U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) holds a 15 point lead in his re-election bid according to today’s Monmouth University Poll. The poll of likely voters found that few know GOP challenger Jeff Bell or see any benefits in his main campaign plank of returning U.S. currency to a gold standard.
Among Garden State voters likely to cast a ballot in next month’s election, Booker garners 53% support and Republican nominee Jeff Bell holds 38%. Another 2% say they will vote for a third party candidate and 7% are undecided.
According to the poll, Booker holds an 89% to 5% lead among self-identified Democrats while Bell has an 86% to 9% lead among self-identified Republicans. Among likely voters who see themselves as politically independent, Booker has a commanding 50% to 35% edge.
“Today’s poll confirms what we have always believed, that as more voters pay attention to the election in this last month, the more they are finding that Senator Booker’s priorities for New Jersey reflect their own,” said Booker Campaign Manager Brendan Gill. “Whether it is his fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare, expanding college affordability, protecting a women’s right to choose or ensuring that Sandy relief funding reaches its intended recipients, New Jerseyans can always can count on Sen. Booker to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to the issues affecting our state.”
The poll found significant gender and age gaps in vote intention, although Booker maintains an advantage among all groups. He has a 23 point lead over Bell among women – 56% to 33% – but just a 5 point lead among men – 49% to 44%. Booker also has a 32 point lead among voters under the age of 50 – 65% to 33% – but a smaller 8 point lead among those age 50 and over – 48% to 40%. Booker (46%) and Bell (45%) split the white non-Hispanic vote while Booker holds a sizable 74% to 18% lead among voters of other racial/ethnic backgrounds.
“Booker is on track to receive a full term in the U.S. Senate,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Bell does somewhat better among those who are old enough to have voted the last time he appeared on a New Jersey ballot. However, few of them appear to remember him all that well.”
Jeff Bell was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 1978 and last ran for office in New Jersey in 1982. He gets a 22% favorable to 10% unfavorable rating from likely voters, while fully two-thirds (68%) have no opinion of him. Cory Booker gets a 49% favorable to 21% unfavorable rating with 31% registering no opinion.
Booker has served just under a year in office after being elected to fill the remainder of the late Frank Lautenberg’s term. A majority of voters (52%) say they are not sure about whether Booker’s issue positions line up with the views of most of his constituents, while 34% say his views are in line with most New Jerseyans and just 14% say they are out of step. Fewer voters know where Bell stands, with 74% saying they have no idea about how his positions line up with state residents’ views. The remainder are evenly split – 13% say Bell’s views are in line with most New Jerseyans and 13% say they are out of step with the state.
Voters were asked to assess which candidate they think would do a better job representing their own views on five different issues. Booker has a distinct advantage over Bell on health care (43% to 25%), abortion (38% to 19%), and immigration (38% to 27%). Voters are more divided on economic issues. On taxes, 35% say Booker would do a better job representing their views while 31% give the edge to Bell. The split is similar for handling the national debt – 34% prefer Booker and 30% prefer Bell.
Bell’s main platform plank centers on the debt issue. His solution – to return the country’s currency valuation to a gold standard – doesn’t appear to be getting much traction though. Just 17% of likely voters say they are very familiar with what the gold standard actually means and another 28% are somewhat familiar. Another 13% say they have heard of the term but are not too familiar with its meaning and 42% are not at all familiar.
Respondents were told that the gold standard means no money could be printed or minted unless there was gold to back it up, which would enable people, for example, to trade in a hundred dollars worth of paper money for a specific number of grams of gold. [Note: description came from a 1981 Roper Poll.] Given this definition, 34% of Garden State voters favor using the gold standard to set the value of U.S. currency and 26% are opposed to it. A plurality of 41% offer no opinion. Among Bell supporters, 48% favor a return to the gold standard and 14% are opposed. Among Booker supporters, just 23% favor a return to the gold standard and 36% are opposed. Among undecided voters or those who may change their minds before election day, 34% favor the gold standard and 22% are opposed.
Bell argues that bringing back the gold standard would help middle class families. That assertion appears to fall flat among likely voters in New Jersey. When asked how using a gold standard would affect the middle class, just 14% say the cost of living would become more affordable compared to 37% who say it would become less affordable. Another 27% say that the middle class cost of living would not be affected by the gold standard and 22% have no opinion. Even those voters who are familiar with the gold standard are more likely to say it would have a negative (40%) rather than positive (16%) impact on the cost of living.
“I had to go back to the days when Bell worked in the Reagan administration to find any polls that asked about the gold standard as a topic of public opinion,” said Murray. “The bottom line is that the gold standard has little currency as a campaign issue today.”
The Monmouth University Poll also found that only 18% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the U.S. Senate as a whole while 56% hold an unfavorable view. Another 26% have no opinion. Positive views of the Senate come from 27% of Democrats, 16% of Republicans and 11% of independents. Negative views come from 43% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans and 66% of independents. The small group of voters with a favorable view of the Senate say they will vote for Booker over Bell by a 65% to 28% margin. Those with an unfavorable view of the Senate split their vote, 46% for Booker and 45% for Bell.
“Booker appears to have overcome widespread disdain for the institution he represents. With public sentiment about the Senate so low, however, you’ve got to wonder why anyone wants to go to Washington,” said Murray. The poll also found that New Jersey voters’ opinion of Pres. Barack Obama as a person tend to be more favorable (47%) than unfavorable (42%).
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 2 to 5, 2014 with 477 New Jersey voters likely to vote in the November general election. This sample has a margin of error of + 4.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.