FDU Poll: Newark Residents Love Murphy, Baraka, Booker; Ignore Payne, DiVincenzo

The two remaining politicians, Payne and DiVincenzo, suffered from lack of name recognition. More than half of those polled in Newark didn't know who they were. 

These numbers particularly augur well for Murphy, who is in the midst of a reelection battle with Republican gubernatorial challenger Jack Ciattarelli. He is trying to become the first Democrat to win reelection for governor in the Garden State since Essex County's own Brendan Byrne in 1977.

Murphy hit Newark's streets early and hard during his victorious 2017 campaign, knowing that the city is the political heart of Essex County, which is often the source of the most Democratic votes in statewide elections.

"Murphy seems to be in good shape in Newark,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Executive Director of the poll. “But all the support in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to the polls, and that’s always the challenge in an off-year election like the one coming up.”

Baraka is up soon for reelection in 2022, with no definite challengers emerging as of yet.

Booker has a long political history in Newark. He represented Newark's Central Ward on the City Council from 1998 to 2002, then served as Newark's mayor from 2006 to 2013. He was then first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2013, running for President in 2020 in the interim. Booker will not face the judgment of statewide Jersey voters again until 2026. 

While both Payne and DiVincenzo had similar approval ratings of about 37% and disapproval ratings of about 11%, both 52% of respondents didn't know who Payne was and 54% didn't know  DiVincenzo. 

Congressman Payne, whose 10th Congressional District comprises part of Newark as well as other parts of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, is up for reelection in 2022. He was first elected in 2012 to take over the seat from his father, the late, esteemed Donald Payne, Sr. 

Payne’s low name recognition extends to the groups that should be his main sources of support: among Democrats (who make up the majority of Newark residents), those who approve (47%) are about equal with those having no opinion (45%), according to the poll. Among Black voters, 48% approve of Payne, while 43% don’t know enough to have an opinion. These numbers are lower among Hispanic or Latino/a residents, two-thirds of whom (66%) say they have no opinion of Payne, with only 23% approving.

“Payne is a formidable candidate who’s fought off a number of challengers in the past,” said  Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Executive Director of the poll. “But he only has to look next door to the 11th district to see how quickly that can change.”

Cassino's Eleventh Congressional District reference is in regards to the 2018 election cycle, when then-incumbent Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, who had gone without a serious electoral challenge for more than a decade and risen to chair one of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives, resigned rather than face a hotly contested election. That seat is now held by a Democrat, Mikie Sherrill. 

While Payne is not up for reelection until next year, he already has a challenger for the Democratic primary, activist Imani Oakley, who has challenged Payne on his high number of missed votes and positioned herself in opposition to the state’s powerful political machines.

“Oakley pretty clearly sees this district as being similar to the one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was able to pick up in 2018,” said Cassino. “Incumbency normally helps candidates because it builds name recognition and favorability. If it hasn’t done that for Payne, he could be vulnerable.”

Payne could not be immediately be reached for comment. 

DiVincenzo, a Newark native who grew up in the city's once overwhelmingly Italian-American North Ward, was a protégé of the legendary North Ward power broker Steve Adubato. He has been Essex County Executive since 2003, and has been in elected office in Essex County for more than 30 years.

However, DiVincenzo does not enjoy the name recognition of statewide politicians like Booker or Murphy. “Given the ubiquity of DiVincenzo’s name and face on county parks and facilities, it’s surprising that so few residents know who he is,” said Cassino. “But given the partisan make-up of Essex County, and the fact that he’s unlikely to attract a strong primary challenger, it probably doesn’t matter for his electoral future.”

DiVincenzo is also up fo reelection in 2022, with no definite challenger on the immediate horizon. Phil Alagia, a Newark native and DiVincenzo's longtime chief of staff, said that the lack of name recognition noted in the FDU poll had to do with the Essex County Executive's name itself. 

"The County Executive doesn't do as well in polls as might be expected because everybody knows him as Joe D, not Joseph DiVincenzo," Alagia said, referring to the Essex County Executive's well-known nickname. "He has much more name recognition as Joe D that he has for his official name." 

"We believe that we are well known in the community in Newark, including in all five of the city's wards. This is because of our efforts against COVID, including testing, providing financing help to speed up Newark's lead service line replacement program, and for our work maintaining and improving our county parks," Alagia added. "In the end, the most important poll is the one held on Election Day. And in the last election, we got 81 percent of the vote in Essex County, including 91 percent for the vote in Newark. Therefore, we're confident that people know who we are in Newark." 

The survey, which questioned 1,100 voters ages 18 and older, was conducted mostly in English (1,039), with the remainder in Spanish (57) and Portuguese (4). The survey was carried out by Braun Research, Inc, of Princeton, New Jersey. Of the interviews, 146 were conducted over landlines, the remainder via cell phones. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3%.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-08-25 03:30:48 -0700