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Republican Millicent Fenwick leads Democrat Frank Lautenberg by 3...

By PAMELA BROWNSTEIN

TRENTON -- Republican Millicent Fenwick leads Democrat Frank Lautenberg by 3 percent to 5 percent in New Jersey's Senate race, but the momentum favors Lautenberg, the Eagleton Poll said Friday.

The four-term congresswoman has lost 6 points and Lautenberg, chairman of Automatic Data Processing, Inc., has gained 8 points among likely voters since September, according to the Rutgers University-based poll.

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'Lautenberg has the momentum going into Tuesday's election, running ahead of Fenwick among likely voters who said they had decided which candidate to support within the last week,' Cliff Zukin, the poll director said.

But with 42 percent of both candidates' supporters reporting they might change their minds before voting, 'This is a very fluid electorate,' Zukin said.

This means voters could be swayed by last-minute developments such as new commercials and editorial endorsements, he said. Voter turnout also will be especially important.

At the same time, the poll indicated President Reagan's September trip to New Jersey to campaign for Mrs. Fenwick has had little effect and Lautenberg's gains are not part of a Democratic surge.

The polltakers interviewed 500 registered voters between Oct. 18 and 23 and 600 between last Sunday and Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, they talked again to voters who expressed no preference in September.

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Among likely voters, Mrs. Fenwick led with 45 percent, Lautenberg had 40 percent and 15 percent were undecided. Among all registered voters, she led with 43 percent, compared to 40 percent for Lautenberg.

Mrs. Fenwick's lead was 44 percent to 41 percent for Lautenberg among those contacted most recently.

Zukin said the poll's margin of error could be 3.9 percent in either direction.

The poll showed that more Democrats favor Mrs. Fenwick than Republicans Lautenberg, but many Democrats are returning to their party.

Lautenberg was the clear favorite among late-deciders, holding a 53 percent to 47 percent advantage over Mrs. Fenwick among those saying they had made up their minds in the last week.

But Mrs. Fenwick led Lautenberg 55 percent to 45 percent among those saying they had decided earlier.

Mrs. Fenwick's support is based on her personality and character, according to 45 percent of her supporters, although 33 percent said issues were important. Lautenberg's support is more party-based, although issues were important to 37 percent of his supporters.

The poll also showed that those earning less than $15,000 a year generally favored Lautenberg, while those earning more favored Mrs. Fenwick. Both candidates are millionaires.

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