John Kerry is maintaining, though not broadening, his lead over President George W. Bush in the Garden State. Kerry leads among likely voters by a margin of 48%-43%, according to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. Eight percent say they are still undecided, and 2% report they will vote for a third party candidate.
Democrats are now almost as satisfied as Republicans with their choice of candidates: 52% of Republican voters maintain they are happy with their choice and 47% of Democrats report they are satisfied. Before the debates began, only 39% of Democrats said they were satisfied with the choice of candidates.
“The debates have clarified people’s perceptions of both candidates,” said Larson, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst for PublicMind. “Debates matter because they force the candidates to move beyond sound bites and give voters a chance to see the candidates think on their feet. They are especially valuable for challengers, who are less well known than incumbents and who gain credibility by merely sharing the same stage with the president.”
Before the debates, two-thirds (66%) of New Jersey’s likely voters thought that Bush would win re-election in November. Now, only 49% think he will win. Democrats in particular are far more optimistic about the outcome of the election than they were before the debates. Two weeks ago, only 34% of Democrats said they thought Kerry would win the national election in November. Now, a majority (53%) of Democrats think Kerry will win in November.
The candidates are virtually tied among men, but the traditional gender gap has opened among female voters where Kerry leads by 51%- 42%. “Women voters, especially suburban women voters, are hugely important in this state,” said Larson. “Suburban women turn out in higher numbers than many other groups, and they can mean the difference between Republicans eking out a win and Democrats winning a landslide.”
Likely women voters choose national security as the top issue in the election over the economy by 46%-17%. In fact, they choose national security as the top issue more frequently than men. When asked “which candidate would do a better job on national security, the President does very well, winning by a margin of 65%-29%. But Kerry is gaining, and does better on that issue among women than among men. At the same time, women and men give President Bush similar ratings on his handling of the economy but women give poorer marks than men to the President for his handling of foreign affairs. “When the New Jersey security moms find Kerry an acceptable alternative to the President, the Bush campaign has peaked,” added Larson.
The PublicMind poll
of 500 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 7 to Oct. 11 and has a
margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Bruce Larson 973.769.1401
Peter Woolley 973.670.3239
Radio actuality line: (201) 692-2846.
For more information, please call (201) 692-7032.