MADISON, NJ - fdu_public_mind_pollDemocratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who is closely tied to the president and up for re-election at the same time as Obama in 2012, seems to have raised his low profile only a little in recent weeks, but nonetheless handily defeats Republican John Crowley in a hypothetical matchup.

According to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, half of Garden State voters (50%) either have not heard of Menendez or have no opinion of him; 30% have a favorable view of him; and 20% have an unfavorable view.

Still, Menendez easily beats a potential Republican challenger, biotech executive John Crowley, in a hypothetical matchup, 45%-26%. Part of the gap is accounted for in Republican hesitation.  While nearly four of five (78%) Democrats pick Menendez in the matchup, only about three in five (62%) Republicans pick Crowley. At this early stage of the game, 29% of Republicans were unsure or picked neither candidate.

Among Democrats only, 45% say they haven’t heard of the incumbent senator or have no opinion of him, but that is an improvement from April’s mark of 54%.  And 48% of Democrats say they have a favorable view of Menendez, better than April’s 41%. Just 6% of Democrats have an unfavorable view him.

Among all voters, 84% say they haven’t heard of Crowley, while another 10% say they have heard of him but have no opinion. Even 84% of Republicans say they have not heard of him and another 12% have no opinion of him.

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg is viewed favorably by 37% of New Jersey voters and unfavorably by 24%, little changed since April (35% - 28%).  Among Democrats, 53% have a favorable opinion of the senior New Jersey senator and 8% have an unfavorable view.

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 804 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from May 16 through May 22, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.