Gov. Chris Christie looms large over the New Jersey governor’s race and is harming Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s chances of succeeding him, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy leads Guadagno, the Republican nominee, by 15 points among likely voters, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. Murphy received 47 percent support compared with Guadagno’s 32 percent. Five percent chose another candidate while 13 percent remain undecided, the poll found.
Only 16 percent of likely voters approve of the job Christie is doing, and 43 percent say Christie is a factor in the gubernatorial election. Of those who consider Christie a “major” factor in the race, 79 percent prefer Murphy, as do 60 percent who say Christie is a minor factor. A plurality (48 percent) of the likely voters who say Christie didn’t matter backed Guadagno.
“For better or worse, and whether it’s fair or unfair, Guadagno seems paired with Christie in the minds of many voters,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the FDU poll and a political science professor. “By an almost 3-to-1 margin, the wide swath of the electorate who disapprove of Governor Christie find Murphy more palatable than Guadagno.”
Neither candidate came away as the clear winner in last week’s televised gubernatorial debate, according to the poll. Likely voters were split on who won, with 29 percent choosing Guadagno, 27 percent picking Murphy and 31 percent saying neither can claim victory. Notably, independents declared Guadagno the winner by 25 percent to 5 percent. Only one-third of likely voters watched or listened to the debate, according to the poll.
Voters have little faith in New Jersey politics, the poll found. An overwhelming majority of voters (69 percent) said the state’s political system is broken and gives them little hope for finding a capable leader. Only one-fifth of voters trust the system to find leaders who can address the state’s problems. The hopelessness was felt by majorities in both parties and independents.
Said Jenkins, “The people have lost faith in a system that seems to offer up leaders with few leadership skills.”
Nearly half of voters (49 percent) said they planned to vote for Democratic candidates in the state legislative races, while one-third intended to support Republicans. All 120 seats in the state Legislature are up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election.
The poll of 658 likely voters was conducted Wednesday through Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.