Republican congressional candidate Tom MacArthur has opened up a five point lead over Democrat Aimee Belgard in a poll out Wednesday from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
MacArthur leads 46 percent to 41 percent when voters who lean toward one candidate or the other are included, with 8 percent undecided. Without those voters who are leaning one way or the other, MacArthur leads 44 percent to 38 percent, with 12.5 percent undecided and 5 percent favoring neither candidate, or someone else.
“This election is trending toward the Republican,” said Daniel J. Douglas, director of the Hughes Center. “A fair number of voters have not yet committed as the candidates continue to battle.”
In a poll conducted by the college’s polling institute Sept. 15, the two candidates were tied.
In the latest poll, some key demographic indicators appear to favor MacArthur, the college’s pollsters say.
MacArthur has the support of 84 percent of Republicans, while Belgard is backed by 75 percent of Democrats. MacArthur holds a five-point lead among unaffiliated voters, while each candidate is leading in his or her geographic base. Belgard leads 45 percent to 37 percent in her home Burlington County, and MacArthur leads 52 percent to 30 percent in Ocean County.
MacArthur is leading among men and is tied with Belgard among women voters, the poll shows. Minorities tend to support Belgard, while senior citizens – a key demographic in Ocean County – are behind MacArthur.
The poll also showed that MacArthur and Belgard have become more familiar to voters, but not necessarily in a positive fashion. Both were unknown to more than one-third of voters in the Sept. 15 Stockton Poll. In the new poll, only 15 percent are unfamiliar with MacArthur and 16 percent with Belgard. Belgard is now viewed favorably by 42 percent, up 4 points since September. But she is viewed unfavorably by 39 percent, an increase of 13 points over the 26-percent unfavorable rating in September. Similarly, MacArthur is viewed favorably by 48 percent, up 7 points since September. He is viewed unfavorably by 31 percent, 10 points higher than in September.
“What voters have learned about these candidates has come largely from negative advertising,” Douglas said.
The winner of the Nov. 4 election will replace Rep. Jon Runyan in New Jersey third congressional district, which encompasses most of Ocean and Burlington counties.