Age Matters in the NJ Senate Race: Booker Way Ahead

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D)

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D)

Quinnipiac University polled New Jersey voters including a subset of self-identified Democratic primary participants (Jan. 15-21; 1,647 registered New Jersey voters; 616 Democratic primary voters), questioning them about a proposed nomination battle between Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. So far, Booker has said he will defer to the elder senator, but has also made it clear that he wants to run for the Senate in 2014. Lautenberg is expected to retire, and numbers such as the ones Quinnipiac produced should hasten his departure.

According to the data, Booker would defeat Lautenberg 51-30 percent if the statewide Democratic primary were held in this current time period. Perhaps even more troubling for the senator is the fact that he trails Booker by more than 20 points even though his job approval is positive. Concerns about his age — Lautenberg will be 90 at the time of the next election – are clearly weighing upon the electorate.

When asked to rate the five-term senator’s job performance, by a margin of 50-34 percent, the respondents expressed approval. Addressing whether he should be re-elected, however, struck a different chord. Only 36 percent of the sampling universe felt Lautenberg should be re-elected, as compared to 45 percent who said he should not.

Additionally, voters across the board do not believe his advanced age is an asset in fulfilling his duties as a senator. When asked, “if reelected next year, Frank Lautenberg would begin his next six-year term at age 90. Do you think his age might make it too difficult for him to do the work required of a US senator, or do you think his age helps him have the experience and wisdom to do a good job as a US senator?” Only 21 percent viewed his 90 years of experience and wisdom as a plus. Seventy-one percent believe his age makes it too difficult to do the required work.

As is often the case when it comes to surveying age, it is the young people who are least concerned and the older respondents the most. Though still negative, 35 percent of the 18-29 age group responded that wisdom was more important versus 59 percent who said the work is too difficult for a 90-year-old individual. In contrast, the aged 65-plus group responded 18:72 percent.

All respondents were asked the questions about Lautenberg’s job performance and age. Only Democrats were queried about a potential Lautenberg-Booker primary battle.

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