2nd poll puts Menendez ahead of Hugin for Senate seat

File photos U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, left, is in a tough race against former Celgene head Bob Hugin.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is in the lead by 9 to 12 basis points over Bob Hugin for a seat in the Senate, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.

While voters are still showing negative views of Menendez, most said that President Donald Trump is a bigger factor in their choice for Senate.

Menendez currently has a 49-40 percent lead over Hugin among likely voters. He also has a slight lead (48-45 percent) among white voters with a college degree. Hugin has the advantage among white voters without a college degree (49-41 percent), but the poll said this group of individuals comprises fewer than 4-in-10 likely New Jersey voters.

“Given the national political climate and the big registration advantage enjoyed by Democrats, you might expect an incumbent senator from New Jersey to be up by 20 points. Hugin was successful in making this one competitive by hammering away at Menendez’s ethical baggage.  But the incumbent has been able to fight back to get the margin into a range that is closer to the norm for New Jersey,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said. “I bet the Democrat’s Senate Majority PAC wishes it could take back the $3 million being spent in New Jersey right now.”  This is Monmouth’s first, and only, likely voter poll of the Garden State’s Senate contest.

Menendez has an 46 percent unfavorability rating, compared to his favorability rating of 28 percent, with 27 percent having no opinion, the poll said.

“You’ve got to wonder if New Jersey voters look at corruption through a different lens than other voters. But it’s worth pointing out that Republican House incumbents in upstate New York and southern California are currently under indictment and remain competitive in their re-election efforts. So perhaps the goalposts have been moved nationwide in recent years,” Murray said.

The biggest issues for New Jersey’s senate race are health care (24 percent), corruption in government (22 percent), taxes (18 percent), immigration (14 percent), job creation (10 percent) and abortion (7 percent).

The poll found that 69 percent of voters are aware that Hugin is a former pharmaceutical executive. Nearly half of likely voters (48 percent) view the pharma industry negatively while 14 percent have a positive view of it, and 31 percent have no opinion. Hugin has an overall favorability rating of 31 percent, compared to a 21 percent unfavorability rating, but nearly 48 percent have no opinion.

“Hugin’s pharma past does not help him in a year when worries about rising health care costs top the list of voter concerns, which is true not just in New Jersey but nationwide,” said Murray.

A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday also showed Menendez above Hugin by 7 basis points.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by phone from Oct. 11-15 with 527 New Jersey likely voters. The margin of error is +/-4.3 percentage points.