Editor's Note: This Rutgers-Eagleton Poll overlapped the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and Gov. Christie’s official end to his presidential bid on Feb. 10, but was conducted prior to the South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucus.
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – “Trump-mentum” is at an all-time high with Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters in New Jersey, who are now more likely than ever to choose businessman Donald Trump as their presidential nominee, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Thirty-eight percent would choose Trump if they had to cast their primary vote today. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who would receive only 11 percent of the vote, is a distant second. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is neck and neck with Rubio, coming in third at 10 percent.
Voters interviewed for this poll leading up to the New Hampshire primary were just as likely to choose Trump as those interviewed afterward, unlike the post-primary fluctuations in support seen for other GOP candidates based on their performance in the Granite State.
Among all New Jersey voters, Trump is not overwhelmingly popular, however: 31 percent have a favorable impression of the entrepreneur, while 57 percent have an unfavorable one – almost the same as Gov. Chris Christie’s numbers in the Garden State.
Voters are slightly less favorable toward Rubio and Cruz, at 27 percent and 20 percent, respectively, though negativity toward these candidates is not as strong as it is toward Trump. Thirty-seven percent are unfavorable toward Rubio (another 37 percent have no opinion or do not know him), and 48 percent are unfavorable toward Cruz; another 32 percent have no opinion or do not know him.
But Trump’s ratings specifically among Republican voters are solid, far surpassing his competition’s. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans are favorable toward Trump (30 percent are unfavorable), compared to 40 percent who say the same about Rubio (27 percent unfavorable), and 31 percent who say the same about Cruz (38 percent unfavorable).
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton easily beats Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination, 55 percent to 32 percent.
Yet Sanders has an edge in favorability. Forty-six percent of voters have a favorable impression of the senator, while 29 percent have an unfavorable one and another 25 percent have no opinion or are not familiar with him.
Clinton, on the other hand, receives higher negative than positive ratings – 42 percent favorable versus 47 percent unfavorable, with 11 percent uncertain. This is a marked difference from Clinton’s ratings a year ago, which were 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable.
Clinton, however, excels with her own party base. Over three-quarters of Democrats are favorable toward her, versus two-thirds who feel the same about Sanders.
Although each party has a clear frontrunner, more than half of voters are dissatisfied with the current field of candidates: 30 percent are somewhat dissatisfied, and 25 percent are very dissatisfied. Just 9 percent say they are very satisfied, and another 36 percent are somewhat satisfied. Republicans are most likely to express satisfaction with the choices available, followed by Democrats, with independents least satisfied.
“New Jersey voters look like the rest of the country when it comes to the 2016 race,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Trump and Clinton hold strong leads and garner solid majorities among their respective party bases, despite their higher negative than positive ratings statewide. Yet neither candidate does well with independents, the driving force behind dissatisfaction with the current field – a strong indication of how polarizing the 2016 race already has become.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 889 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 to 15, 2016, including 758 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.