U.S. Senate Special Election: Booker 52%, Lonegan 42%, Monmouth Poll finds

Democrat Cory Booker holds a 10-point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan in the race for U.S. Senate, according to this morning’s Monmouth University Poll.

The result is narrower than prior margins in the poll, and finds that despite being seen as more in step with the views of his fellow New Jerseyans, voters continue to express concern about Booker’s motives in seeking higher office.

The Newark mayor holds a 52% to 42% lead over Lonegan among voters likely to participate in Wednesday’s special election, down from the 13-point lead he held two weeks ago and the 16-point edge he enjoyed during the summer.  With just days to go before the special election, 12% of voters say they are either undecided or could change their mind about the candidate they intend to support.  Among “firm” voters who have made a choice and say they will not change their minds, Booker has a 47% to 39% advantage over Lonegan.

Booker has solid support among Democratic voters (90%), while Lonegan musters support from a similar 86% of his Republican base.  Independent voters now give a slight edge to Lonegan, who can claim support from 48% of this bloc compared to 43% for Booker.  Two weeks ago, Booker had a slight 46% to 40% edge among independents.  Booker maintains a strong advantage with black (84% to 9%) and Hispanic (54% to 41%) voters, but trails – albeit by a statistically insignificant margin – among white voters (46% to 49% for Lonegan).

“Concerns about Cory Booker’s intentions to serve New Jersey continue to persist and his favorability ratings continue to drop.  At the same time, voters clearly prefer Booker’s political views over Lonegan’s.  The message seems to be that Garden State voters don’t like to feel that their support is being taken for granted,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll asked voters whether they think Cory Booker wants to become a U.S. Senator more to be on the national stage or more to serve the state of New Jersey.  A 48% plurality say the national spotlight is the main attraction compared to 37% who say Booker’s focus is on the Garden State.  This is basically unchanged from the 45% to 35% split on this question from a poll two weeks ago.

Booker’s personal rating stands at 51% favorable to 30% unfavorable among likely voters, with 19% having no opinion.  This marks the third consecutive decline in voter opinion of the Newark mayor since June, when his ratings stood at 61% favorable to 15% unfavorable.  Booker’s net personal ratings (favorable minus unfavorable) have dropped from +46 in June, to +34 in August, +26 two weeks ago, and +21 in the current poll.

Lonegan has also seen his net personal ratings decline as more voters have become familiar with him, but it has not been by the same magnitude as for Booker.  Lonegan’s net personal ratings have declined from +14 in June, to +11 in August, +7 two weeks ago, and +3 in the current poll.  Currently, 38% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the former mayor of Bogota compared to 35% who hold an unfavorable view.  Another 27% have no opinion, which is down significantly from prior polls, including 38% of voters with no opinion two weeks ago and 49% with no opinion in August.

The Democratic candidate has a significant advantage over the Republican nominee when it comes to the general question of whose views are a better fit for New Jersey.  A majority of voters (55%) say Booker’s views on the issues are in line with most New Jerseyans, while just 30% say they are out of step.  A plurality of voters (46%), on the other hand, say that Lonegan’s views are out of step compared to 37% who say they are in line with the constituents he wishes to represent in the U.S. Senate.

Turnout continues to be a big question in this unprecedented situation: a mid-October Wednesday election held just three weeks before the regularly scheduled November election for governor, state Legislature, and a variety of local offices.  The poll’s current likely voter model indicates that between 35% and 40% of registered voters will cast a ballot this week.

Interestingly, the number of likely voters who say they would opt only to vote in the Senate election this fall if they had to choose between the special election and the regular November election has grown over the past weeks.  If forced to choose, 38% say they would opt for the special Senate election, which is up from 29% two weeks ago, 26% in August and 23% in June.  This suggests that turnout in October could also have an impact on November’s election if more voters than anticipated decide to stay home for the second contest.

The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducted the poll by telephone from Oct. 10 to 12, with 1,393 New Jersey voters likely to vote in the October special election.   This sample has a margin of error of + 2.6 percent.

  U.S. Senate Special Election: Booker 52%, Lonegan 42%, Monmouth Poll finds