Barack Obama has opened up a wide lead over John McCain among New Jersey voters according to the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll . The Democrat leads by 54% to 35% among all registered voters and has a similar 55% to 38% advantage among those most likely to vote on November 4. Obama has doubled the 8 point lead he held among likely voters last month. Importantly, very few Obama voters indicate that they are likely to change their minds before election day.
The Democrat's gains came largely from a 16 point swing among men and further solidification of his popularity among young voters. Currently, Obama is the choice of male voters by 52% to 37%, up from a 45%-46% deficit in September. Female voters prefer Obama by 55% to 32%, which is basically unchanged from last month.
The Illinois senator, who has consistently been ahead among young voters, now holds a 71% to 20% lead among voters under age 35, up from 54%-30% in September. He also leads among white voters in the Garden State by a slim 46%-43% margin. In September, McCain had a 48%-43% advantage among this group.
"We have reached the tipping point in this race, with nearly half of the state's voters saying they are very sure they will vote for Obama," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "At this point, it would take an October surprise of astronomical proportions to turn New Jersey from blue to red."
Following the third and final debate of this campaign, of which many observers remarked on Senator McCain's demeanor, more New Jersey voters see Obama as having a good temperament to be president (71%) than say the same about the Republican nominee (43%).
More New Jersey voters prefer Obama to handle the economy by a 54% to 33% margin, increasing his advantage on this issue from 13 points in September to 21 points now. Also, 68% of voters say they are confident in Obama's ability to handle the current financial crisis, compared to 53% who say the same of McCain.
The Democrat also enjoys advantages on caring about average people (68%-40%), being an agent of change (61%-33%), having a clear plan (58%-35%), being a strong and decisive leader (58%-54%), and having good judgment in a crisis (57%-54%). McCain retains an advantage only on experience (63%-48%). However, the Democrat has made net gains in all these qualities since last month.
The poll also found that the Republican ticket's favorability ratings among New Jersey voters have declined in the past month. John McCain is now viewed favorably by 44% (down from 49%) and unfavorably by 40% (up from 34%). This is still better than his vice presidential choice, Sarah Palin, who now has an upside down 36%-45% favorability rating, after registering a positive 42%-32% rating in September.
For the Democratic ticket, Barack Obama's favorability rating remains steady at 62%-23%. Veep candidate Joe Biden's rating stands at a similar 58%-23%, which is up from 47%-21% in September.
The dip in the GOP candidates' ratings may be a byproduct of the ads run during this campaign. New Jersey voters split on whether the tone of this campaign has been more positive (40%) or negative (40%). Among those who feel the race has been negative, many more blame McCain (49%) than Obama (13%), with another 37% saying both candidates have been equally negative.
Despite the mixed views on the campaign's tone, voter enthusiasm remains high, particularly among Democrats. Currently, 68% of voters say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting compared to only 17% who say they are less enthusiastic. The partisan enthusiasm gap, which narrowed slightly in September, now clearly favors the Obama ticket - 82% of Democratic-identifying voters say they are more enthusiastic than usual. This compares to 58% of Republicans and 61% of independents who feel the same.
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 900 New Jersey registered voters October 15-18, 2008. This sample has a margin of error of
± 3.3 percent. This report also includes analysis on a smaller group of 723 "likely voters" with a ± 3.7 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. As you may know, there will be an election for President in November. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election – a lot, some, a little, or none at all?
2. If the election for President was held today, would you vote for John McCain the Republican, Barack Obama the Democrat, or some other candidate? [IF UNDECIDED: At this moment do you lean more towards McCain or more towards Obama?] [NAMES WERE ROTATED]
Composite Table: Strength of Vote Choice
2 If the election for President was held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] John McCain the Republican, Barack Obama the Democrat, or some other candidate?
3. At this moment do you lean more towards McCain or more towards Obama?
4. Are you very sure about voting for [Name]; or might you change your mind before Election Day?
[QUESTIONS 5, 6, 7, AND 8 WERE ROTATED]
5. Please tell me if your general impression of Barack Obama is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.
6. Please tell me if your general impression of John McCain is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.
7. Please tell me if your general impression of Joe Biden is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.
8. Please tell me if your general impression of Sarah Palin is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.
9. Regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think Barack Obama or John McCain would better handle the issue of the economy?
10. Now, thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each one applies more to Obama or more to McCain, or to both equally. [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
A. Is a strong and decisive leader
B. Cares about people like you
C. Would display good judgment in a crisis
D. Has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems
E. Has the right experience to be president
F. Can bring about the kind of change the country needs
G. Has a good temperament to be president
11. So far, would you characterize the presidential race as being generally positive or negative?
[The following question was asked only of those who said “Negative” or “Both” to Q11, moe= ± 4.4%]
12. Who has been more negative – Obama or McCain, or both equally?
13. How closely have you been following the campaign for president so far – very closely, somewhat closely, or not very closely?
14. Compared to past elections, are you more enthusiastic than usual about voting, or less enthusiastic?
15. How confident are you in the ability of each of the following to handle the current financial crisis: very confident, somewhat confident, not very confident, or not confident at all? [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted and analyzed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute research staff. The telephone interviews were collected by Braun Research on October 15-18, 2008 with a statewide random sample of 900 registered voters. For results based on this voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.3 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