Murphy Has Big Lead in New Jersey Governor Race as Covid Issue Tops Taxes
(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey’s Democratic Governor Phil Murphy has a 16-point lead over little-known Republican Jack Ciattarelli ahead of November’s election, according to a Monmouth University poll.
If the vote were today, 52% would choose Murphy and 36% would pick Ciattarelli, the poll found. That would make the 64-year-old Murphy -- a retired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. senior director and former U.S. ambassador to Germany -- the first New Jersey Democratic governor to earn a second term since 1977.
In a rare departure, New Jerseyans put taxes as their second top issue: It was cited by 32% of poll respondents, while 41% chose the pandemic. With one other exception -- jobs, in December 2013 -- voters had named taxes as their top concern, according to eight Monmouth polls dating to July 2009. New Jersey residents’ property-tax bills averaged $9,112 last year, the highest in the nation.
“On the issues part of the campaign, you either win on the thing voters care about the most or you get them to focus on a different concern where you have the edge,” Patrick Murray, the poll’s director, said in a statement. “Either way, the issue picture right now is very favorable for Murphy.”
The poll of 810 voters, from Aug. 11-16, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
New Jersey has reported 24,000 lab-confirmed deaths from Covid-19 and 2,721 probable fatalities that lacked positive tests. Murphy beat his own June 30 deadline to have 70% of 4.7 million adults vaccinated. Hospitalizations have climbed to 873 patients, about one-tenth the figure during the pandemic’s height, and are nowhere near the current number in Southern states.
Asked whom they trusted more to handle the novel coronavirus, 46% said Murphy while 21% chose Ciatterelli, 59, a retired businessman and former state Assembly member. Murphy also was the favorite for overseeing the economy and cost of living, which was the third most-cited top issue. Ciatterelli, though, led 30% to 29% on tackling taxes. That issue helped Murphy’s predecessor, Republican Chris Christie, oust Democrat Jon Corzine and win a second term.
While 26% said they had a favorable opinion of Ciattarelli, 61% had no opinion. Murphy has broad support among Black, Latino, Asian and multiracial voters. While Whites in general favor Ciattarelli, Murphy leads among Whites with bachelor’s degrees.
Murphy also could get a boost from upper-income moderate Republicans and working-class swing voters in the central part of the state, according to Murray. That area, key to Christie, turned more Democratic with Donald Trump as president, Murray said.
“There is not a lot here to suggest that a focus on turning out different types of voters will lead to a significant shift in the current state of the race,” Murray said.
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