We have no particular love for the Monmouth Poll. Not because of the results out today but because the poll is little more than a promotion vehicle for an obscure university that seems to have very little going for it, and because the poll hasn't always been as right as the university would have you believe.
Forget about how the poll fared in state races that were never in doubt. It's easy to call the winner in a runaway rout. Instead, remember that in the last really close NJ gubernatorial election (2009) the poll missed the mark. Just before the election, Monmouth released a poll showing Corzine over Christie by two, 43%-41% with independent Daggett at 8%. The actual result? Christie beat Corzine by 3.6 points, 44.9% - 48.5%, with Daggett at 5.8%. Monmouth was off by 5.6% on Corzine/Christie. AND the Monmouth poll got the 2016 presidential election all wrong.
And when examining the Monmouth poll, it's always a good idea to go beyond the headline-grabbing horserace numbers and dive into the details. Consider these tidbits from today's poll:
- Ciattarelli actually has a lead among those who intend to vote on Election Day, ranging anywhere from 5 points (47% to 42%) to 12 points (51% to 39%) depending on the turnout model. And since (as the poll also points out) few New Jerseyans are taking advantage of early voting, the vast majority of votes will be cast on Election Day.
- Ciattarelli has a big advantage over Murphy on being trusted more to handle taxes (39% to 29%) and the poll finds that New Jerseyans clearly identify taxes as the most important issue in deciding their vote.
- There's a big enthusiasm gap in Ciattarelli's favor. 38% of self-identified Republicans say they are very enthusiastic about the election as opposed to only 24% of self-identified Democrats.
- In blue New Jersey, Joe Biden’s job performance rating has dropped into net negative territory – 43% approve and 49% disapprove. This is not good news for Murphy.
- For all his vaulted "success" and apparent advantage in the Monmouth poll, Phill Murphy has not been able to top 50%. Not a good sign for an incumbent.
- Murphy has lost ground among a key group of New Jersey voters -- seniors. And seniors vote in higher numbers than other groups. The senior vote (age 65+), has gone from a big 53% to 37% lead for Murphy in September to a paltry 48% to 43% lead in the current poll. That's significant.
- Also white non-college educated voters (an increasingly important group for the GOP) now back Ciattarelli by a big 20 point margin: 55% Ciattarelli to 35% for Murphy.
- And, the poll shows 9% undecided. That's a large number this late in the game. Remember: The WPIX 11/Emerson poll showed those undecideds leaning strongly to Ciattarelli.