Republicans hoping to ride their party’s tax law to victory this fall may need a contingency plan in New Jersey. A new poll from Monmouth University suggests New Jersey residents of all stripes don’t have much love for the legislation House Republicans have billed as the “crown jewel of this Congress” and a “massive centerpiece” of their midterm campaign.
Monmouth pollsters found that nearly half (46 percent) of New Jersey residents disapproved of the GOP tax plan, while only a little more than a third (35 percent) approved. The plan polled better in the state’s five congressional districts currently represented by Republicans, but not by much: 46 percent disapproved compared to 42 percent who approved. Statewide, meanwhile, nearly half (49 percent) expected to pay more in federal taxes as a result of the plan, and a full majority (56 percent) said the state’s taxpayers as a whole will do worse under the new tax code relative to the rest of the nation.
New Jersey’s general disdain for the GOP tax plan was fueled, at least in part, by the reality that it and other high-tax states like New York and California were disproportionately affected by the decision to cap the state and local tax deduction (“SALT,” in accounting lingo). But while New Jersey may be a bit of an outlier nationwide, this survey wasn’t the first to suggest the legislation is going to be a burden to Republicans in the midterms. A CNBC survey from late last month found that only a third (32 percent) of Americans have noticed more money in their paychecks because of the law. Of that group, 38 percent said the extra take-home pay helps their financial situation at least “a fair amount,” with the rest saying it helps only some, just a little, or not “much at all.”
“Most New Jerseyans feel like they’ve ended up with the short end of the stick from these tax reforms,” Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “That’s what makes this plan a particularly tough sell for Republican House candidates here.”
All five House seats currently held by the GOP in New Jersey are on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s wish list, and non-partisan handicappers believe three or four of them are already competitive. The new survey, though, suggests all five may be in play, due in large part to the unpopularity of the GOP tax bill and the president who signed it into law.
Murray’s team found Democrats have a staggering 19-point lead in the statewide generic House ballot, 54 percent to 35 percent. That’s more than double the edge Democrats had nationwide in a Monmouth survey last month, and about three times the current 6-point edge they have in the rolling averages of national polls. The usual caveats apply—it’s only one survey, there’s a long way to go—but those numbers would mark a major change from 2016, when Democrats won the combined House vote in New Jersey by 8 points, and an even bigger one from 2014, when Democrats won by 2 points.
Remarkably, the survey suggests the shift toward Democrats is coming largely from within the five New Jersey districts currently represented by Republicans. The GOP won the combined vote in those districts by 21 points in 2016 and 23 points in 2014, but the pollsters found Republicans now lead by a within-the-margin-of-error 2 points. Meanwhile, the survey found Democrats with a 31-point edge in districts they currently hold, more or less in line with their 33-point victory there in 2016 and 26-point win in 2014. “If these results hold,” Murray predicted, “we could be down to just one or two—or maybe even zero—Republican members in the state congressional delegation after November.”
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