The New Jersey gubernatorial race, one of just two gubernatorial races in the country ahead of next year’s midterm election, is seen by some as an early barometer of voter sentiment.
Governor Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, called on President Donald J. The challenger for Trump’s re-election bid has been to lambaste Republican Jack Ciartarelli, who lost by 16 points to President Biden in New Jersey.
But New Jersey’s election offers one of the first statewide tests of how voters feel about strict coronavirus-related mandates as pandemic fatigue mounts.
Voters polled in the poll continue to give Mr. Murphy some of his highest marks for the way he has responded to the pandemic, and have said they believe this is what separates him and Mr. Sitarelli. was the most defining issue.
Last week, Murphy refused to rule out a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, a move only taken by California, where, as of next fall, vaccinations will be required to attend school.
Still, along the Jersey Shore in Ocean County, where Trump won by nearly 30 points, it’s easy to find anti-mask yard signs that read “smile free.” And some local education board meetings across the state have turned tense with parents protesting the wearing of masks in schools clashing with authorities required to enforce the state’s mandate.
Registered Democrats in New Jersey outnumber Republicans by nearly 1.1 million voters, giving Murphy an inherent advantage that multiple polls have shown Mr Ciarelli is struggling to overcome.
A report released Friday by the Covid States Project, a research and tracking effort by several universities, found that governors of states with restrictions on vaccine mandates, including Arkansas, Arizona and Idaho, had the lowest approval ratings.