Democrat Phil Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive, has a 14-point lead in the New Jersey governor’s race one week out from the Nov. 7 election, according to a Monmouth University poll of likely voters.
But the two-major party candidates remain a mystery to roughly one-third of those voters, and turnout for the election is expected to reach a record low, the Monmouth pol found.
Murphy earned 53 percent support from likely voters while Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, earned 39 percent, the poll found. Seven percent of voters said they were undecided and 2 percent said they would vote for another candidate.
Murphy has maintained a double-digit lead since the race began and is seen by political experts as the odds-on favorite to succeed Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.
In recent weeks, Guadagno has shifted away from her messaging promising lower taxes and has launched an onslaught of attacks against Murphy over the issue of sanctuary cities. Murphy has said that, “if need be,” he would make New Jersey a sanctuary state in which undocumented immigrants would not be turned over to federal immigration officials.
“After failing to generate voter attention for her property tax plan, Guadagno changed tactics and tried to paint Murphy as out of step over his sanctuary state comments,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It hasn’t worked.”
The poll also analyzed voter opinions about each candidate’s political views. Despite the election’s proximity, 53 percent said they did not know enough about Murphy’s views to say whether they are “in line or out of step with the state”; 28 percent said his views were in line and 18 percent said they were out of step.
Similarly, 57 percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about Guadagno’s views to make a determination about whether she was in line or out of step with New Jersey, while 18 percent said her views were in line and 25 percent said they were not.
According to Murray, the lack of awareness most voters have of the candidates means that “the voters just haven’t been listening.”
“She might have been able to make headway with a more attentive electorate, but that just wasn’t in the cards this year,” Murray said of Guadagno. “Most voters are simply going to walk into the voting booth next week and choose ‘X’ the Republican or ‘Y’ the Democrat.”
The poll, which surveyed 529 likely voters from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31, found that many New Jersey voters also feel they don’t know enough about Murphy or Guadagno to determine whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them. Thirty-six percent of voters held a favorable view of Murphy, 30 percent held an unfavorable opinion and 34 percent had no opinion.
Guadagno’s rating came in at 29 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable while 39 percent of respondents reported no opinion of her.
The Monmouth analysis predicts a record-low turnout of 38 percent. The 2013 gubernatorial election — in which Christie beat Democratic challenger Barbara Buono to win re-election — had a 40 percent voter turnout.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.