Voters have heard little about the Senate race shaping up in New Jersey, but they are beginning to take sides. According to the most recent results of Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll, Democratic candidate and appointed U.S. Senator Bob Menendez gets 42% of the vote (including leaners) in an early trial heat against the apparent Republican candidate and State Senator Tom Kean, Jr., who garners 37%. Twenty-one percent say they are not sure yet. By contrast, as recently as January, 37% of voters said they were undecided.
Since January Bob Menendez has increased his name recognition to 65% from 60% and his favorable opinion among those who recognize him to 40% from 33% in January. His name recognition and favorable ratings are now very similar to those of Tom Kean, Jr.
“Menendez has benefited from the flap over a Dubai-owned company buying the concession to run the port of Newark,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. “That is the power of incumbency; to get on the daily news because you are the office-holder.”
Kean's name recognition and favorable ratings have not moved since measured in January: 62% of registered voters say they recognize him (exactly the same as in January). And of those who do recognize the Republican candidate, four out of ten have a favorable opinion of him while almost half have no opinion of him, favorable or unfavorable, essentially unchanged from his January numbers.
Eight of ten voters have heard or read little about the Senate contest at this point, with 51% saying they've heard little and another 29% saying they've heard nothing at all. Only 20% say they've heard some or a great deal.
“As Bob Menendez has increased his visibility,” said Woolley, “voters have begun to choose familiar and partisan sides. Without campaign ads running, people use party affiliation as their cue.”
Three-quarters (76%) of Democratic voters say they would vote for Menendez if the election were held today, while a similar proportion of Republicans (77%) say they would vote for Kean. In the January poll only 37% of Democratic voters said they would vote for Menendez and 39% of Democrats said they were unsure. “Menendez is doing exactly what his early appointment was meant to do, increasing his name recognition and acceptability as the party's standard bearer,” said Woolley.
The PublicMind poll of 601 randomly selected registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone from February 27 through March 6 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
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