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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Murphy for Governor).

Murphy job approvals at 52%, with 62% saying he’s done a good job handling pandemic, poll says

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray: ‘Murphy’s handling of the pandemic continues to be his strongest asset’

By David Wildstein, September 23 2021 11:00 am

With some vote-by-mail votes already cast and less than six weeks left until Election Day, Gov. Phil Murphy has job approval ratings of 52%-38% among registered voters in New Jersey, a new Monmouth University poll released on Thursday shows.

But perhaps more importantly, 62% of voters say that Murphy has done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

His job approvals are down just slightly from the 54%-35% rating her received in August and have dropped from his personal best of 72%-21% in April 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Murphy’s handling of the pandemic continues to be his strongest asset,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  “New Jerseyans acknowledge there have been missteps over the past eighteen months, some of them very serious, but that has not noticeably weakened their overall view of his Covid performance.”

A Monmouth poll released on Wednesday showed Murphy with a 13-point lead, 51%-38%, over his Republican challenger, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.

Ciattarelli is still largely unknown among by 50% of the state and had favorables of 31%-19%.  Murphy’s favorables are 48%-37%.

“The governor’s opponents have been trying to focus voters’ attention on what they see as major failings in his handling of Covid. We don’t see evidence in the poll, though, that knowing about these issues is putting a major dent in Murphy’s numbers,” said Murray.  “This is due in part to a sense that he was right about the broader policies on masking and social distancing. In fact, many would like to see him reinstate these protocols.”

Murphy’s approvals among Democrats are at 86%, while 85% of Republicans disapprove of the job he’s done as governor.

But independent voters are nearly evenly split, the poll shows, with 45% approving of his job performance as governor and 43% disapproving.

Still, approvals for Murphy’s handling of the pandemic show less partisan intensity: 60% of independents and 22% of Republicans say he’s done a good job.  He’s over 60% in all age groups and at 78% among voters of color.

The governor’s job approvals are at 54%-34% in North Jersey, 53%-40% in Central Jersey, and a tighter 47%-44% in South Jersey.  On his handling of the pandemic, Murphy is at 66%-24% in North Jersey, 62%-26% in Central Jersey, and 55%-33% in South Jersey.

These approvals come despite an overwhelming 82% of New Jerseyans agreeing that “strict restrictions and lockdowns imposed by the state government during the pandemic hurt small businesses.”

More than half (51%) of New Jersey voters say measures taken by state government to slow the spread of the virus were appropriate, while 28% say the state has gone too far and 17% believe New Jersey didn’t go far enough.

“There are probably very few truly persuadable voters left in New Jersey right now, but if anyone can be swayed it should be this group of undecideds,” Murray said.  “Their views on Covid, though, tend to align more with Murphy’s approach than Ciattarelli’s.”

The Monmouth University Polling Institute was in the field from September 16-20 with a sample size of 804 New Jersey voters and a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

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