MADISON, NJ - fdu_public_mind_pollU.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) comfortably leads his Republican opponent, Joe Kyrillos, in a head-to-head matchup up by nine percentage points, according to the latest poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™. Although a quarter of New Jerseyans (24%) say they’re undecided, four-in-ten (42%) say they’d support Menendez if the election were held today, while a third (33%) would vote for Kyrillos.

However, support for Menendez does not run deep. The poll also asked New Jerseyans if they’d support Menendez or “someone else,” and among these voters support for the senator drops off considerably to 30% from 42%, and the hypothetical “someone else” wins, garnering 37% for him or herself.

In fact, faced with the choice of Menendez and Kyrillos, 74% of Democrats choose the Hudson County Democrat. But offered the choice of Menendez or “someone else,” just half of Democrats (50%) choose the incumbent senator.

Another group uncommitted to the candidates is the all-important independents. Among independents, support for Menendez drops by 20 points when the question offers “someone else” as the opponent rather than the Republican state senator Kyrillos (to 17% from 37%).

“Menendez is not a name brand in New Jersey, even among Democrats,” said poll director Peter Woolley. “He has spent considerable time raising money for his colleagues in the US Senate, but he has kept a relatively low profile in New Jersey.”

More than one-in-five voters (22%) and one-in-five Democrats (22%) say they haven’t heard of Menendez. Among all voters, 32% have a favorable view of Menendez, 24% have an unfavorable view.

Meanwhile, Kyrillos is a veritable blank slate to the vast majority of New Jerseyans. Two-thirds (68%) say they’ve never heard of him, and few express any opinion when asked if they have a favorable (10%) or unfavorable view (6%) of him. Still, more today know who he is than before: last September 82% said they’d never heard of him.

“The optimistic view for Kyrillos is that he has a unique opportunity to define himself before the campaign begins in earnest,” said Woolley.

The FDU poll of 797 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from April 30 through May 6, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points. At random, half of those voters were asked their preference between Menendez and Kyrillos, and half between Menendez and “someone else.” The sampling error for the split half of respondents is +/-5.