The more things change, the more the stay the same…or so the saying goes. Despite a full barrage of campaign advertising and some shifts among key voter groups, the overall race for governor stands pretty much where it was 3 weeks ago. Currently, Jon Corzine leads Doug Forrester 45 to 38 percent among likely voters in New Jersey's gubernatorial race. Another 4 percent intend to vote for a third party candidate and 13 percent remain undecided. This represents a negligible one point drop in the Democrat's support since the last Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll on September 28. Among registered voters, Corzine leads 43 to 33 percent.
While the overall race remains unchanged, there has been some back and forth movement among different segments of the electorate. The latest poll numbers indicate that the Democrat has lost some ground among independent voters. Corzine currently has a 2 point advantage among this important voting block - 36 percent to 34 percent for Forrester. Three weeks ago, Corzine led by 9 points among this group.
The shift among independents is countered by the fact that Forrester has yet to seal the deal with his Republican base. While Corzine takes 80 percent of the Democratic leaning registered voters, Forrester support among his partisans stands at 73 percent.
Furthermore, interest in the election - a key indicator of voter turnout - has actually decreased among Republican and independent voters since the last poll. Overall, only 50 percent of New Jersey's registered voters say they have a lot of interest in the upcoming election, down from 54 percent in September. This interest level includes fewer than half of all Republican and independent voters.
"Voter interest in an election is supposed to increase as the campaign progresses. We're seeing just the opposite," observed Patrick Murray director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "Voters looking for a change from politics as usual are not particularly bowled over by Doug Forrester."
The poll found that a good number of voters now siding with the Republican are doing so as a vote "against Corzine" more than as positive backing for the Republican nominee's candidacy. Among Forrester voters, only 55 percent say they are voting "for" him compared to 35 percent who say their support is more to keep Corzine out of office. This contrasts with Corzine voters, 74 percent of whom say they are casting a positive vote to put their candidate in office compared to only 19 percent who say they are voting "against" the Republican.
"Voting to keep the other guy out of office can be a powerful motivation, but past elections show that this sentiment usually underlies weak support for the alternative," remarked Murray. "The bottom line is the more voters see of these two candidates' proposals the more hard pressed they are to find a dime's worth of difference on the top issues."
Voters have been inundated with advertising over the past few weeks. However, rather than distinguishing between the abilities and policies of the two candidates, voters are more likely to believe that neither candidate will be able to tackle the major issues facing the state.
The two major party nominees for governor have both staked their candidacies on plans for property tax relief. Whether it's a "40-in-4" or "30-in-3" plan, most voters do not believe that they will see serious tax cuts from either candidate. When asked which candidate will bring down property taxes in the state, almost equal numbers pick Corzine (21%) as choose Forrester (20%). More importantly, 46 percent say that neither candidate can get the job done on property taxes - an increase of 12 percentage points since September.
In fact, about half of all voters believe that the total state taxes they pay will most likely increase under both Corzine (51%) and Forrester (48%). Only 1-in-10 voters believe that either of these candidates will be able to lower state taxes during their administration if elected.
One key element of the Forrester campaign has been a call for change in order to root out corruption in state government. The Republican has presented himself as an outsider to the Democratic establishment in Trenton. And while he had a slight lead on this issue three weeks ago, barrages of negative advertising have erased his advantage. When asked which candidate will clean up corruption, 20 percent choose Forrester (down 9 points from September) to 22 percent for Corzine (up by 2 points). Another 42 percent say neither contender will accomplish this - a 9 point increase in cynicism since September.
On the other hand, the Democrat has retained his modest advantage on other issues he has been emphasizing, including making New Jersey more affordable (25% for Corzine to 16% for Forrester), bringing more jobs and businesses into the state (32% to 20%), and improving public schools (29% to 17%). In any event, a large number of voters believe that neither candidate will bring about any changes in these areas, and this sentiment has only increased since September.
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 602 New Jersey registered voters from October 14 to 19, 2005. This sample has a margin of error of ± 4 percent. Results in this release are also based on a subgroup of 371 likely voters with a ± 5 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]?
Q9. Who, if elected governor, will [READ ITEM] - Corzine, Forrester, or neither one?
Q9. Who, if elected governor, will [READ ITEM] - Corzine, Forrester, or neither one? [CONT'D]
Q10/11. Do you think the state taxes you pay will go up, go down, or stay the same if [NAME OF CANDIDATE] is elected governor?
Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted October 14-19, 2005 with a statewide random sample of 602 registered voters. 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 4.0 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