Democrat Cory Booker holds a 10 point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan in the race for U.S. Senate, which is narrower than prior margins in the Monmouth University Poll . Despite being seen as more in step with the views of his fellow New Jerseyans, voters continue to express concern about Booker's motives in seeking higher office.
Booker currently holds a 52% to 42% lead over Lonegan among New Jerseyans likely to vote in Wednesday's special election. This is down from the 13 point lead he held two weeks ago and the 16 point edge he enjoyed during the summer. With just days to go before the special election, 12% of voters say they are either undecided or could change their mind about the candidate they intend to support. Among "firm" voters who have made a choice and say they will not change their minds, Booker has a 47% to 39% advantage over Lonegan.
Booker has solid support among Democratic voters (90%), while Lonegan musters support from a similar 86% of his Republican base. Independent voters now give a slight edge to Lonegan, who can claim support from 48% of this bloc compared to 43% for Booker. Two weeks ago, Booker had a slight 46% to 40% edge among independents. Booker maintains a strong advantage with black (84% to 9%) and Hispanic (54% to 41%) voters, but trails - albeit by a statistically insignificant margin - among white voters (46% to 49% for Lonegan).
"Concerns about Cory Booker's intentions to serve New Jersey continue to persist and his favorability ratings continue to drop. At the same time, voters clearly prefer Booker's political views over Lonegan's. The message seems to be that Garden State voters don't like to feel that their support is being taken for granted," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The poll asked voters whether they think Cory Booker wants to become a US Senator more to be on the national stage or more to serve the state of New Jersey. A 48% plurality say the national spotlight is the main attraction compared to 37% who say Booker's focus is on the Garden State. This is basically unchanged from the 45% to 35% split on this question from a poll two weeks ago.
Cory Booker's personal rating stands at 51% favorable to 30% unfavorable among likely voters, with 19% having no opinion. This marks the third consecutive decline in voter opinion of the Newark mayor since June, when his ratings stood at 61% favorable to 15% unfavorable. Booker's net personal ratings (favorable minus unfavorable) have dropped from +46 in June, to +34 in August, +26 two weeks ago, and +21 in the current poll.
Steve Lonegan has also seen his net personal ratings decline as more voters have become familiar with him, but it has not been by the same magnitude as for Booker. Lonegan's net personal ratings have declined from +14 in June, to +11 in August, +7 two weeks ago, and +3 in the current poll. Currently, 38% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the former mayor of Bogota compared to 35% who hold an unfavorable view. Another 27% have no opinion, which is down significantly from prior polls, including 38% of voters with no opinion two weeks ago and 49% with no opinion in August.
The Democratic candidate has a significant advantage over the Republican nominee when it comes to the general question of whose views are a better fit for New Jersey. A majority of voters (55%) say Booker's views on the issues are in line with most New Jerseyans, while just 30% say they are out of step. A plurality of voters (46%), on the other hand, say that Lonegan's views are out of step compared to 37% who say they are in line with the constituents he wishes to represent in the US Senate.
Turnout continues to be a big question in this unprecedented situation: a mid-October Wednesday election held just three weeks before the regularly scheduled November election for governor, state legislature, and a variety of local offices. The poll's current likely voter model indicates that between 35% and 40% of registered voters will cast a ballot this week.
Interestingly, the number of likely voters who say they would opt only to vote in the Senate election this fall if they had to choose between the special election and the regular November election has grown over the past weeks. If forced to choose, 38% say they would opt for the special Senate election, which is up from 29% two weeks ago, 26% in August and 23% in June. This suggests that turnout in October could also have an impact on November's election if more voters than anticipated decide to stay home for the second contest.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 10 to 12, 2013 with 1,393 New Jersey voters likely to vote in the October special election. This sample has a margin of error of ± 2.6 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?
2. If the election for U.S. Senate was today, would you vote for Steve Lonegan, the Republican, Cory Booker, the Democrat or some other candidate? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [IF UNDECIDED: At this moment, do you lean toward Steve Lonegan or do you lean toward Cory Booker?]
[QUESTIONS 3 AND 4 WERE ROTATED]
3. Is your general opinion of Cory Booker favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
4. Is your general opinion of Steve Lonegan favorable, unfavorable, or do you have no opinion of him?
[QUESTIONS 5 AND 6 WERE ROTATED]
5. Are Cory Booker’s views on the issues generally in line or out of step with most New Jerseyans?
6. Are Steve Lonegan’s views on the issues generally in line or out of step with most New Jerseyans?
7. Do you think Cory Booker wants to become a U.S. Senator more to be on the national stage or more to serve New Jersey?
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 10 to 12, 2013 with a statewide random sample of 1,393 likely voters drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in at least two of the last four general elections, including 751 contacted by interactive voice response (IVR) on a landline telephone, 388 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 254 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 2.6 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.
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