Poll: U.S. Senate race in New Jersey becoming more competitive

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin exits a voting booth in the June New Jersey primary election. A new Quinnipiac poll shows he’s gaining momentum in his race against incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin exits a voting booth in the June New Jersey primary election. A new Quinnipiac poll shows he’s gaining momentum in his race against incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The latest poll numbers show New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race is becoming more competitive.

Quinnipiac University polling analyst Mary Snow said incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez now has a 6-point lead over Republican challenger Bob Hugin. That’s down from the 17-point lead he had in March.

“Make no mistake, Sen. Menendez is still in the lead. And we should mention that 16 percent of voters who responded to the survey say they haven’t made up their minds,” said Snow. “So, there’s a long way to go.”

Ethics in government is the most important issue in deciding who they’ll vote for in the Senate race, poll respondents said. That might not bode well for either candidate, Snow said, because there are ethical concerns about both.

“All the attack ads he’s run against Menendez may have helped Hugin gain some ground,” she said. “But that could change now that Menendez has started airing his own ads attacking Hugin.”

The poll also finds that Gov. Phil Murphy’s job approval ratings are on the rise.

Just over half of New Jersey voters now approve of the job Murphy is doing, a 10-point increase since March.

“However, New Jersey voters give him a C grade for his handling of mass transit and a C for his handling of highways and roads,” said Snow. “So, he still needs improvement in those areas.”

Murphy has said he hopes lawmakers will act by the end of the year to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

The Quinnipiac poll found 62 percent of New Jersey voters support allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, and 63 percent favor erasing criminal records for marijuana possession.

As for allowing retail marijuana stores in their towns, Snow said, the support begins to shrink.

“A smaller amount, 50 percent of people of New Jersey, say they would support the sale of marijuana in their community,” she said. “We’ve seen a number of towns come out saying they don’t want the sale of marijuana should it be legalized.”

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