Republican Christopher Christie leads Gov. Jon Corzine 41%-40% — a statistical dead heat – and independent Christopher Daggett is at 14%, according to a poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University.
The race for governor has become tighter in recent weeks; a September 30 Quinnipiac poll had Christie ahead 43%-39% with 12% for Daggett, numbers that were just outside the margin of error.
Corzine's job approval remains upside-down, 39%-56%. Among independents, his approvals are at 34%-62%.
"It's still a nail-biter. Christopher Christie has never given up the lead, but it's been getting slimmer and now it's a dead heat," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
While Daggett continues to surge in the polls, the survey indicates that support for him is soft. Just 39% of his backers say their mind is made up; 80% of Christie voters and 75% of Corzine voters indicate that their support is firm.
The poll shows a substantial shift among independents, with Christie ahead of Corzine 41%-32%, with 20% for Daggett. Christie led Corzine 46%-30% on September 1 and 45%-32% on September 30. Daggett has moved from 16% of the independent vote in both polls.
"Historically, third party candidates fade on election day. Apparently, voters agree," Carroll said. "Very few of his backers are committed to independent candidate Christopher Daggett and 77 percent of all voters say he has no chance of winning."
Among Democrats, Corzine leads Christie 76%-11%, with 10% for Daggett. Christie has an 83%-8% lead over Corzine among Republicans, with Daggett getting 7%.
Corzine's favorables are his best in month, but are still upside-down: 40%-53%. Christie is at his worst since the start of the campaign, 38%-40% — also upside-down.
Daggett remains largely unknown: 73% of likely voters don't know enough about him to form an opinion.
By a 59%-35% margin, New Jerseyans agree that Corzine has failed at making adequate budgets cuts, but agree by a 59%-25% margin that Christie has been too vague about his own plans.
But most voters aren't buying Corzine's claim that Christie supports dropping mandated coverage for mammograms. By a 60%-34% margin, voters say that Corzine's criticism is unfair.
"The Corzine team obviously likes the mammogram attack on Christie. They keep running it," Carroll said. "But New Jerseyans don't like it. ‘Unfair,' they say, almost 2 – 1."
By a narrow 45%-48% margin, voters say Corzine is not honest and trustworthy. Voters are split 42%-40% on whether Christie is honest and trustworthy. On Daggett, its 29%-8%, with 63% remaining undecided.
"People obviously are listening to the negative ads from both sides. Both Corzine and Christie get a split, at best, on the ‘honesty' question," Carroll said. "Corzine has failed to control the state budget, Christie ads proclaim. Voters agree. Christie is too vague on what he'd do as Governor, Corzine ads proclaim. Again, voters agree."
In open-ended questions, allowing for any answer, New Jersey likely voters say what they like most and least about the three major candidate candidates:
- 6% say Corzine's biggest plus is that he is honest/straightforward/sincere;
- 20% most dislike the Governor's record on taxes in general and property taxes;
- 11% most like Christie because he's "not Corzine" or represents "change;"
- 11% say the Christie's biggest negative is that he's "dishonest" or "hypocritical;"
- 8% most like Daggett because he's independent or non-partisan;
- 6% most dislike Daggett because he's a "spoiler."
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,264 New Jersey likely voters from October 7-12, with a margin of error of +/- 2.8%.