Almost three out of five New Jersey residents approve of Gov. Phil Murphy’s job performance, according to a new poll, a drop-off from the pandemic’s early days but still solid marks as the incumbent Democrat faces reelection this year.
Murphy has a 57% approval rating, according to the Monmouth University survey released Wednesday, down from 71% last year. Only 48% said he should be reelected in November, with 43% saying it’s time for someone else to lead the state.
“Murphy has a pretty strong job rating going into his reelection bid,” Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said in a statement. “However, New Jersey voters are a fickle lot and a good number will sit on the fence until we get closer to the fall campaign in case things go south for the state.”
Murphy struggled with low approval ratings after taking office in 2018, but the pandemic boosted both his visibility and popularity, with residents overwhelmingly approving of his early crisis response. As recently as November, his approval rating still exceeded 60%.
New Jerseyans also gave high marks to other Democrats, with 55% saying they approve of President Joe Biden’s job performance, and Sen. Cory Booker drawing a 57% approval rating.
If he succeeds in November, Murphy would be New Jersey’s first Democratic governor in decades to win reelection. He faces no Democratic challenger in the June 8 primary.
His administration has touted a host of progressive achievements such as raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and taxing millionaires. The state has been ranked in the top 10 nationally in COVID-19 vaccination efficiency, and this week Murphy announced that most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted on May 19.
Republicans vying for the party’s nomination to take on Murphy have said voters will ultimately reject his liberal agenda and handling of the coronavirus, citing a high death rate in nursing homes, borrowing that increased the state’s debt, and business restrictions that put many out of work.
The Republican front-runner, former State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, has said Murphy doesn’t understand what most New Jerseyans want.
“Phil Murphy has completely underestimated the people of New Jersey,” said Stami Williams, Ciattarelli’s spokesperson. “The more people get to know Jack, the more they see he’s a real New Jersey guy. And the more time passes, the more people see that a lot of bad things have gone on under Gov. Murphy.”
The poll also reflected dissatisfaction with the state’s perennially high property taxes, with 46% saying Murphy’s administration has hurt taxpayers.
“It could pose a problem for Murphy if it becomes a high-priority issue for voters in the fall campaign,” Murray said. “As things stand right now, though, it isn’t.”
The survey of 706 New Jersey residents, conducted April 29 to May 4, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.