Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, left, is facing Gov. Phil Murphy in this year’s gubernatorial race. (Amanda Brown and Danielle Richards for the New Jersey Monitor)
With just one day to go before the election, Gov. Phil Murphy leads Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by eight percentage points, with half of likely voters saying they support Murphy, compared to 42% who side with Ciattarelli, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
“If we look at the several statewide polls conducted in the last week, the big picture points to a sizable margin for Murphy that – despite narrowing throughout the campaign – will be difficult for Ciattarelli to overcome in the final days, especially in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one in registration,” Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a statement.
Murphy’s standing in the poll doesn’t necessarily signify support. Only 15% of the 1,008 registered voters polled Oct. 21-27 said their choice reflects their satisfaction with how Murphy has handled the job of governor, and just 6% said their chosen candidate shares their views and values.
Instead, a quarter of those polled said their vote has more to do with distaste for one candidate, making comments like their choice is “better than the other guy” or the “lesser of two evils.” Eighteen percent said party loyalties fueled their choice; 4% want a change or something new; and 2% specifically mentioned Donald Trump.
Six percent of those polled said the pandemic influenced their vote, with 1% mentioning vaccines and mask mandates. Another 6% cited taxes or the economy.
“Based on voters’ responses, Murphy’s strategy of tying Ciattarelli to Trump seems to be working with some voters, as all but one who mention Trump do so as a reason not to vote for Ciattarelli,” Koning said. “Voters cite Murphy’s handling of the pandemic as a reason to vote both for him and against him, with a few voters specifically mentioning nursing homes and mask mandates as reasons for their opposition.”
At the same time, half of New Jerseyans say they a have favorable impression of the governor, while 35% don’t, 11% have no opinion, and 4% claim they don’t know who he is. The latest poll also shows that Ciattarelli has gained name recognition among New Jerseyans over the campaign, with only 13% unaware of who he is, a third fewer than results from the spring.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.
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