U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s poll numbers remain “lackluster” as he seeks reelection following his corruption trial, according to a new poll released on Thursday.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found Menendez, a Democrat, has a net-negative job approval rating among New Jersey residents, with 33 percent approving and 37 percent disapproving. Another 30 percent are undecided or don’t have an opinion.
Just 22 percent of respondents had a positive impression of Menendez, while 35 percent had a negative view and 42 percent were unsure.
The survey of 704 state residents did not measure support for Menendez’s likely Republican opponent, former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, or test a head-to-head matchup between the two.
“Menendez’s ratings have never reached the height of Booker’s, and a large number continue to be almost as ambivalent toward the senior senator as when he first took office in 2006,” Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said in a statement. “Time will tell how these lackluster ratings play out for Menendez in his reelection year, where he may face a well-financed challenger in pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin.”
Menendez survived a nearly three-month corruption trial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the charges against him. He was accused of taking official actions to benefit his friend and co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, in exchange for gifts, trips and campaign contributions. He was also charged with intentionally omitting those gifts from his Senate financial disclosure forms.
In April, the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” Menendez for accepting Melgen’s gifts while advancing his friend and top donor’s personal and business interests. The committee ordered the senator to repay the market value of all the impermissible gifts that he has not already repaid.
Despite the ethical cloud hanging over him, Menendez is in a strong position to win his reelection bid. A Republican from New Jersey hasn’t been elected to the Senate since 1972.
Other poll findings include 46 percent of residents approve of the job Gov. Phil Murphy is doing, while 29 percent disapprove and 25 percent did not express an opinion.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker remains the most popular statewide elected official in New Jersey. Fifty-two percent approve of the job Booker is doing, compared to 27 percent who aren’t happy with his job performance. Another 21 percent are undecided or don’t have an opinion.
The survey was conducted from April 26 to May 4 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.