Government

Guest Column

Rep. Frelinghuysen Trails in Early NJ11th Poll.

Independent Poll: Healthcare vote costs Republican incumbent an additional 9 points in next year’s election.

With the seeming collapse of the Affordable Care Act repeal process in the Senate, members of the House who voted in support of a highly unpopular bill have been left with a lot to defend, and little to show for it. The potentially catastrophic effects of these votes for Republicans in swing districts are evident from new results in a ReconMR poll of registered voters in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional district, sponsored by the independent grassroots group NJ11th for Change. Republican Rep. Frelinghuysen trails by 9.4 points, 36.7 percent versus the Democratic Nominee 46.1 percent.

District voters reacted strongly when reminded that Rep. Frelinghuysen announced that he would vote against the House measure, before eventually voting for it.  While the poll shows that Frelinghuysen is running well behind a generic Democrat in next year’s election (-9.4 points), an experiment embedded in the survey show that his actions on healthcare have cost him 10 additional points in that match-up.  When prompted by AHCA actions, voters broke even more strongly against Rep. Frelinghuysen 30.4% vs 49.8% (-19.4 points).  Polling demonstrates this is likely to be a flashpoint for both him and other Republican incumbents in swing districts throughout the country.

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Only 24 percent of registered voters say that they approve of Frelinghuysen's action on healthcare, a figure that includes just 44 percent of Republicans, 19 percent of independents, and only 6 percent of Democrats. In contrast, 60 percent of registered voters in the district disapprove of his actions on the AHCA. Voters in the district reject many of the elements of the legislation Frelinghuysen eventually supported, with 67 percent opposing cuts to Medicaid, versus only 21 percent supporting. Even among Republicans, more oppose the Medicaid cuts (43%) than support them (38%). An overwhelming majority of voters in the district (72%) also say that Planned Parenthood should be allowed to receive federal funds for non-abortion services, with even Republicans being more likely to approve of continued funding (49%) than oppose it (44%).

“Frelinghuysen's pat line to constituents for years has been, ‘rest assured I’ll keep your views in mind.’ The poll shows that either he doesn't, or he's ineffective in understanding the needs of the majority of citizens in his district,” said Elizabeth Juviler, an organizer for NJ 11th For Change. 


With such overwhelming opposition to these key votes in his district, it’s no surprise that Frelinghuysen's support for the measure is hurting his chances of reelection. The survey included an experiment, in which half of respondents were asked about their choice in next year’s election before being asked about Frelinghuysen's actions on healthcare, and half were asked about their ballot choice only afterwards.

For those voters asked about who they would support in the upcoming election before being asked about healthcare, the results for Frelinghuysen were bad, with 46 percent of voters supporting an unnamed Democratic nominee, and only 36 percent supporting Frelinghuysen. However, despite the fact that the survey was taken months after the AHCA passed the House, Frelinghuysen's numbers turn from bad to catastrophic among those voters who were asked about his actions on healthcare before being asked the ballot question: those voters favored the Democratic nominee by 19 points in a match-up with Frelinghuysen, 49 to 30.

Cook Political Report House editor David Wasserman noted the district is “trending rapidly away from the GOP”. In May Cook downgraded the district to a notch above toss up, adding “Frelinghuysen, the newly minted appropriations chair, hasn’t had to run a real race since 1992.”

This loss in support for Frelinghuysen comes from both Republicans and independents. Republicans who were asked about their support for a candidate before being asked about healthcare supported Frelinghuysen by a 75-7 margin; those Republicans that were asked about healthcare before the candidate question, only supported Frelinghuysen by a 64-12 margin. This move, from a 68 point margin to a 52 point margin, among his own party, underlines the depth of the problem faced by incumbents tied to the unpopular bill. Independents who weren’t asked about the healthcare bill supported Frelinghuysen over the Democrat by a 14 point margin (31-17); those that were asked about it favored the Democrat by a 15 point margin (35-20), a 29 point swing. The healthcare vote even hurt Frelinghuysen among Democrats: asking about the healthcare vote reduced Democratic support for him from 4 percent, down to just 1.


"An informed constituency will never confuse rhetoric with action," noted former Senator Bob Torricelli.  "Elected officials will, ultimately, be held accountable for their actions."

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