Poll gives Democrat slight edge in battleground district

One of New Jersey’s tight congressional races appears to be leaning toward the Democratic challenger, according to Monmouth University Poll results released Thursday.

In the 7th District, which includes Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties, Tom Malinowski holds a 47 percent to 39 percent lead among potential voters over the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance.

“The fundamentals of this swing district favor Malinowski, but he has not been able to break clear of Lance’s deep roots here,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a prepared statement.

When two likely voter models are applied, Malinowski’s lead shrinks to a statistically insignificant margin, however, ranging from a three- to six-point lead, depending on the model.

Lance, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, has won re-election by double-digits in the four subsequent contests.

President Donald Trump may be a drag on Lance, the poll found. The president’s Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, which he often visits, is part of the district.

“There’s not a lot of difference in enthusiasm between the two camps,” Murray said. “It’s just that voters in this wealthy suburban district have swung more Democratic, largely due to problems they have with their presidential neighbor.”

More voters in the district said they would rather see Democrats in control of Congress, but Lance himself received a favorable rating from those polled, by a 35-21 margin, with 44 percent having no opinion. Malinowski had a 26-14 favorability rating, with 60 percent having no opinion.

“Lance is keeping this race close on the back of his reputation at a moderate, as well as the goodwill he has built with constituents during his time in office,” Murray said. “It remains to be seen whether this will be good enough to hang onto his seat.”

The poll considered those who have participated in an election since 2010 or are newly registered to vote, the independent institute, based in West Long Branch, said. Two percent support a third-party candidate, while 12 percent are undecided.

The poll was conducted by telephone earlier this month, sampling 414 voters in the district. It has a margin of error of +/-4.8 percentage points for the full sample.