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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Corzine Nipping at Christie’s Heels

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Incumbent gains among independent women

With less than five weeks to go before election day, incumbent Jon Corzine has narrowed the gap with challenger Chris Christie in the race for New Jersey Governor.  The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll finds the Democrat trailing the Republican by just 3 percentage points among likely voters, down from an 8 point disadvantage last month and 14 points in August.  The reasons for this movement include a more energized Democratic base and shifting preferences of independent women. 

Currently, Chris Christie leads Jon Corzine by 43% to 40% among likely voters, with independent Chris Daggett at 8%.  When the vote preferences of all registered voters are taken into account, the race is tied with Corzine at 40% and Christie at 40%.

Partisan support has remained relatively stable over the past month.  Corzine has a 75% to 8% advantage among likely Democratic voters while Christie enjoys an 86% to 7% lead among likely Republicans and a 49% to 28% edge among likely independents.  However, the poll indicates that more Democrats have become interested in the outcome of this campaign and thus are now more likely to vote than they were just a month ago.

“New Jersey election followers should not be entirely surprised by this dynamic.  Democratic voters in New Jersey start paying attention later in the fall, causing the Republican candidate to lose ground.  The question now is whether Chris Christie can stave off any more erosion of the poll lead he has held consistently since February,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Independent female voters are another important factor behind the narrowing of this race.  Among all registered female voters who consider themselves politically independent, the governor leads by a statistically insignificant 38% to 37% for Christie.  However, this marks a decided gain for Corzine, who consistently trailed among this important voting bloc throughout the summer, including by as much as 28 points in our August poll.  [Analysis of recent New Jersey exit polls indicates that independent women generally account for about 15% of all voters in non-presidential statewide races.]


Support among Female Independent Voters

Registered Voters:

Oct. 09

Sept. 09

Aug. 09

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“The great mammogram debate of 2009 seems to be winning converts among independent women.  While these voters had been giving their soft support to Christie based on discontent with the Corzine economic record, they appear to have beaten a hasty retreat when threats to their health care access were raised,” said Murray.

The poll also found significant negative movement in the Republican candidate’s personal ratings.  Chris Christie’s personal rating now stands at 41% favorable to 39% unfavorable among likely voters.  That’s down from the 48%-30% positive standing he held in September and the 50%-26% positive rating he held among likely voters in July.  The Democrat, Jon Corzine, has an upside down 40% favorable to 49% unfavorable rating, which has been pretty steady among likely voters since July.

Even though the Republican nominee is running on a platform of “change” few registered voters believe that a new governor will have a great deal of impact on the system in Trenton.  Only 1-in-3 (35%) likely voters say that a Christie victory will bring about a lot of change in the way state government operates, while 42% say that a Christie administration would probably bring about a little change.  Another 1-in-5 (20%) believe that a Christie administration would have no impact on how state government is run.


Property Taxes and the Vote

Property taxes continue to be the main issue on voters’ minds – 48% of likely voters name this among the top one or two issues they want the candidates to address.  But only 20% of likely voters say they have heard a specific property tax plan from any of the candidates.  However, it should be noted that more four-fifths of the interviews for this poll were conducted before Chris Daggett unveiled his property tax proposal on Tuesday. 

“Since most voters express initial cynicism for any candidate who reveals a property tax proposal right now, it will be very interesting to see how the Daggett plan plays out,” said Murray.

The poll found that most likely voters (57%) say they would view any proposal to reduce property taxes as basically an election year promise just to get elected.  Another 4-in-10 believe any such move would indicate a candidate’s serious intention to change the system, although nearly all of those (33%) say it depends on which candidate does the promising.

Among likely voters, 32% say a promise from Chris Christie would make them more likely to vote for him compared to 6% who would be less likely.  If Jon Corzine made such a promise 28% say they would be more likely to vote for him compared to 10% who would be less likely.  And if Chris Daggett made such a promise – keeping in mind that most interviews in this poll were conducted before Daggett unveiled his plan – 22% would be more likely to vote for the independent compared to 8% who would be less likely.

Between the two major party candidates, likely voters continue to see Chris Christie as better able to handle property taxes than Jon Corzine, by a 46% to 31% margin.


Other Poll Findings

Among all registered voters, Governor Corzine’s job rating stands at 37% approve to 51% disapprove, which is virtually unchanged from recent polls.  President Barack Obama stands at 54% approve to 33% disapprove among registered voters in New Jersey, a slight decrease from his 59%-29% job rating in July.

This year marks the first time a Lieutenant Governor is on the New Jersey ballot.  However, awareness of this new constitutional position is not particularly high, and has actually decreased over the past few months.  Currently just 39% of registered voters have heard about the election of a Lieutenant Governor, which is down from the 58% who had heard about it in an August poll taken shortly after the gubernatorial nominees announced their running mates.

And while voters say they want to hear the candidates talk about the issues, only 3% of registered voters and 5% of likely voters are aware that the first televised debate airs tonight.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 785 New Jersey registered voters from September 24 to 29, 2009.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.  This report also includes analysis on a smaller group of 527 “likely voters” with a ± 4.3 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.      If the election for governor was held today, would you vote for Jon Corzine the Democrat, Chris Christie the Republican, Chris Daggett the independent, or some other candidate?  [If undecided: At this moment do you lean more towards Corzine or more towards Christie?]  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

2.      Please tell me if your general impression of the following candidates is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t have an opinion.  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

         Jon Corzine       

         Chris Christie

         Chris Daggett

3.      Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jon Corzine is doing as governor?

4.      In your opinion, what are the most important one or two issues that the candidates for governor should talk about? [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted] 

5.      Regardless of who you may support for governor… Who would do a better job on [READ ITEM] – Jon Corzine or Chris Christie? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

         The economy and jobs

         Property taxes

         The state budget

6.      If Chris Christie beats Jon Corzine in November, do you think this will change the way that state government operates a lot, a little, or not at all?

7.      Have you heard of specific plans from any of the candidates for governor about how they would reduce property taxes, or not?


8.      If Jon Corzine made a specific promise to reduce property taxes – would you be more likely or less likely to vote for him in November, or would it have no effect on your vote?

9.      If Chris Christie made a specific promise to reduce property taxes – would you be more    likely or less likely to vote for him in November, or would it have no effect on your vote?

10.    If Chris Daggett made a specific promise to reduce property taxes – would you be more    likely or less likely to vote for him in November, or would it have no effect on your vote?

11.    And if any of the candidates did make a promise to reduce property taxes – do you think this would be more of a serious intention to change the system or more of an election year promise just to get elected, or does it depend on which candidate makes the promise?

12.    Do you happen to know when the first televised debate between the candidates for governor will be held, or aren’t you sure?  [If “Yes”: When will it be?]

13.    This year will be the first time New Jersey elects a Lieutenant Governor.  Have you heard anything about this or not?  [If “Yes”: Have you heard a lot or just a little?]

14.    I’m going to name the lieutenant governor candidates.  Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

         Loretta Weinberg

         Kim Guadagno

         Frank Esposito

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


The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted and analyzed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute research staff.  The telephone interviews were collected on September 24-29, 2009 with a statewide random sample of 785 registered voters. 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 3.5 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.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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