Murphy maintains lead in latest poll, but questions remain

Democrat Phil Murphy maintains a double-digit lead over Republican Kim Guadagno with less than a week until Election Day, according to the latest Monmouth University poll.

Still, most voters say they don’t have a clear idea of either candidate’s political views.

The Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch surveyed 529 state residents likely to vote in the gubernatorial election.  The margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Currently, 53 percent of likely voters support Murphy and 39 percent support Guadagno in Tuesday’s election for governor. Independent candidates garner 2 percent of the vote, with 7 percent still undecided.

Murphy held a similar 51 percent to 37 percent lead over Guadagno at the beginning of October.

Murphy has an 81 percent to 13 percent advantage among Democratic voters. Guadagno’s Republican edge is 70 percent to 18 percent.

Murphy’s lead is just 46 percent to 43 percent among unaffiliated voters, who represent about 40 percent of the state’s registered voters. But they are expected to comprise only about 25 percent of Tuesday’s electorate, due to the historically lower turnout rate in non-presidential elections.

“After failing to generate voter attention for her property tax plan, Guadagno changed tactics and tried to paint Murphy as out of step over his sanctuary state comments,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It hasn’t worked.”

The poll asked generally about whether the two candidates’ political views are aligned with the opinions of most Garden State voters. But most say they don’t know enough about the views of either to answer that question, with 53 percent in the dark about Murphy and 57 percent feeling that way about Guadagno.

“This election has been the proverbial tree falling in a forest,” Murray said. “As much as Guadagno has tried, the voters just haven’t been listening. She might have been able to make some headway with a more attentive electorate, but that just wasn’t in the cards this year. Most voters are simply going to walk into the voting booth next week and choose ‘X,’ the Republican, or ‘Y,’ the Democrat.”

More than a third of likely voters have not formed an opinion about either major party nominee, the poll found.

While 36 percent hold a favorable view of Murphy and 30 percent have an unfavorable view, 34 percent express no opinion.

Guadagno’s favorable rating is at 29 percent, with 32 percent unfavorable rating. Thirty-nine percent have no opinion of her.

Both candidates saw their unfavorable rating increase by 7 points over four weeks ago.

“We are almost certain to see a record low turnout on Tuesday,” Murray said. “The irony is that, even though the electorate will be comprised of people who tend to vote in most elections, a majority of them will be casting ballots without having a clear idea what either candidate actually stands for.”

Monmouth’s polling estimates about 38 percent of registered voters will participate in this year’s election. The current record low for the state’s gubernatorial election was 40 percent in 2013.