No Electability Advantage for Obama in New Jersey

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While both of the Democratic candidates hold a small lead over the presumptive Republican nominee in New Jersey, claims that Senator Barack Obama is more electable than Senator Hillary Clinton fail to hold up in the Garden State. According to the most recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, both of the Democratic Senators vying for their party’s nomination garner the support of 42% and 43% of likely voters, respectively, besting the 38% and 39% in each match up that say they are supporting Senator John McCain. Though President Bush and the war in Iraq remain highly unpopular, neither Democratic candidate appears better positioned to take advantage of any weakness within the Republican Party.

“Obama’s campaign has had two central arguments,” said Dan Cassino, a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson and a survey analyst for PublicMind. “First, that he’s better able to capitalize on the Iraq war issue, and second, that he’s more likely to draw support from across the board. In New Jersey, though, this simply doesn’t seem to be the case.”

In the poll, voters were given head-to-head match-ups between each of the Democratic contenders and McCain. In both cases, the Democrat beat McCain by just more than the margin of error. Democrats were slightly – but not significantly – more unified behind Clinton in New Jersey, while Obama picked up more support among Independents.  Both candidates received the support of approximately 62% of those who disapprove of the job President Bush has been doing in office, and about 11% of those who approve. Both also receive support from 60% of those who think that going to war in Iraq was a mistake, as well as the support of about one in six voters who think that it was the right thing to do.

Even among women, a group that would be expected to support Clinton more strongly than Obama, the two candidates draw almost identical support. In the head-to-head against McCain, Clinton holds the support of 38% of men and 48% of women. In the same match-up, 42% of men, and 44% of women support Obama: a slight, but not significant, difference.

Support for both President Bush and the war in Iraq remain low in the most recent poll. All told, 65% of New Jerseyans disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job as President, with only 23% saying that the approve of the job he’s doing. Similarly, 21% say that the country is going in the right direction – with two-thirds saying that it is on the wrong track –a figure that’s remained almost unchanged for more than 12 months. With regard to Iraq, 45% of respondents say that the war is going “very” or “fairly” well, up from 39% in January. Only 28% say that going to war was the right thing to do, another figure that’s remained constant for more than a year.

“Support for President Bush and the war have been low for some time now, and the Democratic campaign strategy has been to hit both as hard as they can,” said Cassino. “Both Clinton and Obama claim to be better suited for the task: but the numbers show that New Jersey voters don’t see much difference.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 795 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from February 18 through February 24 and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

Contact: Peter Woolley 973.670.3239

For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.

Copyright © 2008, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 080227]