Bob Menendez has a nine-point lead, 49%-40%, among likely voters against Bob Hugin in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a new Monmouth University poll released this morning.
Menendez’s lead expands to 12 points, 50%-39%, using the Monmouth poll model that incorporates a turnout surge in Democratic areas in New Jersey. A third model, predicting lower overall turnout, has Menendez ahead 51%-39%.
Libertarian Murray Sabrin and Green Party candidate Madelyn Hoffman were also included in the poll. Each received 1% of the vote, while a generic other candidate – four others have filed as independents – receive 1%. 8% remain undecided.
Hugin leads among independents, 44%-42%, but Menendez had a lopsided 53%-36% lead among women and a 63%-19% lead among non-white voters.
While voters continue to view Menendez, a two-term incumbent, unfavorably – the poll has him upside down at 28%-45% among likely voters — President Donald Trump has upside-down approvals of 42%-55% in New Jersey, with 72% of likely voters saying Trump is a key factor in their choice of U.S. Senate candidates.
“If these poll results hold, the first person Bob Menendez should thank in his election night victory speech is Donald Trump,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The Monmouth University poll and Murray have become the gold-standard in New Jersey independent public opinion polling over the last few years. Murray said that is likely his last poll on the New Jersey Senate race, a clear indication that he sees Menendez as a winner.
Murray said the national political climate and New Jersey’s Democratic voter registration edge – there are 920,000 more Democrats in the state than Republicans – should mean a 20-point win for a Democratic incumbent.
“Hugin was successful in making this one competitive by hammering away at Menendez’s ethical baggage. But the incumbent has been able to fight back to get the margin into a range that is closer to the norm for New Jersey,” said Murray, “I bet the Democrat’s Senate Majority PAC wishes it could take back the $3 million being spent in New Jersey right now.”
While 88% of likely voters saying they are aware that Menendez was on trial last year on federal bribery charges, 64% of New Jersey says Menendez is no different than any other politician.
And in a question on who voters trust more to bring integrity to government, 39% said Hugin and 26% chose Menendez.
“You’ve got to wonder if New Jersey voters look at corruption through a different lens than other voters. But it’s worth pointing out that Republican House incumbents in upstate New York and southern California are currently under indictment and remain competitive in their re-election efforts,” Murray said. “So perhaps the goalposts have been moved nationwide in recent years.”
Attacks on Hugin’s record as a drug maker may also be working, according to the polling data.
Hugin’s favorables are at 31%-21%. While Menendez’s unfavorable are more than double those of Hugin, their favorables are roughly the same.
Nearly half of the New Jerseyans polled (48%) say they view the pharmaceutical industry negatively, while just 14% see them favorably. 69% of likely voters say they are aware that Hugin is a former pharmaceutical executive.
“Hugin’s pharma past does not help him in a year when worries about rising health care costs top the list of voter concerns, which is true not just in New Jersey but nationwide,” said Murray.
Murray said that New Jersey likely voters, by a 46%-17% margin, are more enthusiastic about casting their vote in the Senate contest than in one of several competitive House races across the state.
“A statewide race will always be the marquee contest. The question this year is whether ambivalence about the candidates at the top of the ticket or the Trump factor will have more of an impact down ballot. We won’t know the answer to that until November 6,” Murray said.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 11-15, 2018 with 527 New Jersey residents likely to vote in the November election. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/-4.3%. The error of the difference between the two candidates’ vote share (i.e. the “lead”) is +/-6.0 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.monmouthpoll_nj_101818