Poll finds Murphy up big among older NJ voters. A COVID effect?
TRENTON – A poll finds older voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly back Gov. Phil Murphy for another term – which would be a major change from four years ago, if that’s how the vote turns out.
Results from an FDU Poll done in partnership with AARP show 56% of registered voters age 50 and over say they support Murphy’s re-election, compared with 31% who say they prefer Republican nominee Jack Ciattarelli. The others don’t know, refused to say and support no one or a third-party candidate.
“We generally think of older voters in New Jersey as being more conservative, being more worried about taxes,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and executive director of the poll. “And so, it seems like a natural constituency for Jack Ciattarelli. We find that’s really just not the case. There’s a much bigger margin apparently among older voters than there is among voters overall.
“While we’re seeing numbers 9, 10, 12 points in the governor’s race among all voters, among voters 50 and over, Murphy has a 25-point lead going into the last month of the election,” he said. “And that’s a huge problem for Ciattarelli.”
Cassino said Ciattarelli was behind among older voters at the time the poll was done – late September into early October – because conservatives still weren’t all with him. Twenty-three percent of older conservatives said they support Murphy, according to the poll.
Cassino expects some of those Republicans to return to Ciattarelli is the final weeks of the campaign, as the candidate becomes more widely known.
The current numbers are far different than the results of a 2017 exit poll of people who voted in that gubernatorial election. Even as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno lost statewide by 14 points, the Republican lost by just 3 points among voters 45 and older – and won by 11 points among voters 65 and older.
But they do reflect the same trends identified in a Monmouth University Poll on the race last month, which found the candidates tied among voters age 50 to 64 but Murphy ahead of Ciattarelli by 16 points among voters 65 and older.
Cassino said one explanation could be the COVID-19 pandemic, as older residents are more vulnerable to the virus and Murphy takes a more aggressive stance on COVID rules and restrictions.
“Older voters are very worried about that. Also, older voters are more likely than anyone else in the state and almost anyone else in this country to be vaccinated. New Jersey has a high vaccination rate; it’s even higher among older voters,” Cassino said.
“What that tells us is they want people to be vaccinated, and coming out and being more permissive on vaccines – and saying ‘Nah, do you really need it? It should be up to everyone?’ – is not going to play well with that demographic,” he said.
The poll included 1,109 registered voters and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. For more details about the methodology and results, click here.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.