New Jersey has moved even more solidly into “blue” territory since the last Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll two months ago. Among likely voters in the Garden State, President Barack Obama has widened his lead over Mitt Romney from 8 to 15 points and Sen. Bob Menendez has increased his advantage over Joe Kyrillos from 9 to 15 points.
In the presidential race, Democrat Obama claims the support of 52% of likely New Jersey voters, compared to 37% for GOP challenger Romney. This compares to a 50% to 42% lead in July. The largest swing came from independent voters. This group now supports the president by a 50% to 30% margin, up from a divided 44% to 42% result two months ago.
“It’s not so much that Barack Obama has gained support in New Jersey, but that Mitt Romney has lost it,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Gov. Romney’s personal ratings among likely voters in the Garden State went from an evenly divided 41% favorable and 39% unfavorable in July to a decidedly negative 37% favorable and 46% unfavorable in the current poll. Obama’s personal ratings among likely voters grew slightly more positive during the same period, going from 53% favorable and 38% unfavorable two months ago to 56% favorable and 35% unfavorable now.
New Jersey voters were asked whether the two major party nominees have clear plans for solving the country’s problems. While neither candidate receives an overwhelming endorsement, the incumbent scores significantly better on this perception than his challenger. Just over half of New Jersey’s likely voters (51%) agree that Barack Obama has a plan for the future, compared to 44% who disagree. In contrast, only 1-in-3 (34%) feel that Mitt Romney has such a plan, compared to a sizeable majority (60%) who say he does not.
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll also asked about the race for U.S. Senate and found incumbent Bob Menendez with a 49% to 34% likely voter advantage over his challenger, State Sen. Joe Kyrillos. Two months ago, Menendez’s lead was slimmer, at 44% to 35%. Menendez has picked up support among independent voters. He now enjoys a 42% to 26% edge with this important voting bloc, up from a dead even 32% to 32% in July.
“There do not appear to be any defining issues in this Senate race and the challenger remains largely unknown. In these circumstances, voters tend to move to the default position, which is to give the incumbent another term,” said Murray.
Just 1-in-3 likely voters say it would make a lot of difference to either the state of New Jersey (34%) or the way the country is governed (33%) if Republican Kyrillos replaces Democrat Menendez in Washington. About 1-in-5 say it would make a little difference – 18% for New Jersey and 22% for the country. Another 1-in-4 say it would not make much difference and 1-in-5 have no opinion.
Among likely voters in New Jersey, only 4-in-10 know enough about challenger Joe Kyrillos to offer a personal rating of him. Moreover, the GOP nominee’s 27% favorable to 12% unfavorable rating is basically unchanged from July. Incumbent Bob Menendez earns a 42% favorable to 26% unfavorable rating, which is also very similar to his July numbers.
Among all registered voters in New Jersey, 75% say they have a lot of interest in the presidential race. This is lower than the 83% who felt this way at the same point four years ago. On the Senate side, 50% of registered voters have a lot of interest, which is up from 45% who said the same about 2008’s low-key Lautenberg-Zimmer race. However, since the top of the ticket drives turnout, a smaller total vote is likely this November.
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 715 New Jersey registered voters from Sept. 19 to 23. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.7 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).