Voters 50 and over favor incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy, by a wide margin over his Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli. According to a new survey from the FDU Poll, in partnership with AARP, Murphy has a 25-point lead over Ciattarelli among older voters as the race goes into the final month, though many voters remain undecided.
Overall, 56 percent of registered voters 50 and over say that will support Murphy for a second term, compared with just 31 percent who say that they will back Ciattarelli; the remainder say they will vote for someone else, no one, or they just don’t know yet. Murphy has largely held on to his base – 89 percent of Democrats say they’ll be backing the incumbent, with only 3 percent of Democrats saying they will vote for the Republican. Ciattarelli still has some work to do, with 84 percent of Republicans backing Ciattarelli, and 9 percent of Republicans saying they’ll support Murphy.
“Ciattarelli has had to walk a tightrope this entire race,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Executive Director of the poll. “He needs to voice enough support for Trump to hold on to his base, but not so much as to alienate moderates. He’s doing a pretty good job of it, but there’s just no pleasing everyone.”
The issue facing Ciattarelli is clear from the self-described ideology of voters. While 83 percent of liberal voters over 50 say that they’ll back Murphy, only 65 percent of conservatives plan to vote for the Republican.
“50 plus voters decide elections,” said Stephanie Hunsinger, AARP New Jersey State Director. “If they want to win, candidates must address how they’ll make New Jersey a place where we can safely, affordably and happily grow older.”
Murphy’s support is highest in the urban core counties of Northern New Jersey, where he leads Ciattarelli by 40 points, 62 to 22. In the coastal counties of Southern New Jersey, the race is a dead heat, with both candidates attracting 43 percent of the vote.
“If he wants this race to be competitive, Ciattarelli has to run up numbers along the coast, and stay competitive in the Northern suburbs,” said Cassino. “So far, he’s just not doing it.”
While Murphy has been lambasted by the Republican candidate for tax increases that have mostly targeted high-earners, it is those high-earners who give him the highest levels of support among older New Jerseyans. In the top income bracket – those who earn $200,000 per year or more – Murphy holds a 46 point lead, 67 to 31. It is among middle-income groups that the race is closest, as the lowest income seniors also back Murphy by a wide margin.
“Nobody likes tax increases, but voters – especially older voters – care a lot more about what they think is good for society than what might be best for themselves,” said Cassino.
These results are mirrored in Murphy’s approval ratings. While they have dipped among the overall population, support among voters 50 and over remains high, with 67 percent of voters saying that they approve of the job he’s doing, and 26 percent disapproving. Strikingly, 28 percent of Republicans say that they approve of the job Murphy is doing as governor, though 65 percent disapprove.
There are a significant number of voters, who say that they approve of Murphy, but do not see the state as being on the right track. Sixty-one percent of voters 50 and older say that the state is going in the right direction, lower than the 67 percent who approve of Murphy, while 30 percent say that the state is moving in the wrong direction.
“People aren’t necessarily thrilled with the way things are going,” said Cassino. “But they’re not all blaming Murphy for it, and that’s a powerful tool for an incumbent governor.”
About AARP New Jersey
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP New Jersey educates and advocates on behalf of those 50 and older on issues that are important to them, their families and to all Garden State residents. The organization works to strengthen New Jersey communities with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/nj or follow @AARPNJ on social media.
The survey was conducted between September 27 and October 3, 2021, using a certified list of registered voters ages 50 years and older in New Jersey. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via live caller telephone interviews, resulting in a main sample of 802 respondents. 486 of the interviews were carried out via landline telephones, with the remainder (319) going to cellular phones.
In addition to the main sample, oversamples were conducted of African-American or Black respondents (101), Asian-American respondents (101) and Hispanic or Latino/a respondents (105). These respondents, too, were drawn from registered voters lists, and were contacted via SMS, and completed the survey via a text to web interface. Respondents in the Asian-American oversample were given the option of completing the survey in Mandarin, and respondents in the Hispanic or Latino/a were given the option to complete it in Spanish, though most completed the survey in English. 38 respondents in the Hispanic or Latino/a oversample completed the survey in Spanish, and 31 respondents in the Asian-American oversample completed it in Mandarin.
These oversamples allow for more accurate comparisons between this and other groups, as well as the calculation of subgroup characteristics that would not be possible in a simple probability sample. Such oversamples necessarily require additional weighting in order to calculate population level values, but the weights used for this are not included in the calculation of design effects, as they do not indicate a divergence between the sample and the population.
The data were weighted to be representative of the population of registered voters 50 and older in New Jersey. The weights used, like all weights, balance the demographic characteristics of the sample to match known population parameters. The weighted results used here are balanced to match parameters for sex, age, and race/ethnicity.
SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure, was used to produce final weights. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis helps to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The size of these weights is used to construct the measure of design effects, which indicate the extent to which the reported results are being driven by the weights applied to the data, rather than found in the data itself. Simply put, these design effects tell us how many additional respondents would have been needed to get the weighted number of respondents across weighted categories: larger design effects indicate greater levels of under-representation in the data. In this case, calculated design effects are approximately 1.28.
All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. Sampling error should be adjusted to recognize the effect of weighting the data to better match the population. In this poll, the simple sampling error for 1109 registered voters in New Jersey is +/-2.9 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-3.7 percentage points, though the figure not including them is much more commonly reported.
This error calculation does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, differences in translated forms, or context effects. While such errors are known to exist, they are often unquantifiable within a particular survey, and all efforts, such as randomization and extensive pre-testing of items, have been used to minimize them.
Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics
1109 Registered Voters in New Jersey, ages 50 and over
Figures do not included respondents who declined to answer the demographic item in question. Figures are weighted to overall state characteristics, and so do not reflect oversamples included in the study.