A few other minor candidates, including activist Lawrence Hamm, were not tested.
Murphy, who has taken a particularly active role in government as first lady, has racked up the most institutional Democratic support and is expected to have New Jersey’s unique “county line” that bestows favorable ballot placement in most key Democratic counties. She also showed in campaign finance reports this week her strength as a fundraiser, taking in $3.2 million in donations since entering the race in mid-November, compared with $1.7 million raised by Kim for the full fourth quarter that began Oct. 1.
But Kim’s campaign appears to have the enthusiastic support of the progressive base, many of whom are disenchanted with the party boss system that supported Menendez until his September indictment. That boss system essentially means that candidates who have the backing of many county party chairs will run on ballots in those counties with a slate of endorsed candidates that often leads to victory. No other states design their ballots this way, giving the county chairs significant influence, particularly in primaries.
“Generally, institutional support is enough to win a primary in New Jersey,” poll director Dan Cassino said in a statement. “With Murphy down, this election is a test of whether county organizations still have the power to choose a candidate.”
Among the 52 percent of primary voters who have heard of Kim and have an opinion of him, he’s viewed almost universally favorably. Thirty-eight percent approve of him, while just 2 percent disapprove. Murphy, by contrast, has higher name recognition at 68 percent. Twenty-nine percent approve of her and 14 percent disapprove. Just 22 percent approve of the well-known Menendez, while 68 percent disapprove — most of them strongly. Few have heard of Campos-Medina.
There are racial disparities in support between the candidates.
Kim’s biggest lead over Murphy is with whites — 47 percent support to 15 percent support. He also leads among Asians, 34 percent to 24 percent. But Murphy leads among Black likely primary voters, 24 percent to 16 percent, and among Hispanics, 26 percent to 10 percent. Menendez and Campos-Medina both poll better among Hispanics than Kim.
“The real fight here is between white liberals, who are largely backing Kim, and more moderate Black and Hispanic voters, who are lining up behind Murphy,” said Cassino. “Kim has always run as a centrist candidate, but these liberal voters dislike the county organizations enough that they’ve adopted him as one of their own.”
The poll was conducted by Princeton-based Braun Research from Jan. 21 to Jan. 28 through live-caller telephone interviews and text-to-web surveys. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.