Poll suggests close races this year for NJ’s flipped House seats
New Jersey could be home to a handful of competitive House races in this fall’s election, according to results of a Monmouth University poll that also finds voters favor amending the state constitution to allow for legalization of marijuana.
The races at the top of the 2020 ticket aren’t as compelling, with Democrats holding strong leads on comfortable terrain: Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump, 54% to 38%, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker leads two potential Republican opponents by around 24 percentage points.
But the road to re-election is tougher for Democrats seeking re-election for the first time. In a generic ballot question, voters in the state’s five most competitive areas – districts 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 – gave a 1-point edge to the Republicans. At this point two years, they favored the Democrats by 7 points and wound up electing Democrats by a 9-point margin.
“This is good news for Republicans overall. It’s going to be different district by district,” Murray said. “It looks like even with a strong showing by the Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket for president, in these House races I think a lot of these voters feel that they got it out of their system in 2018 in terms of flipping the House.”
Murray said Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill won by large enough margins – around 14 points each – in 2018 to remain favorites in the current environment. He said Rep. Tom Malinowski will face a tougher challenge but that he will be particularly watching South Jersey, where Rep. Andy Kim won by 1.3 percentage points and Rep. Jeff Van Drew switched parties to become a Republican.
“Right now, what we’re seeing in the poll is a suggestion that a lot of those voters who flipped for the Democrat in 2018 may think of going back to the normal pattern of voting for the Republican this year,” Murray said. “But right now, a normal margin of about 14, 15 points doesn’t look like it will have enough coattails to keep every single one of those freshman Democrats in office.”
There are primaries for U.S. Senate in both major parties.
Booker faces progressive activist Lawrence Hamm of Montclair in the Democratic primary. Five candidates are running in the Republican primary: Eugene Anagnos of East Hanover, Tricia Flanagan of Lawrenceville, Rik Mehta of Chester, Natalie Lynn Rivera of Merchantville and Hirsh Singh of Linwood.
The poll found Booker leading Singh 58% to 33% in a hypothetical and leading Mehta 55% to 32%.
Murray said he polled Mehta and Singh against Booker in a hypothetical general election because they were the two candidates with at least $100,000 in their campaign account or who had won the party’s organization line on the ballot in at least one county.
The other high-profile decision being made this year by New Jersey voters is whether to endorse marijuana legalization. Murray said the poll finds support for the idea in line with earlier surveys: 61% supporting, 34% opposing.
“Forty-eight percent say that it’s a good idea to do this in the way that the state is planning to do this. Only 30% say it’s a bad idea, and 1 in 5 say, ‘You know, I really don’t care,’” Murray said. “And it’s those 1 in 5, most of them are saying, ‘If it’s on the ballot, I’ll vote it, what the heck.’ And so that puts the ballot measure at well over 60%.”
Only 5% of voters have no opinion on the subject.
“This is an issue that people have been discussing in New Jersey for years. This is not something that just kind of emerged out of the deep for them,” Murray said. “We’ve been talking about legal marijuana, people have been talking about this. So people do have an opinion about this. This is not like a bond issue where the first time people hear about it is when they see it on the ballot.”
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 16 to 19, 2020 with 704 New Jersey adults. Results in this release are based on 635 registered voters and have a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.
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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.