FDU Poll: NJ Voters Want Menendez Out

NJ Voters Want Menendez Out

Charges push independent voters towards Republican candidates, but don’t change views of corruption in the state

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, October 19, 2023 – In the aftermath of a series of criminal charges against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, 70 percent of the state’s residents want him to resign, rather than serve out his term. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, Menendez has lost the support of voters across the political spectrum, and reminding voters of the issue leads independent voters to be more likely to support Republican candidates in the upcoming election for control of the state legislature.

“Menendez has been able to weather charges in the past,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “But this time, it just doesn’t seem like he has any real support left.”

Seventy percent of NJ residents say that Menendez should resign in advance of a potential re-election bid next year, with just 16 percent saying that he should serve out his time in office. Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to say that New Jersey’s senior senator should go, but not by much: 80 percent of Republicans say that he should resign, compared with 67 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats. Support for Menendez serving out his term is higher among younger voters than older ones, as well as with Black residents, but even in that group, only 25 percent say that he should stay in office.

There has been some concern among Democrats that Menendez could be an anchor on the party going into the state legislative elections in November, when all the seats in the General Assembly and State Senate will be up for grabs. To see if reminding voters about Menendez would change whether and how residents voted in the upcoming election, the poll included an experiment in which half of respondents were asked about Menendez, and corruption in New Jersey, before being asked about their vote in November, and half were asked only afterwards.

Priming respondents in this way does make residents more likely to say that they will vote in the November elections for the New Jersey legislature (from 47 percent saying that they will “almost certainly” vote to 54 percent), largely driven by an increase among independents. Reminding respondents about Menendez also makes independents more likely to say that they’ll vote for the Republican candidate in the upcoming election. When they are not primed with the Menendez and corruption questions, independents favor the Democratic candidate in their district by 6 points, 18 to 12 (51 percent unsure); with the Menendez prime, they favor the Republican candidate 20 to 18 (53 percent unsure), a shift of 8 points.

“Thinking about Menendez makes less partisan voters more likely to say that they’re going to vote Republican,” said Cassino. “The question is whether those voters are going to bother to show up in what’s normally a very low turnout election.”

The increase in Republican support among independents is balanced out by shifts among Democrats: asking them about Menendez makes them marginally more likely to support Democratic candidates (from 73 to 79 percent). On the whole, asking about Menendez first does not substantially change vote preferences: in the unprimed condition, Democratic candidates lead in the generic ballot question 37 to 31. When voters are reminded about Menendez, Democratic candidates lead 38 to 28.

“Republicans have been hoping that they could tar the whole New Jersey state Democratic Party with Menendez,” said Cassino. “But voters don’t seem to be buying it.”

The poll also asked respondents about corruption in New Jersey politics generally, replicating a series of questions asked in May of this year. Today, 26 percent of Garden State residents say that politicians here, on the whole, are “very corrupt,” with another 33 percent saying that they are “somewhat” corrupt. Only 9 percent say that they are “not at all” corrupt. Independents and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that New Jersey politicians are “very” corrupt (24 percent), versus 7 percent among Democrats.

Interestingly, these responses are almost exactly the same as in May, when 13 percent said that politicians in New Jersey were “not at all” corrupt (now 9 percent), and 18 percent said that they were “very” corrupt (unchanged). Nor did the views of New Jersey residents on how corrupt the politicians representing them – rather than politicians in the state generally – change substantially since May. The biggest shift was among Democrats in the state, who became less likely since May to say that the politicians representing them, and New Jersey politicians generally, were “not at all corrupt.”

“It seems like a degree of corruption is already baked in to how New Jersey voters see their elected officials,” said Cassino. “Jersey voters think politicians are so corrupt that criminal charges against a sitting senator just don’t move the needle.”

 

Methodology

The survey was conducted between October 6 and October 14, 2023, using a certified list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. Lists of residents were obtained from Aristotle International of Washington, DC. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via either live caller telephone interviews, or text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones, resulting in an overall sample of 813 respondents. 178 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews on landlines, 250 on live caller interviews to cell phones, and the remainder (385) were done on a web platform via weblinks sent via SMS to cell phones. Surveys were conducted only in English.

The data were weighted to be representative of the population of adult NJ residents, as of the 2020 US Census. 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, education 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 1.3.

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 813 residents is +/-3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-4.6 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

813 New Jersey Residents

Figures are weighted to overall voter characteristics from the 2020 US Census. Figures do not include individuals who declined to answer demographic items.

 

Man                                 47%                 N = 385

Woman                             51%                 N = 414

Some Other Way           1%                  N = 7

 

18-30                           19%                N = 155

31-44                           31%                 N = 250

45-64                           31%                 N = 250

65+                               19%                 N = 152

 

Democrat (with leaners)              41%                 N = 334

Independent                                  15%                 N = 123

Republican (with leaners)           29%                 N = 235

 

White                                            57%                N = 466

Black                                               13%                N = 103

Hispanic/Latino/a                                      19%                N = 158

Asian                                        9%                  N = 69

Other/Multi-racial                                     2%                  N = 17

 

No college degree                       54%                N = 439

College degree or more              45%                N = 363

 

 

 

Question Wording and Order

First off, we’d like to ask you a few questions about the government here in New Jersey.

NJ1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?

  1. Approve
  2. Disapprove
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

[Half of Respondents gets NJ8-10 here, half get them after NJ7]

NJ8. Recently, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has been indicted on corruption charges involving bribes from foreign officials to him and his wife. Menendez has said that he is innocent of the charges. Menendez is up for re-election next year. Many elected officials in New Jersey have called for him to resign, even though he has not yet been convicted of any crimes. What do you think? Should Menendez resign, or should he serve out his term?

  1. Menendez should resign
  2. Menendez should not resign/Should serve out his term
  3. [DK/REF]

 

NJ9. Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…

  1. Not at all corrupt
  2. A little corrupt
  3. Somewhat corrupt
  4. Very corrupt
  1. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  2. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ10. How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are…

  1. Not at all corrupt
  2. A little corrupt
  3. Somewhat corrupt
  4. Very corrupt
  1. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  2. Refused [Vol]

 

 

NJ2. [Half get this question here, half after NJ4a] In recent years, there has been a movement to give parents more control over what is, and is not, taught in public schools in New Jersey. How much influence do you think parents of K through 12 students should have over what’s taught in their schools?

  1. Parents should be able to decide what schools teach
  2. Parents should have some influence over what schools teach
  3. Parents should not really influence what schools teach
  4. [Not sure/Don’t Know]

NJ4. We will soon have elections for the state assembly and state Senate here in New Jersey. Most people don’t vote in these statewide elections. How likely do you think it is that you’ll vote in this election?

  1. Almost certain
  2. Very Likely
  3. Somewhat Likely
  4. Not Very Likely
  5. Not at all likely
  6. Already Voted
  7. [DK/REF]

NJ4a. In the upcoming NJ legislative election in your district, do you think that you’ll vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, or are you not sure? [Shuffle options]

  1. Republican Candidate
  2. Democratic Candidate
  3. Not Sure
  4. [DK/REF]

Further questions held for later release

 

Region Classifications

Northwest: Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren Counties
Northeast: Bergen and Passaic Counties
Urban Core: Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties
South: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties
Coast: Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties

 

 

Release Tables

 

Should Menendez resign, or should he serve out his term?

 

Overall

Dem

Indp

Repub

Should Resign

70%

71%

67%

80%

Serve out term/ Should not resign

16%

16%

20%

12%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

14%

13%

12%

8%

 

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…

 

Overall

May-23

Dem

Indp

Repub

Not at all corrupt

4%

6%

6%

4%

1%

A little corrupt

20%

19%

30%

14%

11%

Somewhat corrupt

38%

34%

42%

38%

36%

Very Corrupt

26%

27%

6%

38%

42%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

12%

14%

16%

6%

10%

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are… 

 

Overall

May-23

Dem

Indp

Repub

Not at all corrupt

9%

13%

12%

10%

8%

A little corrupt

25%

24%

33%

15%

23%

Somewhat corrupt

33%

32%

32%

39%

34%

Very Corrupt

18%

18%

7%

24%

24%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

15%

13%

16%

11%

11%

 

Should Menendez resign, or should he serve out his term?

 

Overall

30 & Under

31 to 44

45 to 64

65+

Should Resign

70%

66%

67%

72%

76%

Serve out term/ Should not resign

16%

15%

14%

20%

16%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

14%

19%

19%

8%

7%

 

Should Menendez resign, or should he serve out his term?

 

Overall

White

Black

Asian

Hispanic

Should Resign

70%

74%

61%

58%

71%

Serve out term/ Should not resign

16%

15%

25%

19%

15%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

14%

11%

15%

23%

15%

 

 

 

 

Do you think that the politicians in New Jersey, on the whole, are…

 

May

October

 

Dem

Repub

Dem

Repub

Not at all corrupt

11%

5%

6%

1%

A little corrupt

26%

11%

30%

11%

Somewhat corrupt

38%

36%

42%

36%

Very Corrupt

11%

40%

6%

42%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

14%

8%

16%

10%

 

How about the politicians that represent you in state and local government? Would you say they are… 

 

May

October

 

Dem

Repub

Dem

Repub

Not at all corrupt

19%

10%

12%

8%

A little corrupt

29%

20%

33%

23%

Somewhat corrupt

29%

36%

32%

34%

Very Corrupt

10%

24%

7%

24%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

13%

10%

16%

11%

 

How likely do you think it is that you’ll vote in this election?

 

Overall

No Prime

Menendez Prime

Almost Certain

51%

47%

54%

Very Likely

18%

21%

15%

Somewhat Likely

13%

13%

14%

Not Very Likely

6%

8%

5%

Not at All Likely

6%

7%

4%

Already Voted

3%

2%

4%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

3%

2%

4%

 

How likely do you think it is that you’ll vote in this election?

 

No Menendez Prime

Menendez Prime

 

Dem

Indp

Repub

Dem

Indp

Repub

Almost Certain

50%

51%

52%

56%

59%

53%

Very Likely

18%

22%

25%

15%

20%

15%

Somewhat Likely

18%

8%

9%

15%

11%

12%

Not Very Likely

8%

6%

6%

3%

3%

8%

Not at All Likely

4%

12%

5%

2%

3%

4%

Already Voted

1%

2%

1%

4%

4%

4%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

1%

2%

5%

 

3%

 

 

 

 

In the upcoming New Jersey legislative election in your district, do you think that you’ll vote for…

 

Overall

Unprimed

Menendez Prime

Republican Candidate

29%

31%

28%

Democratic Candidate

37%

37%

38%

Not Sure

27%

25%

28%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

7%

7%

7%

 

In the upcoming New Jersey legislative election in your district, do you think that you’ll vote for…

 

No Prime

Menendez Prime

 

Dem

Indp

Repub

Dem

Indp

Repub

Republican Candidate

4%

12%

83%

2%

20%

76%

Democratic Candidate

73%

18%

4%

79%

18%

2%

Not Sure

18%

51%

10%

15%

53%

18%

Don’t Know/ Refused [Vol]

5%

19%

3%

4%

9%

4%

 

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