A majority of voters (51%) say the state is on the wrong track. Even among Democrats only 48% of say the state is headed in the right direction. But that may not be enough to stop voters from electing the Democratic candidate for governor. According to the most recent results from the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, Democrat Jon Corzine leads by a margin of 47% to 34% over Republican Doug Forrester among likely voters, with 16% unsure.
Meanwhile, Acting Governor Richard Codey's personal popularity also seems to transcend dim views of the state of the state. Half of likely voters rate Codey's performance as excellent or good. Only 8% give him a rating of poor. “That's pretty good for New Jersey,” said Peter Woolley, executive director of the poll and a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Codey's plain spoken approach seems to soften people's views of the state's problems.”
In fact, in a (very) hypothetical match-up between the Acting Governor and the Republican nominee, Codey wins handily over Forrester by a margin of 57%-43%. In that match-up one in four Republicans (28%) and a third of conservatives (37%) choose Codey. Forrester fares better in a hypothetical match-up with former governor Jim McGreevey, winning 60%-40%. “All the Republican candidates may have been hoping to run against McGreevey,” said Woolley.
Corzine has small advantages across a number of factors that add up to a large, early lead.
While Doug Forrester has all but caught up to Corzine in name recognition, Corzine enjoys a small edge of 94%-90% and has been well-known longer than Forrester. The candidates' favorable to unfavorable ratios are roughly the same at about 2:1, but one in four (27%) who say they've heard of Forrester have no opinion of him, favorable or unfavorable, while only 15% who have heard of Corzine say they have no formed impression of the Democrat. Twice as many voters have a “very favorable” impression of Corzine than have a “very favorable” impression of Forrester. And nearly two-thirds (64%) of likely voters can name the Democratic candidate without prompting while 57% can name the Republican candidate. “Corzine is showing the advantages of incumbency without yet showing any of the disadvantages,” noted Woolley. “But his series of small advantages could dissipate as the campaigns pick up steam.”
Corzine also does somewhat better at this point with his Democratic base than Forrester does with his Republican base. Three quarters of Democrats (75%) say they'll vote for their party's nominee and only 8% cross over to the Republican, while 70% of Republicans say they'll vote for their party's nominee, and 13% cross over to the Democrat. Likewise, nearly three-quarters (72%) of self-described liberals say they'll vote for Corzine while only 56% of self-described conservatives choose Forrester. A majority of moderates (52%) break for Corzine. A majority of Democrats (52%) say they are satisfied with their choice of candidates but a majority of Republicans (also 52%) say they wish they had different choices. “Both candidates count on an enthusiastic base in order to win,” added Woolley. “But Republicans need both an enthusiastic base and to win independents.”
When those who are unsure are pushed to make a choice between these two candidates, three out of five (60%) lean to Corzine.
Two-thirds of voters, including 61% of Republicans expect that Corzine will win the race. However, nearly two-thirds also expect the contest will be close.
The PublicMind poll of 600 registered, likely voters statewide was conducted from July 12 to July 19 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
Bruce Larson 973.769.1401
Peter Woolley 973.670.3239
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