Poll: Tammy Murphy’s Senate Candidacy Is Harming Murphy’s Approval

Governor Phil Murphy’s approval ratings remain relatively high, but there is trouble on the horizon. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, First Lady Tammy Murphy’s campaign for the US Senate seat currently held by Bob Menendez is driving down Governor Murphy’s approval and driving up disapproval among independents and Republicans in the state.

In the poll of New Jersey residents, Murphy’s approval sits at 46 percent, in line with his numbers over the past year, which have fluctuated between 44 and 48 percent. Forty percent of residents say that they disapprove of the job he’s doing as Governor, a figure that’s also largely unchanged over the past year.

“The governor can’t run for re-election, but these numbers still matter,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “High approval ratings give the governor leverage to get things done in Trenton; low approval means legislators may start to ignore him.”

The survey, which included a series of questions about this year’s Senate race in New Jersey, also included an experiment designed to measure the effect of First Lady Murphy’s candidacy on Governor Murphy’s approval. Half of respondents were randomly assigned to be asked about Murphy’s approval at the start of the survey (as is standard), while half were asked only after answering questions about the Senate race. The difference between the two groups reveals the effect of thinking about the Senate race on Murphy’s approval.

Overall, asking about the Senate race before asking about Murphy’s approval doesn’t impact his approval rating, but does increase his disapproval significantly, from 37 percent to 43 percent. The effect of the Senate race only becomes obvious when the data are broken down by party. While asking about the Senate race first marginally increases Murphy’s approval among Democrats (from 76 percent to 81 percent), it reduces it by 10 points among independents (from 42 percent to 32 percent), and 8 points among Republicans. It also increases disapproval by 12 points among Republicans and 21 points among independents (from 40 to 61 percent).

“Part of this is just linking the governor to national politics, rather than local issues, which is going to hurt him among independents and Republicans,” said Cassino. “But there also seems to be some resentment about the First Lady’s candidacy, and that could quickly drag the Governor down.”

In a sample of likely Democratic primary voters taken from the same poll, First Lady Tammy Murphy trails Democratic Congressman Andy Kim by 12 points, with Kim leading 32 to 20, and 31 percent still undecided. Sitting Senator Menendez has the support of 9 percent, and 8 percent of Democratic primary voters say that they’ll back labor activist Patricia Campos-Medina.

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