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Murphy Appears to Be Cruising Toward Victory in NJ Governor Race

October 27, 2021 by Dan McCue
This photo from Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, shows Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., during a gubernatorial debate at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, Pool)

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Being trusted by voters on a wide range of policy areas is turning out to be a very good thing for New Jersey’s incumbent Democratic governor.

Less than a week out from election day, Gov. Phil Murphy continues to maintain a sizable lead over Republican Jack Ciattarelli, according to the final Monmouth University Poll of the race.

While some polls, like an Emerson poll released last week, show the race tightening, none suggest Ciattarelli is close enough to snatch a come-from-behind victory.

Patrick Murphy, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement the reason is because Ciattarelli has chipped away at Murphy’s lead over the course of a few debates and through aggressive advertising. As a result, he “hasn’t delivered the knockout he needs.”

In the latest Monmouth University Poll, which was released Wednesday, half of registered voters support Murphy, while 39% back Ciattarelli.

This 11-point margin represents a slight decrease in overall support for Murphy, but his support levels among various demographic groups appear to have remained fairly steady over the last four weeks of the race.

Murphy continues to hold a huge advantage among Black voters (83% to 6%), as well as Latinos, Asians and other voters of color (63% to 22%).

The governor also continues to hold a small lead among White college graduates (49% to 43%), but he trails Ciattarelli among White voters who don’t hold a bachelor’s degree (35% to 55%).

If there is an outlier in terms of the stability of the race, it is among senior voters, age 65 and over. In September, Murphy was a juggernaut, leading Ciattarelli by 16 percentage points.

In October, however, the margin shrunk to a lead of just five percentage points.

The Monmouth pollsters said a top issue for voters in the current polls is taxes, an area where New Jersey voters say Ciattarelli has a decided advantage.

But that support pales when compared to two other issue areas, the pollsters said. That would be the coronavirus pandemic and education.

Even though the pandemic has diminished as a voter concern as education has risen as a priority, the Democratic incumbent maintains a lead because he has a clear edge on both issues, they said.

The numbers break down this way: Ciattarelli has a 10 percentage point advantage over Murphy on the question of who is trusted more to handle taxes.

But Murphy’s edge over Ciattarelli when it comes to education is 15 percentage points, and a nudge higher, 19 percentage points, when it comes to issues related to the pandemic.

Murphy also has the advantage when it comes to abortion (39% to 23%) and transportation (36% to 24%).

Monmouth’s pollsters found the two candidates are about evenly matched when it comes to the handling of jobs and the economy (34% Murphy to 33% Ciattarelli) and crime (32% Ciattarelli to 30% Murphy).

As the polling season comes to an end and the hard push to election day gets underway in earnest, a range of probabilistic models employed by the Monmouth University Poll show Murphy with a lead of between 8 and 14 points, depending on the scenario.

Ciattarelli actually has a lead among those who intend to vote on Election Day, ranging anywhere from 5 points (47% to 42%) to 12 points (51% to 39%) depending on the turnout model.

However, Murphy enjoys a large 63% to 26% margin among voters who have already cast their ballots or who intend to vote early.

Both major party candidates command the support of their respective partisan bases; 93% of self-identified Democrats back Murphy and 87% of self-identified Republicans back Ciattarelli. 

Self-described independents are evenly divided (41% for Ciattarelli and 40% for Murphy). 

Another way to look at partisan support is based on how voters are actually registered. Murphy is backed by 75% of registered Democrats and Ciattarelli is backed by 75% of registered Republicans. 

Pundits tend to point to New Jersey’s large group of “unaffiliated” voters — those who are not registered with any political party — as a key to winning New Jersey elections. This year, those voters tilt toward the incumbent (46% to 40%), the Monmouth pollsters said.

“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. That outcome would require a pretty sizable collapse of Democratic turnout,” Murray concluded.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 21 to 25, 2021, with 1,000 New Jersey registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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