Gov. Phil Murphy holds a commanding 16-point lead, 52%-36%, in his race against Republican Jack Ciattarelli, in a Monmouth University Poll released on Wednesday morning.
The poll makes Murphy the favorite to become the first Democrat in 44 years to win a second term as Governor of New Jersey against Ciattarelli, a still largely unknown former Republican assemblyman from Central Jersey.
At 48%-33%, Murphy has high favorables among New Jerseyans, although the number is just slightly down from his 56%-36% favorables in a Monmouth poll released in May.
Ciattarelli has statewide favorables of 26%-12%, with 61% of registered voters still having no opinion of him.
Voters say the two most important issues facing the state are the COVID-19 pandemic (41%) and property taxes (32%). An additional 9% are concerned about their income tax, 7% of sales tax, and 4% on other taxes. 15% of voters say they pay attention to the economy, cost of living and jobs.
Asked who they trust more on handling Covid, Murphy leads Ciattarelli by a more than 2-1 margin, 46%-21%. Less than one-in-five voters (17%) said they trust the two candidates equally. Among independents, Murphy leads on pandemic leadership by a 40%-24% margin.
The two gubernatorial candidates are statistically tied on the question of who New Jersey voters trust more on taxes: 30% said Ciattarelli and 29% said Murphy.
On jobs and the economy, 35% of New Jersey voters trust Murphy and 27% trust Ciattarelli. Nearly one-in-four (22%) say they trust the two the same.
“On the issues part of the campaign, you either win on the thing voters care about the most or you get them to focus on a different concern where you have the edge,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Either way, the issue picture right now is very favorable for Murphy.”
Independent voters view property taxes and issues related to the coronavirus pandemic almost equally: 37% pandemic, 26% property taxes.
Who is voting for Murphy and Ciattarelli?
Independents – voters who don’t identify with either party – Murphy has a 44%-38% lead over Ciattarelli. Murphy is getting 87% of Democrats and Ciattarelli has the support of 85% of Republicans.
Murphy leads Ciattarelli among women voters by 26 points, 57%-31%, and has a 7-point lead among men, 48%-31%. Among Black voters, Murphy leads 85%-5%, and is ahead by a 69%-19% margin among Hispanic, Asian and other non-white or black voters.
But Ciattarelli has a 9-point lead, 59%-40%, among white voters and statistically even 46%-44% edge among voters between the ages of 50 and 64. The Republican candidate is 21 points ahead of Murphy among white voters with no college degree, 55%-34%.
Murphy leads in North (60%-29%) and Central Jersey (52%-38%), but Ciattarelli has a 45%-40% lead in South Jersey.
“These results illustrate the challenge any Republican running in New Jersey would face this year. One place to start is Central Jersey,” Murray said. “Chris Christie won this region by 15 points when he narrowly ousted a Democratic incumbent in 2009, but it appears to be Murphy territory this time around.”
According to Murray, “The key to GOP victory in the past has been winning over upper-income moderate Republicans in Somerset County and working-class swing voters in Middlesex.”
“Both these groups have swung decidedly toward the Democratic party during the Trump era, and it doesn’t look like they are about to swing back any time soon – even for someone like Ciattarelli, who is one of their own,” he said.
Among voters between the ages of 18-34, Murphy holds a commanding 59%-25%. Murphy has a 15—point lead among voters over age 65, 52%-37%.
Murphy has 16% of Republicans viewing him favorably, along with 52% favorables among women, 45% among men, 72% among Blacks, and among Hispanics, Asians and other voters.
The Monmouth Poll was in the field between August 11-16 and Ciattarelli launched a $736,000 TV ad buy on August 12 on network and cable systems in the New York and Philadelphia media markets.
Murphy has not yet begun to air general election TV ads.
Both candidates have chose to participate in the state’s gubernatorial public financing program, which means each can receive up to $10.5 million in matching funds but must cap their expenditures to $15.6 million.
That doesn’t include political party spending or independent expenditures by outside groups.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted between August 11-16 with a sample size of 810 registered voters and a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. The Monmouth Poll is widely viewed among New Jersey political insiders as the gold standard of state polling.MonmouthPoll_NJ_081821 (1)_Redacted