Poll: Booker is well-liked; Murphy is still a bit of a mystery; Menendez, well …

A new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll offers good news for Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. For U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez? Not so much.

The poll of more than 700 adults found that Murphy’s and Booker’s approval ratings far outstrip their disapproval numbers. For the governor, 46 percent approve of the job he has done in the first few months of administration, while 29 percent disapprove. For New Jersey’s junior senator, a majority — 52 percent — approve of the job he’s doing, while only 27 percent disapprove. In addition, 46 percent of those polled have a positive opinion of Booker, while only 25 percent have a negative one.

However, for Booker’s fellow Democrat, Menendez, the news is bleak, according to Rutgers-Eagleton. The state’s senior senator, who faced federal charges tied to allegations of corruption, had only a 33 percent approval rating, and more people disapproved, at 37 percent. Only 22 percent of those polled have a positive impression of Menendez, while 35 percent have a negative one and 42 percent are unsure.

“Menendez’s ratings have never reached the height of Booker’s, and a large number continue to be almost as ambivalent toward the senior senator as when he first took office in 2006,” Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a prepared statement. “Time will tell how those lackluster ratings play out for Menendez in his re-election year, where he may face a well-financed challenger in pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin.”

Murphy does remain something of an unknown still, the poll found, as about 25 percent of those polled had no assessment of his performance. And, while 36 percent have a favorable impression, compared with 24 percent who have a negative one, some 28 pecent have not formed an opinion yet and 12 percent said they had not even heard of the governor.

On the upside, while 45 percent think the state is headed in the right direction and a greater number, 48 percent, think it is headed the wrong way, that is a dramatic improvement from the end of former Gov. Chris Christie’s term, Rutgers-Eagleton said. In November, the month when Murphy was elected, those saying the state was on the wrong track outnumbered those who thought it was on the right one by a 60 to 30 percent margin.

“Residents’ views on the state are certainly more positive than they have been in recent years, but the degree to which they have improved varies across partisan lines,” Koning said. “With a Democratic governor in the State House, two-thirds of Democrats now have a positive outlook on New Jersey, up 26 points since last November. Independents are much more skeptical, but positivity has grown by double-digits among them, as well. Three-quarters of Republicans feel just the opposite, though even among this group, positivity has ticked up 5 points since Murphy’s November victory.”

Democrats’ favorable opinion of Murphy was by a 54 percent to 5 percent margin, while 52 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable opinion and only 17 percent a favorable one. Independents were split, Rutgers-Eagleton added.

“Gov. Murphy starts out in office with favorability ratings akin to Gov. Christine Whitman’s, yet lower than Govs. Jim McGreevey, Jon Corzine and Christie at the starts of their first times,” Koning said. “Much like Whitman, and especially given the low visibility of this past year’s race and low voter turnout, a large number of New Jerseyans are still undecided on Murphy, giving his ratings plenty of room to move up or down as he takes action on the budget and other policies.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney, who has clashed with Murphy at times, actually scores better with Republicans than with members of his own party. Some 21 percent of Republicans polled have a favorable opinion of the West Deptford-area senator, while only 14 percent of Democrats feel the same way. Seven in 10 people polled had no opinion.

The poll was conducted from April 26 to May 4 and has a margin of error of +/-4.3 percentage points.