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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy still has a sizable lead with less than a week before Election Day, poll shows

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 10/27/2021 Allison Steele, The Philadelphia Inquirer
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli. © Miguel Martinez; Steven M. Falk New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli.

Gov. Phil Murphy is maintaining a double-digit lead over his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, according to a new poll.

With less than a week before the Nov. 2 election and early voting already underway, Murphy leads Ciattarelli 50% to 39%, according to the Monmouth University survey released Wednesday. A similar poll last month found Murphy ahead 51% to 38%.

Recent polls by Emerson College/PIX 11 and Stockton University had shown Murphy’s lead narrowing to six and nine points, respectively. The Monmouth survey found that Ciattarelli has gained some ground with voters over 65, but that otherwise Murphy’s levels of support have not changed much in recent weeks.

Murphy is backed by 93% of Democrats, who outnumber Republican voters by a million in New Jersey, while 87% of Republicans said they support Ciattarelli. Independents are split, 41% for Ciattarelli and 40% for Murphy.

“Even if we figure in potential error margins for these partisan group results, Ciattarelli cannot win this race based on registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters alone,” Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said in a statement. “That outcome would require a pretty sizable collapse of Democratic turnout.”

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The poll found that 52% of voters approve of Murphy’s job performance, giving him higher marks than President Joe Biden: 43% of voters said they approved of how Biden is doing so far.

The poll also found that the pandemic, cited as a top concern for months, may finally be receding. Twenty-seven percent of voters said taxes were most important in deciding who to vote for, and 20% said jobs and the economy, while only 15% listed COVID-19 first.

As in the last Monmouth poll, voters said they trusted Ciattarelli more than Murphy to handle taxes, 39% to 29%. But people said they supported Murphy’s handling of schools and education over Ciattarelli, 42% to 27%. And Murphy’s pandemic response continues to draw support, with 45% of voters saying they trusted him more to handle it and 26% saying the same for Ciattarelli.

“Ciattarelli’s attack on Murphy as being out of touch on taxes has resonated with some voters, but not enough to change the overall issue picture for this campaign,” Murray said. “Even though concerns about the pandemic have lessened, the shift toward education policy basically produces the same benefit for Murphy. He is viewed as the better candidate on both issues.”

If Murphy wins a second term, he would be New Jersey’s first Democratic governor in decades to win reelection.

Almost half of New Jerseyans surveyed, 45%, said they had a very favorable or somewhat favorable impression of Murphy. Thirty-eight percent said the same for Ciattarelli, while 39% of those surveyed said they had no opinion about him.

A third of voters said they believed the political views of Murphy, who describes himself as a progressive, are in line with most New Jerseyans, while 19% said the same for Ciattarelli.

The poll of 1,000 New Jersey registered voters, conducted Oct. 21 to Oct. 25, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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