

48%

59%

55%

                                                *  Source for past results:  Eagleton-Rutgers Poll (1984 poll conducted in August).  

Voter enthusiasm has also increased since the summer.  Currently, 67% of voters say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting - compared to 50% who felt that way in July.  Just 17% say they are less enthusiastic about this election.  The partisan enthusiasm gap has narrowed since the summer - 77% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans are more enthusiastic than usual.  In July, this gap stood at 66%-39%.  Independent voters have also become more enthused - at 61%, up from 39% in July.

Despite media attention given to negative ads launched by both campaigns, most New Jersey voters (52%) say the presidential race has been generally positive so far, compared to 35% who say it has been negative.  Among those who feel the race has been negative, more blame McCain (37%) than Obama (18%), with another 42% saying both candidates have been equally negative.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 689 New Jersey registered voters September 11-14, 2008.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.7 percent.  This report also includes analysis on a smaller group of 589 "likely voters" with a ±  4.0 percent margin of error.   The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

   

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.     As you may know, there will be an election for President in November.  How much interest do you have in the upcoming election – a lot, some, a little, or none at all?

2.     If the election for President was held today, would you vote for John McCain the Republican, Barack Obama the Democrat, or some other candidate? [IF UNDECIDED: At this moment do you lean more towards McCain or more towards Obama?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

Composite Table: Strength of Vote Choice

2        If the election for President was held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] John McCain the Republican, Barack Obama the Democrat, or some other candidate?

3.       At this moment do you lean more towards McCain or more towards Obama?

4.       Are you very sure about voting for [Name]; or might you change your mind before Election Day?

[QUESTIONS 5, 6, 7, AND 8 WERE ROTATED]

5.     Please tell me if your general impression of Barack Obama is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.

6.     Please tell me if your general impression of John McCain is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.

7.     Please tell me if your general impression of Joe Biden is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.

8.     Please tell me if your general impression of Sarah Palin is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.

9.     Which of the following is the most important issue in determining how you will vote for president: – the economy, energy issues, health care, taxes, the situation in Iraq, national security, – or something else? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

10    Regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think Barack Obama or John McCain would better handle each of the following issues. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

       A.  The economy

       B.  National security

       C.  The situation in Iraq

       D.  Energy issues

       E.  Health care

       F.  Taxes

11.   Now, thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each one applies more to Obama or more to McCain, or to both equally. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

       A.  Is a strong and decisive leader

       B.  Cares about people like you

       C.  Would display good judgment in a crisis

       D.  Has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems

       E.  Has the right experience to be president

       F.  Can bring about the kind of change the country needs

12.   How closely have you been following the campaign for president so far – very closely,   somewhat closely, or not very closely?

13.   Compared to past elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual about voting, or less enthusiastic?   

14.   So far, would you characterize the presidential race as being generally positive or negative?

[The following question was asked only of those who said “Negative” or “Both” to Q14 moe= ± 5.5%]

15.   Who has been more negative – Obama or McCain, or both equally?

16.   Regardless of your vote preference, has Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as his running mate made you more confident or less confident in the kind of decisions Obama would make as president, or has it had no effect?

17.   Regardless of your vote preference, has McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate made you more confident or less confident in the kind of decisions McCain would make as president, or has it had no effect?

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted and analyzed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute research staff.  The telephone interviews were collected by Braun Research on September 11-14, 2008 with a statewide random sample of 689 registered voters. For results based on this voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.7 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.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues which affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

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

Download this Poll Report with all tables

Get Poll Reports in Your Inbox

If you would like to join our mailing list and receive the latest poll results the day they are released, please enter your contact information in the fields below.

Would you like to submit a question or comment?

Back

Any Questions?

Thank You!

Your email has been submitted to our mailing list. You will receive an email to receive future polls the day they are released.

- Monmouth University Polling Institute