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Siena poll shows Hochul and other New York Democrats ahead in statewide contests

New York Gov. Hochul addresses supporters at her victory party after the Democratic primary Tuesday.
New York Gov. Hochul addresses supporters at her victory party after the Democratic primary Tuesday.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul remains in strong position to win a full term over Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin. That’s according to the latest pollfrom the Siena College Research Institute, which finds Hochul up 54-to-37 percent among likely voters.

In fact, Democrats are leading all statewide elections in the poll, as Republicans hope to break a 20-year losing streak. The poll also finds that when it comes to likely voters from both parties, it’s still the economy, stupid.

For analysis, WAMC's Ian Pickus spoke with Steve Greenberg.

Based on this poll, is Kathy Hochul where she wants to be six weeks out from election day?

No question. Look. Let's start with the basics. This is New York State as a solidly blue state. As you said no Republican has won statewide in two decades now. It's a state that has more than twice as many Democrats registered to vote as Republicans. 50% of the enrolled voters are Democrats, only 22% are Republican. In fact, 23% of the state's enrolled voters are Independents. So, there are more Independents in New York than Republicans. So, they have a very steep uphill climb at the start of any statewide election. And now six weeks out, we see that in each of the four statewide races, the Democrats have leads between 16 and 23 points. And the real problem for the Republican challengers trying to close the ground or makeup for where they stand right now, is that put aside Lee Zeldin for a moment, the three other candidates who are running against Schumer, DiNapoli and James, 90%, roughly 90% of likely voters don't know who those candidates are. When we look at Lee Zeldin right now, 31% of likely voters say they have a favorable view of Zeldin, 33% say he say they have an unfavorable view. Underwater by two points, not terrible, but 36% of likely voters have either never heard of Lee Zeldin or don't know enough about him, to have an opinion about him. It is hard to break through and cut through an incumbency advantage in a solidly blue state like New York and be six weeks from election day and have more than a third of the electorate not be familiar with you. That's a real problem.

Well, you've seen a lot of New York state elections over the years. Is there anything that could substantially change this dynamic for the Republican ticket?

It would take something major to change the basic chemistry of this race right now. It's not going to be whether they have, the candidates have won two or three debates. It's really going to take a major political event to change the dynamic of where this race is right now.

Take us through the other races that you mentioned. Who's running and what do the matchup show you in this latest poll?

Sure, well, New York senior Senator, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is now running for a fifth term for the U.S. Senate is running against Republican by the name of Joseph Pinion. Right now, Schumer has a 55% to 36% lead over Pinion. Schumer viewed favorably by 50% of likely voters, unfavorably by 40%. So, 10 points above water. That's pretty good. Pinion 5% favorable, 6% unfavorable, 88% have either never heard of them or don't know enough about them to have an opinion.

In the race for State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, who's won that office three times and in fact, the last two elections 2014 and 2018, he got more votes than anybody on the ballot in New York. Right now, he's leading Paul Rodriguez, the Republican challenger 52% to 29%, a 23-point lead. Here's one of the great ironies though. Right now, Rodriguez has a favorability rating of 7% favorable, 6% unfavorable and again, 87% who have either never heard of him or don't know enough about him to have an opinion. But for Tom DiNapoli, who I said has been elected three times, 20% of likely voters view him favorably, 12% view him unfavorably. 68% of voters have never heard of DiNapoli or don't know enough about him to have an opinion. He's been Comptroller of the State of New York for 15 years. That's how hard it is to break through. And the point I was making about Zeldin and these other candidates DiNapoli he's been in the job for 15 years, and two thirds of voters don't have an opinion about him. It's hard to break through, particularly in the final six weeks of the campaign.

How are the national figures who looms so large over our politics, President Biden and former President Trump, doing in this latest poll?

Biden up from our last poll back in August, right now 51% view him favorably 46% unfavorable. Little bit above water. Back in August, it was 48/48 breakeven. Job approval took an even bigger bounce. Last month he was underwater 47% Approved, 51% of small majority disapprove of the job that he was doing. Now, it's 53% approved, 46% disapprove. Not great numbers for the President, given as we talked about earlier, this is a state with more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans. So, he's not doing great, Biden, but he's doing better than he was. As for Trump, the more things change, the more things stay the same. He was not popular before he ever thought about running for president, he was not popular when he was president and he's not been popular in New York since he's been president. Right now, 32% of voters view him favorably, 63% view him unfavorably. That is identical 32% to 63% to what it was in August, and it remains consistent. You know, 90% of Democrats have an unfavorable view, 61% of Independents have an unfavorable view of Trump, 73%. Nearly three quarters of Republicans view Trump favorably.

Now, Zeldin voted against certifying the 2020 election results and he's also been the subject of Trump fundraisers during this campaign. Is there any evidence that Trump is a drag on Zeldin among New York voters?

Well, it's hard to say because, you know, Trump is very unpopular, 32% view him favorably. Right now, we have Zeldin at 31% viewing him favorably. We see him getting 37% support in the horse race. You know that that seems to be where your basic Republican starts in New York. It's interesting, though, you raise the issue of who won the election, we asked voters who did use what do you think was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election? 71% of voters said it was Biden 21% said it was Trump, including a small majority, but 51% of Republicans say that Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.

That's astounding. I mentioned in the introduction that the economy from voters for both parties is the key issue. Republicans have tried to make public safety and crime a focus of their statewide efforts this time around. So, what were some of the key issues that voters are honing in on?

Well, no question economic issues is at the top of voters’ minds. You said it wisely at the beginning of quoting Jim Carville. It is the economy. We ask voters, what's the top issue for you in deciding which candidates you're going to support in November and then we asked them the second choice. We put them together so you could see the top two choices. 50% of likely voters said economic issues was one of their top two priorities, 30% said it was their top priority. Threats to democracy was second 34%. A little over a third of voters said it was one of their top two priorities, 22% said it was their top priority. And crime is the number three, 29% said it was one of their top two priorities, 12% said it was their top priority. Then you get the second-tier issues in terms of what voters are deciding who to cast their ballots for this year, and that includes gun policy, abortion, health care. But when we look at it by party, economic issues is number one for Democrats but only by a small margin.

When it comes to their first choice, threats to democracy is the number one issue for Democrats say 26%, 18% say it's economic issues. Flip that for Republicans. 69% of all Republicans say it's one of their top two issues. Half of all Republicans say it is their top issue. And for Republicans, crime is number two, threats to democracy number three. For the Democrats, it’s economic threats to democracy, followed by almost all tied our crime, guns, abortion, health care. When we look at the independent voters, economic issues, far and away, number one, then battling it out for second you have threats to democracy and crime. So, those are the issues that voters are focused on, or at least that's those are the issues they tell Siena they're focused on right now.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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