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Monmouth University Polling Institute

NJ Governor: It’s Anyone’s Game

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Christie, Corzine neck and neck as Daggett fades

Just days before selecting their next governor, New Jersey voters are clearly divided.  The only sure bet from the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  is that the winner will be either a Republican or a Democrat.   As of Friday night, challenger Chris Christie held an insignificant one point lead over incumbent Jon Corzine among likely voters, 43% to 42%.  Two weeks ago, the race was tied at 39% each.   Independent Chris Daggett has faded to 8%, after reaching 14% in the previous poll.

Republican voters give 86% support to their party's nominee, compared to 6% for Corzine and 5% for Daggett.  Democratic voters give 77% support to their party's nominee, compared to 11% for Christie and 9% for Daggett.

"This election will be defined by turnout like few others before it.  Many Democrats are sitting on the sidelines and not considered to be likely voters at this point.  They may be unenthusiastic about their governor, but can they be prodded to the polls for other reasons?  If not, Christie may eke out the win," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A key dynamic in this race has been the vacillations of independent voters.  The GOP nominee Christie now garners a 51% majority with this important voting bloc compared to just 29% for Democrat Corzine.  The major shift is a drop in Daggett's support from 22% of independent voters two weeks ago to just 10% in the current poll.

"Independent voters are simply unhappy with the job Governor Corzine has done over the past four years.  After a brief flirtation with Daggett's candidacy, many seem to have returned to Christie as their best chance for change," said Murray.

Jon Corzine's job performance rating stands at 35% approve to 55% disapprove among likely voters, including an anemic 21% to 69% among independents.   The governor's personal rating stands at 39% favorable to 49% unfavorable, which has been fairly stable since July.

The Republican's ratings, though, have rebounded from the steady slide they experienced throughout the year.  Currently, voter opinion of Chris Christie stands at 44% favorable to 36% unfavorable.  It had dipped to 40% favorable to 41% unfavorable in mid-October.

"Political operatives live by the mantra that negative ads work.  That may be true, but there is also a tipping point where too many negative ads can backfire.  Perhaps we have reached that point in this race," said Murray.

Fully 73% of New Jersey voters say that Jon Corzine has unfairly attacked Chris Christie.  A smaller majority of 54% say Christie has done the same against the governor.  Independents are more likely to say that Corzine (78%) rather than Christie (46%) has launched unfair assaults.  Unsurprisingly, Republicans agree, with 82% saying Corzine has attacked unfairly and 37% saying the same about Christie.  On the other hand, Democratic voters are equally as likely to blame both Corzine (62%) and Christie (68%) for unfair attacks in this campaign.

The poll also found that independent candidate Chris Daggett's personal rating is now 22% favorable to 22% unfavorable, which is less positive than the 28% to 15% rating he held two weeks ago.  A majority (56%) of likely voters still say they don't know enough to form an opinion about him.

The shift in voter opinion of Daggett is particularly pronounced among Republicans, going from a net positive 29% to 15% in mid-October to a net negative 18% to 30% in the current poll.  "It seems that a good number of Republicans have gone from seeing Daggett as a credible candidate to an unwelcome spoiler," said Murray.

Some observers have speculated that the conservative wing of the Republican Party may withhold support for their nominee.  However, the poll found that 90% of Republican voters who say they supported Steve Lonegan in the GOP primary are backing Chris Christie in the general election, which is statistically similar to the 95% who initially backed Christie in June and still support him today.

- Green Acres Bond -  

Voters going to the polls on November 3 rd  will also be asked to approve a $400 million bond measure to fund Green Acres, water supply and floodplain protection, farmland and historic preservation projects, as well as park improvements.  However, just 16% have heard a lot about this public question and 43% have heard a little.  Another 41% of likely voters have heard nothing about the bond issue they will be asked to vote on.

Currently, just over half (51%) of likely voters indicate they will support the bond, while 28% will definitely vote against it and 21% are undecided or won't vote on the question.

The text of the public question and interpretive statement on the ballot mentions the word debt only once.  Currently, just 35% of voters say they know that the measure would require new state borrowing.  Another 16% actually think that there will be no debt involved and 49% say they have no idea.  After being informed that the $400 million program would require additional state borrowing, support for the bond drops to 30% in the poll.

"Past polling on public bond referenda suggests that most undecided voters will fall into the 'no' camp on election day.  At only 51 percent support, this bond issue could be in trouble, especially if voters link the word 'bond' with 'debt.'  It may be fortunate for proponents of this measure that most voters don't," said Murray.

  Candidate Support by Party  

Likely Voters  

Late Oct 09  

Mid  Oct 09  

Early Oct 09  

Sept 09  

Aug 09  

July 09  

Democrats  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corzine

77%

76%

75%

77%

74%

71%

Christie

11%

8%

8%

10%

17%

15%

Daggett

9%

11%

8%

6%

2%

3%

Other

0%

0%

0%

1%

2%

0%

Undecided

3%

5%

9%

6%

5%

11%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corzine

6%

6%

7%

7%

9%

9%

Christie

86%

81%

86%

83%

87%

83%

Daggett

5%

8%

3%

5%

2%

3%

Other

0%

1%

0%

1%

0%

0%

Undecided

3%

4%

3%

4%

2%

6%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corzine

29%

21%

28%

30%

24%

26%

Christie

51%

45%

49%

53%

56%

47%

Daggett

10%

22%

11%

4%

7%

7%

Other

3%

2%

2%

2%

4%

1%

Undecided

6%

10%

10%

11%

9%

18%

           

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 1,041 New Jersey likely voters from October 28 to 30, 2009.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.0 percent.  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.      If the election for governor was held today, would you vote for Jon Corzine the Democrat, Chris Christie the Republican, Chris Daggett the independent, or some other candidate?  [If undecided: At this moment do you lean more towards Corzine or more towards Christie?]  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

2.      Please tell me if your general impression of the following candidates is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t have an opinion.  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

         -  Jon Corzine

         -  Chris Christie     

         -  Chris Daggett

3.      Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jon Corzine is doing as governor?

4.      Which ONE of the following issues matters most in deciding how you will vote for governor?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

5.      Which ONE of the following candidate qualities matters most in deciding how you will vote for governor?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

6.      If Chris Christie beats Jon Corzine, do you think this will change the way that state government operates a lot, a little, or not at all?

7.      Regardless of how you will vote, which candidate has the best plan to lower property taxes – Corzine, Christie, Daggett, or none of them?

8.      Which candidate has attacked his opponent unfairly in this election – Jon Corzine, Chris Christie, both of them, or neither of them?

9.      In addition to the race for governor, there will also be a public question on the ballot regarding an open space bond.  Have you heard a lot, a little, or nothing at all about this ballot measure?

10.    This measure would authorize the state to issue 400 million dollars in bonds to fund Green Acres, water supply and floodplain protection, and farmland and historic preservation projects.  It will also fund park improvements and facilities.  Will you vote for or against this bond measure, or not vote at all on this question?

11.    As far as you know, does this measure require any new state debt to fund it, or not?

12.    If you knew this 400 million dollar bond would require borrowing and new state debt, would you vote for or against this bond measure?  [Includes those already aware of debt from question 11]

13.    How worried are you about the direction of the nation’s economy in the next year – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all worried?

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted and analyzed by the Monmouth University Polling Institute research staff.  The telephone interviews were collected on October 28-30, 2009 with a statewide random sample of 1,041 likely voters. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.0 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

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