Monmouth University Poll - NJ Rates President Obama and Senator Menendez

Written by Monmouth University / NJ Press Media Polling Monmouth University / NJ Press Media Polling

The Monmouth University Polling Institute conducts and disseminates public opinion research to foster greater public accountability by ensuring that the voice of the public is part of the policy discourse. The Polling Institute strives to go beyond the headlines to cover quality of life issues that affect residents in their daily lives.

Tuesday, 07 February 2012 23:00

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NEW JERSEY SENATE: MENENDEZ vs. WHO?

Garden State voters divided on another Obama term

President Barack Obama’s job rating from New Jersey residents has ticked up a bit in the latest Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll, but voters are lukewarm on giving him a second term.  Senator Bob Menendez, who is also up for re-election, has stable but not stellar ratings.  Few are convinced right now that he deserves another term, but most voters also know nothing about his potential opponents.

As Senator Bob Menendez prepares to ask voters for a second full term, his job approval rating stands at 41% approve to 26% disapprove.  Another 33% of New Jersey voters still have no opinion of him after six years on the job.  This rating is basically unchanged from October.

With only nine months to go before Election Day, only 21% of New Jersey voters definitely say that Bob Menendez should be re-elected.  On the other hand, just 32% say he should be thrown out of office.  Nearly half (46%) of the Garden State’s electorate express no opinion on whether he deserves another term.  Among independent voters, though, 40% say it is time to have someone else in his Senate seat compared to just 16% who are ready to endorse the incumbent.

There is a silver lining in the poll results for Senator Menendez.  Very few voters even know his potential Republican challengers, let alone have an opinion of them.  State legislator Joe Kyrillos, who launched his campaign last week, is recognized by just 20% of voters statewide, with just 4% having a favorable opinion of him and 2% unfavorable.  Another potential GOP candidate, former mayor and Tea Party favorite, Anna Little, fares even worse in name recognition – just 13% say they know who she is, with 3% having a favorable opinion and 1% unfavorable.

“Senator Menendez has middling job ratings and the probable GOP challenger has nearly non-existent name recognition.  Presidential coattails will be the key to victory.  This is one reason why state Republican leaders don’t want Newt Gingrich at the top of the ticket and New Jersey Democrats hope that he is,” said Murray.

The poll found that if Mitt Romney is able to lock up the GOP nomination, only 32% of voters would be more likely to vote Republican this year, compared to 42% who would be less likely.  Another 26% say it would make no difference to them or have no opinion.

Republicans would fare even worse if Newt Gingrich became the GOP standard bearer.  Just 23% of voters would be more likely to vote Republican this year if Gingrich was the nominee compared to 53% who would be less likely.  Another 24% say it would make no difference to them or have no opinion.

The gap is similar among independent voters – 55% would be less likely to vote Republican with Gingrich at the top of the ticket and 40% would be less likely if it were Romney.  Even Republicans say they are more likely to defect from the party line or stay home if Gingrich was their nominee (29%) rather than Romney (15%).

President Obama’s job rating among New Jersey voters now stands at 51% approve to 42% disapprove.  This marks an improvement from the 47% to 46% rating he received back in October.  The current results are near his summer ratings, as he was coming off his career high mark of 60% after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in May.  The president’s New Jersey rating continues to be higher than the national poll average of 49% approve to 47% disapprove reported by RealClearPolitics.com.

Despite the improved job rating, New Jersey is not overly enthusiastic about a second Obama term.  Just 47% of registered voters are ready to say that he deserves to be re-elected while 45% say it may be time to have someone else in office.  These numbers are little changed from October.  More than 4-in-5 Democrats (82%) say he should be re-elected and practically the same number of Republicans (84%) say he should not.  A majority (51%) of Garden State independents prefer someone new compared to 37% who say the president has earned a second term.  Obama won New Jersey by just over 15 points in 2008.

“New Jersey is certainly not enthusiastic about President Obama, but he can probably count on its 14 electoral votes come November.  His saving grace is that the eventual Republican nominee is unlikely to win over lukewarm independent voters,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

The poll also asked about the state’s senior US Senator.  Frank Lautenberg gets positive job ratings from 39% of New Jersey voters and negative ratings from 33%.  His job approval number is a few ticks down from the 43% positive rating he received in October.  Another 28% have no opinion.  Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and has served nearly continuously since, so perhaps the lack of voter opinion about Bob Menendez is not so bad in comparison.

The Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll was conducted by telephone with 709 New Jersey registered voters from January 31 to February 4, 2012.  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 NJ Press Media newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

Click here for a PDF copy of this poll, including data tables.

Monmouth University Poll - NJ Rates President Obama and Senator Menendez  

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