Well, I know we’re all waiting for the hurricane, but there is little else that I can do at the moment except wait. So it seems like a good time to look at some more data we have in the most recent poll. We had planned to do a press release on same-sex marriage today, but we’re holding off on that now until next week.
Meantime, here are some numbers on Sen. Menendez.
In addition to asking about Gov. Christie and President Obama in our recent poll, we tested Sen. Robert Menendez’s favorables and re-elect numbers. We didn’t do a release on this because frankly we had so much other stuff. But a blog post seems warranted.
Sen. Menendez is up for re-election next year, and while it isn’t clear yet who his likely Republican challenger will be, the general sense from polling over the last year is that he may face a tough fight. Part of it is that his favorable rating has lagged, as many NJ registered voters seem to have little awareness of him. In a late February2011 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll we found that while 34 percent viewed the Senator favorably and only 28 percent were unfavorable, 38 percent had no opinion of him one way or another. And this was an improvement from December 2010, when 44 percent had no opinion (and his rating was 29 favorable, 27 unfavorable).
Now it’s the dog days of August. In our latest poll of 615 registered voters in New Jersey (MoE +/-3.9 points), Menendez is rated 35 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable, and 37 percent with no opinion. Almost nothing has changed despite a very unsettled summer in Washington, and rising anger and frustration among voters of all stripes. Does this mean the Senator is actually in better shape because so many have no opinion? It could be.
For perspective, Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s favorables in our newest poll are not much different, though a few more venture an opinion. About 37 percent say they feel favorable, 30 percent are unfavorable, and 33 percent have no opinion. So Menendez is not really doing any worse than Lautenberg in net favorables. Gov. Christie, remember, is at 45 favorable, 47 unfavorable in our poll – very few have no opinion of the Governor. And Pres. Obama is at 44-44. So a net +7 for Menendez doesn’t look so bad in that light.
How about re-elect? For the first time this cycle we asked if voters would choose to re-elect Sen. Menendez, vote for someone else, or not vote at all. These numbers are tighter: only 32 percent would vote to re-elect and 31 percent would vote for someone else. But of course that leaves a lot of other voters. Nearly 10 percent say they won’t vote, and 27 percent just don’t know. Again, for perspective, both Pres. Obama and Gov. Christie are upside down in voter preference, with 42 percent saying they would vote for the Governor if the 2013 election were today and 47 percent saying they would not. And the President’s numbers are no better: 47 percent say he does not deserve a second term, while 43 percent say he does.
My summary: In this very unsettled political environment where voters seem more than ready to toss out those in charge once again, Menendez may have a small advantage in being less well known. While it means there are lots of voters to influence (from either side) it also means he is not in as quite bad shape as he might be. On the other hand, and worth noting, it’s never a good thing for an incumbent to have only 1/3 of registered voters say they would vote to re-elect you. Clearly the Senator has a lot of work to do, but then again so do the Republicans in identifying a viable challenger. 2012 is likely to be very interesting.