By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Assignment Editor
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — A new poll from Monmouth University shows that Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy currently holds a five-point lead over incumbent Jeff Van Drew (R-2) in one of the most hotly-contested House races this election season.
According to the poll, Kennedy is supported by 49% of registered voters — five points ahead of Van Drew’s 44% supporter rate. Five percent of those polled by Monmouth say they are undecided, and the final 1% of voters say they’ll pick a third-party candidate. Kennedy’s lead among the 588 voters polled fell within the survey’s margin of error, which is 4.1%.
“Cape May and Cumberland county voters got used to supporting Van Drew on the Democratic ticket,” Patrick Murray, the director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a release. “This time around, many of them are sticking with the party rather than the candidate.”
Last year, Van Drew switched party affiliations after being elected as a Democrat to the then-vacant seat. According to Monmouth’s poll, the fact that he’s running for re-election as a Republican bothers 35% of voters “a lot,” and an additional 12% reported that Van Drew’s switch bothered them “a little.” The majority of those polled (51%) said they aren’t bothered at all by Van Drew’s party switch.
The poll’s results say that Kennedy holds a 94-1 advantage among Democratic voters, and Van Drew has an 89-8 lead among Republicans. Kennedy hails from Atlantic County, so it may not be surprising to see her hold a 54-39 lead in her home territory. But Van Drew’s native Cape May County and nearby Cumberland County swung in favor of the challenger, who leads 48-43 in those areas.
Monmouth asked those polled about Van Drew and Kennedy’s awareness and knowledge about issues in the Second Congressional District, which includes all of Cape May, Cumberland, Salem and Atlantic counties along with parts of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Ocean counties. Fifty-five percent of voters think that Van Drew has at least “some” understanding of the region’s most important issues — including 34% who said that he understands a “great deal” of those. Slightly less than a quarter of voters (24%) think that Kennedy understands a “great deal,” and an additional 25% think she has “some” understanding of local issues.
Elsewhere, Kennedy’s affiliation with one of the most recognizable families in American politics was brought up as part of this poll. Twenty percent of voters said that they view Kennedy more positively because her husband is related to former President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy, and an additional 17% view her negatively because of this. The majority of those polled (60%) said that the challenger’s ties to the family have “no impact” on their opinion of her.
“Kennedy was born and raised in the district, and that connection is apparently what most voters are judging her on rather than her last name,” Murray added.
Monmouth found that 88% of the 588 voters polled were aware of Van Drew’s switch to the Republican party. Sixty-eight percent of voters, in contrast, knew about Kennedy’s marriage into the famous political family from Massachusetts. According to the poll, 40% of voters view Van Drew favorably compared to 41% who don’t along with 19% who have no opinion either way. In contrast, Kennedy’s favorable-unfavorable split was 39-31 with the remaining 30% of voters expressing no opinion either way.
The two candidates will hold a debate at 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 8, which you’ll be able to watch online or on NJTV.
Although most of the poll’s questions focused on the Van Drew-Kennedy race and the election at large, Monmouth did gauge voters’ opinion on the Presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Forty-five percent of those polled view Biden favorably compared to 48% who don’t, and Trump is viewed favorably by 41% of those polled against 52% who don’t.
You can see every question and response to the poll here.
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