Rutgers poll: Most Jerseyans are unaware/undecided about Senate hopefuls Kim, Murphy

Andy Kim and Tammy Murphy.

U.S. Senate candidates Andy Kim and Tammy Murphy have spent recent days battling for endorsements from Democratic leaders. They may need to be more concerned about this: Connecting with voters.

Despite both often being in the news — Kim is a U.S. representative from District 3; Murphy is the first lady — neither appears to have a lot of name recognition, according to a Rutgers Eagleton Poll that was released Monday morning.

Over two-thirds of New Jerseyans were either unsure or unaware about them at the moment, according to the latest poll.

About four in 10 voters didn’t know Kim (41%) or Murphy (38%); one in four (27%) were unsure about Kim, while one-third (33%) felt the same about Murphy.

The candidates fared similarly among those voters who took sides: 19% had a favorable opinion toward Kim and 12% had an unfavorable one, while 14% had a favorable opinion toward Murphy and 15% had an unfavorable one. 

Ashley Koning, the director of the poll, said they both face challenges in an effort to unseat the current senator, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has not officially announced if he will seek reelection, despite being under indictment.

“Both Kim and Murphy are well known in Garden State politics, but each of them still needs to build some name recognition with the average voter,” Koning said.

“While they may be each other’s competition in the coming months, neither one of them needs to worry about vying for voters with the third candidate still in this race for Sen. Bob Menendez’s seat Menendez himself.”

That’s because Menendez’s ratings have taken a nosedive — 6% of New Jersey voters had a favorable impression of Menendez compared with 69% who had an unfavorable one. Fifteen percent have no opinion and 10% said they don’t know Menendez. Negativity toward the senator spans all demographics, including all partisans.

New Jersey’s senior senator fares no better in his job approval ratings: 11% approved of the job Menendez is doing as senator, while 64% disapproved and 25% were unsure.

Jessica Roman, a recent associate at the poll, put Menendez’s numbers in perspective. 

“Menendez’s ratings have never been exceptionally positive throughout his tenure as a U.S. senator in New Jersey, but they have now unsurprisingly hit rock bottom,” she said. “He has likely scored the lowest favorability and approval ratings of any major New Jersey political figure we have ever polled in our five-decade history.” 

In contrast, junior U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (also D-N.J.) continues to fare moderately well with his constituents. Forty-five percent were favorable toward Booker, while 29% were unfavorable, 17% had no opinion and 8% didn’t know who he is. Similarly, 43% approved of the overall job Booker is doing, 29% disapproved and 28% were unsure.

Results are from a statewide poll of 974 adults contacted through the probability-based Rutgers-Eagleton/SSRS Garden State Panel from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. The registered voter subsample contains 826 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points.