Though most polls are showing the New Jersey governor's race to be dead even between incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine and former U.S. Attorney and Republican challenger Chris Christie, a new poll by Suffolk University signals that Corzine (42 percent) leads comfortably over Christie (33 percent), with independent Chris Daggett trailing with 7 percent. Three percent of voters selected among the other nine independent candidates listed on the ballot, and 14 percent were undecided.
The Suffolk University poll, which included all 12 candidates whose names are printed on the ballot, points to the possibility that the confusing New Jersey ballot ultimately will hurt the campaign of independent Chris Daggett. Daggett is polling 7 percent statewide. His name appears in different locations on the ballot, depending on the county. Some counties list the candidates in rows while others use columns, yet in all 21 counties, the Democrat or Republican is listed first or second in every case.
“Independent Chris Daggett struggles to be found on the ballot, which benefits Jon Corzine, whose campaign is peaking at the right time for him," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston. "The poll tells us that voters believe Corzine is the best choice of the twelve candidates and the most comfortable choice of the major three. The bottom line is that, if this trend holds, it will be an amazing comeback for Jon Corzine."
Thirty-five percent of likely voters said that they would be extremely or very comfortable with Corzine, compared to 20 percent for Christie and 9 percent for Daggett. All candidates struggled with personal popularity, with Corzine viewed favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent. Christie polled 34 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable, while Daggett scored a 20 percent favorable and 25 percent unfavorable. All three candidates had higher negatives than positives.
Overall 72 percent of New Jersey voters said their minds were made up, while 24 percent indicated they might change their minds before the election. Christie voters were 78 percent determined; 75 percent of Corzine voters were resolved, but only 56 percent of Daggett voters had made up their minds, with 44 percent indicating they might change their minds.
Undecided voters were breaking to Corzine as well. When initial undecided voters were asked whom they would vote for if they were standing in the voting booth right now, 25 percent chose Corzine, 15 percent Christie, 2 percent Daggett, and 55 percent remained undecided.
Negative views on NJ
The positive signs for Corzine come despite overwhelming negativity about the direction of New Jersey and the perception of corruption. Nearly two-thirds of voters (66 percent) said that New Jersey was on the wrong track, and 67 percent said that corruption in New Jersey politics was widespread. Among those who said corruption was widespread, Christie led Corzine, 42 percent to 32 percent.
When voters choosing one of the 10 independents were asked who their second choice was, 29 percent selected Christie, and 24 percent Corzine. But 19 percent chose another independent candidate, disregarding the two major parties, while 29 percent could not name a second choice.
When likely voters were asked if they preferred fewer choices on their ballot, 66 percent said yes, and 34 percent said no.
Corzine is winning the perception game. When voters were asked, regardless of how they intend to vote, who they thought would be elected governor, 58 percent said Corzine, 24 percent Christie, 2 percent Daggett, and 17 percent were undecided.
The 2009 New Jersey bellwether of Gloucester County showed Corzine leading Christie 41 percent to 30 percent, with Daggett getting 11 percent. However, Daggett is listed third on the Gloucester county ballots, right after Corzine and Christie, which may account for a slightly higher number than in the statewide poll, since Daggett is listed lower on the ballot in many of the other counties. In the 2005 New Jersey governor's race, each candidate's Gloucester County results were within 1 percent of their statewide numbers. Bellwether samples are designed to predict outcomes -- not margins -- and to supplement the Suffolk statewide polls.
In 2008, Suffolk University bellwethers were 95 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners in both Democratic and Republican primaries, and, when in agreement with the statewide Suffolk polls of the respective states, were 100 percent accurate in predicting straight-up winners.
The Suffolk University statewide poll was conducted Oct. 22 through Oct. 25, 2009. The margin of error on the study of 400 is +/- 5 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. All respondents from the New Jersey statewide survey were likely voters. Separate from the statewide study, there were 350 respondents identified from Gloucester County on Oct. 24 and 25. Statewide marginals and 186 pages of cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.