New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the Democrat, holds a slim lead — a mere— over Republican Bob Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, in the latest statewide poll released yesterday. That’s within the Stockton University Poll’s 4.25-point margin of error, which would indicate the race is a tossup.
But questions about who was polled may mean this isn’t the survey on which to base bets about the eventual winner. For one thing, the demographics of those who answered questions do not come close to reflecting those of the state as a whole. Of survey respondents, about 4 percent were under age 30 and 39 percent were 65 and older. The latest U.S. Census data shows that almost 13 percent of the population was in the 20-29 age bracket last year and 16 percent were senior citizens. Just 4 percent of those polled were Hispanic and 81 percent were white, while non-Hispanic whites comprise just 57 percent of the population and 19 percent of New Jerseyans are Hispanic.
Additionally, just 1 percent of those polled live in Hudson County, compared with close to 8 percent of the actual population. Nine percent of all of New Jersey’s registered Democrats, who would be more likely to vote for Menendez, live in Hudson County, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Hudson sixfold.
The Menendez campaign issued a statement contending that the Stockton Poll “historically underestimates Democratic performance,” including undercounting the eventual performances of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Cory Booker and Menendez himself in the past.
John Froonjian, a Stockton senior research associate, said that over the last two years, Stockton’s polling correctly identified election winners and their spreads were within the margins of error. The poll also corrects for the demographics by “weighting” the responses of underrepresented groups so they count more.
He said the poll is not meant to predict the winner, just show what people were thinking when the poll was conducted two weeks ago, adding, “I think even with these limitations, the results are still valid as a picture of a tight race.” As to the specific results, Stockton found Menendez getting the backing of 45 percent of likely voters, compared with 43 percent for Hugin. Libertarian Murray Sabrin got support from 3 percent; 8 percent were undecided.
Both skeptics and supporters of the poll will have another way to gauge its results very soon. Fairleigh Dickinson University plans to release the results of its own survey on the Senate race tomorrow.