MacArthur Holds Slight Lead Over Kim in 3rd District Congressional Race

Well Within Margin of Error in Stockton University Poll
Oct 17, 2018


The New Jersey 3rd Congressional District race between Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur and his Democratic challenger Andy Kim is as tight as the strings on a tennis racket, according to the results of a new poll released Monday by the Stockton University Polling Institute.

MacArthur, a two-term incumbent, was leading in the poll of 546 adult likely voters. But it was a slim lead of 47 percent to 45 percent in a poll that had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent. And the poll included figures for voters who lean one way or the other but have yet to make a final decision. Meanwhile, 8 percent of those polled are still undecided or are thinking of voting for minor party and independent candidates.

The poll showed that the MacArthur/Kim race is a microcosm of the national political scene.

Perhaps the largest factor in the 2018 off-year election nationwide is the gender gap that had been long developing and which was amplified by the fight to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Stockton poll shows that gap exists in the 3rd District, with men favoring MacArthur by 16 points while women favor Kim by 13 points.

Base support is strong on both sides in this fiercely partisan era, with 90 percent of Republicans saying they support MacArthur while 87 percent of Democrats are going for Kim. Independent voters are split down the middle, with about 40 percent supporting each of the major candidates.

Kim leads by 15 percentage points in Burlington County, where Democrats have a 1.5 to 1 advantage in registered voters. MacArthur, on the other hand, leads by 20 points in Ocean County, where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by a 1.6 to 1 margin. But even that breakdown is in line with national trends because western Burlington County has many suburban voters who are expected to break for Democratic candidates this fall, while Ocean County is more rural or at least exurban, where Republican candidates should be strong.

“While the most recent voter registration numbers show over 12,000 more Democrats than Republicans in the 3rd District, MacArthur and Kim have bases of support within the district broken down by county boundaries,” said Michael W. Klein, interim executive director of Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. “In a race this close, whoever does a better job of turning out their voters will have a big advantage.”

The Stockton poll found that health care is the most important issue in the district, with 15 percent of respondents calling it the race’s top issue while 39 percent of those polled said it is an extremely important factor and 35 percent calling it a significant factor in deciding how they will vote. That again follows national trends in that Democrats have been stressing the issue across the country. But health care is a double-edge sword.

When asked about the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, 42 percent of those polled support making the law stronger. But 35 percent supported outright repeal while 10 percent wanted to weaken it while another 10 percent wanted to leave it as it is. Health care is a partisan issue in the 3rd District, with 76 percent of Democrats wanting a stronger law while 69 percent of Republicans want to totally scrap former President Obama’s namesake legislative accomplishment.

Interestingly, though, 76 percent overall in the 3rd District want to keep in effect the rule prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more because of a pre-existing condition, which is the heart and soul of Obamacare.

The Kim campaign’s TV ads that claim MacArthur – who authored an amendment bearing his name that helped push Obamacare repeal through the House before it died in the Senate – worked to get rid of coverage for pre-existing conditions appear to have been effective. The poll showed likely voters were less likely to vote for MacArthur by a 2-1 margin over those more likely to vote for him because of his healthcare record. Still, 17 percent of those polled said his Obamacare efforts will make no difference in their vote while 34 percent said they didn’t know enough about his role to have an opinion.

Those polled said taxes (9 percent) and the economy (8.4 percent) were the other most important issues in the election.

The poll also questioned 3rd District voters about the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez and Republican candidate Bob Hugin. Hugin has a 49 percent to 40 percent lead over Menendez, with Libertarian Murray Sabrin taking 4 percent of the vote. The remaining 8 percent were undecided or said they would vote for somebody else.

The 3rd District includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township while the rest of Southern Ocean County lies in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District.

— Rick Mellerup



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