John Kerry heads into the last days of the campaign with a lead over President George W. Bush in the Garden State. According to the most recent results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s tracking poll, Kerry leads Bush among likely voters by a margin of 45%-38%. When leaners are included, Kerry leads by 47%-40%, with 11% undecided and 2% scattered among others, including Nader.
“While Kerry has a lead over the President going into Election Day, he does not have the commanding lead over Bush that Al Gore had four years ago,” said Bruce Larson, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst for PublicMind. “There are several reasons why. First, Bush is now an incumbent with four years of experience. Second, unlike Gore, Kerry is not associated with the peace and prosperity of the 1990s. Third, 9/11. The President does better than Kerry on national security and the war on terror, and this issue is obviously far more important to New Jersey voters now than it was four years ago.”
A majority of New Jersey’s likely voters agree that Kerry is the favorite to win the state. Two-thirds (68%) continue to say that Kerry will take the Garden State’s 15 electoral votes, while only 17% say Bush will win in a state his father won in 1988 but lost in 1992.
Despite the margin of the New Jersey contest, Garden State Republicans are far more optimistic about the results of the national election than are Democrats. Three-quarters (76%) of Republicans expect a Bush re-election. But only half (50%) of Democrats expect Kerry to be the next President of the United States.
“Based on the poll results, it’s difficult to construct a scenario where Bush wins the state,” added Larson. “Essentially, undecided voters would need to turn out in large numbers and break two-to-one for the President. This would defy the norm that late undecideds typically support the challenger. Turnout, of course, is always a wild card. But the many newly registered voters in the state, as well as heightened interest in the race, make turnout even more of a wild card this year than usual.”
A majority (52%) of likely voters in the state say the country is on the wrong track. A majority (56%) rate the President’s overall performance as only fair or poor. A majority (55%) say the military effort in Iraq is going “not too well” or “not well at all.” And a majority (52%) continues to maintain that going to war in Iraq was a mistake.
In the last weekend of the campaign, PublicMind will attempt to re-interview all undecided voters from its October tracking poll. The PublicMind tracking poll of 549 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28 and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.
Bruce Larson 973.769.1401
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