Obama Widens New Jersey Lead Over Romney, New Poll Shows

President Barack Obama (Photo credit: Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project)

STATE – On the eve of today’s first presidential debate, likely New Jersey voters give President Obama a 17-point lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney – a three- point increase since August. According to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 56 percent of New Jersey voters say they prefer Obama while 39 percent support Romney. Another 2 percent would like to see someone else, and only 4 percent are undecided.

Reflecting a national trend since the Democratic convention, voters have become slightly more positive about Obama over the past month: 56 percent now hold a favorable impression, up two points since August, while 39 percent view him unfavorably, unchanged over the past month. During the same time, voters have become increasingly negative about Romney. While 38 percent continue to view him favorably, 54 percent are now unfavorable, up five points from August.

The “economy and jobs” remains the most important election issue by far, named by 56 percent of voters. The president continues to be seen as better able to manage the economy with a 52 percent to 43 percent edge over the challenger. Many fewer voters (10 percent) pick the federal budget deficit as most important, followed by education at 9 percent and “Social Security and Medicare” at 6 percent. Romney holds nearly a 3 to 1 edge (66 percent to 23 percent) among voters who name the budget as the most important issue.

“This poll reflects recent national trends,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Romney’s missteps on Libya and his ‘47 percent’ comments may have had effects, though he was already well behind here. We’ve also seen a pickup in voters who say they are Democrats, which is reflected in the poll’s partisan makeup. More people calling themselves Democrats means higher Obama numbers.”

A separate nationwide poll released today by Generation Opportunity, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that focuses on mobilizing young Americans (ages 18-29), revealed that the Millennial generation weighs a candidate’s position on issues with more importance than their charisma and likeability.

According to the Generation Opportunity poll, 76 percent of Millennials will vote in the Presidential Election, but only 38 percent believe that today’s political leaders reflect the interests of young Americans. Half say that a candidate’s position on issues and a record in public office will be the most important factor in their voting decision, while 11 percent said that a candidate’s personal characteristics, like charisma and likeability, were more important. Twenty-nine percent said that both factors were equally important.

“As the first presidential debate nears, the message from young Americans to both presidential candidates is quite direct – if you want to earn our vote in 2012, provide us the substance and details of your plans so we can make an informed decision,” said Paul T. Conway, President of Generation Opportunity and former Chief of Staff of the United States Department of Labor. “Young Americans want policies that will allow the economy to create more meaningful, full-time jobs in a career path of their choice so they can get on with their lives. This is the heart of the matter for young voters in 2012, and both candidates have the opportunity to layout their plans on how they will create more economic opportunity.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton results are from a poll of 790 registered voters conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Sept. 27-30. Within this sample, 645 respondents are identified as likely voters and are the subjects of this release. The likely voter sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percentage points.

For Generation Opportunity, the polling company, inc./WomanTrend conducted a nationwide online survey of 1,003 adults ages 18-29 between July 27 and July 31. Randomly selected online opt-in panel participants were sent an invitation to the survey via email which included a secure link to the online questionnaire. Quotas were used to ensure the survey was representative of the larger 18-29 year old nationwide population with regard to race, region, and gender. The data were NOT weighted. The overall sampling margin of error for the survey is ±3.1% at a 95% confidence interval, meaning that the data obtained would not differ more than 3.1 percentage points in 95 out of 100 similar samples obtained.

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