Analysis: Why Gov. Murphy Isn’t Resonating With Voters
There was a curious item to note in the latest approval poll for Governor Phil Murphy.
The Monmouth University Poll found little change from its last survey in February. In the poll,, 41% approve of the job Murphy is doing while 38% disapprove. The numbers show approval ratings that are aligned along party lines, rather than any one public policy issue.
However, almost two years into his term, 21% said they had no opinion of Murphy. That’s actually up from 17% in February.
How can that be, and what does that mean?
Murphy came into office vowing to make New Jersey a “sanctuary state” and admitting he was going to raise taxes. Both are polarizing issues that can generate strong opinions. However, few of the governor's policies in either regard have had a dramatic impact on the daily lives of most New Jerseyans. The “no opinion” option could simply reflect that Poll director Patrick Murray says Murphy is “not doing anything that is resonating with the vast majority of New Jerseyans.”
While most state residents may view Murphy as not having done anything to really harm them, Murray also notes they don’t view him as doing much to help them, either, “Middle-class voters – property taxpayers – have a negative view of how he’s helped them," Murray said. Property taxes consistently have been the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds. Murphy’s first two budgets have not had a huge impact on property tax rates and the 2% property tax cap has shielded from large spikes in local taxes. Murray saiddecades of polling shows “those are the issues that drive most of New Jersey’s public opinion.”
A lack of any major accomplishments is also playing into New Jersey’s skepticism of politicians. Of those polled, 49% believe Murphy is looking out for his own political future beyond his role as chief executive of the Garden State. Murray said when residents don’t see movement on issues important to them, positive or negative, the wonder: "what’s the governor up to?"
It is way too early to try and handicap the 2021 gubernatorial race in New Jersey. The outcome of the highly volatile presidential race in 2020 will likely influence many aspects of the NJ race. Should a Democratic candidate win the presidency, Murphy could be in line for a cabinet post or other administration position. However, Murphy has done little to move the needle on his re-election prospects. It could leave him vulnerable to a legitimate Republican challenger or even a challenge from his own party.