Murphy maintains solid lead in final Monmouth poll

Democrat ahead by between eight and 14 points with likely voters

By: - October 27, 2021 11:00 am

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Jack Ciattarelli has chipped away at Gov. Phil Murphy’s lead “but hasn’t delivered the knockout he needs,” said polling director Patrick Murray. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, Pool)

Gov. Phil Murphy continues to lead his Republican challenger in the final days of the race for governor, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.

The poll found half of New Jersey’s registered voters, 50%, back the incumbent while only 39% back former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, the Republican nominee for governor.

The 11-point margin represents a closer race than recorded in previous Monmouth polls. Previous surveys found Murphy leading 51%-38% in September and 52%-36% in August.

“We’ve had a couple of debates and a slew of advertising since the last Monmouth poll. Ciattarelli has chipped away at Murphy’s lead but hasn’t delivered the knockout he needs,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

The governor maintained his lead under various turnout models used by Monmouth, his advantage ranging between eight and 14 points. That’s down slightly from surveys the polling institute conducted over preceding months that pegged Murphy’s lead among likely voters as ranging between 9 and 19 points.

Murphy leads his challenger with most demographic groups. Black voters prefer him by a 77-point margin, 83%-6%, and other voters of color back him by 41 points, 63%-22%.

White college-educated voters also prefer the governor, 53%-37%, though Ciattarelli has an advantage with white voters who lack a college degree, 55%-35%.

Various turnout models give Ciattarelli a five to 12-point advantage with voters who intend to cast ballots on Election Day, while 63% of voters who intend to cast their ballots before Nov. 2 said they will vote for Murphy. Only 26% said the same of Ciattarelli.

As of Monday, 443,272 New Jersey residents had voted by mail or at early in-person polling stations around the state. The bulk of those votes, 278,145, were cast by Democrats, and 93,772 were cast by Republicans.

Voters not registered with a particular political party prefer Murphy, 46%-40%.

“Even if we figure in potential error margins for these partisan group results, Ciattarelli cannot win this race based on registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters alone,” Murray said. “That outcome would require a pretty sizable collapse of Democratic turnout.”

Respondents named taxes, 27%, and the economy, 20%, as their top issues, followed by schools, 16%, and the pandemic, 15%.

Voters give the Republican candidate a 10-point edge on taxes, but Murphy pulls ahead on education, 42%-27%, and the pandemic, 45%-26%.

The poll found New Jersey voters are less animated about the Garden State governor’s race than their counterparts in Virginia, the only other state to hold a gubernatorial election this year.

Only 27% of New Jersey voters — 38% of self-identified Republicans and 24% of self-identified Democrats — report being unusually enthusiastic about the race. In Virginia, 34% of voters say they are unusually enthusiastic, including 49% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats.

Those figures could be concerning, but Democrats have a vast voter registration advantage in New Jersey. As of Oct. 1, the state had nearly 1.1 million more Democrats than republicans.

“Republican enthusiasm may help narrow the gap a bit down the stretch, but it’s not clear that it can close it in the next few days,” Murray said.

In another good sign for the incumbent, the poll found 52% of voters approve of the governor, compared to 39% who disapprove.

A little under half of voters, 45%, report a positive view of the incumbent, and 37% viewed him unfavorably. Ciattarelli also has net-positive favorability, 37%-25%, but 39% of voters have not formed an opinion on the challenger by the final days of the race.

The poll of 1,000 New Jersey registered voters was conducted by phone between Oct. 21 and Oct. 25 and has a margin of error of 3.1%.


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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.