Analysts dissect Quinnipiac poll

There’s no doubt that that the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers look much better for Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie than they do for incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine. But the poll does contain a couple glimmers of hope for Corzine, along with a cautionary number for Christie, according to political observers.

Meanwhile, nobody agrees on what effect independent candidate Christopher Daggett will have on the race.

Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State, said that Corzine faces more than just the obvious problems of an upside down approval rating, a negative favorability rating, a big gap in independent support and a 10 point deficit in a head-to-head match-up with Christie. It’s the 52% of respondents who see him as “cold and businesslike."

Harrison said that Corzine probably noticed a similar trend in his own polling, because he struck a noticeably more charismatic tone in his campaign kickoff speech last Tuesday.

“For the first time in my memory, he talked in pretty great detail about his personal relationships, and I think that’s something we’ll be seeing quite more of in the next five months,” she said.

The main “fly in the ointment” for Christie, Harrison said, is the 46% of respondents who could not say whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him because they did not know enough about him. That is down eight points since Quinnipiac’s May 20 poll, but perhaps not where it should be after prevailing in a contested primary.

“It will [decrease], but there’s an enormous difficulty in getting his message to voters,” she said.

The glimmer of hope for Corzine: it’s still too early for pollsters to construct the most adequate definition of “likely voters.” Harrison said pollsters usually are able to figure out what the turnout will likely look like by Labor Day – a point at which polls here tend to change.

Moreover, Christie should take too much comfort in breaking the magical 50% barrier. The survey’s margin of error was 2.7%, so his support could be anywhere from 47% to 53%.

The wild card, of course, is the independent candidacy of Daggett, a former Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner. Daggett used to be a Tom Kean Republican, but has environmental credentials that could appeal to traditionally Democratic voters. He claims to be two-thirds of the way to raising the $340,000 necessary to qualify for matching funds from the state.

Harrison said that Daggett will likely be a wash, pulling between two and three percent from Christie and Corzine.

Monmouth University pollster and political science professor Patrick Murray disagreed. The environmental groups have never really had a get out the vote operation, he said. But Daggett’s candidacy could draw some anti-Corzine voters out of Christie’s camp.

“He’ll draw more from Christie. He’ll take those independents who are unsure about Christie but don’t like Corzine. He could be a spoiler for Christie,” he said.

Seton Hall Political Science Professor Joseph Marbach, however, said that Daggett appeals to more of a traditional Democratic base because of his environmental cred.

“I think the Republicans are so hungry for a winner that Daggett will only get a small percentage of Republican votes, because he’s certainly not the kind of conservative that Lonegan was who might siphon off the Lonegan supporters,” he said. “If he does qualify and he brings any portion of the vote, I think that’s a lot of people who have voted for Corzine.”

Analysts dissect Quinnipiac poll