A South Jersey Congressman who switched to the GOP last year is trailing his Democratic challenger by five percentage points in his race against a member of one of America’s most storied political families, according to a new Monmouth University Poll released today.
Democrat Amy Kennedy leads Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) by a 49%-44% margin, with just 5% of registered voters in New Jersey’s 2nd district still undecided.
Among likely voters in a high-turnout scenario, Kennedy is ahead 50%-44%. She has a 51%-44% lead in a scenario that involved a lower turnout. These leads fall within the margin of error.
In the presidential race, Joe Biden holds a three-point lead over Donald Trump, 48%-45%, in a district that Trump carried by a 50%-46% margin against Hillary Clinton four years ago. Trump has a 45%-51% job approval rating in NJ-2. Biden has an 8-point lead, 48%-40%, among 2nd district independents.
Kennedy has a 50%-40% lead among Independents over Van Drew, who served in the New Jersey Legislature for 17 years before his election to Congress in 2018. Among Democrats – many of whom have strongly supported Van Drew since he was first elected Cape May County Freeholder in 1994, she is beating the former Democrat by a 94%-1%.
But Van Drew appears to have closed the deal on support from voters of his new party, leading Kennedy by an 89-8% margin among Republicans.
“Van Drew scored a major coup when he brought the president to Wildwood earlier this year,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “That event certainly stoked Trump’s base, but it fired up Democratic voters as well. This Obama-Trump district could be going back to blue next month.”
The former Vice President is well-known in South Jersey, with a large part of the 2nd district borderingDelaware, the state Biden represented in the U.S. Senate for 36 years.
Trump has upside-down favorables of 41%-52% in the 2nd, but Biden is also slightly underwater at 45%-48%.
Gov. Phil Murphy also has a 50%-43% job approval rating in the 2nd district. Murphy endorsed Kennedy in a hotly-contested Democratic primary last summer and campaigned for her last month.
This marks a reversal for the Democratic governor, who was unpopular in the 1st and 2nd legislative districts during the 2019 mid-term legislative elections when Republicans picked up a State Senate seat and two Assembly seats and nearly captured one more lower house seat.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic incumbent Cory Booker leads Republican Rik Mehta by a 47%-39% margin. Booker is ahead 48%-40% among likely voters and 47%-41% in the Monmouth Poll’s low-turnout model.
Kennedy leads Van Drew in Atlantic County, where her father served as a freeholder and as a councilman in two municipalities, by a 54%-39% margin. She leads 48%-43% in Cape May and Cumberland, the two counties Van Drew represented as a state senator and assemblyman.
“Cape May and Cumberland county voters got used to supporting Van Drew on the Democratic ticket,” said Murray. “This time around many of them are sticking with the party rather than the candidate.”
In the rest of the 2nd district – which includes Salem County and parts of Gloucester, Camden, Burlington, and Ocean counties – Van Drew is ahead by six points, 51%-45%.
Kennedy has a 20-point lead, 57%-37%, among women. Among voters over the age of 65, Kennedy is ahead 50%-44%.
Most voters (88%) are aware that Van Drew switched from Democrat to Republican. More than one-third (35%) says the party flip bothers them a lot and another 12% say they are a little bothered by it. More than half of the 2nd district voters polled (51%) say the party switch doesn’t both them at all.
Among Independents, 52% say Van Drew’s switch from Democrat to Republican after refusing to vote to impeach Trump doesn’t bother them. Slightly less than one-third (32%) say it bothers them a lot, while another 14% says it bothers them a little.
Most Democrats (87%) are at least somewhat bothered by the party switch, but 81% of Republicans say that Van Drew joining the GOP after 30 years as a Democratic officeholder doesn’t bother them at all.
Nearly seven out of ten voters (68%) said they knew Amy Kennedy came from a famous political family – she is married to former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), the son of Senator Ted Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy – but 60% of the district said that would have no impact on them.
Of the rest, 20% of voters think Kennedy’s family is a positive and 17% said it was a negative.
“Kennedy was born and raised in the district and that connection is apparently what most voters are judging her on rather than her last name,” said Murray.
Voters suggest that both Van Drew and Kennedy understand South Jersey issues.
The Monmouth Poll, which is the gold standard in New Jersey polling, validates internal polls released by the Kennedy campaign and the House Majority PAC.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted between September 26 and October 1 with a sample of 588 NJ-2 voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.1% for the full voter sample.MonmouthPoll_NJ_100520_Redacted