A Stockton University poll released Monday found the race for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey is a statistical dead heat, with incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez leading Republican challenger Bob Hugin by just two percentage points.
Menendez leads with 45 percent to Hugin’s 43 percent five weeks before the Nov. 6 election, according to poll numbers of likely voters who say they lean toward one candidate or the other. Libertarian Murray Sabrin pulls 3 percent, while other candidates and undecided voters total 8 percent.
Earlier this year, Menendez was reprimanded by a Senate ethics panel after corruption charges against him were dismissed following a mistrial. He is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent, favorably by 30 percent, six percent of respondents were unsure about him and 10 percent of respondents are unfamiliar with him.
Hugin is viewed favorably by 34 percent and unfavorably by 21 percent, although 43 percent are not familiar with him.
The Stockton Polling Institute of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy interviewed 531 adult New Jersey residents who were screened as likely voters. Live interviewers working from the Stockton campus called landline and cell telephones Sept. 19-27. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.25 percentage points.
“With a two-point lead falling within the poll’s margin of error, the Senate race at this point is up for grabs,” Michael Klein, interim executive director of the Hughes Center, said in a statement. “Bob Hugin has been attacking Senator Menendez on ethics with a heavy advertising campaign. However, with so many voters still unfamiliar with the Republican, Menendez will likely try to define his challenger in negative terms.”
Fifty-nine percent of voters say the corruption charges against Menendez are an extremely important or significant factor in their vote. But, 51 percent also say a claim by opponents that Hugin profited off an expensive cancer drug while CEO of Summit-based Celgene Corp. is an extremely important or significant factor in their votes.
Asked to name their most important issue in this election, respondents named President Donald Trump, making Democrats the majority party in Congress, keeping a Republican majority in Washington, taxes, health care, immigration and restoring integrity in Washington.