For Lautenberg, mixed poll numbers and blue state comfort

New Jerseyans like the job Democrat Frank Lautenberg is doing in the United States Senate, but most voters seem ready for a change – and not because Lautenberg would be 90-years-old at the end of his text term, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll released today. Just 19% of New Jersey voters say that Lautenberg should be re-elected to a fifth term, while 58% want someone else. And still, 51% of voters disagree that Lautenberg is getting to old to be effective.

“Considering that even Democrats would prefer a fresh face in the Senate, there are probably many reasons voters feel it is time for a change, but Lautenberg’s age does not seem to be the deciding factor,” said Patrick Murray, the poll director. “Of course, the alternative has to be palatable to the voters, and right now the Republican field does not seem to be particularly strong when pitted head-to-head with Lautenberg.”

In head-to-head contests, Lautenberg leads two Republican candidates by about the same margins: 38%-24% against millionaire developer Anne Evans Estabrook, and 40%-25% against State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio. The poll did not include Ramapo College Professor Murray Sabrin, a Ron Paul supporter who entered the race after the survey went into the field.

Lautenberg’s approval numbers – 43%-28% — make him the most popular statewide official in the state. U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is at 37%-25%. Voters say he has been “a strong voice for the state” (51%-31%), and by a 41%-34%, voters say Lautenberg’s political views are in line with most New Jerseyans.

One out of every two Democrats say it’s time to replace Lautenberg, while 59% of Independents and 76% of Republicans feel that way.

New Jerseyans give their own Congressman high approval ratings: 55%-19%. “Right now, the state’s House delegation stands in better stead than its two U.S. senators,” commented Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Lautenberg is seen as a strong voice for the state, but it’s not clear that New Jersey voters really want to give him another six years.”

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 698 New Jersey registered voters from January 9 to 13, 2008. This sample has a margin of error of +3.7 percent. For Lautenberg, mixed poll  numbers and blue state comfort