TRENTON – Poll results published Thursday show Republican gubernatorial challenger Jack Ciattarelli within 6 points of Gov. Phil Murphy among likely voters.

The Emerson College/PIX 11 poll conducted last Friday through Monday found Murphy at 50% and Ciattarelli at 44%. If undecided voters are allocated to the candidates to whom they’re leaning, Murphy is ahead by just 4 points.

The survey is the closest public poll released to date. Earlier polls showed Murphy with a double-digit advantage, until a Stockton University Poll done in mid- to late September that had the Democrat up by 9 points.

The poll finds voters more or less split on which candidate would best handle the COVID-19 recovery, with 52% choosing Murphy and 48% choosing Ciattarelli. By an 18-point margin, voters agree with Murphy’s vaccine mandates for staff in schools, child-care and healthcare.

Just over half of voters said taxes should be the first priority for the next governor, including three-fourths of Ciattarelli backers.

Emerson occasionally polls in New Jersey but not regularly. The political analysis website FiveThirtyEight in its pollster ratings gives Emerson an A- grade.

Four years ago, Emerson had Murphy ahead of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno by 16 points in late October; Murphy won by 14 points. In 2018, Emerson showed U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez up by 5 points in late October, and he beat businessman Bob Hugin by 11 points.

Hugin is now state chairman for the Republican Party and said the poll shows this is “a very winnable race for Jack Ciattarelli.”

"Democrats know Murphy's lead is rapidly evaporating or they wouldn't be scheduling panicked, last-minute stops with Joe Biden,” Hugin said. “Phil Murphy is running scared and we look forward to making him one and done on Nov. 2.”

President Joe Biden is coming to New Jersey on Monday for appearances with Murphy. Officially, they are White House events to promote Biden’s spending bill being negotiated in Congress.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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