Democratic Senator Jon Corzine leads Republican Doug Forrester by 48%-40% in the race for New Jersey governor (with “leaners” included) according to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll. Without leaners, Corzine leads by 6 points or 44%-38%. Corzine polled 47% in July and again in September with leaners. Now he polls 44% with another 4% leaning toward him. Meanwhile, Forrester's share of the vote has gone from 34% in July to 38% in September. He now polls 38% with another 2% leaning to him. “The difference is that while Corzine's numbers are high, he has been going sideways,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll, “while Forrester has been creeping up, consolidating his core and picking up more discontented voters.”
Corzine maintains a lead not only among liberals (71%-20%) but also among moderates (49%-38%). Corzine also wins female voters by 50%-35% and non-white voters by 69%-13%.
However, Forrester is doing better with his base as he now gets more than 80% of the Republican vote. He now rolls up a huge margin (62%-26%) among self-identified conservatives. He also runs slightly ahead by 46%-43% among white voters and by 47%-45% among men. Last month 58% of Republicans predicted that Jon Corzine would win the election, but now only 45% of Republicans predict the Democrat will win. A majority of voters (60%) still think that Corzine will win in November, but even that figure is down from two-thirds (68%) last month.
Forrester has pulled ahead of Corzine on the question of who can better deal with the problem of high property taxes. He now leads Corzine by 34%-23% on that question, where just last month he trailed 28%-33%. “That is Forrester's issue,” said Woolley. “If he can't win on that question, I don't see how he can win.”
But Forrester has also pulled into a tie on the question of who better understands the concerns of the average person, where last month he trailed by 9 points on that question. Forrester has also pulled close to Corzine on the question of who is more independent of the party bosses and large campaign contributors. Where Corzine led on that question in September by 31%-22%, Corzine now leads by only 28%-25%. On the other hand, Corzine continues to win unequivocally 42%-26% on the question of who has the background and experience to be governor. “October is when many voters start paying close attention and many have their attitudes formed by short, emotional TV ads,” said Woolley.
“Both campaigns seemed to squander the summer months by not defining their opponent. Now both campaigns are scrambling in the last month of the campaign to tear down the opponent in a blitz of negative TV ads,” said Woolley. As the campaigns have stepped up advertising, a majority (51%) of voters now say they wish for different choices. The most substantial change in this regard is among independent voters three-quarters of whom (75%) now say they wish for different candidates.
The same poll shows the percentage of likely voters saying the state is on the wrong track has increased to 59%, up 10 percentage points from September. Meanwhile, only 29% of likely voters say the state is on the right track, down 10 percentage points from September. The biggest turn-around is among Democrats, half of whom (49%) now say the state is on the wrong track. In the September PublicMind poll, half of Democrats (50%) said the state was headed in the right direction.
Three-quarters of Forrester voters (75%) as well as half of those voting for Corzine (48%) and half of those (51%) who haven't made up their minds also say the state is on the wrong track.
But pessimism about the direction of the state doesn't rub off on Acting Governor Codey, who continues to turn in strong numbers, including a 4:1 ratio of favorable to unfavorable opinion. Three of five likely voters rate the governor's performance as “excellent” or “good,” and even a majority of Republicans (52%) give the Democratic incumbent a rating of “excellent” or “good.” “Codey's numbers are excellent,” said Woolley, “but when you consider the deep discontent of voters, they're simply amazing.”
The PublicMind poll of 602 likely voters statewide was conducted by telephone from October 4 through October 9 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
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