Monday, August 9, 2010

It may be the dog days, but at least one NJ Congressional race is hot!

It has been a while since I have updated this blog, primarily because I have been traveling to research conferences and the like for much of the summer. It's also the case that most people say that political polling in August is not worth the effort.

I would usually agree, but this year it's not only the weather that has heated up. In the midst of this sweltering New Jersey summer, the 3rd Congressional District race has been even hotter. Incumbent freshman Democrat John Adler, who won the traditionally Republican seat two years ago, is fighting to hold onto it in the face of a challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman John Runyan. Runyan won the Republican primary, and has been racing money at a decent clip. Most observers assume the race will be a close one, given the Republican leanings of the district (Gov. Christie won it handily) and the general negative environment for Democrats.

Adding early excitement was an Adler campaign poll, released (leaked) to the press showing the Congressman up 17 points over Runyan. What made this interesting was not the margin, but the addition of a third candidate who was not on anyone's radar. Peter DeStefano was included as a "Tea Party Independent" in the poll and according to Adler's pollster, got 12 percent when no one seemed to even know he was running. No doubt the "Tea Party" label made the difference.

The question is what is the real state of the race in these early days of August? It is a truism that November is still a long way off, but it seems worth getting a baseline to work from.

So we are doing that. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will release a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of the 3rd district, gauging the race as it stands right now. It is a simple poll - a head-to-head and a few other questions. What makes it potentially interesting is that we initially do not include DeStefano in the mix, and then follow up with a second ballot test including him.

We also ask if people are paying much attention - and 54% say they are paying a lot or at least some attention to news about the campaign. That seems pretty high for August, but suggests that this really will be the race to watch in New Jersey. Not to give too much away before we do the actual release, but the results among those paying attention are quite different than among the rest of the CD-3 registered voters we surveyed.

Also, we simultaneously did a statewide survey of registered voters focusing on questions about Gov. Christie, the state budget, and generic Congressional ballot tests. We will be releasing those data over the next week.

Finally, we made a very small foray into calling cell phones on the statewide survey, with about 10% of our completes coming from cell phone only households and the remaining 90% from a traditional landline RDD sample.

Stay tuned for more soon.

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