Although their priorities are split in several ways, New Jerseyans list the economy as their top voter issue in a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll, released with a little more than three weeks left until the Congressional midterms.

Ashley Koning, Rutgers assistant professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said hot-button topics always percolate most in the first national election following the choosing of a new president.

"The economy is clearly on the top of mind for many voters, and this crosses the aisle, but we do see that depending upon certain key voting blocs and demographics, different issues pop up more than others," Koning said.

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Led by economic concerns (16%), the list of New Jersey voters' most important issues also included reproductive and women's issues (9%), the ever-present specter of taxes (8%), partisan and ideological values or opposition (also 8%), and inflation (5%).

Reproductive rights jump to the top of the pecking order for Democrats specifically (13%), and Koning suspected that number would have been higher still had the survey been taken closer to the June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to peel back Roe v. Wade.

"Again, this is all about, what are the issues that are most salient in the political atmosphere at the time, and obviously Dobbs happened several months ago at this point," she said.

The 99-percenters?

Something that comes with the territory of a midterm cycle is rallying voters in the middle, Koning said.

But that can be difficult in New Jersey.

For instance, it doesn't seem like many Republicans here will be swayed in another direction this November, with the poll showing that 99% of them (more than 1,000 adults were surveyed) are pessimistic that the country is headed in the right direction.

Even if that's not a true reflection of all GOP voters in the state, Koning said, it's still "pretty high," outranking even their approval rating for President Joe Biden.

"You know, 99% is a pretty big number," she said. "Of course, this is all based on statistics, and statistics always have some underlying level of uncertainty because we can't talk to everybody in the population."

Gearhart's words ring true

Over the years, pioneering New Jersey 101.5 morning show host Jim Gearhart would remind voters before elections to G.R.I.P. — Get Rid of Incumbent Politicians.

The Rutgers poll showed that some in the Garden State are still open to that strategy, with 32% saying they might vote for a challenger versus 38% who plan to vote for their current member of Congress.

That's not necessarily surprising, according to Koning.

"Talking about not even partisan cues, but talking about who's in party power and who's out of power, which party is out of power, points to this anti-incumbent sentiment," she said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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