New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's huge re-election lead has narrowed slightly, but he is still 11 points ahead of Republican Jack Ciattarelli less than a week before the election, the final pre-election Monmouth Poll found Wednesday.
Murphy leads Ciattarelli 50%-39%, the university's pollsters said. The same poll had Murphy ahead by 16 points in August and 13 points in September.
The incumbent holds sizeable leads among Black, Hispanic and Asian voters, as well as white college graduates, and also among women and in the northern part of the state. Ciattarelli leads by 20 points among whites without a college degree, and is ahead with men and in the southern part of the state.
Ciattarelli also leads by as much as 12 points among those who say they intend to vote on Election Day itself -- but Murphy leads by nearly 40 points among early voters.
While Murphy generally gets good marks for overall favorability and for his handling of the pandemic, voters see Ciattarelli as much better on tax policy -- and recent polling makes clear that is once again the electorate's #1 issue.
At the same time, declining support for the Biden Administration is weighing on Democratic candidates in this year's races. Both First Lady Jill Biden and former president Barack Obama have come to New Jersey in recent days to campaign for Murphy. (The Monmouth poll found Biden's approval rating at -6, a 16-point negative swing from two months ago, with even a quarter of Democrats saying they don't approve of the job he's doing as president.)
In a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1, no Democrat has won a second term as governor since 1977.
Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive, DNC official and U.S. ambassador to Germany who never held elected office before his 2017 run. Ciattarelli, a businessman and former member of the state Assembly, is making his second run at governor, having lost the primary four years ago.
While Murphy's campaign has hammered Ciattarelli for his pro-Trump views and positions on COVID and kids, Ciattarelli's messaging has focused almost exclusively on lowering taxes -- music to the ears of New Jersey voters. (In a recent Emerson College poll, 51% of voters said taxes should be the next governor's priority, 35 points higher than any other issue.)
But Monmouth's experts said Ciattarelli's strength on the tax issue ultimately doesn't appear to be enough of an advantage, especially given Murphy's 19-point lead on trust in handling the pandemic, and 15-point lead on trust in education policy.
“Ciattarelli’s attack on Murphy as being out of touch on taxes has resonated with some voters, but not enough to change the overall issue picture for this campaign. Even though concerns about the pandemic have lessened, the shift toward education policy basically produces the same benefit for Murphy. He is viewed as the better candidate on both issues,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
The telephone poll of 1,000 voters was conducted Oct. 21-25 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.