TRENTON – The final round of polls before Tuesday’s election finds Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy leading Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by an average of 8 points, which is exactly the margin in Monday’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Eagleton found Murphy at 50% and Ciattarelli at 42% among registered and likely voters. That’s a bit closer than last week’s Monmouth, FDU and Stockton university polls, but closer than a 4-point margin reported Monday by the Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group.

Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said people should keep all the polls in perspective.

“Any good poll consumer needs to remember – especially in an election cycle – that any single poll is a snapshot in time, that poll numbers are estimates with some level of statistical uncertainty, and that they are meant more to explain than predict,” Koning said.

“But if we look at the several statewide polls conducted in the last week, the big picture points to a sizable margin for Murphy that – despite narrowing throughout the campaign – will be difficult for Ciattarelli to overcome in the final days, especially in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one in registration,” she said.

A few of the findings:

  • More than four in 10 voters aren’t necessarily voting for their candidate because they support them personally. Twenty-four percent oppose the other candidate, and 18% are doing so out of partisanship.
  • Fifteen percent say their choice is based on their satisfaction with the overall job Murphy has been doing as governor.
  • Murphy enters the election with 50% of voters viewing him favorably and 35% viewing him unfavorably.
  • Ciattarelli is viewed favorably by 33% of voters and unfavorably by 34%.
  • Six percent cite the pandemic as influential to their vote, with 1% specifically mentioning something about vaccine and mask mandates. Six percent mention something about taxes or the economy.

“Based on voters’ responses, Murphy’s strategy of tying Ciattarelli to Trump seems to be working with some voters, as all but one who mention Trump do so as a reason not to vote for Ciattarelli,” Koning said. “Voters cite Murphy’s handling of the pandemic as a reason to vote both for him and against him, with a few voters specifically mentioning nursing homes and mask mandates as reasons for their opposition.”

A Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll released Friday found Murphy holding a 9-point lead, 53% to 44%. Ciattarelli led by 17 points among independent voters, though Murphy appeared to make gains among that group as the week went along.

Results of a Stockton University Poll published Thursday showed Murphy at 50% and Ciattarelli at 41%, the same 9-point margin as in Stockton’s September survey.

“Both candidates are about where you’d expect a generic Republican and a generic Democrat to be,” said Dan Cassino, executive director of the FDU Poll. “But to win in New Jersey, a Republican has to do much better than that.”

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The Trafalgar Group poll found Murphy at 49% and Ciattarelli at 45%.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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