Republican Tom MacArthur holds a 10 point lead over Democrat Aimee Belgard in the race for the open House seat in New Jersey’s 3rd district, according to today’s Monmouth University Poll.
Among voters likely to cast their ballot in next month’s congressional race, 51% say they will support former Randolph Township Mayor MacArthur and 41% will vote for Burlington County Freeholder Belgard, according to the poll. Another 2% say they will vote for the third party candidate and 6% are undecided.
In a Burlington versus Ocean county consideration, MacArthur leads in the Ocean County portion of the district with 58% to 33% for Belgard. Burlington County voters split their ballots 46% for local office holder Belgard and 46% for MacArthur.
Sources from both parties routinely argue that Belgard has to run up the numbers in Burlington in order to offset GOP dominance in Ocean.
National Republican Campaign Committee Spokesman Ian Prior rejoiced in a statement.
“Aimee Belgard’s campaign has been a disaster since day one, but Nancy Pelosi and her campaign team in Washington have made things even worse by running a smear campaign against Tom MacArthur that has completely backfired,” Prior said. “With Belgard down 10 points with three weeks until the election, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see national Democrats cut and run after making a thorough mess of things.”
The poll shows a significant gender gap in voter preferences. MacArthur holds a significant 58% to 35% advantage over Belgard among men. Women voters split evenly at 45% for Belgard and 44% for MacArthur.
Belgard has tried to cast MacArthur as a political opportunist after he recently moved into the district and self-funded his campaign. This doesn’t seem to have penetrated among most voters. When asked which candidate understands the concerns of district residents, 26% say only MacArthur does, 23% say only Belgard does, and 11% say both do. When asked which candidate is honest and trustworthy, 20% say only MacArthur is, 18% say only Belgard is, and 15% say both are. About 1-in-4 (27%) likely voters say that neither candidate understands the district and 1-in-3 (32%) say that neither is honest and trustworthy.
“This has arguably been the nastiest race in New Jersey this year. While both sides have taken shots at each other, national Democrats have weighed in with some controversial attacks against MacArthur. It doesn’t look like they worked,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “This is not turning out to be the horse race that Democrats had hoped.”
On the issues, Belgard has attempted to dent MacArthur’s record as an insurance company executive on equal pay and helping victims of disasters. On the issue of equal pay for women, 44% of district voters say that Belgard will do a better job compared to just 19% who say MacArthur will do a better job and 14% who say both candidates would perform about the same. Opinion is evenly divided, though, when it comes to helping victims of Superstorm Sandy in what was arguably the hardest hit congressional district in the country. Identical numbers of voters give the advantage to either MacArthur (25%) or Belgard (25%) and another 17% say both would perform about equally in helping Sandy victims.
MacArthur has an advantage on other issues which are important to the district. In the home of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, 38% of voters say MacArthur will do a better job helping veterans and the military compared to 24% who say Belgard will do a better job and 14% who say both would perform about equally. Voters also say that MacArthur (40%) will do a better job than Belgard (20%) on keeping taxes and spending under control, while 9% say both will perform about equally on this issue.
“The equal pay debate may be fueling the gender gap in this race, but it’s not enough to overcome Belgard’s deficit on other issues,” said Murray.
District 3 voters who are familiar with the candidates tend to have a positive opinion of MacArthur – 37% favorable to 22% unfavorable, with 41% registering no opinion. The net positive gap is smaller for Belgard –29% favorable to 21% unfavorable, with 50% having no opinion.
The Monmouth University Poll also found that 3rd district voters have a negative opinion of both Pres. Barack Obama and the U.S. House of Representatives. Obama receives an upside down 38% approve to 58% disapprove job rating while the House receives an even worse 20% approve to 73% disapprove rating for its performance. Even with this low rating for the GOP-led House, more 3rd district voters would like to see the Republicans (43%) rather than the Democrats (35%) control Congress. Another 20% say party control would make no difference to them.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 9 to 13, 2014 with 423 New Jersey voters likely to vote in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District November general election. This sample has a margin of error of + 4.8 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.