Monmouth poll shows a dead heat in the home stretch

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With just days to go before the polls open, Gov. Jon Corzine and Chris Christie remain in a dead heat, while independent Chris Daggett has faded.

A Monmouth University/Gannett poll released this morning shows Christie leading Corzine by a statistically insignificant 1% — 43% to 42% — while Daggett clocks in at 8%.

A Monmouth poll from two weeks ago showed the race tied at 39% each between the two major candidates, while Daggett pulled 14% support.

Patrick Murray, director the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that the election may hinge on the Democratic base’s enthusiasm – or lack of it — about Corzine.

“This election will be defined by turnout like few others before it,” he said. “Many Democrats are sitting on the sidelines and not considered to be likely voters at this point. They may be unenthusiastic about their governor, but can they be prodded to the polls for other reasons? If not, Christie may eke out the win,” said Murray.

Christie is polling much stronger with independent and unaffiliated voeters than Corzine is, garnering 51% of their support to Corzine’s 29% and Daggett’s 10% (Daggett got 22% of independents in the last Monmouth poll).

“Independent voters are simply unhappy with the job Governor Corzine has done over the past four years. After a brief flirtation with Daggett’s candidacy, many seem to have returned to Christie as their best chance for change,” said Murray.

Christie’s favorable ratings have also improved and are now rightside up, at 44% favorable to 36% unfavorable compared to 40% favorable and 41% unfavorable two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the favorable numbers for Daggett – who has been at the receiving end of an onslaught of negative ads by Christie and the Republican Governors Association – have tumbled. He’s now seen positively and neatively by the same amount of voters: 22%. His favorability rating has especially slipped among Republcian voters.

Corzine’s approval rating remains mired in the negatives, where it has been throughout most of the campaign. Only 35% of voters approve of his performance, while 55% disapprove; 39% of voters view him favorably, compared to 49% who view him unfavorably.

When it comes to issues, voters still consider property taxes the most important at 36%. Next in line was the economy and jobs, which 27% put as a top priority, followed by health care at 15% and political corruption at 14%.

Voters were also asked about the "Green Acres" ballot question, which will bond $400 million for open space preservation. A majority of likely voters– 51% — said they would support it, while 28% said they will vote against it and 21% said they were undecided or won’t vote on the question.

Most voters, however, know little or nothing about the ballot question. Just 16% of likely voters had heard a lot about the question, while 46% had heard a little and 41% had heard nothing at all.

And voters' opinions flip upside down when when they're told that the measure involves incurring debt. After they've been told, that, 30% are for it and 58% are against it.

“Past polling on public bond referenda suggests that most undecided voters will fall into the ‘no’ camp on election day. At only 51 percent support, this bond issue could be in trouble, especially if voters link the word ‘bond’ with ‘debt.’ It may be fortunate for proponents of this measure that most voters don’t,” said Murray.

Monmouth surveyed 1,041 likely voters between October 28 and 30 for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

Monmouth poll shows a dead heat in the home stretch