GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – The hard-fought House race in South Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District is a dead heat in the week heading into Election Day, according to a Stockton University Poll released today.
Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy held a one-percentage-point lead, 46%-45%, over incumbent Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a former Democrat who switched to the Republican side last December.
The margin of error in the poll of 676 likely voters, conducted Oct. 22-27, is 3.7 percentage points. Six percent were undecided or refused to pick a candidate, and 3% said they are voting for another candidate, according to the poll conducted by the Polling Institute at the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.
The poll showed little crossover support between the major parties, with about 5% of Republicans supporting Kennedy and 4% of Democrats supporting Van Drew. Independent voters favored Van Drew, 48%-42%.
“The 2nd District is living up to its billing as a competitive swing district,” said John Froonjian, Hughes Center executive director.
“Turnout in the final days of mail voting and how the few undecided voters break will decide the race,” Froonjian said. “Every vote counts, especially in this election.”
The majority of poll respondents (57%) have already voted. Reflecting trends found in an Oct. 16 Stockton poll and throughout the country, the largest share of the early vote came from Democrats. Froonjian noted that many Republicans respondents had not yet voted less than two weeks from the election.
Van Drew, a former state legislator first elected to Congress in 2018, was a little better known than political newcomer Kennedy, but also had slightly higher negative ratings.
- 24% were not familiar with Kennedy, while 16% were unfamiliar with Van Drew
- Van Drew was seen favorably by 42% to 37% unfavorable
- Kennedy’s rating was 39% favorable to 30% unfavorable
- Only 42% gave Van Drew a positive job performance rating in Congress, while 50% gave him negative ratings.
A majority of respondents (55%) said Van Drew’s party switch to Republican affected their opinion of him. Of the affected voters, 69% (including 93% of Democrats and 71% of independents) said the switch had a negative effect on their opinion.
One glimmer of hope for Kennedy is that Democrat Joe Biden led Republican President Donald Trump in the district by three points, 48%-45%, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker led GOP challenger Rik Mehta by seven points, 47%-40%, according to the poll.
Voters in the 2nd District feel more positive about Trump than do voters in the rest of New Jersey, where there are strong negative feelings about the president. Even so, the traditionally right-of-center district was split on Trump’s job performance ratings, with 44% giving him positive marks and 44% rating him negatively. And Trump’s favorability ratings were underwater, with 45% holding favorable views of him and 51% having negative views. Those numbers were reversed for Biden, with 51% positive and 46% negative.
Generally, aside from party affiliation, support for both Van Drew and Trump was largely driven by white respondents, men, and those with less than a four-year college degree. Kennedy and Biden are supported at higher rates by Black respondents, women, and those with a four-year college degree or more.
“The differences among respondents across gender and education were not quite as stark as race, but still evident,” said Alyssa Maurice, Hughes Center research associate.
In other 2nd District poll results:
- Only 37% gave Trump positive ratings for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and 49% said it was poor.
- 53% gave Gov. Phil Murphy positive ratings for his handling of the pandemic, a number consistent with the findings of the Oct. 16 statewide poll.
- And 51% said the measures taken by the state to slow the spread of the coronavirus were the right course of action but 34% say the measures went too far and 13% say they did not go far enough.
Full poll results are on the Hughes Center website at stockton.edu/hughes-center/polling.