Booker Still The Early Favorite To Replace Retiring U.S. Senator

Newark Mayor Cory Booker at the 2011 Time 100 gala. (Photo credit: David Shankbone)

Newark Mayor Cory Booker at the 2011 Time 100 gala. (Photo credit: David Shankbone)

STATE — Although the U.S. Senate election is still more than a year away, Newark Mayor Cory Booker retains his position atop the heap of potential Democratic candidates to fill the impending vacancy left by retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg, according to the latest poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.

Among registered voters who are self-identified Democrats, half would like to see Booker win the Democratic nomination, with Congressmen Frank Pallone (4%) and Rush Holt (7%) commanding significantly less support. About a third (32%) are undecided. Booker’s support is up modestly from PublicMind’s January poll (42%), when the question included Frank Lautenberg, who was still considered a likely candidate.

“Senator Lautenberg’s formal announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2014 has definitely opened the door for those aspiring to his seat. Although it’s early and we are more than one year away from the Democratic primary, Booker’s early lead will be helpful in attempts to raise money and rally the party behind his candidacy,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Given his early lead over other potential candidates, the poll also asked registered voters, regardless of their party affiliation, to respond to a hypothetical matchup between Mayor Booker and Republican Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News on-air personality who has made repeated statements about a possible candidacy for Lautenberg’s seat. In the Booker/Rivera head-to-head, Booker commands a sizable lead over Rivera, with 52 percent endorsing Mayor Booker and 21 percent favoring Rivera. About a quarter (26%) say they are unsure.

Rivera derives a good amount of his support from those who consider Fox News more trustworthy relative to its cable news competitors (CNN and MSNBC). Forty-one percent of those who consider Fox News more trustworthy than CNN (15%) and MSNBC (10%) endorse Rivera, whereas Booker garners his greatest support from those who deem MSNBC the most reliable news source. Seventy-one percent of MSNBC viewers favor Booker over Rivera, with slightly fewer (66%) trusting CNN the most and about a quarter (26%) who identify Fox News as the most trustworthy news source.

The ideological divide in perceptions of cable news and candidate preference persists when the question turns to which source a respondent trusts the least. Booker is the candidate of choice among those who believe Fox is the least trustworthy (73%), while Rivera polls better among those who believe MSNBC can be trusted the least (40%).

“As cable news has grown increasingly polarized, New Jersey voters seem to be telling us that perceptions of whom they can trust offer insights into candidate preference. These numbers suggest that Booker and Rivera, or whomever emerges as the two major party candidates, should think through the consequences of not only what they say to voters but where they choose to deliver their message,” said Jenkins.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University statewide poll of 702 registered voters was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from March 4th through March 10th, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.

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