Sherrill has minuscule lead over Webber in race to succeed Frelinghuysen, Monmouth poll finds

By Eric Strauss
West Long Branch | Jun 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm

A new poll from Monmouth University suggests a tight race this November in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, as Democratic former Navy pilot Mikie Sherill and Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber vie to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

The poll of likely voters, conducted over the weekend, finds Sherrill with a slight lead, with 40 percent support compared to 38 percent support for Webber (R-Parsippany). Some 20 percent are undecided.

Monmouth said two voter models also favored Sherill, by 44-40 and 45-39 margins. All three results are within the margin of error for their respective statistics.

The poll found Sherrill has 92 percent support among Democrats, to 1 percent for Webber, while the assemblyman has 78 percent support among Republicans compared with 6 percent for Sherrill. Independents were basically split, with Sherill holding a 32-31 margin.

On the other hand, neither candidate has a lot of name recognition, according to the poll, with Sherrill receiving a 31 percent favorable opinion score, with 7 percent unfavorable and 62 percent having no opinion. Webber received a 22 percent favorable opinion, 12 percent unfavorable and 66 percent no opinion rating.

The 11th District covers a portion of northern New Jersey centered on Morris County, but including portions of Essex, Passaic and Sussex counties, as well. Frelinghuysen has held the seat since 1995, and it was held by Republican Dean Gallo from 1985 to 1994 (when Gallo died in office).

But Monmouth indicated that 55 percent of voters have a lot of interest in the election, with the edge to Democrats, 67 percent of whom said they have a lot of interest, compared to only 48 percent of Republicans.

“Right now, this race is more about underlying partisan enthusiasm than it is about either of the two major party candidates because, to be frank, most voters don’t know much about either one of them,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a prepared statement. “There is still a lot of room for movement in this race, with the high number of undecided voters and low level of knowledge about the candidates.”

The poll also asked about the federal tax reform plan, and found that 43 percent of those polled disapprove, while 40 percent approve. However, while 38 percent expect to see taxes go up and 32 percent expect to see no change, only 19 percent think the reforms will result in a lower tax bill.

Some 32 percent of those polled said the tax plan will have an impact on their vote for Congress, with 47 percent favoring Sherrill, compared with 39 percent favoring Webber.

The district, noted for its affluence, normally leans Republican, but could be hurt by the cap on the state and local property tax deduction, Murray said.

“You wonder whether Sherrill would be doing even better if Frelinghuysen had chosen to run again, since it would have been harder for a party leader to separate himself from the Republican plan, despite his own vote against it,” Murray said.

Other results included:

  • 49 percent disapprove of President Donald Trump’s performance, while 47 percent approve;
  • 49 percent oppose Trump on most issues, while 43 percent support him;
  • 40 percent would rather see Republicans control Congress, while 38 percent would rather see Democrats in charge;
  • 35 percent give the Republican Party a favorable rating, compared with 46 percent unfavorable;
  • 30 percent give the Democratic Party a favorable rating, compared with 44 percent unfavorable.

“Many voters in this district maintain a lifelong affiliation with the Republican Party,” Murray said. “It’s just a different type of Republican Party than the one they see in control in Washington today. This political disconnect with the party is one factor that increases the district’s potential to flip.”

The Monmouth poll included 406 New Jersey voters who have either participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote.

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | acerimrat