Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez leads State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., his likely Republican challenger, 40 – 36 percent, with 19 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
This compares to a 38 – 36 percent lead for Menendez in a January 25 poll by the independent Quinnipiac University.
In this latest survey, Republicans back Kean 76 – 8 percent, while Democrats back Menendez 76 – 6 percent. Independent voters are split with 37 percent for Kean and 34 percent for Menendez.
Among Menendez voters, 32 percent back him mainly because he did a good job in Congress, with 29 percent who mainly agree with him philosophically and 13 percent who back him mainly because he is New Jersey’s first Hispanic Senator.
Among Kean voters, 32 percent point mainly to philosophical agreement, with 26 percent who like him because they liked his father, former Gov. Thomas Kean, and 18 percent who point to his record in the state Senate.
“Sen. Menendez holds a narrow lead in this race only because there are more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey. Significantly, Kean holds a small edge among Independent voters who often swing the balance in New Jersey elections, ” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“It is significant that a quarter of Sen. Kean's supporters are voting for the son because they like the father. That could be a weakness for Kean as he becomes better known on his own by the voters,” Richards added. “Sen. Menendez, on the other hand, has the added benefit of loyal supporters who back him as the state's first Hispanic Senator.”
President Bush’s approval
New Jersey voters disapprove of the job President George W. Bush is doing 65 – 31 percent, his lowest rating in New Jersey and one of the lowest in any Quinnipiac University poll nationally or in New York, Connecticut, Florida or Pennsylvania.
Going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do, voters say 62 – 33 percent, and disapprove 69 – 27 percent of the president’s handling of the war, also a record low.
Voters also disapprove 53 – 43 percent of the way Bush is handling terrorism. A total of 91 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about terrorism in New Jersey.
“Democrats in New Jersey drag the President's approval rating down to an historic low. His handling of the Iraq war explains some of the low voter support,” Richards said.
Among New Jersey Democrats, 48 percent would like to see New York Sen. Hillary Clinton nominated for president in 2008, followed by 15 percent for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and 10 percent each for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is the ’08 presidential choice of 57 percent of Republicans, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain with 25 percent.
In a possible presidential matchup in New Jersey, Giuliani beats Clinton 53 – 39 percent and Sen. McCain tops Clinton 54 - 39 percent.
From March 8 - 14, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,147 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points. The survey includes 380 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points and 416 Democrats with a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points.