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Pundit Predicts Record Low Voter Turnout Today [AUDIO]

Hiroku Masuike, Getty Images

Today is Election Day in New Jersey, but it seems to be a well-kept secret according to one expert. Monmouth University poll director Patrick Murray predicts, “This will be the lowest turnout ever. We’re going to get below 30% of registered voters. I’m almost absolutely convinced of that……I think for the vast majority of New Jerseyans this election is going to pass them by without them realizing it happened.”

All 40 seats in the State Senate are up for grabs this November as are the 80 seats in the General Assembly. The legislative map has been redrawn through redistricting. The Democrat-controlled legislature does have to deal with an incumbent GOP Governor who will stump for fellow Republicans and New Jersey’s political scene is always volatile to say the least. Another political expert doesn’t think those factors will mean much come Election Day.

“For the most part, it’s the same old same old because the redistricting did not have a broad effect on either the (State) Senators or the Assemblymen,” says Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley. “It’s going to be very difficult for the Republicans to make any progress given the fact that the redistricting really favored incumbents of both parties.”

Woolley says there are only a handful of competitive races. He thinks that means incumbents won’t have to spend as much money drumming up support as they usually are forced to do. Challengers on the other hand will need to get the public engaged and they must try to build up name recognition in any way possible.

Christie has been asking the public to give him a GOP-controlled state legislature claiming he could get a lot more done for the state if he didn’t have to deal with a partisan divide. Woolley doesn’t see that happening.

“If they (Republicans) pick up a seat that’s great for them, but it’s very unlikely they’re going to pick up several seats much less change the balance in either chamber,” explains Woolley. “They’ll have to try and hold the line and make an effort to defend some of the reforms that the Governor has made and wants to make in the future.”

Woolley thinks Democrats must campaign against the Governor’s policies, not his larger-than life personality because the Christie’s style of governing seems to resonate with a lot of New Jerseyans.

Most New Jersey voters are unaware that the state legislature is up for election today. That’s according to the most recent Monmouth University/ New Jersey Press Media Poll released last month..

Just 33% of Garden State voters approve of the job their state legislature is doing while 45% disapprove. Another 22% have no opinion. These results are very similar to ratings of the legislature taken over the past year. Interestingly, Democrats are more likely to disapprove (52%) rather than approve (25%) of the legislature controlled by their own party. Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely to approve (49%) rather than disapprove (33%).

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that displeasure with the legislature is going to lead to a change election. Aside from the fact that the new legislative map protects nearly every incumbent, Democratic voters are actually more unhappy than Republicans, which may be due to how much the leadership has compromised with the governor. However, there is no indication they are willing to cross party lines in this election to express their dissatisfaction,” says Murray.

When asked which party’s candidates they would support in the upcoming election, 88% of Democrats said they would vote for Democrats to just 5% who would vote for the Republican slate or split their vote. Similarly, 83% of Republicans said they would vote the party line compared to 8% who would cross lines or split their vote. Independents are somewhat more likely to vote Republican (36%) rather than Democrat (27%).

When averaged together, 41% of New Jersey voters say they will vote Democratic, 36% will vote Republican, and 5% will split their vote. Among the most engaged group of voters – and thus the most likely to turn out on November 8 – 43% say they will vote Democratic, 37% will vote Republican, and 3% will split their vote.

Just over half (55%) of New Jersey voters reported already being aware of the legislative election when contacted by Monmouth University pollsters just a month before the November 8 ballot. Only 3-in-10 voters (30%) say they have a lot of interest in this election, including 31% of self-identified Republicans, 30% of Democrats, and 31% of independents. Another 34% of Garden State voters have some interest, 24% a little, and 12% none.

Barely half (49%) of New Jersey’s electorate say it matters a lot to them which party controls the legislature and another 26% say it matters a little. This breaks down to a 37% Democratic to 28% Republican preference for legislative leadership. Another 23% simply don’t care one way or the other. Even among partisan voters, the percentage who say party control matters a lot to them is not particularly overwhelming, 63% for Democrats and 53% for Republicans. The number is higher, though, among the most engaged voters (70%).

“Voters may not be paying close attention but they inherently understand the consequences of the new legislative map. So it is pretty difficult to blame voters for not caring about something which they have little power to change,” said Murray.

The poll also found that New Jersey voters are not particularly well-informed about their legislature. Just 51% identified the Democrats as the party which currently holds the reins of power. Another 16% actually think the Republicans are in charge. Only 18% of Garden State voters can name at least one of their three incumbent legislators.

Who will turn out on November 8? While half (52%) of New Jersey’s registered voters claim they are certain to vote in the legislative election, history tells us that the number will be substantially lower. In the past three non-Gubernatorial legislative elections (1999, 2003, and 2007), turnout ranged from 31% to 34% of registered voters.

“I would not be surprised to see that fall below 30% for the first time in our history,” said Murray.

Combining responses to questions about voter interest and likelihood, Monmouth University pollsters found 30% of voters who are among the most engaged, and thus most likely to turn out on Election Day. Another 37% of New Jersey voters are considered to be indifferent – they may have some interest in elections, but not enough to be fully engaged in the outcome this year. The remaining 33% are classified as largely apathetic to the process. Similar proportions of Republicans (31%), Democrats (30%), and independents (30%) are classified as engaged, suggesting that the partisan turnout will be fairly typical of New Jersey elections, with registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by 8 to 10 points at the polls.

Murray explains, “Here in New Jersey there is an election every year, the state gets lower turnout because you have to come out every year to vote in an election and the legislature gets the short end of the stick.”

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