Thirty-one percent of voters have a favorable opinion of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-Hoboken) and 25% have an unfavorable opinion, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released this morning. Another 44% either are unsure (29%) or haven’t heard of him (15%).
“Those are fairly anemic numbers for an energetic guy who has already served five years,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, referring to the senator who is up for re-election in 2012.
Among Democrats, 17% say they don’t recognize Menendez’s name, 26% say they are unsure or have no opinion of him, 10% have an unfavorable opinion, but 47% say their opinion is favorable. “By contrast, New Jersey’s senior senator, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, rates 42% favorable to 31% unfavorable among all voters, and among Democrats, 58% have a favorable view of the octogenarian, while 12% have an unfavorable view.
“When Menendez was elected in 2006, his campaign tapped into the unpopularity of the president and voters’ dissatisfaction with the direction of the country,” said Woolley. “Next time it will be Menendez’s Republican opponent who will try to exploit presidential unpopularity and concern over the direction of the country.”
Prior to Menendez’s defeat of Republican Tom Kean Jr. in 2006, the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll showed that New Jersey voters by a margin of two-to-one disapproved of President George W. Bush (63%-32%) and just 22% said the country was headed in the right direction. Now, 51% approve of President Barack Obama and 40% disapprove, up from 47%-43% in October’s run-up to the mid-term elections, and a good trend for Manendez, since Obama heads the 2012 ticket,
But 58% say the country is on the wrong track, according to FDU, compared to just 31% who say it is headed in the right direction. Men and women agree the country is on the wrong track, and Democrats split on the question 47%-42%.
“When voters are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, it is incumbents who get the blame,” said Woolley. “I know at least two Democrats who are hoping that dissatisfaction will abate a little before the next national election in 2012.”
Fairleigh Dickinson University polled 804 registered voters statewide by telephone from Nov. 15 through Nov. 21. The sampling has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.