Have you made up your mind about who you’re voting for in the race for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in New Jersey Nov. 6?

A new poll finds the race between incumbent  Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez Republican challenger Bob Hugin is a statistical dead heat.

“Bob Menendez is ahead by just 2 percentage points, 45 percent to 43 percent for Hugin,” said John Froonjian, senior research associate at the Stockton Polling Institute of the William Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.

Libertarian Murray Sabrin gets 3 percent.

While corruption charges against Menendez for allegedly accepting lavish trips and gifts from a doctor friend in exchange for influence in Washington were dismissed following a mistrial, ads by the Hugin campaign have made ethics a main focus.

Froonjian said the poll finds 59 percent of voters say it’s still "a significant factor or extremely important in deciding how to vote.”

However, he was quick to point out Menendez ads claim Hugin profited excessively from an expensive cancer drug when he was CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and “51 percent of voters say that claim is important in their decision on how to vote.”

Overall, the poll finds 30 percent of voters have a favorable view of Menendez, while 54 percent of voters have an unfavorable view, and the numbers for Hugin are better.

“He’s viewed favorably by 34 percent, and unfavorably by 21 percent, but I think the important number for him is that 43 percent of voters are still not familiar with him,”  Froonjian said.

He said “that does give the Menendez campaign the opportunity to try to define Hugin in voter’s minds.”

The poll also finds, not surprisingly, “Hugin is very solid with 88 percent of Republicans, Menendez is receiving 80 percent of Democratic support, but importantly independents, which make up the largest chunk of voters, are supporting Hugin over Menendez by a 4-to-3 margin.”

Another finding: “14 percent of Democrats are out there not voting for one of the major candidates, they say. I think maybe they’re deciding what to do.”

So what’s the most important issue in this campaign?

“One in 5 voters is saying either Donald Trump is the issue, making the Democrats the majority in Congress are the issue, or just the control of Congress being at stake," Froonjian said.

Taxes are identified as the top issue by 13 percent of respondents; 6 percent said health care and immigration; and 5 percent named restoring integrity in Washington as the top issue.

The poll finds 64 percent of respondents say President Trump is doing either a fair or a poor job.

When voters were asked specifically about health care, 3 out of 4 said it’s an extremely important or significant factor in deciding how they’ll vote.

The poll was conducted using 531 New Jersey residents screened as likely voters. The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 4.25 percent.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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