In the race for New Jersey governor, Wall Street millionaire Phil Murphy currently holds support of a bare majority of likely voters over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
The Monmouth University Poll finds that Guadagno is dragged down as much by the Garden State’s general views of key Republican leaders as she is by her specific association with one of those officials, namely the state’s governor.
Moreover, she has gained no traction with her plan to tackle property taxes – only a handful of voters are even aware that she has such a plan, but most would be predisposed to distrust any candidate promises on this issue even if they knew about it.
Despite Murphy spending millions of dollars however, only 51% of likely voters say they would vote for him while 37% support Guadagno.
Just 33% hold a favorable view of Murphy and 23% have an unfavorable view, while 44% express no opinion. A similar 31% hold a favorable view of Guadagno and 25% have an unfavorable view, while 45% express no opinion.
Five independent candidates shared support from2% without being named in the survey and 9% of voters are undecided in Monmouth University’s poll.
“While Guadagno may have an opportunity to break through, the fact that Murphy’s support is over 50 percent makes that task very difficult,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
With just five weeks to go before Election Day, nearly half of the likely electorate has not formed an opinion about either major party nominee.
“Low name recognition of New Jersey gubernatorial candidates this late in the game is not unprecedented because the state lacks its own media market. However, it is unusually low this year. The campaigns simply can’t break through with the political noise coming out of Washington,” said Murray.
In fact, current opinion of Washington and Trenton loom large in this race. Just 23% say the state is headed in the right direction while 66% say New Jersey is on the wrong track.
Guadagno’s biggest disadvantage seems to be her party affiliation.
Governor Chris Christie gets a 22% approve and 75% disapprove rating among likely voters – which is somewhat better than his approval rating among all New Jersey residents (15% July) but certainly nothing to brag about.
President Donald Trump also receives a poor 33% approve and 59% disapprove rating from the Garden State electorate.
Guadagno has been the state’s Lieutenant Governor for nearly eight years. Half of voters (51%) say this is something they tend to associate with the GOP nominee when they think about her current campaign. It’s also worth noting, though, that 21% of likely voters are unaware that Guadagno holds this office at all.
About 3-in-10 voters (29%) say that knowing Guadagno is the state’s LG makes them less likely to vote for her. This is nearly double the number (16%) who say this fact makes them more likely to support her. Most voters (54%) say her current job makes no difference in their vote. Furthermore, 25% of voters say Guadagno has been too supportive of Christie in her role as lieutenant governor, while just 8% say she has not been supportive enough and 43% say she has offered her boss the right amount of support. Another 24% have no opinion on this. Among voters who are still undecided or only leaning toward a candidate at this point, 22% say Guadagno is too supportive of Christie, 13% say she is not supportive enough, and 35% say she has given the right amount of support.
“The double whammy of Trump and Christie has not helped the Republican brand in New Jersey. While Gaudagno’s current position as Christie’s number two is not a death blow to her chances, it certainly isn’t helping,” said Murray.
Guadagno has tried to counter the drag created by her current position by reminding voters of Murphy’s past as a Goldman Sachs executive. Just 28% say this job is something they associate with the Democratic candidate when they think of his campaign, whereas one-third (34%) say they are unaware that he worked for the firm. Knowing this piece of Murphy’s resume certainly does not have a positive effect for him – just 4% say it makes them more likely to support Murphy while 25% say it makes them less likely – but the vast majority of voters (70%) say Murphy’s former position has no impact on their choice for governor.
The Republican nominee is also trying to gain traction on the state’s top concern: property taxes. A Monmouth University Poll in July identified this issue as voters’ top priority – as it has in nearly every single one of Monmouth’s Garden State issue polls since 2005. While Guadagno has offered a specific plan to reduce property taxes, she has not been able to gain much traction with it. This is largely due to the fact that almost no voter knows she has such a plan. Just 12% say they have heard about a specific property tax plan proposed by Guadagno. This is probably an overstatement though, since 6% also say they have heard about a property tax plan from the Murphy camp, even though the Democrat has offered no such plan.
On top of this, it is unclear that Guadagno would gain points even if she was able to get her plan in front of the electorate. In general, 70% of New Jersey voters say they would be inclined to view any candidate proposal to reduce property taxes as simply a campaign ploy that wouldn’t amount to much. Just 20% say they would be open to viewing such a plan as a genuine effort to fix the problem. These results are the same among voters who are still undecided or are only leaning toward a candidate right now.
The one thing that Guadagno does have in her favor is that voters are somewhat more inclined to believe that middle class homeowners would see their property taxes go up under a Murphy administration (45%) than say the same about a Guadagno administration (31%). Still, only about 1-in-10 voters expect that their property taxes would go down under either Murphy (10%) or Guadagno (13%).
“Property taxes is truly the meme for everything that New Jerseyans dislike about their state. I just think voters have heard too many promises for too long and simply tune out all candidate rhetoric on the issue at this point. Guadagno has little time left and a tall hill to climb if she is going to break through with her plan,” said Murray.
Support by voter bloc
Murphy leads among practically every voter group. He performs most strongly over Guadagno among non-white voters (72%-16%), women (56%-31%), and voters under 50 years old (58%-35%). He also leads among voters age 50 to 64 (48%-36%) and voters age 65 and older (49%-40%). Murphy has the edge among Garden State voters with a college degree (56%-35%) as well as those without a degree (46%-39%). He has a nominal, although statistically insignificant, lead among men (46%-44%) and white voters (46%-44%).
Murphy has the support of 79% of registered Democrats while Guadagno claims 75% of registered Republicans. Unaffiliated voters prefer Murphy by a margin of 48% to 33%. Among voters who identify with the Democratic party regardless of their actual registration status, 91% back Murphy whereas 79% of self-identified Republicans choose Guadagno. Voters who call themselves independents split their support at 43% for Guadagno and 40% for Murphy. Murphy’s large overall lead is due to Democrats significantly outnumbering Republicans in the New Jersey electorate as well as the fact that unaffiliated independent voters tend have a significantly lower turnout rate in gubernatorial elections.
“A lot of media attention is paid to unaffiliated voters in New Jersey because they represent half of all registered voters in the state. However, this group makes up less than one-quarter of the actual voter pool in any given non-presidential election year,” said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 28 to October 1, 2017 with 452 New Jersey residents likely to vote in the 2017 gubernatorial election. The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
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