2016 Democrats, 2016 General Election, 2016 Libertarians, 2016 Republicans, Poll Watch, State of the Race, Uncategorized

Poll Watch: Lessons from New Jersey

June 2, 2016

It’s safe to say Hillary Clinton isn’t performing well in general election polls. Being effectively tied with the least popular major party candidate since they started taking surveys is not a plus. Not only is the contest looking closer than many figured, but the unusual mix of issue positions and personality that is Donald Trump puts more states in play than in recent decades.

Even if you ignore the possible role of a Libertarian candidate who would actually qualify for the fall debates, and discount the odds of a conservative third party attempt, the list of states Clinton can assume she’ll win is nowhere near large enough to reach 270 electoral votes. A new Monmouth poll in New Jersey gives us a good example of what she’s up against.

The Garden State has chosen the Democratic candidate in every election since 1992. The real shift came in 1996, when Bill Clinton won with twice his nationwide margin. Previously, the state tended to give Republicans more support than they received from the full national electorate.

In four of the last five elections, Democrats have won New Jersey by at least 15 points. The only exception was 2004, where George W. Bush did well with post-9/11 “Security Moms.” His opponent John Kerry still managed to do about 10 points better there than nationwide. So this is a blue state. Nobody will try to convince you Hillary Clinton can lose New Jersey and win the election.

Trump isn’t ahead. Monmouth has Clinton leading by 4 points. That’s not a big gap, but there are surveys showing her similarly close to him in places like Utah, Arizona, and Georgia. The latter two are roughly as red as New Jersey is blue, and Utah is far redder. If we just look at the margin, things are where we think they are. Closer than normal, not a sign of disaster for Hillary.

However, only 38 percent of New Jersey voters favor Hillary. That’s awfully low. Add in Trump’s 34 and a full 28% of voters want some other option. Given the choice of Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and the numbers don’t move very much. Clinton only drops to 37%, Trump to 31%.

Johnson winds up with 5% support, Stein with 4%, while a full 22% are undecided, want additional options, or simply refuse to weigh in. This is strong evidence the 10-11% support for Johnson in the few national polls to include him is far more a protest against Clinton/Trump than support for him.

At least in New Jersey, Stein and the Green Party is just as viable, and neither are really scratching the #NeverTrump, #NotHillary itch. When the combined total between the Democratic and Green Party candidates in a blue state is 41%, voters are not content with their choices.

Clinton has over 70% of the registered Democrat vote, with or without the extra options. That’s not going to cut it in November, but most of the rest are still up for grabs. Trump is getting 7% of them. If there are any Reagan Democrats remaining in New Jersey, The Donald hasn’t secured them yet.

Her real weakness is with Independents. In a two-way race, 25% opt for her. Add the other options and it drops to 23%. Trump is doing better with unaffiliated voters, leading by 12 points in a head-to-head and 10 with the crowded house. That’s how he’s staying close without getting cross-over support in a blue state.

Lacking the party affiliation incentive, these voters are extra slow to commit. A full 38% would rather avoid Trump and Clinton. The overall picture is one of total disgust. Same party voters aren’t buying in completely, but absolutely aren’t willing to chose the hated candidate from the other party. Independents want to punt.

The incumbent GOP governor, Chris Christie is toxically unpopular. Monmouth asked voters if including him on the Trump ticket would make them more or less likely to support. By more than a 5 to 1 margin, they said it was a negative. The only candidate polled to get any sort of positive response was Senator Cory Booker.

Most voters said it wouldn’t matter if Clinton tabbed the Democrat for her ticket, but of those who did care, at least it was a plus by an 18/11 rate. Beyond that light praise, it’s hard to find positives for anyone.

Trump trails among non-white voters by 40 points (43 with the larger field), the sort of dismal result you’d expect. Meanwhile, Clinton is falling short of 30% with white voters, and is barely at 30% among all men. Women voters are between 26% and 28% for Trump depending on their alternatives.

Something has to give, or a whole bunch of voters are staying home in November. Maybe Trump or Clinton do an even better job tearing down their opponent. Perhaps Johnson or Stein gets a little oxygen and begins winning a few voters over. Possibly an independent conservative candidate can inspire a few voters.

So far, the voters in New Jersey are at least as uninspired as you think they are. Many polls show far fewer undecided voters, but those pollsters are more forcefully encouraging a choice. This is likely a more accurate measure of where people really are. If you see a current poll where 90% plus have chosen Trump or Clinton, check the question wording and options for undecided/un-named candidate/other option/etc. very carefully.

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