(CNSNews.com) - A new poll shows the race between New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Torricelli and Republican challenger Douglas Forrester is tightening up, due in part to the ethics controversy surrounding the senator.
According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Torricelli and Forrester both received the backing of 37 percent of registered voters, with 19 percent undecided.
The most recent poll, conducted during the first week of August, shows support for Forrester rising since June, when an earlier poll gave Torricelli a 44-36 percent lead.
"A lot of New Jersey voters say they don't want to vote for Senator Torricelli. Almost half of them say he doesn't have the honesty and integrity to be their senator," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Torricelli was disciplined last month when a Senate ethics panel "severely admonished" the senator for violating Senate rules in accepting gifts from a political backer.
While questions about Torricelli's ethics are eroding support for his reelection, Richards said New Jersey voters aren't automatically switching to the GOP.
"Women, independents and especially Democrats have defected from (Torricelli's) campaign in significant numbers, but only a handful overall have gone to Forrester," Richards said. "Fifty-six percent of voters who say they've heard about the Senate Ethics Committee action admonishing Torricelli say it makes them less likely to vote for him."
Among partisans, 65 percent of Democrats support the senator, while 10 percent are backing Forrester, who received the support of 77 percent of Republicans.
The poll also showed Forrester winning the support of more independents, with 37 percent backing the Republican compared with 27 percent supporting Torricelli.
Also hurting Torricelli for now is his overall approval rating, which the poll showed fell to 28 percent among registered voters, with nearly half - 49 percent - disapproving of his job performance.
Despite the slip in support for Torricelli, Richards said the survey results don't necessarily spell defeat for the senator. "The committee's decision that 'severely admonished' Torricelli is a serious blow to his campaign, but not a knockout," Richards said. "It's up to Forrester now to give New Jersey voters a reason to want to vote for him."
The poll was conducted between July 31 and Aug. 6, and included 879 registered voters in New Jersey. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.
See Earlier Story:
Ethics Panel Slaps Torricelli (July 31, 2002)
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