Murphy may not have much to worry about in November, Rutgers poll finds

New numbers released on the day of the primary election showed Gov. Phil Murphy should feel confident heading into the fall general election, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick said Tuesday that 42% of registered voters surveyed would definitely vote to reelect Murphy, while 31% would definitely vote for someone else and 21% are on the fence.

But support for Murphy increases even more when he is compared to the likely Republican nominee, former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli. If Murphy is pitted against Ciattarelli — who was running against Hirsh Singh, Brian Levine and Phil Rizzo in the Republican primary on Tuesday — then 52% of registered voters polled said they would vote for Murphy, compared with only 26% for Ciattarelli.

Jack Ciattarelli. (File photo)

In that case, Murphy wins 83% of the Democratic base, while 67% of Republicans back Ciattarelli. Independents were divided, with 39% favoring Murphy, 29% choosing the challenger and 19% undecided.

“New Jersey has seen some uncompetitive gubernatorial races the past couple of cycles, and this race does not seem to be the exception right now,” Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton center, said in a prepared statement. “Murphy currently has a stronger lock on his base than Ciattarelli, and beats him among independents right now by a double-digit lead.”

Ciattarelli, assuming he wins the nomination, will have a name recognition gap to overcome, the poll found. New Jerseyans polled either did not know who he is (52%) or had no opinion on him (26%). Those with an opinion were slightly favorable, 12%-11%. Even 63% of Republicans either did not know him (41%) or had no opinion (22%) of the challenger.

“Despite this being his second attempt for the nomination, Ciattarelli’s name recognition deficit is almost twice as large as Murphy’s was when Murphy began to run for his first term,” Koning said.

The poll was conducted by telephone May 21-29 and included just more than 1,000 adults.

Of course, the Republican contenders faced another obstacle, according to the poll — lack of awareness. Just 22% of those polled realized Tuesday’s primary was taking place, while 26% thought it was in June, 19% thought the next election was November’s General Election, 7% came up with some other date and 27% were unsure when the next election would be.

“Primaries are typically low-interest, low-participation elections,” Koning said. “We have found time and time again that most voters are unaware of various aspects of the political process outside of major offices and election days.”

Some voters may be disappointed if they get the date wrong, as more than three-quarters said they would definitely (53%) or probably (25%) vote in the primary.