Rutgers’ poll is clear: Jerseyans don’t trust polls (but overwhelmingly like Biden, Booker)

In a poll about polling, the pollsters didn’t poll so well.

That’s one of the takeaways of the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, released Thursday, just five days before the general election.

Four years after Donald Trump won the presidency in a result few polls had correct — or were even close to being correct in terms of the electoral college count — New Jersey residents said they still don’t have confidence in preelection prognostications.

Only 9% of registered voters have a “great deal” of trust in public opinion polls to correctly predict the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Another 34% trust them “a fair amount,” but the rest of them either said the trust polls “not very much” (33%) or “not at all” (21%).

Republicans, followed by independents, are the most skeptical, with about two-thirds saying they trust the polls “not very much” or “not at all.”

The results are from a statewide poll of 1,001 adults contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from Oct. 18-24.

Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said she wasn’t surprised by these numbers.

“After a perceived failure of the polls in 2016, preelection polling has been met with much hesitation and skepticism this election cycle, making 2020 potentially consequential for the future of the survey industry,” she said. “But, we have to remember that surveys are blunt instruments and snapshots in time. They cannot account for the number of other factors that affect Election Day results, like turnout and late movement of undecided and third-party voters. Polls are not meant to be predictive, but, rather, explanatory, a scientific estimate of why people feel and do what they do.”

This time around, they say former Vice President Joe Biden continues to lead Trump by a double-digit margin among New Jersey voters, 59% to 37%, and by a similar margin with likely voters (61%-37%).

This year, there may be reason to believe the numbers will hold up better. For starters, Koning said few in either scenario said they are undecided at this point. Even more telling, about half of registered voters — 47% — say they have already voted.

Biden’s lead stems from large support among Democratic stalwarts such as women (70%), non-white voters (78%), those in the lowest income bracket (66%), urban residents (78%), voters in the South near Philadelphia (60%), and those with college (65%) or graduate degrees (68%).

Biden, however, also pulls ahead of Trump with other coveted voting blocs such as independents (54%), senior citizens (62%), those in higher income brackets (55%), those with less than a college education (56%), and suburban (61%) and exurban (61%) voters. Biden narrowly wins among men (51%) and is tied with Trump among white voters (49% to 49%).

Of course, predicting that a Democratic presidential candidate is going to win the state is no surprise.

“New Jersey has not been a contested state in presidential elections for the past few decades, and this year is no different,” Koning said.  “Much like his lead nationally, Biden’s wide margin over Trump in the Garden State has endured throughout the campaign and has only been solidified in the final days of the race.”

The same can be said for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). He has a large lead against Republican challenger Rik Mehta in his reelection bid. Among registered voters, he wins 59% to 30%; among likely voters, 61% to 31%.

There is also strong support for marijuana legalization and regulation, with 61% of likely voters for it and 34% against it. There is even stronger support for a constitutional amendment that would make peacetime veterans eligible to receive a property tax deduction (78% for, versus 16% against). Opinions on delaying the legislative redistricting process are more mixed: 46% are for it, 32% are against it and 22% are still unsure.