With negative attack ads taking on a personal tone in the last days of campaign 2005, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine maintains his lead over the Republican nominee Doug Forrester. As of the weekend before election day, 47 percent of likely voters say they will cast their ballot for Corzine compared to 38 who support Forrester. Another 4 percent say they will vote for an independent candidate and 11 percent remain undecided at this late date. The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll results also found that voters are unhappy with the campaigns' conduct and have little confidence that either candidate will bring about real progress on major issues facing the Garden State.
While the margin for Corzine has not changed much during the fall campaign - he led Forrester among likely voters by 7 points in mid-October and 8 points in late September - voter opinion on the tone and substance of the campaign has worsened. Currently, 43 percent of likely voters say the candidates have done a good job addressing the issues important to New Jersey - down from 45 percent in September. However, 40 percent of voters feel the campaigns have done a bad job at addressing real concerns - up from 31 percent in September. In fact, a majority among the key group of independent voters (52%) say the candidates have performed poorly in talking about substantive issues that matter to voters.
"A key issue in this race, as in every race, will be turnout," remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "However, by the way they have conducted their media campaigns, both major candidates seem to have done their best to ensure that many if not most voters will stay at home on Tuesday."
Among all registered voters in the state, interest in the race - a key indicator of potential turnout - has declined over the past two months. In September, 54 percent of New Jersey registered voters said they had a lot of interest in this race. Rather than rising as the campaign got into full swing, interest dropped to 50 percent in October and then to 48 percent in the current poll.
ISSUES IN THE RACE
Throughout this race, the Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll has tracked voter opinions of the candidates' ability to tackle the state's most pressing problems - corruption in government, property taxes, and cost of living. The poll results show that the more voters hear from these two candidates, the less likely they are to believe that either man is up to the job.
When asked who will clean up corruption as governor, 38 percent of likely voters say specifically that neither candidate will do this, up from 31 percent in September. When asked who will bring down property taxes, 44 percent say neither candidate will do this, up from 31 percent in September. And when asked who will make the state a more affordable place to live, 42 percent say neither candidate will do this, up from 36 percent in September.
Among those who do make a choice between the two candidates on these issues, Corzine holds a slight 27 to 21 percent advantage on making the state more affordable, but the candidates are virtually tied on the other two top issues. For cleaning up corruption, 26 percent say Corzine will be able to accomplish this, compared to a similar 25 percent who say Forrester can handle the task. For property taxes, 23 percent of likely voters say Forrester will be able to lessen this burden, compared to a similar 22 percent who believe Corzine can make progress in this area. However, these issues probably won't come into play at this late stage of the campaign. Among those voters who have yet to make up their minds in this race, no one has a real advantage on these issues. In fact, the majority of undecided voters say that neither candidate can achieve any of these goals.
In terms of personal appeal, both candidates tend to garner more favorable than unfavorable ratings from voters. Jon Corzine, though, is doing slightly better on this measure. Currently, 46 percent of likely voters hold a favorable opinion of the Democrat compared to 32 percent who view him unfavorably and 23 percent who have no personal opinion of the candidate. Doug Forrester gets favorable marks from 37 percent of likely voters compared to 30 percent who have a negative image of him and 33 percent who have no opinion. Among independent voters, the Republican's favorable to unfavorable advantage is slim (37-35%) compared to a much wider positive gap for the Democrat (46-34%).
The current poll was already being conducted when the Forrester campaign launched a television ad featuring a quote from Joanne Corzine, the Democrat's ex-wife. Poll director Murray commented, "Our internal poll results for each evening suggest that this ad had no significant impact on the race. Voters indicate that both candidates have stepped over the line in the way they have run their campaigns, particularly with their attack ads. In fact, there is potential for this recent ad having a negative backlash for the Forrester campaign."
DYNAMICS IN THE VOTE
The overall lead for Jon Corzine in the final weekend before election day stands at 9 points among likely voters - 47 percent to 38 percent for Doug Forrester. Corzine has maintained his frontrunner status by solidifying support among core Democratic constituencies. He leads his Republican opponent among women by 11 points (48-37%), among seniors by 20 points (51-31%), and among urban voters by a whopping 50 points (71-21%). Corzine also holds a small but important advantage over Forrester among independent voters (44-38%).
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone from November 2 to 4, 2005 with 728 New Jersey voters considered most likely to vote on November 8 th. This sample size has a ± 3.6 percent margin of error.
The questions referred to in this release are as follows:
Q2. As you know, there will be an election for governor of New Jersey this November. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election - a lot, some, a little, or none at all?
Q4. If the election for Governor was held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] Doug Forrester the Republican, Jon Corzine the Democrat, or some other candidate? [ INCLUDES LEANERS ]
Composite Table: Strength of Vote Choice
Q4. If the election for Governor was held today, would you vote for Doug Forrester the Republican, Jon Corzine the Democrat, or some other candidate?
Q5. At this moment do you lean more towards Forrester or more towards Corzine?
Q6. Are you very sure about voting for (Forrester/Corzine), or might you change your mind before the election?
Q7. Is your vote more for [YOUR CANDIDATE NAME] or more against [OTHER CANDIDATE]?
Q8. Is your general impression of [INSERT NAME] favorable, unfavorable, or don't you really have an opinion about him?
Q9. Have the candidates so far done a good job or bad job of addressing the issues that are important to you?
Q10A. Who, if elected governor, will make New Jersey more affordable to live in than is today - Forrester, Corzine, or neither one?
Q10B. Who, if elected governor, will clean up corruption in state government - Forrester, Corzine, or neither one?
Q10C. Who, if elected governor, will bring down property taxes in the state - Forrester, Corzine, or neither one?
Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted November 2-4, 2005 with a statewide random sample of 728 voters considered most likely to vote on election day. For results based on the likely voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.6 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