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Menendez Gains Advantage

Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006

2-in-3 voters say campaign is negative

What goes around comes around. The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll now shows Democrat Bob Menendez ahead in New Jersey’s U.S. Senate contest. He leads by 48% to 39% among likely voters, wiping out the 6 point lead enjoyed by Republican Tom Kean, Jr. just four weeks ago. Another 10% of voters are undecided and 3% say they will vote for another candidate. Among all registered voters, Menendez leads Kean by 43% to 36%.

Both candidates have solidified their partisan support – Menendez enjoys 81% to 8% support among Democratic voters (up from 71%-16% in September) and Kean takes the Republican vote by 85% to 3% (up from 81%-8%). However, Kean’s 14 point lead among independent voters last month has vanished. Menendez now has a slim 37% to 32% advantage among this group. While Menendez is doing better among independents, the poll indicates that this is due more to voter perception on how the campaigns have been conducting themselves rather than on any particular policy issues.

Specifically, 43% of likely voters in the Garden State say the two candidates have done a bad job of addressing the issues important to voters. This compares to 41% who feel the two men have done a good job talking about the issues.

Moreover, 38% of the likely electorate believe that neither candidate has done a good job explaining why he wants to be Senator, with the remainder split between Menendez (30%) and Kean (23%). Interestingly, even their own partisan backers have a hard time identifying what the two candidates stand for. Among both Republican and Democratic supporters, just half – 50% for each – feel their party’s candidate has done a good job articulating his vision.

The poll results indicate that while the allegations of ethical lapses against the incumbent senator Bob Menendez had previously gained traction among the electorate, challenger Tom Kean appears to be suffering a voter backlash for the tone of the campaign.

In a sweeping reversal of opinion, 65% of likely voters now characterize New Jersey’s senate race as decidedly negative. Just four weeks ago – when few voters were paying attention – a majority (55%) felt the race was generally positive.

Most voters (55%) lay the blame for the race’s tone equally at both candidates’ feet. Among those who say one candidate has been more negative, Kean (28%) is named somewhat more often than Menendez (16%).

“Voters have finally started paying attention to the senate race, and boy do they wish they hadn’t,” remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “At this stage, the negative tone of the race seems to be causing more of a problem for Kean.”

The poll found that Menendez now has a 39% to 33% favorable to unfavorable rating among likely voters. In September, voters’ views of the Democratic nominee were divided 33% to 30%. Turning to the challenger, voters in the current poll are now divided in their views of candidate Kean – 36% favorable to 33% unfavorable. However, four weeks ago, the Republican enjoyed a 42% to 17% favorability rating.

ISSUES (?) IN THE RACE

Voters were asked to choose which candidate has more of an advantage in six issue areas. The poll found that even when voters prefer a candidate on any one issue, the differences are not stark.

The key message of the Kean campaign has been ethics. The Republican enjoys an advantage in this area, but only a small one. Just 26% of likely voters say that Tom Kean is the candidate with high ethical standards compared to fewer (16%) who say the same for Menendez. Another 21% of voters say that both have high ethical standards, but 25% feel that neither candidate can make a claim to being the paragon of ethical behavior.

Menendez’s camp has been trying to paint their opponent as an unquestioning supporter of President Bush’s policy in Iraq. While the Democrat enjoys an advantage on the war issue, again it is a small one. Whereas 38% of likely voters say that Menendez shares their views on the war in Iraq, 30% say the same about Kean and 17% say that neither is in line with their thinking on this issue.

Murray noted, “While Menendez’s advantage on Iraq is not particularly large, it is important to note that this is the only issue where more than 2-in-3 voters actually choose sides. This can be an important leverage point among the state’s historically Democratic electorate.”

Menendez also enjoys issue advantages on immigration policy (31%-18%) and understanding the problems of average New Jerseyans (37-19%).

The remaining two issues included in the poll produced no clear winner. As to which candidate is more likely to get New Jersey its fair share of homeland security funding, 26% choose Kean and 26% pick Menendez. Another 15% say both would do equally as well and 12% feel neither can have any influence in this area.

While both candidates have tried to position themselves as political mavericks fighting on behalf of the Garden State, the voters aren’t buying it – 54% say that neither candidate can cast himself as a political outsider. Only 18% give that nod to Kean and 11% to Menendez.

“Barring any new revelations or actual charges against Menendez, the Kean campaign’s strategy may have peaked in late September,” commented Murray. “Without a strong issue advantage for either candidate, it appears that the New Jersey electorate may be reverting to its blue state tendencies.”

The poll also included a question about which political party is better able to clean up corruption in the U.S. Congress. In the wake of numerous scandals affecting the Republican party in Washington, a recent national Gallup Poll showed that a majority of likely voters believe that the Democrats in Congress would do a better job than their GOP counterparts in dealing with corruption by a 51% to 28% margin. And while New Jersey voters are also more likely to prefer congressional Democrats on this issue, it appears that in-state scandals surrounding this party do not give the Dems the same edge as in other states. Among likely Garden State voters, 38% say the Democrats in Congress can better deal with corruption, compared to 25% who choose the Republicans and 29% who say there is no difference between the two.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 647 New Jersey registered voters October 16-19, 2006. This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.9 percent. The analysis in this report is based mainly on a smaller group of 396 “likely voters” with a ± 4.9 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, Home News Tribune, and Ocean County Observer).

DATA TABLES

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

  1. As you may know, there will be an election for United States Senator from New Jersey this November. How much interest do you have in the upcoming election – a lot, some, a little, or none at all?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

A lot 46% 66% 49% 42% 45%
Some 30% 34% 26% 35% 31%
A little 16% 0% 18% 13% 18%
None at all 8% 0% 6% 10% 6%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006 September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

A lot 46% 66% 44% 66% 38%

N/A

Some 30% 34% 29% 34% 34%

N/A

A little 16% 0% 18% 0% 17%

N/A

None at all 8% 0% 8% 0% 11%

N/A

Unwtd N

647

396 630 391 670

N/A

4. If the election for Senator was held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] Tom Kean, Junior the Republican, Robert Menendez the Democrat, or some other candidate?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
PARTY ID GENDER RACE AGE

REGION OF STATE

Dem

Ind Rep Male Female White Black &
Hispanic
18-29 30-49 50+ North Central

South

Kean 36% 39% 8% 32% 85% 35% 36% 43% 16%

n/a

34% 36% 35% 39% 35%
Menendez 43% 48% 81% 37% 3% 45% 42% 36% 66%

n/a

46% 42% 44% 44% 44%
Other 4% 3% 3% 7% 2% 6% 3% 5% 1%

n/a

3% 4% 4% 3% 4%
Undecided 16% 10% 9% 24% 11% 13% 19% 16% 17%

n/a

18% 18% 17% 14% 16%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245 165 308 339 525 92 57 257 329 297 162

181

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind Rep Dem Ind Rep Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 36% 39% 8% 32% 85% 44% 44% 16% 43% 81% 37%

N/A

10% 39% 77%
Menendez 43% 48% 81% 37% 3% 36% 38% 71% 29% 8% 38%

N/A

77% 24% 7%
Other 4% 3% 3% 7% 2% 3% 3% 2% 5% 3% 5%

N/A

1% 11% 3%
Undecided 16% 10% 9% 24% 11% 17% 14% 10% 23% 8% 20%

N/A

13% 27% 13%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245 165 630 391 172 265 173 670

N/A

208 267

175

Composite Table: Strength of Vote Choice 4 If the election for Senator was held today, would you vote for [ROTATE] Tom Kean Junior the Republican Robert Menendez the Democrat, or some other candidate?

  1. At this moment do you lean more towards Kean or more towards Menendez?
  2. Are you very sure about voting for [Name]; or might you change your mind before election?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

Sure Kean 23% 28% 3% 18% 64%
Weak Kean 8% 8% 4% 8% 13%
Lean Kean 4% 3% 1% 5% 7%
Undecided- Other 21% 13% 12% 31% 12%
Lean Menendez 6% 4% 6% 8% 2%
Weak Menendez 8% 7% 12% 9% 1%
Sure Menendez 30% 37% 63% 20% 0%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Sure Kean 23% 28% 24% 28% 17%

N/A

Weak Kean 8% 8% 12% 9% 12%

N/A

Lean Kean 4% 3% 8% 7% 8%

N/A

Undecided- Other 21% 13% 20% 17% 25%

N/A

Lean Menendez 6% 4% 4% 4% 6%

N/A

Weak Menendez 8% 7% 9% 8% 11%

N/A

Sure Menendez 30% 37% 23% 26% 21%

N/A

Unwtd N

647

396 630 391 670

N/A

7A. Is your general impression of Tom Kean Junior favorable or unfavorable, or don’t you really have an opinion about him?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

Favorable 30% 36% 12% 27% 63%
Unfavorable 27% 33% 48% 21% 6%
No opinion 43% 31% 39% 52% 32%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Favorable 30% 36% 37% 42% 28%

N/A

Unfavorable 27% 33% 14% 17% 12%

N/A

No opinion 43% 31% 48% 41% 60%

N/A

Unwtd N

647

396 630 391 670

N/A

7B. Is your general impression of Robert Menendez favorable or unfavorable, or don’t you really have an opinion about him?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

Favorable 33% 39% 60% 25% 7%
Unfavorable 27% 33% 6% 29% 57%
No opinion 40% 27% 34% 46% 36%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Favorable 33% 39% 29% 33% 29%

N/A

Unfavorable 27% 33% 22% 30% 13%

N/A

No opinion 40% 27% 49% 37% 57%

N/A

Unwtd N 647 396 630 391 670

N/A

  1. Have the candidates so far done a good job or addressing the issues that are important to you?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Good job 37% 41% 45% 44% 25% 43% 31% 41%
Bad job 40% 43% 40% 36% 35% 33% 45% 43%
(VOL) Don’t Know 23% 16% 15% 19% 40% 24% 24% 16%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Good job 37% 41% 38% 41%
Bad job 40% 43% 29% 32%
(VOL) Don’t Know 23% 16% 33% 26%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

  1. Who do you think is doing a better job explaining his vision for why he wants to be Senator—Kean, Menendez, or neither one?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 20% 23% 52% 2% 9% 3% 18% 50%
Menendez 27% 30% 5% 56% 13% 50% 22% 3%
Neither 38% 38% 31% 31% 52% 32% 44% 36%
(VOL) Both equally 4% 4% 3% 3% 7% 4% 3% 4%
(VOL) Don’t Know 12% 5% 9% 9% 20% 11% 13% 8%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 20% 23% 22% 23%
Menendez 27% 30% 21% 24%
Neither 38% 38% 33% 33%
(VOL) Both equally 4% 4% 5% 6%
(VOL) Don’t Know 12% 5% 19% 14%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

  1. So far, would you characterize this race as being positive or negative?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

Positive 29% 26% 34% 27% 25%
Negative 57% 65% 53% 57% 61%
(VOL) Some of both 4% 4% 3% 6% 3%
(VOL) Neither 4% 2% 4% 4% 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 6% 3% 5% 6% 6%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Positive 29% 26% 55% 55%
Negative 57% 65% 27% 32%
(VOL) Some of both 4% 4% 4% 3%
(VOL) Neither 4% 2% 3% 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 6% 3% 11% 8%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

[IF RACE HAS BEEN NEGATIVE, ASK:]

10A. Who has been more negative – Kean, Menendez or both equally?

October 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 26% 28%
Menendez 13% 16%
Both equally 61% 55%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 2%
Unwtd N

436

288

  1. Which candidate [READ ITEM]—Kean, Menendez, both, or neither one?

Is a political outsider

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 15% 18% 17% 22% 3% 17% 14% 14%
Menendez 13% 11% 13% 13% 12% 13% 12% 13%
Both 3% 1% 0% 2% 8% 2% 5% 1%
Neither 45% 54% 50% 45% 36% 42% 48% 46%
(VOL) Don’t Know 24% 16% 20% 17% 41% 26% 21% 27%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 15% 18% 15% 16%
Menendez 13% 11% 21% 21%
Both 3% 1% 5% 4%
Neither 45% 54% 33% 39%
(VOL) Don’t Know 24% 16% 26% 20%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

Understands the problems of average New Jerseyans

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 16% 19% 43% 1% 7% 4% 11% 39%
Menendez 31% 37% 6% 65% 15% 58% 26% 3%
Both 12% 13% 16% 9% 13% 10% 15% 13%
Neither 28% 24% 29% 19% 32% 17% 32% 36%
(VOL) Don’t Know 13% 5% 6% 6% 32% 12% 16% 10%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 16% 19% 20% 22%
Menendez 31% 37% 26% 28%
Both 12% 13% 15% 13%
Neither 28% 24% 23% 24%
(VOL) Don’t Know 13% 5% 17% 13%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

Has high ethical standards

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 21% 26% 49% 7% 10% 8% 20% 46%
Menendez 16% 16% 2% 34% 7% 28% 13% 2%
Both 18% 21% 21% 20% 17% 21% 16% 17%
Neither 25% 25% 18% 24% 25% 23% 29% 20%
(VOL) Don’t Know 19% 12% 10% 15% 40% 20% 21% 15%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 21% 26% 24% 29%
Menendez 16% 16% 13% 13%
Both 18% 21% 21% 23%
Neither 25% 25% 17% 19%
(VOL) Don’t Know 19% 12% 25% 17%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

Will make sure New Jersey gets its fair share of homeland security funding

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 21% 26% 53% 4% 7% 6% 17% 50%
Menendez 23% 26% 2% 52% 6% 47% 16% 0%
Both 16% 15% 16% 17% 18% 14% 17% 15%
Neither 14% 12% 12% 11% 13% 14% 16% 13%
(VOL) Don’t Know 26% 20% 17% 16% 56% 18% 34% 22%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 21% 26% 26% 29%
Menendez 23% 26% 19% 22%
Both 16% 15% 15% 14%
Neither 14% 12% 15% 16%
(VOL) Don’t Know 26% 20% 25% 19%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

Shares your views on immigration policy

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 17% 18% 44% 3% 5% 3% 16% 41%
Menendez 27% 31% 5% 53% 15% 44% 25% 4%
Both 3% 4% 7% 1% 1% 1% 3% 6%
Neither 22% 22% 19% 15% 32% 20% 25% 21%
(VOL) Don’t Know 31% 25% 25% 27% 47% 33% 31% 27%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 17% 18% 18% 19%
Menendez 27% 31% 18% 18%
Both 3% 4% 7% 7%
Neither 22% 22% 17% 20%
(VOL) Don’t Know 31% 25% 40% 35%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

Shares your views on the war in Iraq

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
VOTE INTENTION

PARTY ID

Kean

Menendez Undecided Dem Ind

Rep

Kean 25% 30% 63% 2% 10% 1% 21% 67%
Menendez 34% 38% 1% 72% 18% 62% 29% 3%
Both 5% 4% 5% 6% 3% 5% 5% 2%
Neither 18% 17% 19% 9% 28% 15% 22% 15%
(VOL) Don’t Know 18% 12% 12% 11% 41% 16% 22% 12%
Unwtd N

647

396 211 248 136 217 245

165

TREND

October 2006

September 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Kean 25% 30% 22% 24%
Menendez 34% 38% 20% 23%
Both 5% 4% 6% 4%
Neither 18% 17% 23% 25%
(VOL) Don’t Know 18% 12% 29% 23%
Unwtd N

647

396 630

391

  1. In general, do you think the Republicans in Congress or the Democrats in Congress would do a better job dealing with corruption in government?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
PARTY ID

National Poll

Dem

Ind Rep

Likely Voters

Republicans 21% 25% 2% 18% 55% 28%
Democrats 35% 38% 73% 22% 5% 51%
(VOL/No Difference) 33% 29% 19% 45% 29% 21%
(VOL/DK) 11% 7% 6% 15% 11%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245 165

622

Note: National Poll figures from Gallup Poll Oct 6-8

  1. The election is still a couple of months away. How closely have you personally been following the campaign for U.S. Senate so far—very closely, somewhat closely, or not very closely so far?

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

PARTY ID

Dem

Ind

Rep

Very closely 19% 28% 23% 17% 19%
Somewhat closely 50% 55% 49% 47% 55%
Not very closely 31% 16% 29% 36% 26%
Unwtd N

647

396 217 245

165

October 2006

September 2006

July 2006

Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters
Likely
Voters
Registered
Voters

Likely
Voters

Very closely 19% 28% 13% 17% 10%

N/A

Somewhat closely 50% 55% 45% 52% 34%

N/A

Not very closely 31% 16% 42% 32% 56%

N/A

Unwtd N

647

396 630 391 670

N/A

Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on October 16-19, 2006 with a statewide random sample of 647 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 3.9 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.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues which affect the state. Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs