A new gubernatorial race poll shows incumbent Governor Murphy leading GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli by 15 points, while the ‘specter of former President Donald Trump hands over the race’.
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, June 21, 2021 – In the first public poll of the New Jersey general election, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy retains a significant lead over his Republican challenger, who remains unknown to most of the electorate. At the start of the general election campaign, Jack Ciatterelli is doing no better in the polls among registered voters than an unnamed generic Republican candidate, while the specter of former President Donald Trump hangs over the race.
Even after winning the Republican nomination for New Jersey governor earlier this month, Ciatterelli is still an unknown quantity to most voters. He is viewed favorably by 16 percent of voters, and unfavorably by 14 percent – but fully 70 percent say that they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion at all, with 17 percent volunteering that they have never heard of him. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have a favorable view of Ciatterelli with 35 percent saying they have a favorable view, but 57 percent say that they don’t have an opinion. Only 4 percent of Democrats say that they view him favorably, with 20 percent saying that they have an unfavorable opinion.
“Ciatterelli has his work cut out for him,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Executive Director of the poll. “Being unknown is better than being disliked, but running ads in New Jersey to build up awareness is an expensive proposition.”
As Murphy is the incumbent, many view the race as a referendum on his governorship, and at this point, voters have a largely positive view of him. 50 percent – including 81 percent of Democrats, and 11 percent of Republicans – say that they approve of the job he’s doing, compared with 39 percent saying that they disapprove. These numbers are higher than they were before the pandemic: in a February 2020 poll of New Jersey adults, just 42 percent approved of the job Murphy was doing. Similarly, most voters in New Jersey think that the state is on the right track: 50 percent of registered voters, including 81 percent of Democrats, say so. 40 percent of voters – including 82 percent of Republicans – say that the state is on the wrong track.
In the poll, half of the respondents were randomly assigned to choose between Murphy and Ciatterelli, and half were asked to choose between Murphy and an unnamed Republican candidate. The results show that Murphy does no better or worse among registered voters against Ciatterelli than against an unnamed Republican: when Ciatterelli is named, Murphy leads 48 to 32. When the Republican candidate is unnamed, the margin is no different.
“Democrats have a significant edge in New Jersey,” said Cassino. “So, in order to win statewide, Republican candidates need to outperform a generic candidate, and so far, Ciatterelli just isn’t doing that.”
Even though most voters, as of now, say that they don’t have an impression of Ciatterelli one way or the other, both candidates seem to have largely sewn up the support of their partisans. Overall, 84 percent of Democrats say that they’ll support Murphy in November, with 77 percent of Republicans saying that they’ll support Ciatterelli.
Registered voters were also asked about how the state of New Jersey should treat former President Trump when he visits his golf course in the Garden State. A plurality of voters (42 percent) said that he should be left alone or ignored, but 24 percent – including 37 percent of Democratic voters – say that he should be discouraged from coming. Only 32 percent – including 70 percent of Republicans – think that New Jersey should welcome the former president.
To test for the effect of views about former President Trump on vote intentions in the gubernatorial election, half of respondents were asked how Trump should be treated before being asked about their vote choice. The other half got the question only afterward During the primary, Ciatterelli was pressed by his opponents about his inconsistent support for the former President, raising the possibility that bringing Trump into voter’s minds could help solidify support for the Republican candidate.
Priming voters to think about Trump in this way didn’t significantly impact Ciatterelli’s support at all. Overall, voters who were made to think about Trump before being asked about the gubernatorial vote favored Murphy 45 to 33 over Ciatterelli; voters who weren’t asked about Trump first favored Murphy over Ciatterelli 52 to 33. Most of the change came not from Republicans, but from Democrats, who became less likely to support Murphy (from 88 percent to 80 percent) when made to think about Trump, with independents showing a similar pattern. These voters didn’t become more likely to support Ciatterelli, though: just more likely to say that they didn’t know, or refuse to answer the question entirely.
“Trump remains popular among Republicans in New Jersey,” said Cassino. “But, as in past elections, Trump doesn’t seem to have coattails: bringing him into an election doesn’t help the other Republicans on the line at all.”
The survey was conducted between June 9 and June 16, 2021, using a certified list of registered voters in New Jersey. Voters were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted in one of two ways. Three-quarters of the respondents (608) received an invitation through SMS (text) to fill out the survey online, via a provided link. The other quarter of respondents (193) were contacted via telephone, using the same registered voter list. The survey covers 803 registered voters in New Jersey, ages 18 and older, and was conducted entirely in English. The survey was carried out by Braun Research, Inc, of Princeton, New Jersey. Of the interviews, 123 were conducted over landlines, the remainder via cell phones.
The data were weighted to be representative of the registered voter population of 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, we see design effects of approximately 1.14.
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 803 registered voters in New Jersey is +/-3.46 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-3.94 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, or context effects.
Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics
803 New Jersey Registered Voters
Man 47% N = 364
Woman 52% N = 407
Some Other Way 1% N = 7
18-24 12% N = 93
25-34 13% N = 101
35-44 13% N = 102
45-64 37% N = 293
65+ 25% N = 199
Democrat (with leaners) 46% N = 371
Independent 22% N = 172
Republican (with leaners) 32% N = 260
White 70% N = 560
Black 9% N = 75
Hispanic 8% N = 61
Asian 4% N = 31
Other 10% N = 77
HS or Less 12% N = 95
Some College 31% N = 246
College degree or more 56% N = 448
Question wording and order:
NJ1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Phil Murphy is doing as governor?
NJ2. In your opinion, do you think things in New Jersey are moving in the right direction or are they on the wrong track?
NJ3. To be released at a later date
NJ4. On the whole, do you have a favorable opinion of Jack Ciattarelli an unfavorable opinion of him, or have you not heard enough to have an opinion one way or the other?
Haven’t heard enough to have an opinion
(VOL) Never heard of
NJ5A. [Asked of half of the respondents, chosen randomly here; the other half were asked after NJ6] Former President Trump is expected to spend much of the summer at his golf course in New Jersey. In your opinion, how should New Jersey treat him? Should he be…?
Left Alone or Ignored
Discouraged from coming
NJ6A. [Asked of half of respondents, chosen randomly] Later this year, there will be a gubernatorial election between Democratic governor Phil Murphy and a Republican challenger. We know that the election is several months away, but who do you think you will vote for?
Democrat Phil Murphy
The Republican Challenger
NJ6B. [Asked of half of respondents, chosen randomly] Later this year, there will be a gubernatorial election, between Democratic governor Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli. We know that the election is several months away, but who do you think you will vote for?
Democrat Phil Murphy
Republican Jack Ciattarelli
Other questions to be released at a later date
|Approve of job Murphy is doing as governor||Overall||Men||Women||Democrats||Independents||Republicans|
|View of Ciatterelli||Overall||Men||Women||Democrats||Independents||Republicans|
|Never Heard of (Vol)||17||19||16||20||29||9|
|Right Direction/Wrong Track||Overall||Men||Women||Democrats||Independents||Republicans|
|Don’t Know/Refused (vol)||9||8||11||9||19||5|
|Support in Governor’s Race||Overall||Men||Women||Democrats||Independents||Republicans|
|Support in Governor’s Race||Overall||Ciatterelli Named||Not Named||Dem, Named||Dem, Not Named||Rep, Named||Rep, Not Named|
|Support in Governor’s Race||Overall||Ciatterelli Named||Not Named||Independents, Ciatterelli Named||Independents, Not Named|
|How to treat Fmr. President Trump?||Overall||Men||Women||Democrats||Independents||Republicans|
|Discouraged from Coming||24||20||26||37||26||4|
|Support in Governor’s Race||Overall||Trump Primed||Trump not Primed||Dem, Primed||Dem, Not Primed||Rep, Primed||Rep, Not Primed|
|Support in Governor’s Race||Overall||Trump Primed||Trump not Primed||Independents, Trump Primed||Independents, Not Primed|