West Long Branch, NJ – Democrat Tom Malinowski holds a narrow lead over incumbent Republican Leonard Lance in the race for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, according to the Monmouth University Poll. Malinowski benefits from running in a district with a large number of college educated voters who have swung more Democratic in the past two years. But Lance is keeping this race close despite President Donald Trump’s low ratings in the district. New Jersey’s 7th is home to Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where the president has spent a good deal of time since taking office.
Malinowski is supported by 47% and Lance is supported by 39% of all potential voters – that is voters who have participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote (a group that represents about 84% of all registered voters in the district). Another 2% of voters support one of the other candidate running and 12% are undecided. Lance holds a lead among white voters without a college degree (50% to 36%), while Malinowski has the advantage among college educated white voters (50% to 39%) and non-white voters regardless of education (64% to 20%).
The Democrat’s lead in this race narrows when applying two different likely voter models. A historical midterm model gives Malinowski an insignificant 46% to 43% edge over Lance. A model that projects a possible turnout surge in Democratic precincts gives Malinowski a lead of 47% to 41%. Neither margin in these two likely voter models is statistically significant.
“The fundamentals of this swing district favor Malinowski, but he has not been able to break clear of Lance’s deep roots here,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
New Jersey’s 7th district voted for Mitt Romney for president by 6 points in 2012, but swung to Hillary Clinton by one point in 2016. Lance ran more than 10 points ahead of the top of the GOP ticket in both years, winning his House seat by 17 points in 2012 and 11 points in 2016.
Lance currently holds the lead in his home base of Hunterdon County (49% to 38%), but not elsewhere in the district. Malinowski is running slightly ahead of Lance in the Morris and Warren portion of the district (44% to 38%), which is an area that usually supports Republicans. Malinowski maintains a large lead in the historically Democratic-leaning Union and Essex portion of the district (54% to 35%). Perhaps the most interesting part of the district is the largest section in Somerset County, where Malinowski holds a 49% to 38% edge over Lance. This part of the district backed Romney by 5 points in 2012, but swung to give Clinton a nearly 6 point win four years later. This is also the part of the district where the president’s golf club is located.
Overall, just 39% of district voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president while a majority of 55% disapprove. The gap is even wider when looking at voters with “strong” opinions of the president – just 26% strongly approve while 47% strongly disapprove. These are the lowest net ratings for Trump recorded by Monmouth in its polls of 12 bellwether House districts in this cycle – only Virginia’s 10th district comes close. The president’s rating is a negative 36% approve to 59% disapprove in the Somerset portion of the district, which is nearly as bad as the 32% to 64% rating he gets in the more traditionally Democratic area of Union/Essex. Opinion of the president is slightly positive in Hunterdon (48% to 45%) and slightly negative in Morris/Warren (43% to 49%).
The poll finds that 62% of potential NJ-07 voters say it is very important for them to cast a vote for Congress that shows how they feel about the president – including 71% of Trump opponents and 67% of Trump supporters. The Monmouth University Poll also finds that 61% of voters have a lot of interest in the election, which includes 69% of Malinowski supporters and 67% of Lance supporters.
“There’s not a lot of difference in enthusiasm levels between the two camps. It’s just that voters in this wealthy suburban district have swung more Democratic largely due to problems they have with their presidential neighbor,” said Murray.
More NJ-07 voters say that they would rather see Democrats (46%) than Republicans (32%) in control of Congress. Another 19% say that party control does not matter to them.
When asked to choose the top issue in their vote for Congress from a list of six policy areas, 26% of NJ-07 voters pick health care. This is followed by immigration (18%), gun control (14%), tax policy (14%), job creation (11%), and abortion (6%). Malinowski has the advantage on handling voters’ top concern, with 31% saying they trust the Democrat more on keeping health care affordable to 21% who say they trust Lance more on this issue. Another 20% say they trust both candidates equally.
Last year’s tax reform legislation, the GOP’s hallmark policy achievement which Lance voted against, plays poorly in this district. Just 34% approve of the plan and 49% disapprove. Nearly half (45%) of NJ-07 voters say they expect their federal tax bill to go up under the new tax rules, just 20% think their taxes will go down, and 27% say their federal taxes will likely stay the same as they are now.
“It’s hard to buck a trend where voters really dislike both your party’s leader and signature accomplishment. But Lance is keeping this race close on the back of his reputation as a moderate as well as the goodwill he has built with constituents during his time in office. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to hang onto his seat,” said Murray.
Lance gets a personal rating of 35% favorable and 21% unfavorable from NJ-07 voters, with 44% expressing no opinion of him. The poll also finds that 39% say the five-term Congressman is in touch with district residents while 33% feel he is out of touch. Malinowski, who recently moved back to New Jersey after serving in the Barack Obama administration, gets a 26% favorable and 14% unfavorable rating, with 60% having no opinion of him. Opinion is divided on whether the Democrat is in touch (30%) or out of touch (28%) with the district.
“Lance has been trying to paint Malinowski as a carpetbagger, but it looks like this line of attack has been meeting with only limited success so far,” said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 13 to 17, 2018 with 414 voters in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 5.1 percentage points for the likely voter models. The error of the gap between the two candidates’ vote share (i.e. the margin of the “lead”) is +/-6.7 percentage points for the full sample and +/- 7.2 percentage points for the likely voter models. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
QUESTIONS AND RESULTS
(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)
1/2. If the election for U.S. House of Representatives in your district was today, would you vote for Leonard Lance the Republican or Tom Malinowski 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 Leonard Lance or more toward Tom Malinowski?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
Likely Voter Models
[QUESTIONS 3 & 4 WERE ROTATED]
3. Is your general impression of Leonard Lance favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
4. Is your general impression of Tom Malinowski favorable or unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
5. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election for House of Representatives – a lot of interest, a little interest, or not much interest at all?
|Not much at all||11%|
|(VOL) Don’t Know||0%|
6. Have you been following the campaign in your congressional district very closely, somewhat closely, or not too closely?
|Not too closely||43%|
|(VOL) Don’t Know||0%|
7. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]
|(VOL) Don’t know||6%|
8. On most issues would you say you support or oppose what President Trump is doing?
|(VOL) Don’t know||4%|
9. How important is it for you to cast a vote for Congress that shows your [support of/opposition to] President Trump – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?
|Not too important||4%|
|Not at all important||4%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||11%|
10. Would you rather see the Republicans or the Democrats in control of Congress, or doesn’t this matter to you?
|Does not matter||19%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||3%|
11. Please tell me which one of the following policy issues is most important to you in your vote choice for Congress? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
|Health care policy||26%|
|Gun control policy||14%|
|Job creation policy||11%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||3%|
12. Who do you trust more to work to keep health care affordable – Leonard Lance or Tom Malinowski, or do you trust both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
|(VOL) Neither one||9%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||19%|
13. Do you approve or disapprove of the tax reform plan passed by Congress in December? [Do you (approve/disapprove) strongly or somewhat?]
|(VOL) Don’t know||18%|
14. Under this new tax plan, do you think the federal taxes you pay will go up, go down, or stay about the same?
|Stay about the same||27%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||8%|
[QUESTIONS 15 & 16 WERE ROTATED]
15. Do you think Leonard Lance is in touch or out of touch with the residents of this district?
|Out of touch||33%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||28%|
16. Do you think Tom Malinowski is in touch or out of touch with the residents of this district?
|Out of touch||28%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||42%|
17. How important is it for you personally to get involved in politics – very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?
|Not too important||14%|
|Not at all important||8%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||1%|
The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from September 13 to 17, 2018 with a random sample of 414 potential voters in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least one of the last four general or primary elections or have registered to vote since January 2016. This includes 232 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 182 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. Final sample is weighted for region, party registration, age, gender, education and race based on state voter registration list and U.S. Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and L2 (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 4.8 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.
Self-Reported Party ID
|81% White, non-Hispanic|
|44% No college degree|
|56% 4-year college degree|
|20% Hunterdon County|
|32% Somerset County|
|21% Morris / Warren Counties|
|27% Union / Essex Counties|
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.
Download this Poll Report with all tables