Tight N.J. Governor’s Race in Final Days

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STATE—According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie continue in a close contest in the race for New Jersey governor, with Corzine holding a lead among likely voters by a statistically insignificant thread of 44% to 43%.

Another 6% volunteer they will vote for independent Chris Daggett and 4% are undecided.  “At this point, anyone who says their vote doesn’t count is mistaken,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “And no one knows that better than the campaigns.”

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Better than 4 of 5 Democrats (83%) approve of the job President Obama is doing, but just 3 of 5 Democrats (62%) approve of the job Governor Corzine is doing, while 3 of 4 Democrats (76%) say they’ve made up their mind to vote for the governor, a key number unchanged from early October.

Meanwhile, among likely voters, just 1 in 5 say the state is on the right track compared to 68% who say it’s on the wrong track: 37% approve of the job the governor is doing, while 52% disapprove.  Just 39% of voters say their opinion of the governor is favorable, against 54% who have an unfavorable opinion, including 1 in 4 Democrats (26%). “The governor is struggling against a tide of discontent,” said Woolley, “and if his base weren’t so large to begin with, he might be sunk.”

Meanwhile, 41% of voters have a favorable view of the Republican opponent compared to 44% who have an unfavorable view.  Christie leads Corzine 42%-35% on the question of “which candidate better understands the concerns of the average person,” but the candidates tie on the question of which is more trustworthy, and Corzine leads easily, 48%-33%, on the question of which candidate “has the background and experience to be a good governor.”  Woolley added, “These measures suggest that, while voters are dissatisfied with Corzine, they’re not convinced that the challenger could do better.”

Chris Daggett, an independent candidate, increased his name recognition to 82% but wins few hearts or minds.  Just 18% say they haven’t heard of him now, compared to 50% who a month ago said they did not know him.  But even now 31% say they have no opinion of him, and 28% have a favorable view of him, while 23% have an unfavorable view.

When Daggett’s name is read in an interview along with Jon Corzine’s and Chris Christie’s names, he gets 14% of the vote, drawing slightly more Democrats than Republicans, while Christie edges Corzine in a statistical tie, 41%-39%.  But when the name of another independent candidate is read—the obscure Gary Steele—Steele gets 3% of the vote, draws off slightly more Republicans than Democrats, and Corzine beats Christie 46%-41%.

One in five voters (19%) correctly identifies Daggett as the candidate endorsed by the newspaper, The Star-Ledger, and fewer than half of Daggett voters (41%) know the newspaper endorsed him. “Daggett holds the wild card in this election deal,” said Woolley. “He doesn’t attract voters’ affection. He attracts voter disaffection.”

More than half of voters (55%) say they think Corzine will win the election, but most Republicans aren’t conceding: Half of Republicans (49%) say Christie will win and 15% say they don’t know who will pull this one out.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 694 likely voters statewide was conducted by telephone from Oct. 22, 2009, through Oct. 28, 2009, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.


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