It’s three weeks and counting until New Jersey’s gubernatorial election, and Democrat Phil Murphy, the former ambassador to Germany, is maintaining a significant lead over his Republican rival, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in a just-released poll.

“Among those who say they have made up their minds, we find that Murphy has the support of 47 percent, to (Lt. Gov.) Guadagno’s 32 percent, and 13 percent remain undecided,” said Krista Jenkins, director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll.

She said “as expected, Democrats and Republicans are breaking for their respected candidates, but among independents who don’t align among either party, both candidates get about a quarter of independent support."

Jenkins noted current Gov. Chris Christie is casting a very long shadow on the race to replace him.

“When asked if he’s a factor in the minds of voters when they think about who they like, 43 percent say that he is, with a full third, or 34 percent, who indicate that he is a major factor in their decision," Jenkins said.

She said among those who say Christie is a factor, “a majority support Murphy."

Seventy-nine percent who say Christie figures prominently in their minds prefer Murphy, as do 60 percent who consider Christie only a minor factor, Jenkins said.

“He is a tough act to follow, and he leaves in his wake big concerns about the direction the state is headed and significant disappointment with his leadership," she said.

Just 9 percent of those responding to the poll rate Christie’s influence as minor, but 56 percent indicate he is not a factor in their choice to replace him.

Jenkins said 48 percent of voters who said Christie is not influencing their decision support Guadagno.

“Guadagno seemed paired with Christie in the minds of many voters, by an almost 3-1 margin," Jenkins said. "The wide swath of the electorate who disapprove of Gov. Christie find Murphy more palatable that Guadagno."

She added when voters were asked whether the political system in New Jersey is broken and doesn’t give them much hope for finding capable leaders, or whether the system is responsive and always finds leaders who can solve New Jersey’s problems, an overwhelming majority of voters, 79 percent, said the system is broken. Just 22 percent indicated the system can find leaders who can address the state’s myriad of problems.

Jenkins said among those who think the system is broken, 34 percent are putting their faith in Guadagno, and 42 percent favor Murphy.

Among the relatively few who express optimism for the system’s responsiveness, Murphy does better than Guadagno by about a 2-1 margin (57 to 28 percent).

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