New Jersey pollster admits he 'blew it' on governor's race, questions whether election polls should be used

Phil Murphy claims victory in tight New Jersey governor’s race

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli fought in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race that was too close to call on Election Day.

The director of Monmouth University Polling Institute apologized to New Jersey voters on Thursday after inaccurately predicting that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy would easily defeat GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli in Tuesday’s election. 

Murphy was in the lead by just 44,000 votes, or 1.8 percentage points, on Thursday evening, a much narrower lead than the 11-point margin that Monmouth gave Murphy in its last poll on Oct. 27. 

“If you are a Republican who believes the polls cost Ciattarelli an upset victory or a Democrat who feels we lulled your base into complacency, feel free to vent,” Patrick Murray, the director of Monmouth University Polling Institute, wrote in an op-ed for on Thursday. 

“I owe an apology to Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign — and to Phil Murphy’s campaign for that matter — because inaccurate public polling can have an impact on fundraising and voter mobilization efforts,” he wrote. “But most of all I owe an apology to the voters of New Jersey for information that was at the very least misleading.”

People fill their ballots in privacy booths during the gubernatorial election in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Monmouth University gave Murphy the widest margin of any major pollster before the election, but Stockton University gave Murphy a 9-point lead, Rutgers University gave Murphy an 8-point lead, and Emerson College gave the democrat a 6-point lead in the lead-up to the election. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy greets a volunteers as he meets with Newark mayor Ras Baraka during the gubernatorial election in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The Associated Press called the race for Murphy on Wednesday, making him the first Democrat to win reelection in the Garden State in 44 years. 

Ciattarelli refused to concede on Thursday, saying in a video posted on Twitter that “there are still tens of thousands of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots yet to be counted.”

Jack Ciattarelli with his wife Melinda comes out to address his supporters at 12:30am at the Marriott in Bridgewater, NJ on November 3, 2021. 
(USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect)


“The governor’s victory speech last night was premature,” Ciattarelli said. “No one should be declaring victory or conceding the election until every legal vote is counted.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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